Friday 13 December 2013

Unity In Development

It certainly was.

That Question Time from Johannesburg was remarkable, even if the producers could not find a Coloured or an Indian in the whole of South Africa to put on the panel, and even if they did think that the appropriate voice of today's Afrikaners was an 81-year-old who had first been made a Minister by BJ Vorster, while the appropriate voice of the English-speaking whites was a Member of the Imperial Parliament flown in from London.

So much for a Communist dictatorship. Try holding an event like that in North Korea. For that matter, try booing the President in North Korea. The ANC came across as a hopeless New Establishment, with its fairly old spokeswoman clearly unused to being treated with anything less than total deference. She received no such thing from either the panel or the audience.

Of the three thirtysomethings on the panel, all three of whom were black, one was a very highly articulate journalist who was searingly critical of the Government, another was the parliamentary leader of the (broadly Liberal) Official Opposition, and the third came from an extreme Black Nationalist paramilitary organisation which is used by ZANU-PF in order to destabilise the ANC. So much for any alliance, or even the slightest love lost, between Mandela and Mugabe.

At times, Pik Botha sounded like Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses: "Mum said to me, on her deathbed..." But both the ANC and Peter Hain were rather more dangerously living in the past, going back decades and decades to The Struggle while expecting anyone still to care awfully much, and that even though, you know, Nelson Mandela is now dead.

A white, affluent-looking, obviously well-educated boy of about 18 expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the levels of economic inequality and social injustice. How must his less privileged contemporaries feel, likewise born after the end of apartheid?

No one else quite that young spoke from the audience. But plenty of other people did, from across the diversity of backgrounds. And the mood was clear: the ANC is a busted flush, not because it is left-wing, but because it is not. All that is missing is anything to replace it. Anything, that is, which is not a South of the Border puppet of ZANU-PF.

An extremely elderly white lady rounded off with the observation that South Africa was "a far nicer country than pre-1994". Other than in sections of the British Conservative Party, no one denies that. But nor does anyone deny that an awful lot of work is now going to have to be done in order to keep things that way, and in order to build on what has already been achieved.

Of which, quite demonstrably, there has been far too little for the tastes and interests of everyone actually living in South Africa, outside a cadre which cannot any longer dine out on the name of a man who has finally gone to his rest.

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