With the release of Nelson Mandela, leader of the ANC (African National Congress), after twenty-six years of captivity, and his election as president in 1994, South Africa has put an end to the long regime of racial segregation of ‘ apartheid, ushering in a new democratic season. However, the consequences of the discriminatory policies applied for decades in the country continue to weigh on both the social structure, the distribution of wealth and the organization of urban spaces. Mandela led the country through a difficult process of political transition and national reconciliation. One of the fundamental elements was the creation of a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, which succeeded in creating a climate of collaboration and laying the foundations for real peace. During his presidency, Mandela based the international image on the diplomacy of rights, so much so that South Africa has been a mediator in many continental and international crises. In 1996 South Africa adopted a state-of-the-art constitution in the field of civil rights, equality and respect for minorities. The country’s role as a global moral leader has often found itself in conflict with that of continental power. Since the 1998 invasion of Lesotho – which took place at the request of the Lesotho government to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) after the unrest following the elections – South Africa’s status began to cloud and Realpolitik – as opposed to the demand for positions closer to African nationalism and Third World activism – it has also made its way into the conduct of the foreign ministry. The presidency of Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela in 1999, has guided the country’s international relations towards strengthening South Africa’s position as a Pan-African leader and spokesperson for developing countries. In 2001 Mbeki, together with the presidents of Nigeria, Algeria and Senegal, in the context of his vision of the ‘African Renaissance’, launched the Nepad (New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development), an African plan for the development of the continent. Mbeki was one of the architects of African continental institutions, including the African Union (Au) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (Aprm). quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe during the disputes over the regularity of the elections). Mbeki’s insistence on African roots has also degenerated into extreme positions, as in the case of the criticism of antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV as a product of Western medicine for the benefit of large pharmaceutical complexes.
The elections of May 2009 were a turning point in the country’s history. In 1999 Zuma had been appointed vice president, therefore predestined to become Mbeki’s successor, but the paths of Mbeki and Zuma split, also due to some cases of corruption that Zuma ran into. The left wing of the party had continued to support Zuma, as well as the ANC youth organizations, the Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and the South African Communist Party (Sacp), until his victory in the congress of the ruling party in Polokwane in 2007. After trying to resist with the support of those who saw in Zuma a drift in the populist-socialist sense, Mbeki resigned as president in 2008. For South Africa 1999, please check estatelearning.com.
Jacob Zuma won the 2009 election, with a majority of about two-thirds of the vote, and his government overturned many of Mbeki’s positions, starting with pressure on Mugabe for a co-management system of power in Zimbabwe and commitment in the fight against HIV. The nationalization plans were set aside and the entry of members of Cosatu and Sacp into the executive was counterbalanced by the establishment of a coordination office entrusted to the former finance minister Trevor Manuel, much loved by the markets. The Zuma presidency coincided with the worsening of the global economic crisis, which did not allow the government to believe in its commitment to relaunch the fight against inequality and poverty, limiting itself to not reducing social spending. Workers, especially those of black origin,
Marikana’s events were a disturbing sign of the weakening of trust in the ANC base towards its representatives, of the disappointment and discontent of the black majority towards the same ruling elite, accused of pursuing the same policies as the white leadership. The strikes continued in 2014 as well, although tensions were reduced due to the economic recovery which had a positive impact on employment.
In 2014, through the elections in which born free, that is, South Africans born after the end of the apartheid regime, participated for the first time, Zuma was re-elected president, even if the ANC lost fifteen seats compared to 2009 (obtaining 62.2% of the vote), while the main opposition movement, the Democratic Alliance, gained 89 seats (with 22.2% of the vote, six points higher than in 2009). Economic Freedom Fighters (Eff), Julius Malema’s party, which has taken some radical stances on issues such as land restitution and resource redistribution, has established itself as the third national political platform, garnering 6% of the vote, despite its leader being investigated for tax fraud.
The figure of Zuma continues to be controversial: in 2013, after repeated postponements, a commission of inquiry was created to investigate a striking case of arms trafficking dating back to the 1990s in which the president was personally involved. In addition, he was investigated in two corruption trials and one for rape, for which he was never convicted, but which deeply shocked public opinion. In 2014, Ombudsman Thuli Madonsela called Zuma to answer for the use of public funds in the extension works of his home in Nkandla. The historical legacy of the ANC is an increasingly less credible alibi and the electoral base is proving more reluctant to entrust its vote to leaders with an extremely weak code of ethics; nevertheless, there is still no party capable of intercepting and channeling the dissent coming from the ranks of the first South African party. 2014-15 is seen by some as the time of Numsa (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa), the most important trade union in South Africa, which through strikes and congresses is trying to turn the national political agenda on the fight against unemployment and on job creation. Numsa is openly challenging the most radical forces of the tripartite alliance, forcing Cosatu and Sacp to rethink their support for the African National Congress. that through strikes and congresses is trying to turn the national political agenda on the fight against unemployment and job creation. Numsa is openly challenging the most radical forces of the tripartite alliance, forcing Cosatu and Sacp to rethink their support for the African National Congress. that through strikes and congresses is trying to turn the national political agenda on the fight against unemployment and job creation. Numsa is openly challenging the most radical forces of the tripartite alliance, forcing Cosatu and Sacp to rethink their support for the African National Congress.