As an avowed partnership in government, it seems likely to grow stronger. Neither partner can afford to allow the first inter-racial government to collapse and let South Africa slide into anarchy. The partners know one another well now, and each knows the limits beyond which the other cannot be pushed. Both parties include people of great political acumen. The ANC leadership, in particular, has come a long way from the millenarian rhetoric which so many of its members brought back with them from exile. They have made many compromises already and will make more. How far how many of their present followers follow them down that path is another matter.
De Klerk's National Party is by now in the relatively comfortable position of a party that has left its splits behind it, through the desertion of the white right. De Klerk's colleagues and followers know that he is not - as the rightists charge - abdicating in favour of black power, and that many of the levers of power politically will still be in white hands, for some considerable time to come. This applies not merely to economic power, but also to power over the defence forces and the police.
The ANC leadership knows this well, and even wants things to be this way for a longish transitional period. It is not in their interests - or those of anyone else in South Africa except the white far-right and black criminals - that de Klerk and his followers should lose control over the defence forces and the police. De Klerk has exercised that power with growing sensitivity to the views and feelings of the black community, and Mandela and his followers will ensure that things continue to develop along those lines. They will not be risking anything in this most critical area of governmental responsibility.
Unlike the National Party, the ANC will probably face serious internal troubles, in the townships from early on, then perhaps in parliament. The leadership will have much patronage at its disposal. But that is always a two-edged weapon, and in the case of a mass-party, the negative edge may be the more dangerous.
There will always be more people left out than brought in, after the jobs have been distributed. Those left out have nothing to lose by making trouble - and possibly much to gain. The troublemakers will easily be able, in the new situation, to turn the past rhetoric of the ANC leadership against it: 'There they are, those leaders, living in affluence along with their white allies who still control all the resources of South Africa, while the black masses are still living in the same dire poverty as they were when their leaders sold out]'
There will be enough truth in that picture to carry some conviction in the townships, increasingly, probably, as time goes on. In the immediate future, however, there will be a sense of satisfaction in cheering the great black president, and even the black ministers. Envy is not the only emotion that can be aroused by the spectacle of success. There can also be a sense of identification with the success of members of one's own kind, especially when it has suffered from pariah status for as long as it can remember. As long as the pariah status is still acutely remembered, that factor will work quite powerfully in favour of the new government. When that memory begins to fade - as it may after the inevitable departure from the scene of Nelson Mandela - the new government, and especially the ANC leadership, is likely to be in trouble.
With luck the government should continue to be widely popular for at least its first year, and even possibly its first term. Contrary to widespread impressions about black electorates, the one in South Africa has not been expecting any miraculous transformation in its condition as a result of the first real non-racial election.
The short-term prospects look reasonably good. It is the middle- and long-term prospects that are daunting. The main reason is the continuing population explosion with huge youth unemployment and proportionate growth in violent crime. At the heart of it all is the so-called 'lost generation': the young people who are almost totally uneducated as a result of the tragically self- destructive educational boycotts organised under ANC leadership over the past 10 years and more.
Many of these young people are beyond the reach of patronage, since there is nothing they can safely be hired to do. There will be training and rehabilitation programmes, but the attractions of these are limited, especially for young males unaccustomed to study, and accustomed for as long as they can remember to the excitement of the streets, to robbery and violence, and to the many kinds of power that muscle and gang membership confer.
Under the governments of the late-apartheid period, and also during the transitional period, large areas of the townships became zones of anarchy, which means in practice zones controlled by gangs of young males. Similar conditions exist in American urban ghettos. Of these, Jesse Jackson has said recently that most of the oppression of blacks today is being perpetrated by blacks. The same is true of the criminal- dominated zones of the townships. In both cases, however, white governments have condoned 'black-on-black' oppression by concentrating on the far fewer cases of 'black- on-white'.
Perhaps the most momentous choice facing the ANC in the new government is whether or not it insists on policing the townships, including access to the townships. If it fails to do so, it will be abandoning many of the old, the weak and the women, who voted for it this week. But if it does police the townships, it will be taking on its most vociferous supporters - and up to now, enforcers - in the gang-run zones. The first is the easy option; the second the harder one.
I think the ANC leadership is likely to hesitate, but eventually come down in favour of the harder option. If so, this election will signal the beginning of the end - not only the ending of oppression of blacks by whites, but also of oppression of blacks by blacks. Should that happen, the rule of law will be more complete in South Africa than it now is in the United States. But even with the rule of law the going will be rough in South Africa, over the next 20 years.
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