A German national, his Afrikaner wife and her grandmother, all living in Johannesburg, virtually exploded when I asked them at a bed and breakfast meal what they thought would happen to South Africa now that Mandela was gone. The woman saw reverse apartheid increasing since the blacks took over the government in 1994. They obviously were concerned about this question because they see South African President Zuma as corrupt and arrogant and his African National Congress (ANC) as self serving and no better than the Afrikaner Apartheid government the ANC replaced.
They were worried about Zuma using taxpayers’ money to improve his private home in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and the ANC’s recent passage of the Secrecy Act, which will give the government power to quash revelations of corruption. They were leery of the future of the ANC because none of its leadership comes close to the level of integrity of Mandela, although they mouth his virtues.
Like the diversity in the country (blacks making up 79 percent of the population, whites 9 percent, coloureds 9 percent, and Asians [from India] who make up the rest), attitudes varied. In my travels, everyone I questioned had a different perspective on the power of Nelson Mandela’s example and the future direction of South Africa.
A 70-something white man became very emotional when he told me he and has family had lost their family fortunes twice: Once when the black government of Zambia confiscated their property, and again when Mugabe’s Zimbabwe government repeated Zambia’s practice of taking the white farmers’ land.
He bemoaned the fact that though these two countries’ white farmers had made them the breadbasket of Africa, the current Zuma government of South Africa is sending food shipments to feed Zimbabwe’s people, using South African taxpayer money. This troubled and angered the man, because with the passing of Mandela, many whites fear that South Africa has lost its moral compass and will follow Zambia’s and Zimbabwe’s lead. They are concerned South Africa might go from bread basket to welfare recipient.
The Asians and the coloureds were not as concerned as the whites about the coming elections. One Indian woman doubted that South Africa would follow the example of Mugabe. A coloured woman, who wanted Zuma to resign, thought that since Parliament made the decisions, one man, Zuma, could not destroy what Mandela helped build. She thought Mandela’s message of integrity was strong enough to continue. There would be no unrest, even though she thought Zuma would be re-elected.
Of the blacks I talked to, none was concerned that Zuma would turn South Africa into a Zimbabwe. They didn’t like Zuma’s actions—his use of taxpayer money to improve his home and the Secrecy Act, mentioned above. Several said that Mandela had been out of power for a long time and nothing was really going to change with his passing. One Zulu black reminded me that in South Africa, voters vote for a party, not an individual candidate. The country needed another Mandela, but none was in the wings. One black woman thought Zuma would be defeated in 2014; her friend disagreed and thought he would be re-elected as leader of the ANC and the country.
Time will tell which direction Zuma and South Africa will take. Will South Africa weather this crisis of confidence because of the strength of Mandela’s example of integrity, or will it follow the precedents set by Zambia and Zimbabwe? The South African election in 2014 could answer this question.