As World Cup 2010 kicks off, where South Africa stands 16 years after apartheid
South Africa is a model of racial reconciliation following decades of apartheid, with a burgeoning black middle class. But high crime, unequal wealth, and social tensions persist as the nation hosts World Cup 2010.
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South Africa will only succeed if South Africans hold their government accountable, Thabang says, changing the channel (over his children's protests) to a real-time broadcast of debate in South Africa's Parliament. Thabang is disappointed in many of his country's current leaders – some of whom he says are more interested in making money than in serving their country.Skip to next paragraph
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He worries about hotheads like Mr. Malema of the ANC Youth League, who talk about nationalizing the country's mines and about taking away farmland from current owners, which could set the country on a path just as destructive as that of South Africa's next-door neighbor, Zimbabwe. But, Thabang says, the best part about democracy and majority rule is that voters now have the power to choose new leaders.
"You look at a party, and if they don't fulfil their mandate, then we'll say, 'we don't want this party,' " says Thabang, with a mischievous grin. (His son Thabo is grinning, too: He has taken back the remote, and changed the channel back to cartoons.) "We fear nothing now. If people say 'we want water,' they'll get water. Now, not later. If you lie, people will change you."
The Wentzels:Whites who embrace a color-blind era– but are unemployed
Ivan Wentzel has the beefy frame of an Afrikaner – the Dutch-speaking white settlers who once ruled this country during the 45 years of apartheid. His wife, Lynda, teases him that he looks like a poster boy for the right-wing AWB party.
But with Ivan and Lynda, looks are deceiving. Statistically, they are well within the white middle-class South African norm, living in a comfortable but not posh three-bedroom house. He is a college graduate, the son of a South African diplomat. She is a high school graduate, but, raised on a farm, she is fluent in Sesotho, the language of African laborers who lived around them.
Even with the end of apartheid, whites still enjoy economic advantages. They own 94 percent of the share value of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and 81 percent of the commercial farmland in the country. Seventy percent of white college students found work immediately after graduation, higher than the rate of their black, Asian, and mixed-race classmates, according to a 2003 study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council. It's a fact that belies the worries of many whites that their children will be disadvantaged by the government's affirmative-action programs promoting job creation for blacks.
Yet, despite these seeming advantages, the Wentzels are part of a quiet number of white South Africans who welcomed the end of apartheid in 1994, primarily because the system was unfair. They left the church they attended, the Dutch Reformed Church, because of its past support of apartheid. When a black Zimbabwean family moved into the house across the street, they didn't scowl like their neighbors did. They took them a casserole.
The Wentzels send their children, Louise, 8, and Stephanie, 6, to a mainly white Afrikaans-language public school, but they enthusiastically embrace a new color-blind era. One day, while visiting the home of a black classmate, Louise was introduced to the girl's father. "You didn't tell me your father was black," Louise told her friend. It never occurred to Louise that her friend was also black, Lynda says.
"The kids who are going to school now, they'll forget about all these issues of race, and they'll just get on with the business of being children," says Lynda, seated on a comfortable sofa in her modest home in the Centurion suburb of Tshwane. "That is the hope of this country."
The Wentzels would not, at first glance, appear to be such easy fans of an ANC government. Like the majority of South Africans in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s, both served in the military at a time when the ANC was Public Enemy No. 1.