Leading Article: First, South Africa's violence must stop

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The Independent Online
NELSON MANDELA is a noble man. Imprisoned for 27 years for his dedication to the cause of black majority rule in South Africa, he emerged a hero not just in his own country but across the world. Astonishingly, given the tendency today to cut down 'tall poppies', a hero he has remained. He is in London this week, partly to drum up investment in the country of which everyone expects him to become president once democracy is in the saddle. It is a churlish spirit that would not wish him well on a very difficult mission.

For, as he acknowledged at his press conference yesterday, the climate of violence in South Africa is not conducive to investment. Since he believes the far right of the political spectrum lies at the heart of the present darkness, he reckons the violence cannot properly be tackled until there is a new (and clean) government. None the less, he will be calling for foreign investment - and thus for an end to any remaining sanctions - once the date for the country's first non- racial elections is announced.

In some ways the prospects are not quite as bleak as they seem. In the week after the assassination of Chris Hani, when emotions ran high and millions of grief-stricken and angry blacks took to the streets, the number of political killings was lower than usual. But the level remains high by any normal standards, and certainly bad enough to deter most potential foreign investors. They will inevitably be even more comprehensively frightened off if there is an increase in the killing of whites by blacks on what seem to be purely racial grounds. If whites are emigrating out of fear for their lives, foreign companies will not want to risk their own staff in South Africa.

Investors will have other, more purely politico-economic fears. Mr Mandela stressed yesterday that the African National Congress had abandoned its former policy of widespread nationalisation, and spoke of guarantees for investors, including the right to repatriate profits. It will take time for news of that conversion to spread, and there will be doubters who will want to see firm evidence from an ANC-led government: first in a clear enunciation of economic policy, with a firm commitment to a liberal market economy, and then in deeds that support it.

A second concern will be the prospects for profits and an expanding market. In the longer term these must be good, given South Africa's natural resources, its rapidly expanding non- white middle class, its underdeveloped potential for tourism and its sound infrastructure. But in the short term there is not just widespread poverty and massive unemployment, but an economy running at only 75 per cent of its productive capacity.

Mr Mandela's faith in Britain is touching. This country is South Africa's largest foreign investor, and has been setting the pace in education and training across an impressively broad spectrum. If, against the odds, South Africans of all hues can work together to create a climate of political stability, there will be no lack of Britons ready to take a stake in the country's future.