The recent death and ongoing funeral commemorations of former South African President National Mandela continue captivating international media attention. They also focus attention on Africa’s most important country.
Mandela is a historically significant figure who made an enduring impact on his country. It is remarkable that he survived 28 years of imprisonment and did not resort to bitterness or class warfare once he was released. He proved to be a more pragmatic President than I thought possible and helped his country make significant progress toward achieving some racial reconciliation after the Apartheid era. He also cultivated and maintained a persona of class and dignity and resisted the temptation to linger in power for to long which, Charles Krauthammer has accurately described, as being comparable to George Washington. This is in stark contrast to the long disastrous blood drenched rule of numerous African rulers including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Miriam, and others.
Under Mandela and his successors, South Africa has become a democracy of sorts. However, it has replaced the one party rule of the Apartheid era’s National Party with that of the increasingly corrupt African National Congress. For instance, crime remains a major problem in South Africa and corruption is on the rise as evidenced by President Jacob Zuma being in trouble for using taxpayer money to fund multimillion dollar renovations at his residence. South Africa needs more market based economic growth to rise its citizens up to middle class standards.
Mandela had significant weaknesses though. He supported leftist violence against South Africa’s democratically elected, though grievously flawed, apartheid government. Many of Mandela’s compatriots in the anti-apartheid struggle such as Oliver Tambo and Chris Han were Communists and sought aid and training from the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba. For all the positive accomplishments Mandela made in national reconciliation and achieving greater international respectability for South Africa, he failed to publicly denounce Communism for the evils it brought to African countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique,and Ethiopia and he spent to much time associating with international outlaws like Muammar Qaddafi.
Even though the apartheid government failed to grant political and economic freedom to all South Africans, it was still far better than most other African countries. South African blacks had higher living standards than blacks in other African countries though it was not enough to mask their frustration at their inferior status to South African whites. We must also remember that South African was an anticommunist ally of ours in southern Africa whose troops fought and died against the Cubans and other Communist forces in Angola and Namibia. Apartheid falls far below Nazism, Communism, and militant Islam in the scales of twentieth century dictatorial pathologies.
South Africa should show its a truly democratic country by throwing out the African National Congress in next year’s elections at electing the Democratic Alliance. South Africa is far more than Nelson Mandela. Its population includes multiple African groups such as the Zulus and Xhosa, whites of British ancestry, the Afrikaneers of Dutch descent who settled in South Africa in 1652 and whose luminaries include political figures such as Jan Smuts and the last white President Peter Willem de Klerk who was crucial in facilitating the end of apartheid and Mandela’s rise to power. South Africa’s ethnic tapestry also includes the mixed race coloreds, Indians, and numerous other people of Asian ancestry.
While it is a religiously pluralistic country, South Africa has a strong and ongoing Christian tradition as evidenced by the Dutch Reform Church, Zion Christian Church, and other denominations. This theological foundation, more than anything else, is the reason the transition from apartheid has achieved the relative success that it has. This conviction influenced Mandela in some respects which is worthy of scholarly investigation.
In foreign policy, South Africa should firmly ally itself with the West and the Anglosphere and quit clinging to the petty posturing and redistributionist grievances of the Non-Aligned Movement and its laager members. South Africa should play a leadership role in promoting human rights and economic and social development in Zimbabwe by getting did of the Mugabe regime, fighting Islamist forces, and resisting Chinese attempts to gain geopolitical influence in Africa. South Africa also needs to continue facing up to the problem of AIDS by promoting morally responsible and monogamous sexual behavior instead of demanding western pharmaceutical companies dump low-cost antiretroviral drugs into its market.
While President Obama may have tickled the egos of those attending Mandela’s memorial service while he eulogized the late South African President, South Africans would do well do avoid the statist economic policy mistakes and other flaws and corruptions of his tenure. Obama did not demonstrate maturity when he and British Prime Minister Cameron and the Danish Prime Minister stroked their egos by taking photos of themselves during this service when they should have been paying attention to the service’s proceedings. Obama’s stupidity was further enhanced when he continued his apology tour by shaking hands with Cuba’s blood-stained despot Raul Castro. What’s next on Obama’s bootlicking agenda? Playing basketball in Pyongyang with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Dennis Rodman?
It remains to be seen whether South Africa’s leaders and people will continue moving forward to become a more democratic and prosperous society thanks to the many positive steps begun during Nelson Mandela’s life and career. South Africa should follow the examples and policies of world leaders like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Benjamin Netanyahu, Stephen Harper, John Howard, and Tony Abbott to achieve true political and economic development. South Africans should be proud of what they have accomplished but realize that much works remains to be done if it wants to become a country that enables its peoples to reach their God-given potential and becomes a South Atlantic/Indian Ocean bulwark of Western-oriented democracy in the international geopolitical arena.