It will be tragic if South Africa slides into a Zimbabwean situation

Morning View
Morning View

When the morally repugnant system of apartheid was dismantled in the early 1990s, it was a time of great hope in the country.

Nelson Mandela had been released from prison in early 1990, weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The old international order seemed to be reforming, and for the better.

Many things that have happened in South Africa over the last 25 years have been positive, as the country has transitioned from being one that was run by a white elite to a multi-racial democracy.

But the transformation of South Africa has by no means been a story of unadulterated success and racial harmony.

Corruption scandals have become a recurring feature of public life. Long-standing allegations against the country’s president, Jacob Zuma, have caused bitter tensions within his ruling African National Congress.

In the post apartheid period, the white population has remained several million people strong. Most African countries lost most of their white populations after independence.

But in South Africa the white population is nonetheless declining. Its white farmers have become increasingly worried about the murders in their community – a group call AfriForum says that 70 white farmers have been murdered this year.

Such farmers are said to be 4.5 times more likely to be murdered than an average South African.

It would be tragic if South Africa was beginning a slow slide into the sort of racist violence that has almost eliminated the white farmer population of Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe’s policy of seizures of white-owned farms has added to economic ruin in his nation, once the breadbasket of Africa.

It is to be hoped that such a fate can be avoided in South Africa, and the reconciliatory spirit of Mr Mandela and President FW de Klerk will prevail. But with President Zuma also talking about farm seizures, the prospects do not look good.