| 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
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
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
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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· Culture ·
In this period of Cape History: