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Nelson Mandela Photo courtesy of the Embassy of South Africa BOOKS & THE CULTURE South Africa’s Long Run To Justice BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN 1 n or about May 10, 1994, human nature changed in South Africa. After the installation of Nelson Mandela to lead the government that had locked him in prison for twenty-seven years, official traces of apartheid abruptly disappeared. Mandela’s journey from incarcer ation to inauguration \(reversing the trajectory of American politicians from high ble of virtue triumphant. With the adoption of a new constitution that, among much else, ends racial restrictions on suffrage, housing, education, and employment, South Africa, once a global byword for bigotry, has eaten Jim Crow. Not only has institutionalized racism faded, but ethnic intolerance suddenly vanished from public discourse. The National Party, which had governed since 1948, conceiving and implementing a brutal system of white domination over the black majority, now repents. Apart from a few pallid zealots who advocate an independent statean Afrikaner Montana near Namibiait is virtually impossible now to find anyone willing to defend apartheid. It is remarkable how a mere election can concentrate the mind if not open the heart. Where have all the racists gone? The second time I saw President Mandela, during a torrid Texas summer I spent wintering in South Africa, he was standing at the finish line of Jan Smuts Stadium. The seventy-seven-year-old ex-con had come to congratulate survivors of the Comrades Marathon, an athletic event that obliges competitors to run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, uphill for fifty-three miles. An ordinary marathon is strenuous enough; the original lonely long-distance runner, a military messenger, is said to have dropped dead after sprinting a scant twenty-six miles from Athens to Marathon in 490 B.C. More than 10,000 runners complete the annual Comrades Marathon, a national lesson in fortitude and endurance. Committed to the principles of nonracial democracy, the African National Congress, founded in 1912, had to wait eighty-two years for the democratic elections that brought them to power. If you seek social justice, be prepared for the long run. In post-apartheid South Africa, which is vying to host the 2004 Olympics in Cape Town, citizens of every color are still attentive to races. Locomotion . furnishes a metaphor for so much of the national mythology from the Great Trek of 1835-36, the arduous migration inland, away from the encroachments of the British Empire, that forged Afrikaner identity, to Mandela’s 1994 autobiography Long Walk to Freedomthat the new South Africa ought to adopt New Mexico’s motto: “Crescit Eundo” \(It final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and more difficult road,” writes Mandela. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.” It is a privilege for an American jaded by jargon about multiculturalism to audit that test. I peeked in at balloting in KwaZulu Natal, the first time that free and open elections were held for provincial office. While a bad hair day is sufficient pretext to discourage someone in the States from exercising the franchise, Natalians of all colors queued up for hours at the polling sites, even in precincts with uncontested races. In the tricameral Parliament of the old South Africa, one chamber represented whites, one chamber “coloreds” \(i.e., scendants of Asians mostly imported as indentured servants. None represented blacks, and the white chamber had the power to overrule the other two anyway. In the new South Africa that Archbishop Desmond Tutu dubbed the “Rainbow Nation,” a black woman serves as Speaker of the National Assembly, and legislators are permitted to babble in any of eleven official languagesAfrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. A continuing symptom of either fragmentation or pluralism is the triangulation of the South African government among widely separated capitalsPretoria for the executive In or about December, 1910, human nature changed. Virginia Woolf 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 27, 1996