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Subtitle: Inside the new South Africa
Author: Allister Sparks
Publisher: Jonathan Ball
Cape Town, South Africa 2005
Softcover, 15x23 cm, 370 pages, several b/w photos
Nelson Mandela's inauguration as president of South Africa was a defining moment of the twentieth century. This book, by one of South Africa's most distinguished journalists and commentators, analyses brilliantly what has happened to South Africa since it underwent one of the world's few relatively bloodless revolutions almost a decade ago.
It is the dramatic story of how a handful of rookie politicians came 'out of the bush' - to use Mandela's own phrase - to take over the running of a complex and deeply troubled country that they thought was richly endowed but in fact was almost bankrupt; of how they struggled to come to terms with an often hostile bureaucracy; and how above all they found themselves struggling not only with the complexities of their own society but also with the bewildering and often destabilising forces of the new globalised economy.
It is the story of singular triumphs and some distressing failures. South Africa still faces many problems, but it is also one of the most vibrant and exciting places on earth - and, as Sparks suggests, a microcosm of the world. Mandela's dream was of a nonracial democracy, and this book is a realistic assessment of the status of that dream as the new South Africa nears the end of its first decade. South Africa also represents a unique negotiated resolution to a historical conflict that had its roots in rival claims to sovereignty over the same piece of national territory. Whose country is it?
Both white Afrikaners and black Africans laid claim to South African sovereignty - one as a God-ordained right, the other by indigenous birthright. This is a conflict that repeats itself in many of the world's most intractable trouble spots - between Israelis and Palestinians, Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, Greeks and Turks in Cyprus. In that respect particularly, Sparks suggests that the great South African experiment is of abiding global importance.
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