Maintaining Hope and Optimism in South Africa

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South Africa must stay the course of a free, peaceful, progressive and transparent nation.  This is too, too important to the country itself, to Africa and to the world.

The country played host from April 12-15 to the 63rd Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI), held in one of Africa's most highly developed cities, Cape Town.  It was once the bastion of apartheid and home to the "the Murder Kurche," the Dutch Reformed Church, that gave the strongest and most unequivocal theological backing to apartheid.

It was that ideology that since 1948 allowed 3,000,000 whites to subjugate and suppress over 27 million blacks, Coloreds and Indians. But the blacks, or most of them, fought back with relentless and uncompromising resolve to crush this horrendous, selfish and wicked system, to restore dignity to the oppressed and liberate ALL South Africans, the white people, too.

The fortresses of that struggle were the African National Congress, of which Nelson Mandela became the symbol; Robert Sobukwe's Pan Africanist Congress; which organized the march against pass laws that led to the Sharpeville Massacre; Steve Beko's Black Consciousness Movement and the children of Soweto.  They fought, suffered and died, but never gave up.

The powerful Western nations were for a long time on the side of the white South African oppressors.  As late as the early 1970s United States President Richard Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger declared that the whites were in South Africa to stay and nobody could do anything about it.  But he  underestimated the determination and resolve of the people and his declaration turned out to be "a monumental miscalculation," to quote Canon Burgess Carr, General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) which beginning the early 1970s championed the cause of liberation in Southern Africa.

Because the liberation forces enjoyed sympathy from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and other Socialist nations, the West dismissed the liberation forces as "communists."  But thanks be to God, beginning in 1989 that unsustainable ideology, Communism, collapsed.  The South African white oppressors lost their communist "bogeyman" behind which they had been hiding.  In February 1990, South African President F.W. de Klerk made two earthshaking announcements: the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of imprisonment; and the unbanning of the African National Congress. Mandela, a man with the heart of God, emerged victorious, forgave his white oppressors and invited them to join him in leading the country into a new era of liberation, peace and progress.

Since the 1994 elections, the ANC with its overwhelming majority has continued to rule South Africa. But we see three problems that the nation and its people must overcome to continue the peace, progress and stability the country has enjoyed since liberation.  First, the widening gap between rich and poor.  The whites still own most of the fertile land and farms, mines and big businesses; while many leading black politicians and business people are also fast joining the wealthy class, leaving the impoverished majority behind.  This is distinctly evident as one drives from the airport and sees the zinc shacks that Blacks and Coloreds inhabit, in stark contrast to the beautiful homes and palatial skyscrapers inhabited by the rich and affluent.

The latest Economist Magazine gives South Africa high marks for its economic management.  The Central Bank is running a sound banking, unblemished system; the country's tax harvest is the envy of many rich countries; SA's leading companies are respected multinationals. But SA's most serious problem right now seems to be its President, who is currently under heavy criticism for spending US$24 million renovating his own home.  People are demanding that he pays back that money. There is another problem that inspired a resolution from the just ended IPI Congress: the President must veto an anti-media law that restricts media access to public information.

For the sake of good governance and the protection of the ANC's integrity, we appeal to the SA government to be faithful to its call to leadership, and do NOTHING    that will make it seem okay to pillage the public coffers.  That could lead to disaster and dim the hopes of one of Africa's most blessed countries. Finally, we call on President Zuma to heed the words of Nelson Mandela: "a critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy."

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