After Mandela: The Struggle For Freedom In Post-Apartheid South Africa, by Douglas Foster
Among the more unfortunate aspects of this book is the way that it demonstrates the sad fact that we do not write history, or current events for that matter, as they are, but as we are. Had the author been a better man, or at least a less morally corrupt one, than he happens to be, he could have written a better account. The best thing that can be said for this work is that the author is conscientious about getting things write as far as they relate to other people, and that the author seeks to be somewhat broad in wanting to understand the opportunity and the danger in the period of the 2000’s as it related to the history of South Africa. A major disappointed that cannot be blamed on the author is that, at least in the copy of the book I read, the last 30 pages or so of the book were missing because pages 503-534 were simply copied twice, and the remaining pages not included in the binding at all. It is a shame that the printing of this work was not as conscientious and as focused on getting things write as the author professes himself to be.
This book is more than 500 pages long and covers the period from 2004 to 2012. Beginning with a sense of unease at the complexity of contemporary South Africa, the author spends the first seven chapters of the book discussing the optimism that existed in the country in 2004 as Mbeki’s presidency is at its midpoint. Here the author introduces the people who will be central to his story and sees them at this point. After that the author discusses the stalled revolution from 2005-2006, discussing the AIDS problems, the political and rape trials of Zuma, and the way that it seemed as if things should have progressed but instead were regressing (II). After that the author examines the pivotal year of 2007 in seven chapters that look at various people in diverse parts of South Africa, showing the divide between cultured urban areas and more traditional rural areas and people who were able to move back and forth and the populist appeal of Zuma that won control over the ANC (III). After that the author discusses the end of magical thinking from 2008-2012, showing Zuma’s presidency and the way that life had treated various people in the narrative over the course of a period of unease and hope for a better future and increasing frustration over the way things were and the lack of progress made for ordinary South Africans.
When you strip away the author’s unfortunate obsession with issues of AIDS and sexuality and the power politics of the ANC, all of which reflect the author’s privileged liberalism and moral decadence and his dislike of moralistic appeals to abstinence and sexual restraint–even if he solemnly paints the negative repercussions of that lack of restraint in the lives of South African president Zuma and many others, what you get is a work that casts some serious doubts on the ability of South Africa to educate its youth and prepare them for a better future. The author gives the sense that the elites, white and black, that are able to utilize their contacts as well as tap into the advantages of their background, are able to find a better place in contemporary South Africa if they want it. The author’s prognosis for others is grim, as the affects of sexual trauma and economic exploitation and the lack of education as well as good family models of working and being educated appear to be creating general patterns of failure that are taking place within an atmosphere of rising fear, tension, and violence. If the author seems strangely indifferent to the fate of minority whites, except for those progressives who are a part of the political opposition, he does convey the sense that South Africa is on top of a time bomb and seems to lack the ability to disarm it before generations go to waste.