As a South African who left South Africa nearly 10 years ago I was curious to see how my old country was getting on since Mandela left office. In this way I sought out a few books on the current political situation, and came across this one.
A summary of each chapter is as follows:
1. This chapter considers the rise of Mandela, and how difficult anyone would have taking over from him due to the reputation that the international community had conveyed on him. He was after all a man, with a man's problems, not a saint. It was inevitable that Mbeki would have a complex upon taking office, given that he was succeeding a great man but Mbeki was nevertheless a highly intelligent man.
2. This chapter really highlighted to me that there really are still whites who acutely act racist towards some blacks. However, it also highlights that there are an even higher number of whites who are actually trying to help their fell blacks have better lives. This chapter looks at how some communities have transformed since the end of apartheid. Most noticeably Soweto is considered and some farm districts are discussed.
3. This chapter considers the rise of the ANC and how noble their aims were at the beginning. However, like all liberation movements they quickly turn sour and have to go through periods of great transformation in order to reform themselves before they turn bad. This chapter assesses how the ANC itself is in some ways turning bad, most noticeably in terms of the "racist" rhetoric used to answer their problems. It also highlights the get rich mentality of some of the party members.
4. This chapter considers how the burden of delivering results in a post apartheid South Africa is fraught with problems. In some ways South Africa has done well, in others, most noticeably crime, education and employment it has not changed all much or for the better. This is leading to the mentality that the ANC are not actually accomplishing anything, which itself is not wholly true.
5. This chapter considers the rise of crime in South Africa. It considers the factors behind it and the responses given toward it (i.e. private security). It looks at how police forces are underfunded and under staffed. Additionally it highlights that the police are underpaid which is leading to a rise in police corruption. Finally, it highlights how all criticises toward the government on crime are answered with the good old "racist" card. This there is likely to be racism at certain levels of the police force this cannot be a blanket answer to a clearly escalating problem. One thing this chapter does highlight is that South Africa should be united by its crime problem as it inevitably affects everyone - black and white. In this respect the "racist" card must stop.
6. This chapter looks at the role of the whites in the modern South Africa. Most noticeably it looks at the Afrikaners, the death of their party and the end of their culture/language. They are as the author notes becoming a minority which is not acknowledged and which are treated with great distrust. This is leading to a growing resentment amongst them toward the blacks. This neglect of the whites was not on par with Mandela's political philosophy and so is something that needs re-addressing given that so many whites have valuable skills that can still benefit the country. The author argues that whites are to a degree at fault for this because they have withdrawn from politics and in doing so have left themselves open to the mercy of others. If the whites want a future in the South Africa of tomorrow then they need to get into the political area and some something about their situation. Failure to do so will be fatal.
7. This chapter looks at the "get rich" through the BEE scheme mentality of some ANC members. It also looks at how some black business mean are not relying on BEE and are instead making their own way, whilst using their profits for the benefit of their communities and fellow men. This chapter considers the redefinitions that have occurred in relation to BEE and argues that the "benefit party members only" mentality must now stop or the BEE scheme itself will become useless - if it has not already become so. As the author notes, most black business that are now doing well were self made. They were not BEE sponsored which should itself raise questions.
8. This chapter looks at the possibility of land redistribution. It looks at the current system of voluntarily selling your land to the government where a black can successfully show a historical right to the land. However, it also notes that some whites are deliberately trying to exploit this system for their own profit. Finally, it considers how the government is not doing enough to support the farms that are taken over by blacks. Most noticeably it assesses those farms which have failed and are now barren. It argues that some retired whites farms could do their country a good service by helping some of the fledgling black farmers, and highlights that where this is happening the farms flourish. This is a suggestion which I wholly endorse - cooperation is the only way to progress South Africa's future.
9. This chapter looks at the pseudo science which Mbeki used to dispute the aids virus. It is not surprising that given the task Mandela had in uniting a torn country, he did not focus much attention of the aids pandemic. However, Mbeki's childish refusal to acknowledge the problem was likewise devastating to the countries poor population. This chapter finally shows how some companies are now privately funding aids drugs in order to stop whole work forces dying off from the virus as started to happen a few years ago.
10. This chapter looks at Zuma, the Zulu boy. Of course Zuma is not as educated as Mandela or Mbeki but there is a charm to him. It gives a brief history of him and then shows how he is very people focused and has a lot of time to listen to everyone, no matter how unimportant they are. However, it also warns of the power that a populist leader could hold, and shows how this could create a fever that could potentially turn ugly very quickly. Most noticeably Julius Malema's comments that he'd kill for Zuma comes to mind.
11. This chapter briefly looks at Zimbabwe and most noticeably South Africa's failure to response to the evil that is Robert Mugabe. It argues that South Africa could even end up going down the same path unless a firm opposition is established to the ANC. In this respect this chapter looks at the rise of the DA and argues that bigoted ANC members who feel threatened by an opposition should realise that its healthy for any fledgling democracy. Again, Julius Malema's call to riot outside Helen Zille's office, and the way he threatened her when she won the Western Cape elections comes to mind.
12. Finally, the last chapter looks at South Africa's future with China, not the US. Most noticeably it looks at the new BRIC alliance with China, Russia and India and argues that due to this South Africa does have a bright economic future to look forward to. It however warns that if the country does not get its politics in order then the uncaring economy of China will take advantage of South Africa's weakened situation which would be bad for everyone in the long run.
I enjoyed the book. It was written by a journalist who clearly holds a soft-spot for South Africa and who has engaged with many of its main players. I liked that being a journalist the book itself was laced with little personal stories that have affected the everyday individual.
Given that I read the South African newspapers every day it was unsurprising that certain sections of the book came as no surprise to me. Inevitably this was bound to happen. In any case there were numerous sections that were news to me. Some sections filled me with a great sense of dread toward the potential future of South Africa, and some filled me with a sense that South Africa could have a bright future - it really was a mixed bag of tricks.
Overall it was an easy read and in informative one. It definitely highlighted to me that the ANC are not evil, but they are starting to lose their way. It also once again highlighted that the ANC must stop harping on the "racist" card as their get out clause and must spend a little more time on achieving results. So my final verdict is: highlight recommended to my fellow South Africans.