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OPINION: Mandela's dream of a rainbow nation teetering on the brink of total disaster

By The Daily Telegraph | 2017-08-13 13:34:12.0

As South Africa lurches from one political crisis to another, Nelson Mandela's vision of building a rainbow nation appears more and more like an unachievable dream.

The rancorous political debate over the future of ANC president Jacob Zuma, who narrowly survived a vote of no confidence on Tuesday, together with the increasingly parlous state of the country's economy, have exacerbated racial tension.

The ANC's call earlier this year for a constitutional change that would allow the government to seize land from white farmers without paying compensation has resulted in a dramatic upsurge in attacks on their properties, with security officials estimating an average of one farm attack each day.

It is believed that between 2000 and 4000 workers on white-owned farms have been killed since Mandela's historic victory in 1994.

And, in what looks increasingly like a rerun of the disastrous policies implemented by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, the ANC is not the only party that entertains covetous designs upon white-held property.

The Economic Freedom Fighters under Julius Malema is another keen advocate.

All of this is a far cry from the politics of reconciliation and unity that Mandela preached on his way to winning South Africa's first multiracial elections.

His success owed as much to the enthusiastic support from the minority white population as it did to the newly liberated black majority.

Covering that memorable election campaign for The Telegraph, I was struck at how much genuine adulation the legendary anti-apartheid campaigner attracted from whites who thronged to his rallies.

The magic of Mandela's appeal, though, did not last long beyond the veteran freedom fighter securing victory, and the ANC being installed in power.

The real damage, though, to the prospect of post-apartheid reconciliation has been caused by the ANC's disastrous mismanagement of the economy.

The jobless rate hit a 16-year high of 27.7% while the country is officially deemed to be in recession. This, in turn, has prompted Moody's, the credit-rating agency, to issue a warning about the economy's "negative outlook".

These figures should be a cause for concern for the ANC, which needs the economy to expand by at least 5% annually if it is to stand any chance of fulfilling its pledge to eradicate poverty and unemployment.

Yet, rather than accepting responsibility, the ANC has sought to place the blame on what it calls "white monopoly capital".

Playing the race card is a dangerous policy, but employing such tactics when the country stands on the brink of economic peril will only lead to increased tension between its different communities, with all the implications that could have for the future.

Certainly, if the country is to avoid the same fate as Zimbabwe, it desperately needs someone who can steer it in a new political direction, one that abandons the divisiveness and corruption that has characterised the Zuma era.

It needs someone who can build on the Mandela legacy of making it a beacon of political and economic strength.

There are plenty of high-ranking ANC members, such as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who are desperate to eradicate the endemic corruption that has undermined the ANC's economic regeneration programme.

In addition, the prospects of the Democratic Alliance should not be discounted.

Last year the party hit a new high in local elections when it won control of three of the largest cities.

Mandela's dream of building a rainbow nation might have become a distant memory, but that does not mean that it couldn't still, one day, become a reality. - The Daily Telegraph