IS it possible to make too much of events in South Africa this week?
The world witnessed a lawful and orderly transition to a multiracial democracy. The first black president, Nelson Mandela, for 27 years a political prisoner in his own country, took its highest office. He appointed a ``rainbow'' cabinet from across the ethnic and political spectrum. A gallery of distinguished world leaders stood by with unabashed admiration.
It was an exhilarating moment, celebrating an achievement for mankind. Nothing less than the festivities in Pretoria would have been right.
Now, as Mr. Mandela himself has said, the work of nation building must go on. But how to put feet on these lofty dreams? The African National Congress platform calls for the creation of 2.5 million new jobs building roads, water and sewer systems, and 2 million houses. It would make a major overhaul of the education system.
The United States has begun to put money behind its kind words, promising to double aid to $600 million over the next three years, mostly in the form of economic development funds. Help from the rest of the Group of Seven and South African membership in the Commonwealth should follow.
A sound economy would ensure the stable atmosphere this fledgling multiracial society needs. With ethnic strife bursting forth in so many places in the world, the candle of hope raised in South Africa needs the prayers and tangible support of the world.
Mandela's own relationship with his prison guards, who were invited to his inauguration, has set an example.
``You will be surprised to know ... the strong friendships which were built between black prisoners and white warders [guards],'' Mandela said recently. ``It was difficult for the policymakers to persecute us as they wanted because we became friends with our warders.'' When Mandela was released on Feb. 11, 1990, recalls guard James Gregory, ``He came up to me, looked at me, and embraced me, saying: `We'll meet again.' We both had tears in our eyes.''
Now is the time for joy ... and for thoughtful watching and acting.
Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika.
God bless Africa.