Saturday, September 1, 2007

South Africa's 1994 Freedom Election

27-29/04/1994: Smiling Azanians queued quietly at polling places. Unrest lessened during freedom election days. On a balmy autumn afternoon, I voted DP for the last time in my life. ANC was voted into seven of the nine new provinces. Inkatha took KwaZulu-Natal, and Nationalists retained Western Cape, despite apartheid oppression of coloureds. The sweet-thorn revolution was over: sweet for some, thorny for others.

Post-apartheid, eleven official languages would reflect tribal diversity, including English and Afrikaans apartheid official languages. A new flag was waved, containing ANC colours and Boer republic colours. The old flag slowly disappeared. Sontonga's Nkosi Sikeleli Africa and Langenhoven's Die Stem became national anthems: "...We shall live. We shall die - We for you South Africa." Nigger-balls became rainbow balls. Kaffirbooms became coral trees. Khayas became granny-flats or backpacker rooms.

SA had universal suffrage and freedom from apartheid. Equality, fraternity, and freedom from racism and poverty would need years to evolve. Would SA go the same totalitarian way as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, Zaire?... SA had a Government of National Unity, which would rule for five years, but apartheid's legacy would fester for years: bad education, greed, jealousy, corruption, theft, murder, rape, Aids.

In May, at Pretoria Union Building president Mandela was inaugurated, flanked by his daughter Zenani who wore a big, black hat. New vice-president Mbeki and old president De Klerk, also a vice-president, stood nearby. TV showed Prince Philip, Arafat, Castro, Bolger and other guests. President Mandela's praise-singer sung Madiba's praise song. Kastrils chanted, "Fidel! Fidel!..." And overdressed "Mother-of-the-Nation" Winnie Mandela self-promoted before TV cameras. Representatives of the old apartheid state, new Government of National Unity, SANP, SANDF, clerics and a rabbi attended.

When SANDF helicopters flew over the rejoicing crowd, with the new SA flag fluttering below helicopters, I felt foreboding and loss, like I was witnessing a funeral for future Aids deaths. I wondered when new politicians would blame colonialism and apartheid and emigrating citizens for their own failures? I wondered when TV would show ANC politicians sleeping in parliament? I wondered when SAA flying perks for politicians and their families would be abused? I wondered when corrupt politicians would open Swiss bank accounts? Those sorts of abuses had often happened in post-colonial Africa.

I reckoned Afrikaners had to forget Volk and Vaderland ideology and accept new disorder. Mandela's African nationalist refrain, "our people" was like De Klerk's, Treunicht's and Terblanche's Afrikaner nationalist, "ons volk" refrains. Why was Xhosa Mbeki (exiled overseas for years) chosen by the ANC to succeed Mandela after five years, instead of union negotiator Ramaphosa, a Venda who'd negotiated Codesa, or Buthelezi, who governed Zulus (biggest ethnic group) in KwaZulu while resisting apartheid and being slagged by ANC as a, "Sellout?"

How would Xhosa Mhlaba (Maoist and former Robben Island inmate) new premier of our new Eastern Cape sort out his Comrades, cadres and former activists; former Transkei and former Ciskei bureaucracies; former apartheid armies, police forces, civil servants, education systems, health systems; water, electricity, sanitation systems; buildings and road services? How would Mhlaba sort out his proletariat; bourgeoise; Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Moslem, black animist religious beliefs; formal and informal markets; Indian and Chinese citizens; Taiwanese businessmen and families attracted to pineapple-aloe Eastern Cape as former honorary-whites to exploit Xhosa in subsidized homeland businesses? How would Mhlaba sort out attitudes regarding years of black school and white business boycotts and black electricity and rent boycotts?

How would Mhlaba encourage a non-racist, non sexist democracy in a paternalistic Xhosa province? How would Mhlaba stop emigration which had accelerated for years? Would the Afrikaner volk and their beloved Afrikaans survive? Similar questions applied to the premiers of the other eight provinces as well.

Mhlaba wouldn't last long: neither would De Klerk, nor Viljoen. Freedom over the following decades meant huge increases in crime, corruption and pullulating Aids, with weak policing and massive emigration (replaced by illegal immigration from black states like Zimbabwe), with former white bureaucrats briefly retaining their jobs, grateful for ANC Slovo's, "Sunset Clause." Xhosa Mandela and Xhosa Mbeki would oversee overwhelming ANC incompetance, mismanagement, bribery, corruption and theft in the Eastern Cape where they were both born.
(RW Johnson, South Africa's Brave New World, The beloved Country Since The End Of Apartheid, Allen Lane, London, 2009).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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