|Lovely mountains around Cape Town|
That vision was entirely credible, and what I anticipated would be the most likely ending of apartheid.
But, then, the world witnessed the miracle of Nelson Mandela. Imprisoned for 27 years for his anti-apartheid activities, upon his release he continued working for majority government. Seemingly, miraculously, he succeeded. In 1994, he was elected President of South Africa. A civil war was averted--South Africa managed to make the transition from a minority government to a majority government, escaping the fate of its neighbor to the north, Zimbabwe.
True, many people died on the struggle to reach majority government. There were multiple massacres of citizens on both sides of the color bar. Leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) spent years in prison, along side Mandela. Many of those years of imprisonment were on Robben Island, within easy view of Cape Town's harbor--it must have been maddeningly tantalizing for both sides being so close. But Mandela seemed to accomplish the impossible--he not only survived; he thrived and honed his deeply moral presence.
|Cape Town Harbor with Robben Island in the distance|
Nowhere is the disparity more evident than in housing. The three main racial divides in South Africa are white, colored, and black. Whites are those who descended from the original Dutch and British settlers. Coloreds (a term I had difficulty with given my U.S. thinking) are those who descend from Khoisan (the original inhabitants of southern Africa), mixed race and immigrants from various Asian countries such as Malaysia. Blacks are those descended from earlier migration of Bantu peoples from further north on the African continent. With a population of about 60 million, 80% of South Africans are black, whites around 9%, and colored including Asians around 11%.
80% of farm land continues to be held by whites. The ANC had promised land reform which intended to restore land ownership to blacks, but over time progress toward that goal has stalled. Now, newer leaders in the ANC--those who have moved away from the harmonious legacy of Nelson Mandela--promise, or threaten, massive redistribution of land and wealth. One particular leader--Julius Malema--threatens nationalizing South African gold and diamond mines.
Upon our return from South Africa, my daughter and I set about reading (actually re-reading) Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country. While many aspects of the novel seem very dated, and also quite simplistic, there is a prophetic sense about the work. Paton writes:
Have no doubt it is fear in the land. For what can men do when so many have grown lawless? ... There are voices crying what must be done, a hundred, a thousand voices...one cries this, and one cries that, and another cries something that is neither this nor that.
Paton envisioned a time when the social fabric, which was already tearing in the reality of which he wrote, would dissolve completely.
As we waited in the Cape Town airport to board our flight back to the U.S., I perused books in the bookstore. One was titled After Mandela: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa. Out of curiosity, I thumbed through the book, and read the chapter titles. The last chapter title brought me up short: "The Shadow of Zimbabwe."
I can think of no greater tragedy for Mandela's legacy than to see South Africa go the way of Zimbabwe. So, indeed--cry, the beloved country.
|Photo taken by Kristen, my daughter, of Franschhoek, S.A.|
|Photo taken by my husband, of Klein Karoo|
|Sunset over Camps Bay Beach|