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New South Africa
(page 5)
New Government
The ANC-led Government of National Unity, headed by Nelson Mandela, included members of the NP and IFP, members of different races and faiths, and women. Mandela was determined to foster good race-relations and as President he went out of his way to nurture reconciliation. Political violence rapidly subsided and extremist groups withered.

The Government of National Unity was to oversee a new South African constitution. The resulting document has been widely praised. It includes an independent judiciary and constitutional court to uphold a libertarian Bill of Rights. It devolved significant powers to the nine provinces, helping to create political balance.

Various independent commissions, such as the Human Rights Commission, were created to uphold the values enshrined in the constitution. Most of these are permanent bodies, but Desmond Tutu was asked to head a unique Truth and Reconciliation Commission to offer amnesty to those who confessed to human rights abuses. In this way the truth of many abuses came to light, helping to resolve much of the bitterness and secrecy of the past. The amnesty process was controversial, but the model has been followed by other new democracies.

In their election campaign the ANC promised 'jobs, peace and freedom'. The centrepiece of ANC policy was the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Plan). The plan promised 300,000 new houses a year, access to clean water, sanitation and electricity, health, education and welfare, jobs through public works schemes and a massive re-distribution of land.

Such promises, including 'jobs for all', led to high expectations. Affirmative action helped educated blacks get ahead, but the reality in the townships was continued poverty and growing unemployment. Youths who had high expectations of liberation saw some blacks become wealthy and whites retain their privilege, but their own circumstances remain bleak. Many felt marginalised, even betrayed.

Some disillusioned freedom fighters changed political activism for crime, which for the first time became a feature not only of the townships but also of city centres and suburbs. Meanwhile the justice system struggled to cope with the volume of work and the police force struggled to adapt from its racist, paramilitary culture to the new 'rights-based' era.

The first five years of democracy did not achieve many of the ambitious goals set out by the ANC. The spread of criminality created fear throughout the country. Affirmative action strained race relations. These factors discouraged badly needed foreign investment, depressed white confidence and encouraged a wave of emigration by young white professionals.

The RDP raised expectations, but it was far too ambitious and demonstrated a naivety about government and its resources. Some progress was made - particularly in water provision - but the RDP programme was quietly dropped before the end of Mandela's term. The abiding success of the Mandela government was to lay the foundations for a new nation - through reconciliation and a new constitution, and his own example as a South African leader. These have created the basis for meeting the challenges of the new era.

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Heritage Sections
· Culture ·
· Environment ·
History · Society
Personalities · Areas

In this period of Cape History:

Overview

Mandela's Release

Negotiations

Agreement

Elections

New Government

Continuity
& Change


Development

Conclusion

Bibliography & Contacts













 


 
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