Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Democracy 10

Is it possible to go through a single day in South Africa at the moment without hearing the phrase "ten years of democracy?" I don't think so. That phrase is everywhere, on television, in the papers, on the lips of politicians ahead of our general presidential elections in April. We are celebrating 10 years of democracy this year since 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected our first post-apartheid president. It's fortuitous that our ten year celebration co-incides with the elections, making this a particularly meaningful, and even spectacular year for our country. While politicians throw insults and accusations at one another, and analysts analyse, the truth is, it's turning out to be a remarkable time of reflection, for looking back, for seeing how far we've come, for thinking about where we are going. We all seem to be looking at ourselves in the mirror and asking, collectively and individually, "Are we, am I, on the right track?" Are we doing enough, are we truly committed, are we following the right policies, are we making enough effort to overcome the prejudices of the past? I think we're doing a good job of asking these questions, our media is strong, independent and diverse, hard questions are being asked and answered. We don't understand why our president does some of the things that he does - his policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe, his refusal to act on the hiv/aids issue - and just why he decided to send weapons to Haiti to assist Jean-Bertrand Aristide is anybody's guess? We have many serious problems including crime, corruption, unemployment, poverty and hiv/aids, yet we are obviously doing something right, we're staying afloat, we're one step ahead, we're making progress. There is a general feeling of national pride, we are part of the international community, and in the meantime the streets of South Africa are vibrating with a palpable sense of excitement as we move towards the planned ten-year celebrations and the elections.