A Journalist's Perspective on South Africa

South Africa Since Apartheid

In my view, the end of apartheid was not the end but the beginning of a profound historical moment — a new multiracial democracy that held out promise for people yearning to be free all over the world. It was a story that begged to be told, so I became a resident of Johannesburg to chronicle it up close. Mandela had promised the birth of a rainbow nation, capturing the imagination of people the world over.

In the 15 years since the birth of this young democracy, the hard reality of a nation crippled by apartheid has dimmed the luster of that promise. Not long ago, a prominent South African told me that as much as he admired Mandela, he was afraid that Mandela had created unrealistic expectations for the country when he described it as a "miracle nation." For in many ways, he said, South Africa was like other countries, with many of the same challenges.

A new government is now in power, trying to put its stamp on the nation. But it too is confronted with the legacy of apartheid and other old and new problems, including some of the highest violent crime rates in the world, an educational system that is failing the black majority, and an economic system that has opened up for only a few of the previously disadvantaged. And that leaves young, ticking time bombs walking the streets of the cities and the still deprived townships and squatter camps. The challenge is to give them hope that enables them to see beyond the squalid landscape they now inhabit.

It is a continuing story that begs to be told in as many ways as possible, including dramatizations, like Endgame, that open the mind to further exploration.

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