Cry again for beloved South Africa?
Jacob Zuma's rise raises questions about its course.
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But many more millions, who perhaps had unrealistic expectations of what the transition from white to black rule would mean for them, remain in primitive housing, without electricity, and without jobs. One consequence has been a shocking crime wave in which disappointed African have-nots seize cars and household possessions from the haves, both black and white.Skip to next paragraph
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It has been my good fortune to have connections with South Africa and great South Africans for many years.
When I was a boy in Britain during World War II, my father venerated Jan Christiaan Smuts, the Afrikaner leader who brought South Africa into the war on the allied side over the objections of some of his fellow Afrikaners. Our family was commanded to silence whenever Smuts spoke on the BBC.
After the war, as a teenager fresh from England, I was drilled by my first editor, Alex Hammond. He was a white South African who believed becoming a journalist was rather like entering the priesthood ("You will live, breathe, dream this newspaper, and maybe we can make a journalist of you.")
Years later, as a foreign correspondent covering South Africa in the apartheid era, I would stroll with Alan Paton, the famous author of "Cry, the Beloved Country," through his exquisite flower-filled garden, as he talked of his hopes for a South Africa he would never see.
When I left Africa for another assignment, I went to say goodbye to Albert Luthuli, the then ANC leader, at his home in Zululand. He was a man of remarkable compassion and peace, despite the indignities to which he had been subjected. "How will it go?" I asked. Sadly, he told me that while he sought accommodation with the white regime, he could not much longer restrain his young black men from violence.
Then there was Stanley Uys, the country's leading political journalist, who deplored the excesses of his fellow Afrikaners. He had a wry sense of humor. Our phone conversations were monitored by the police Special Branch and Stan delighted in giving them ridiculously misleading information.
And Aggrey Klaaste, editor of the largest black newspaper, who dreamed that one day South Africa would become the industrial and economic engine for raising up all of Africa.
South Africa has come far down the road to multiracial concord and promise that such men hoped to see. It would be tragedy indeed if new leaders made us again cry for the beloved country.