South Africa's New Conservative

June 05, 1994

President Nelson Mandela's first major address to South Africa's parliament set forth a vision of a unified society of equals in which "No more should words like kaffirs, hottentots, coolies, boy, girl and baas be part of our vocabulary."

And he also set forth a spending program marked by restraint, deficit curtailment, encouragement to investment and reduced expectations for enriching the impoverished masses.

A program starting at $700 million or 3 percent of the 1994-5 budget was included for housing, electricity, water and sewage systems, education and health services in the townships, with health services especially for all young children and pregnant women. And this will grow roughly four-fold over five years.

But it falls way short of the African National Congress' campaign promise of massive home-building and land redistribution. And much of the redirection of spending is to come from attrition to other government programs. The program is the work not only of Mr. Mandela but also of the finance minister, Derek Keyes, a holdover from the all-white government of F. W. de Klerk.

The ANC that Mr. de Klerk allowed back from exile and out of prison in 1990 was wedded to Marxist socialism and inter-locked with the Communist Party. While the ANC was converting Mr. de Klerk's National Party to a unified country with common citizenship and rights for all, it was being converted to a market economy and recognition of the failures of socialism.

One speech does not a five-year record make. But Mr. Mandela showed remarkable wisdom, in view of his long campaign from prison, on the need to preserve the wealth-creating capacity of his country in order to bring up the standard of living of its vast majority. No Rip van Winkle, he. Under his leadership, South Africa is marching prudently in the right direction at a measured pace that its disparate society can handle. He is showing an unerring instinct for national unity.

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