He was elected on a tidal surge of hope. Outside South Africa he was a hero. But inside South Africa, there were insistent, aggressive demands: for houses, for education, for jobs. This programme of change swung millions behind the ANC. The next struggleis to deliver the goods. The first struggle lasted 80 years, from the ANC's foundation in 1912. But a government gets far fewer years of grace. If expectations remain disappointed, the struggle will rapidly become one of pure power: who is to seize Mandela's mantle?
Mandela spoke at the weekend of "fiscal discipline, macro-economic stability and economic growth". He is no rhetorician. These are wise words, but they uplift no hearts. The townships look around them and see a government trying to hold down the unions whose strikes helped it to come out of the chill of exile. They read about commissions studying ways to improve the schools, but they see little action. From the housing ministry, headed by the ageing chief ideologue, Joe Slovo, they see nothing much, either.
Meanwhile the would-be heirs stake out their ground. One of the ANC's finest organisers, Cyril Ramaphosa, former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, excluded himself from government. But he is secretary-general of the party. Yesterday he appealed for an end to "cliques, factions, tensions and squabbles".
His main rival is Thabo Mbeki, a Sussex University graduate who is very close to the President. Each will try to portray himself as the man of the people.
The Mandela government was denied simple symbolic gestures on coming to office. Many of the worst shackles of apartheid had already been snapped by FW De Klerk. But it must find alternative symbols - perhaps an all-out crash programme of new housing. Otherwise it could sink into bickering and possible disaster. Yet despite sanctions, South Africa has Africa's biggest economy. Despite apartheid, it has a black middle class. A strong, reformed South Africa is crucial to the future of this beleaguered continent.Reuse content