Mandela Government Concludes First 100 Days at S. Africa's Helm
Officials have become more visible to blacks, but expectations of economic improvement grow
IN times past, it would not have been unusual to see Sydney Mufamadi strolling casually around Soweto, where he has lived for many years.
But Mr. Mufamadi is no longer just a resident of the township outside Johannesburg. He is now the minister of safety and security in the new government, and his ability to walk about without security guards, talking freely with the people, is emblematic of the change that has come to South Africa.
Indeed, as the administration of President Nelson Mandela marked its first 100 days in office yesterday, one of the major changes in South Africa is that government is friendlier and more accessible to black people than ever before.
Being visible and accessible will not, however, be enough in the long term, as expectations grow for the government to deliver on its pledges to reduce black poverty and unemployment. Acknowledging this point, Mr. Mandela, the country's first black president, yesterday delivered a speech before Parliament that addressed economic concerns. ``The yardstick that we shall all be judged by is one and one only, and that is: Are we, through our endeavors here, creating the basis to better the lives of all South Africans?'' he asked, according to an advanced text released yesterday.
Mandela repeated his government's pledge to spend 2.5 billion rands [$700 million] this fiscal year to provide health, education, and housing for the poor under the a development program expected to last five years.
He said his government was handling with urgency such problems as continuing violence, the killing of police officers, and increased drug trafficking.
The next 100 days and beyond will be even more difficult if expectations of better economic conditions for blacks are not realized, says Alec Erwin, deputy finance minister.
``If not enough is done in this early period of governance in the next six or seven months, then the gap between aspirations and delivery will become a serious one,'' he says.
The government is making a start in this direction, and even former political enemies appear more united than ever before in working for the common good.
This was evident when both white and black leaders in South Africa came together to declare Mandela's first three months in office a success, despite his failure to attract an investment boom.
While foreign investors remain reluctant to put their money into South Africa following the end of sanctions and white minority rule, members of the government of national unity say the new government is holding firm.
Mandela insists that the country's political honeymoon was far from over, but in fact had only just begun, as he received strong praise from the leader of the previous government, Frederik de Klerk, who is now deputy president. Under a power-sharing deal expected to last for five years, both members of the National Party and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi have been given ministerial posts.
``I have high appreciation for the way in which [Mandela] stands firm on his conviction with regard to economic policy, notwithstanding what one perceives to be some strong criticism from within [his organization],'' Mr. De Klerk has said.
Chief Buthelezi, now the home affairs minister, and regarded as Mandela's arch-rival, told reporters in Cape Town: ``I don't think [Mandela] could have done better.''
While grateful to both Buthelezi and De Klerk for their commitment to unity, Mandela conceded that members of the ANC parliamentary caucus were increasing hostility toward National Party members of parliament, and in particular the notion of sharing the chairmanships of parliament committees.
Yet Mandela insisted in the face of such difficulties that ``there is no basis for saying the honeymoon is over. It has hardly begun. If there is anything that is required it is the continuation of the honeymoon.''
Most political and economic analysts speak approvingly of the direction of the new administration and its commitment to private enterprise, but caution that the country's problems were far from over.
Plans to alleviate poverty under the post-apartheid Reconstruction and Development Program are also still in their early stages.
The problems include nationwide strikes, escalating crime and attacks on police, with about 160 members of the force being killed so far this year, even though political violence has declined since the April election.
But Mandela is generally being given high marks for keeping the country from descending into civil war, as some had predicted. The transition of the armed forces and the public sector has been orderly, and the threat from far-right white organizations is diminishing.