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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Ivan recently retired as a major from the South African National Defense Forces, where he had worked as a French-language interpreter for the top brass. Lynda retired as a sergeant in the Air Force, in charge of arranging trips for senior officers. Both are having difficulty finding work in the private sector.Skip to next paragraph
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They have seen major mistakes by ANC politicians, but they say the ANC is learning and often backtracking to old apartheid-era systems that worked. They shake their heads at corruption and the rise of "tenderpreneurs," politically connected businessmen who profit from getting government tenders.
But they also note that the ANC's three presidents, Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and now Jacob Zuma, have been careful to keep left-wing rhetoric out of their economic policies, and to ensure that a free-market system thrives and creates jobs.
Lynda is philosophical about the centerpiece of the ANC's transformation of the economy, a system called "black economic empowerment," which encourages the hiring and advancement of black employees in government offices, and rewards private companies that advance black employees in the private sector.
"In the old apartheid system, my mother worked until she was 60, not because she had skills but because she was white," says Lynda. "Now you get a job because you're black. It's just the pendulum swinging the other way."
That pendulum has come with a personal cost. Ivan left the military last month because there was no room for advancement. He tired of absorbing the duties of departing colleagues, but with no increase in pay. Now he enters the job market in a recession, his white skin no longer an advantage. Lynda is also unemployed, having retired to take a more active part in raising their daughters.
But Ivan has no time for pessimism. "It's very easy to talk about the negatives, but we love our country, we both served our country, and we still want to contribute," says Ivan. He falls silent, and Lynda finishes his thought: "If only we could find jobs to do so."
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IN PICTURES: South Africa: Sixteen Years After Apartheid