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After Mandela: The Struggles for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

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I’m admittedly biased about Douglas Foster’s AFTER MANDELA: THE STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM IN POST-APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA: Doug is an old friend. A fellow UCSC Banana Slug, I have tracked Foster’s stellar journalism career for decades.  And many times over the years of writing and editing this tome Doug called me to ask, “How the hell did you survive writing your books?” (Of course my answer to most first-authors is, “Don’t do it, unless you are prepared to experience the most profound loneliness of your life.”)

It is with great delight that I can report, Reader, that After Mandela is a fantastic book. What Foster has managed to accomplish, as a white outsider from Chicago, is remarkable. He lifts the veils deliberately placed over the inner machinations of politicians inside the African National Congress, shows that many heroes stand on legs of sand, and introduces readers to the children and grandchildren of South Africa’s most famous leaders. Through their eyes – including the AIDS orphaned grandsons of Nelson Mandela, protesting university student daughters of President Jacob Zuma – Foster shares a glimpse of the complicated nation’s future. More importantly, through the narratives of disenfranchised, alienated young black men Foster illustrates the precarious nature of the country’s hopes and dreams.

I have made several journeys to South Africa over the post-Apartheid years, and knew many of its ANC exiled leaders living in Zambia during the worst of the period of Boer domination. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal from Foster’s book.  Like him, I find that the world turns away from countries after their moments of dramatic liberation, during the most pivotal time of social and political development. I saw this across the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, and most immediately in Myanmar/Burma. The heroes of liberation are rarely quality leaders of mundane governance. While the outside world gives them grand stature, in their own countries or communities the once-successful rebels too often prove to be incompetent governors, malevolent political in-fighters, egomaniacs, power-hungry fools or simply well-meaning fonts of mediocrity.  Foster’s book finds all of these elements in the post-Apartheid South African scene, along with fantastic sparks of humanity and vision.

[Liveright Publishing    2012]