NOW that ample Southern Hemisphere rains have begun to make up for years of drought, and reconciliation between whites and blacks is a success, President Nelson Mandela's new South Africa must solve three urgent problems if democracy is to be sustained.
* South Africa's 40 million citizens can't eat black rule and fancy promises. Mr. Mandela must begin to deliver percapita growth and, simultaneously, education, housing, and other services.
* Mandela's government must eliminate political killing fields. Zulus are still being massacred as the result of long-running feuds between adherents of Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
* Urban crime, particularly in Johannesburg and on the industrial Witwatersrand, is reaching new highs, with carjackings and robbery attacks topping the list. Despite much talk, neither Mandela's government nor the nine provincial governments have managed to do much about crime.
After assuming power in April 1994, Mandela's government promised to open the post-apartheid sluice gates. Africans' thirst for improved schooling, effective medical care, decent shelter, jobs, pensions, and a social safety net were to be met. A dramatic Reconstruction and Development Program, with lofty goals, was enunciated.
Meeting those targets depended on improvements in the national economy and real growth. South Africa's economic performance since 1994 has indeed been good. Inflation has fallen into the single digits, to about 7 percent, but now it's growing again. Balance-of-payments figures have been solid, in recent months showing comparatively large surpluses. The Johannesburg Stock Market and Rand-denominated long bonds have performed well, but there has been little growth.
With its population increasing annually by about 2.6 to 3 percent a year, South Africa must grow 5 to 6 percent a year (at a modest Asian-tiger rate) for national growth to be sustained and for the poorest South Africans to begin to notice percapita benefits. Yet it's barely growing. For about 10 years, to 1994, South Africa grew hardly at all and probably declined on a percapita basis.
How to start the engine of growth is controversial. South Africa's farming and industrial sectors have been protected and subsidized, with high tariff barriers and little free trade. Lowering these barriers and ending subsidies is helping. Still, more-drastic action is required.
What South Africans politely call the country's labor aristocracy is a significant problem. Because unionized labor was critical to winning the anti-apartheid struggle, trade unions have successfully sought high wages from the mines and government. Wages outside these formal sectors are correspondingly high - for the comparative few who have jobs. Productivity is regarded as low.
Fifty percent of all South Africans are unemployed. The real issue is not how to maintain high wages for the unionized, but how to provide more job opportunities for the unemployed. A new national wage policy must be part of a strategy to encourage new export-oriented industries.
COMBATING crime is critical. Foreign investors have opened distribution centers or offices in South Africa. But they won't sink real money until the crime wave abates. Crime also is impelling skilled South Africans to flee the country. It will be some time before South Africa's apartheid-determined shortage of indigenous physicians, engineers, accountants, etc., is met.
A larger, reinvigorated, better paid, and better equipped set of provincial and local police forces is necessary. Serious detective work has deteriorated. Corruption and payoffs are frequent. Determined leadership, from the top, is urgently needed.
The same determination, using the military, could claim the province of Kwazulu-Natal, where most of the internecine political massacres are occurring. Mandela and Chief Buthelezi have discussed ways to end the violence, but the underlying issue remains: Buthelezi wants to retain his party's power in Natal; the ANC wants to end it.
Buthelezi and the IFP have boycotted this month's constitutional assembly, which is replacing the country's interim constitution with a permanent one. At issue is the extent to which provinces (particularly Kwazulu-Natal) will be autonomous. The ANC wants a centralized federation; IFP wants one that's largely decentralized.
The battle is fundamentally about turf and political power. The killings in Natal have given Buthelezi a strong seat at the national bargaining table - and hope of holding onto regional power. Mandela must be tougher in dealing with Buthelezi. With Buthelezi more effectively harnessed, and troops interceding in the province, there can be peace - and it won't hurt growth strategy, either.
Mandela and his government must move from the opening phase of reconciliation into a new phase of tough love. Under that mantle, a resolute president will be able to make the needed difficult decisions on growth, crime, and Kwazulu-Natal.