[Marxism] "We are running out of patience"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 10 05:37:22 MST 2013


December 9, 2013
After Mandela, a Test at the Polls for His Party
By LYDIA POLGREEN

DIEPSLOOT, South Africa — Isaac Makhura gestured toward the squalid 
sprawl of shacks outside his house in this informal settlement, where 
some of the country’s most desperate people live. Was it any wonder, he 
said, that he no longer had any qualms about voting against the African 
National Congress, the party of his entire family for three generations?

“Is this why Nelson Mandela fought for our freedom?” he asked as South 
Africans mourned the death on Thursday of Mr. Mandela, the country’s 
first black president and the party’s most beloved leader. “The A.N.C. 
has let us down.”

In the coming months, the African National Congress will face what may 
be its most fiercely competitive election since it came to power in 1994 
— and, for the first time, will do so without its most important moral 
figure, Mr. Mandela.

“After Mandela, the A.N.C. loses the biggest link to its glorious past,” 
said William Gumede, who has written extensively about Mr. Mandela and 
his party. “It will face the voters without him.”

Corruption allegations against senior officials like President Jacob 
Zuma, a failing school system, endemic joblessness, violent crime and 
growing inequality have whittled away the once near-universal support 
for the party in places like Diepsloot, a traditional bedrock of a party 
that boasts of its “bias toward the working class.”

Now Diepsloot is a political battleground, with other parties making 
inroads. No one expects the African National Congress to lose the 
national election, but there are signs that it could slip below 60 
percent of the vote, an important psychological figure for a party 
accustomed to landslides.

Mr. Mandela leaves behind a South Africa where political power is firmly 
in the hands of the majority, and he helped steer the country away from 
what seemed to be the biggest risk at the time of its transition to 
democracy: a race war that pitted blacks against whites.

But economic power is still largely in white hands. Unemployment, 
particularly among the young black people who make up a vast population 
bulge here, is higher than ever. Inequality has grown, as a small group 
of black elites has joined wealthy whites in the upper echelons of 
society, leaving the masses far behind. Seething anger over this state 
of affairs, after bubbling for years, boiled over in August 2012 when 
the police killed 34 striking miners in the country’s worst police 
violence since the end of apartheid.

It was a far cry from the heady days of Mr. Mandela’s release from 
prison after 27 years in 1990 and his landslide victory in South 
Africa’s first nonracial election four years later.

“Let there be justice for all,” Mr. Mandela said in his inaugural 
address. “Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water 
and salt for all.”

It turned out these promises would be tough to keep, even for a man with 
Mr. Mandela’s gifts.

“There was so much hope,” George Bizos, Mr. Mandela’s lawyer and a close 
friend, said before Mr. Mandela died. “Those of us who took part in the 
struggle, we expected the speedy establishment of an egalitarian 
society. It has turned out to be a daydream.”

Mr. Mandela pledged in 1997 that South Africa would avoid the “formation 
of predatory elites that thrive on the basis of looting national wealth 
and the entrenchment of corruption.”

And yet that has happened. The African National Congress has slowly gone 
from a liberation movement to a Tammany Hall-style political machine. 
Corruption is endemic. Deep ties between big business and politicians 
have reinforced the perception that those in power seek only their own 
enrichment.

Mr. Mandela’s death now poses daunting questions for the party. Even in 
his decline, it benefited from the aura of promise and possibility that 
surrounded him, and the urge to link the party with his name was 
evident. In recent months, it bused masses of supporters in African 
National Congress T-shirts to the hospital where he was being treated. 
After his death, party supporters were quick to tie the party to Mr. 
Mandela and its current leaders.

In Soweto on Friday, the day after Mr. Mandela died, South African flags 
were few, but the emblem of the African National Congress — a hand 
clutching a spear on a field of black, green and yellow — was 
ubiquitous. “This Mandela belongs to the A.N.C.,” a man said through a 
microphone.

A large truck was parked at a corner, a rolling stage with giant color 
photographs of the current president, Mr. Zuma, proclaiming that the 
entire province is now a better place.

“Viva Mandela,” a man shouted into the microphone. “Viva A.N.C., viva Zuma!”

Mr. Mandela stepped off the national stage in 2004, retiring from public 
life. Few can say with certainty what he would have made of the tumult 
surrounding the striking miners and the police response, such was the 
fog that enveloped him in his last years, people who visited him said.

But the problems of today’s South Africa are at least partly rooted in 
the choice Mr. Mandela made as president to put racial reconciliation 
above all else and, critical analysts of his legacy say, to put the 
easing of white fears above the fulfillment of black aspirations. 
“Mandela became a buffer zone between white fears and black 
aspirations,” said Aubrey Matshiqi, a veteran analyst.

Mr. Mandela guided the African National Congress away from its socialist 
past and shunned radical means of redistributing wealth, like seizing 
white-owned land and businesses, which helped keep the peace and 
stabilize the economy but made it harder to raise living standards for 
blacks.

By embracing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he helped the 
country move peacefully beyond its racist, authoritarian past, but some 
South Africans feel that serious crimes went unanswered and that wishful 
forgetfulness has replaced true reconciliation.

These days, it is easy to forget how acute the fears of whites were and 
how high the hopes of blacks ran at apartheid’s end. In the decade after 
apartheid, 750,000 white South Africans migrated to Australia, England, 
New Zealand and the United States. Others fortified themselves in highly 
secured compounds. In 1994, 240,000 South Africans applied for gun 
permits, a sign of just how fearful many were about a violent, 
black-on-white uprising during the transition.

Many black South Africans, meanwhile, expected to quickly acquire the 
trappings of middle-class life: suburban houses with backyard swimming 
pools, white-collar jobs and high-quality schools.

That did not come to pass. White South Africans have largely held on to 
their wealth, and their well-tended suburban neighborhoods have not been 
overrun by shanty-dwellers. According to this year’s census, white 
families earn six times what black families do.

Mzuvikle Sikodayi, a 33-year-old platinum miner who lives in a tin shack 
near the mining town of Rustenburg, said his parents believed that his 
life would be better than theirs — a government job, perhaps, a house 
and a car.

“My only hope now is that my son’s life will be better,” he said. “For 
me there is no chance. We are running out of patience.”

Since the end of apartheid, the government led by the African National 
Congress has given free houses to 2.5 million poor black families. More 
than 15 million people get government welfare grants. Electricity and 
running water have come to millions of black homes for the first time.

And yet, Mr. Mandela’s party has fallen far short of the pledge it made 
in its first election campaign in 1994: a better life for all.

To many, the party seems more focused on a better life for some, a 
perception underscored by the recent disclosure of a preliminary report 
on one of South Africa’s biggest corruption scandals, the $27 million 
makeover of Mr. Zuma’s private village home.

Mr. Zuma, who has also faced charges of corruption and rape, claimed the 
upgrades were related to security. But the preliminary report by the 
country’s ombudsman, published on Nov. 29 in the Mail & Guardian, found 
that amenities like a swimming pool, an amphitheater and a cattle kraal, 
or corral, had no security benefits.

To some, Mr. Mandela’s death offers the opportunity to shed the notion 
that South Africa’s transition from white rule to democracy was a 
miracle rather than a hard-won compromise.

“The idea that a miracle occurred in South Africa is a profoundly 
unhelpful one,” said Steven Friedman, the director of the Center for the 
Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg. “We’ve had some 
successes and also a lot of setbacks, but no miracles that I can think of.”

Nicholas Kulish contributed reporting from Soweto, South Africa.





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