South Africa Today
Sir, - Patrick Laurence's article on today's South Africa (The Irish Times, August 15th) touched on some uncomfortable truths behind her current fiasco. However, the roots of her disorder encompass more than Mandela's weak leadership, rich on vision and reluctant to acknowledge reality.
Crucially unlike the former Soviet Union, South Africa's predominantly white system of government collapsed neither due to decay nor armed opposition. Rather than it being overturned from within, it was forced to yield under massive external pressure while still strong and capable. Therefore, in the absence of any decisive revolutionary victory followed typically by a conservative period of stabilisation, the new South Africa has emerged in a state close to anarchy resulting in the exit of much needed educated whites. Indeed, in an earlier article in the Herald Tribune many influential Afro-Americans currently living in and hoping to contribute to South Africa expressed their disillusionment with Mandela's South Africa in a tail spin under the weight of government cronyism and incompetence. In light of today's ailing South Africa, dare one say in hindsight that the old order was right, or at least that it was not entirely wrong?
Defying the impression presented by the then media, opinion polls taken before the final leg of apartheid showed a majority of black South Africans relatively satisfied with or indifferent towards the National Party which has since far from vanished into oblivion. Dismissed and under-valued was the tediously slow progress of Botha's government. Amongst some of the reforms Asian's - if for strategic reasons - were given the vote and the stock exchange saw the first introduction of a black owned business - resulting in Botha being branded a "dangerous liberal" by other parliamentarians. One therefore asks whether it would not have been wiser to have allowed that government's policy eventually reach its gradual conclusion: the black vote.
As a result of this confused and "unnatural" end to white rule South Africa is now faced with what Patrick Laurence rightly describes as "the civil war" that was absent in the early 90s. Mandela's honeymoon with both his own people and governments abroad is long over and its high time he and his government took corruption, decaying infrastructure and social services, crime and degenerating race relations seriously if a descent into another Rhodesia or Congo is to be avoided. - Yours, etc.,
V. Madama Cristina,