It was a joyful day 30 years ago in a South Africa that had enjoyed very few. It was the first truly democratic election, and the black majority – for so long the victims of the wretched oppression imposed by apartheid – finally had their say. And how they spoke! I watched them queue in Soweto in the sunshine, dancing and singing as they waited. And it was a long wait.

The system couldn’t cope. South Africa wasn’t used to everyone being able to vote. But wait, they did, long into the night, cast their first ever vote… for a black party… led by a black man… the black man who had fought for, led, and carried the African National Congress (ANC) to this moment. One grandmother told me that she could “die happy now” because “I know my children and my children’s children will no longer be without a vote in their own country.”.

But today, I have to say, Nelson Mandela would be turning in his grave. His ANC has been humiliated at the polls. After the ANC victory in 1994 (they won with 62% of the vote), I interviewed Mandela. He spoke, of course, of his rainbow nation, but said it would not be easy. Decades of apartheid meant poverty, exclusion, a lack of hope, and, above all, education, which would take years to even begin to address. “Don’t judge us in five or 10 years,” he told me. “It will take 20 years, 30 years, a generation, and more to get things done.”

Well, 30 years from now, things may be better, but the lives of the black majority in this great country have certainly not been transformed. Some have, of course. But many still struggle with the daily reality of poverty, poor sanitation, hopeless infrastructure, endless power crises, and unemployment. A third are jobless, and that is no way to win votes.

And the corruption eats away at the fabric of society. Corruption at almost every level of government has seen businesspeople plunder state resources and political leaders fill their own pockets. And today we see Mandela’s ANC paying the price. They are struggling to muster even 40% of the vote. They will fall hopelessly short of a majority for the first time and will have to do deals to rule this country in a coalition of opposing forces. It will be difficult, turbulent and uncertain for the people.

And it is the most bitter of ironies that one party they may well have to deal with is the new party of an old president, Jacob Zuma, who was forced to quit in 2018 after a string of corruption scandals. Zuma joined the uMkhonto weSizwe party in January to campaign against the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, whom he said was a proxy for South Africa’s wealthy whites.

I met Ramaphosa several times in the early nineties. He was a union leader and senior negotiator during the talks that ended apartheid. He was highly thought of and also a great friend of Nelson Mandela. Mandela always thought Ramaphosa would be president one day. How he would be disappointed by the way it has turned out. Ramaphosa will do well to survive this catastrophic result.

Globally, the ANC has chosen its role. It seeks a world where developing countries have more influence, where US power should be curbed and where China and Russia are its friends and partners. Its legal actions against Israel have won support among some, but contempt from others.

But right now, a period of political turbulence is just what South Africa does not need. It needs political stability and a government intent on tackling corruption, inequality and crime. It needs hope and optimism and – dare I say it for fear of over-romanticising things – another Nelson Mandela.

KEEP US ALIVE and join us in helping to bring reality and decency back by SUBSCRIBING to our Youtube channel: AND SUPPORTING US where you can: Award Winning Independent Citizen Media Needs Your Help. PLEASE SUPPORT US FOR JUST £2 A MONTH

To report this post you need to login first.
Previous articleThe far right are gathering in fields from Glasgow to Dorset “smelling virgins”
Next articleHow a postmistress’s weather reading changed the course of D Day history
Dorset Eye
Dorset Eye is an independent not for profit news website built to empower all people to have a voice. To be sustainable Dorset Eye needs your support. Please help us to deliver independent citizen news... by clicking the link below and contributing. Your support means everything for the future of Dorset Eye. Thank you.