Envisioning a South Africa without Mandela
December 15, 2013 - 11:04am
JOHN LARSON: Now that Nelson Mandela has been buried, we thought we'd spend some time looking to the future of South Africa. For more on that we're joined by Marcus Mabry, Editor at Large for the New York Times. Marcus Mabry returned to South Africa and reported from there this summer.
We heard President Zuma say just recently that he thought South Africa would continue to rise. I guess the big question is will it?
MARCUS MABRY: You're right, John, and that's the hardest question to answer as well. Mandela has left an undeniable legacy of reconciliation and even progress but the country has massive challenges especially when it comes to the inequalities in educational and economic opportunities between the Black masses and a white minority and a Black middle class that has exploded and didn't exist when I was originally in South Africa. At the same time, this country has challenges that very few countries an overcome. The fact that it has come this far is already a miracle. I think when South Africans talk about Mandela, you hear it in their voice -- a wonderment and unity -- we can't know what his absence will do to that country. We can't know, for instance, to the Black majority, if there will be the patience, which has been pretty enduring so far.
JOHN LARSON: I was truck by a number of things in your reporting-- one is the detailing of the accomplishments an challenges. The discrepancies between White and Black South Africans is growing each month.
MARCUS MABRY: If any one group has benefited from it as far as a racial group, you'd say White South Africans. They're actually better off right now than at the end of Apartheid. And that's because democracy and free enterprise for those with some means -- an opportunity already. Whereas for the Black masses, those opportunities have not really come. For a small percentage of Black elite, the opportunities have been extraordinary -- they are now rich and their children speak with an accent that no Black person had when I was based in South Africa, because it's an accent of the educated. But for the Black masses that just hasn't happened.
JOHN LARSON: Even in the reporting, we're starting to focus on the divisiveness of South African culture, of course the exact opposite of Mandela's legacy. In local politics they are starting to talk about this. How do you think this will play out -- in national or local elections? Or do you think it will be an unscripted event.
MARCUS MABRY: I think national and local elections. I think not in the next round, but in the round after that -- when Mandela's memory is fading more and the idea of reconciliation and patience is fading. I think at that point you will see the Black middle class, which was already starting to look at alternatives to the ANC, more willing to break with the ANC. While you'll see the Black masses probably less patient, and saying the ANC should have more radical policies indented to change their life. And that's when I think you'll see the ANC change and the Black middle classes move away from the ANC -- and the Black working class demand greater change from the ANC.