South Africa - Domestic policy



The first post-apartheid government brought significant changes to the nation, including the incorporation of ANC's armed guerrillas, known as the Umkonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), into the South African Defense Force; the creation of a multiracial civil service and national police; and increased public spending for social programs for the disadvantaged through the National Reconstruction and Development Program. The most significant achievement was the creation of 500 rural clinics and the establishment of free medical care for children under age six and pregnant women. All of these changes were accomplished initially with sustained economic growth. The burgeoning AIDS epidemic, however, threatened to undo the early progress.

Mbeki's major challenge, to uplift the economic condition of the black majority, constitutes an extremely difficult task. The government will remain committed to major public works projects, including rural electrification, education funding, the building of affordable homes, and the creation of sanitation systems. It needs to maintain the support of the predominantly white business community, however, which looks at Mbeki and the ANC with concern and suspicion.

While a modest level of white out-migration to Australia, Great Britain, and Canada has taken place since the fall of the apartheid government, the major problem for South African immigration policy remains the migration to South Africa from nearby nations by those seeking economic improvement and the significant increase in crime that has resulted. In the past five years, the judicial system failed to deal adequately with increasing crime.

In December 2002, Mbeki addressed the third ANC conference held since the party took power in 1994, and said South Africa still had a long way to go if it were to create a non-racial society. The majority of the economy, including the land, remains white-owned, and "wealth, income, opportunity, and skills continue to be distributed according to racial patterns," he said. The ANC is widely expected to win the 2004 elections, and Mbeki would then gain a second term in office. Divisions within the ANC exist, however, and some question Mbeki's failure to address poverty, unemployment, AIDS, and his support for privatization. Mbeki defends his position and the direction of the ANC movement, and especially targets elements he calls "ultra-leftists" opposed to the movement's social and economic policies. In his State of the Nation address given in February 2003, Mbeki stressed the steady economic growth South Africa was experiencing, as well as increased spending on social and economic development programs.

Mbeki in April 2003 announced that about 22,000 anti-apartheid victims would receive one-time reparations payments of 30,000 rand (approximately US $3,800), but he rejected the levying of a "wealth tax" on businesses which profited by apartheid to pay for reparations. Mbeki's statement to Parliament came on the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) final report on victims of apartheid. Human rights groups held that the payments were meager. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission dedicated itself to the principle of accountability in dealing with the past and in the creation of a new ethos in South African society. Perpetrators who came forward to admit their crimes under apartheid were granted amnesty by the TRC.

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