Xi Jinping meets with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa

Crythe Beloved Country is a 1948 novel by South African writer Alan Paton. It was set in South Africa during the apartheid era when non-whites were discriminated against by a racist white Afrikaner-led government whose ruling elites supported Adolf Hitler during WW2.

And this was despite the fact that South Africa sided with Great Britain and its allies during that war and many South Africans fought and died alongside British and allied military personnel.

Alan Paton’s book brought home to many of us how apartheid was not only evil but totally unnecessary when it’s clear to anyone who wishes to look that there are both good and bad people of all creeds, colours and religions throughout the world.

I lived in South Africa as a result of a company transfer from 1970-73 during the apartheid period and saw it all with my own eyes. I met really good people of all races and I met some who I detested.

Many white people, including myself, actively opposed apartheid and eventually it was eliminated when Nelson Mandela was freed after a total of 27 years in prison and became the country’s first black president on 10 May 1994, aged 77 years.

It was South Africa’s most fortunate historical event because Mandela was able to unite the country and avoid what many of us thought would be a bloodbath between the white and black people vying for power.

Instead, it became an example of what can be achieved by intelligent, well-meaning, and tolerant people of all races, when properly led.

Nelson Mandela stepped down as President in 1999, after just one term in office. He is acknowledged by the vast majority of people as one of the world’s most outstanding statesmen ever to have held office as a country’s leader.

He forgave his former enemies and ushered in one of the world’s most progressive constitutions. South Africa was seen as a moral example and beacon of hope worldwide.

It was a sad day when he died in December 2013, aged 95.

Former friends, family and political analysts say Mandela (pictured above) would have been bitterly disappointed in the state of South Africa today.

Even before his death, his ANC political party and the government at that time had become embroiled in corruption scandals – most notably under one of his successors, former President Jacob Zuma.

Today, critics accuse the party of only caring about self-enrichment and failing to deliver a better life for most of South Africa’s impoverished citizens.

They say Madiba, as Mandela was widely known, would have been disappointed.

A close friend of Mandela said, “He would have been absolutely appalled at the decay in the country, the continued rampant corruption, including by some Cabinet ministers who are members of his once proud African National Congress”

Many other ANC stalwarts and surviving Mandela contemporaries declined to comment publicly, presumably out of fear.

However, one of the statesman’s grandsons, Ndaba Mandela, echoed the view that Mandela would have been disappointed.

“Of course, my grandfather Madiba would have been very disappointed to say the least, to see what’s happened with the current ANC, with this party that he loved so much,” he said.

“Do I think some of the party members are letting down the ANC? Of course they are, we have ministers who are on a feeding frenzy.”

Lumkile Mondi, an economics professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, described what he said are the main problems facing South Africa today.

“Levels of unemployment are very, very high, at about 32.5%; more importantly, inequality has deepened. So has poverty. Infrastructure, whether it’s water infrastructure, road infrastructure, energy infrastructure, has collapsed,” he said.

Many people still live in abject poverty

This year marks 30 years since the first democratic elections in South Africa and voters will head to the ballot box in May. Numerous polls are suggesting the ANC will lose its majority for the first time. They indicate that President Cyril Ramaphosa has little to show for his 6 years in power.

South Africa is now categorised as a “flawed democracy”. It is ranked 83rd out of 180 nations, down from 54th in 2010.

White people are increasingly in danger of being physically attacked. In 2022, there were more than 300 farm attacks and 50 murders of white farmers.

It is beset with record unemployment, inequality, corruption, power cuts, lack of public transport, decrepit infrastructure, a high level of national debt, and out-of-control crime.

Despite this, the South African government found time and the energy to take Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over alleged genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

Many people believe that the South African government should first fix its own immense failures before criticising others, especially with no credible evidence.

South Africa could have grown into a wonderfully successful country free of poverty, corruption and racial conflict – but after Mandela it’s been all downhill.

It has now officially become a third world country, identified as such by its high rate of poverty, economic and political instability, and high mortality rate.

Worse still, it has gradually entangled itself in the dark webs of Putin’s Russia and Xi’s communist China. There’s no mistaking where that will end. It is terribly sad, and makes people like me ask, ‘was the struggle all worth it’?