South Africa in a post-Mandela world

Tuesday 17 December 2013 20.16
A Soweto street bollard with a Mandela tribute, a common sight now in South Africa
A Soweto street bollard with a Mandela tribute, a common sight now in South Africa

South Africa woke up on Monday without its loved Madiba.

Nelson Mandela now lies in Qunu, amongst his people, buried in the land he loved, the land he walked bare foot as a young boy.

Presidents, princes, prime ministers and kings made their way to Qunu to bid farewell to the founder of this nation.

RTÉ's Fran McNulty on South Africa's new dawn

The man who fought, in his own words, against white domination and black domination.

The man who forgave those who imprisoned him. The man who helped overthrow a regime which will impact on this country for quite some time to come, regardless of progress.

In glorious sunshine in the Rosebank area of Johannesburg, early morning, Mandela's legacy is openly visible in most coffee shops.

The races mix, all colours and creeds, sipping coffee, breaking bread.

South Africa is a country so new it has never buried a President.

A right of passage has been afforded.

I've covered several State funerals at home. The Irish Army is practiced, the protocol officers know what they are doing and the format is largely the same, be it for Charles Haughey or most recently for Garret FitzGerald.

But at the closing of the Mandela funeral in Qunu, from the front of the huge dome constructed there, Cyril Ramaphosa openly admitted mistakes were made, a first time for the country, he said lessons would be learned.

In Joburg, I wonder if the fact the city feels different is because it is a public holiday, or has something changed beyond loosing the father of the Nation?

Monday was reconciliation day, appropriate timing. South Africa could be reconciling itself further. Repeatedly when you talk to people here they speak about being more united. Madiba has done that.

South Africa is maturing.

But with that maturity comes a reality. This is an unequal society, the most unequal in the world.

As a statue of Mandela is unveiled at Union Buildings in Pretoria and Jacob Zuma speaks publicly for the first time since the funeral. Without 24 hours having passed he slips into election mode, he speaks for a long, long time, a regular occurrence.

He speaks of inequality, striking a balance. Living up to Mandela's ideals, fulfilling his legacy. It's a call that been echoing around South Africa since the days following Mandela's death. Talk of action rather than words. He openly concedes more needs to be done to deal with the scourge of social inequality.

The ANC in Africa is credited with bringing down the apartheid regime, freeing the people and forming an equal Nation.

Yet the ANC is in trouble, many say it is rotten from within, corrupted and ill. The booing of Zuma during the memorial service for Mandela was a public manifestation of the frustrations many within the party feel. It was the kind of thing Mandela would have done.

One analyst at the weekend told RTÉ's This Week that until the ANC is weakened and others strengthened South Africa will remain in trouble.

A revolution within politics here is needed. Sure there are new parties forming, most will think instantly of Julias Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters or Mamphela Ramphele's Agang SA.

Ramphele said to me this week in an interview on Morning Ireland that she formed the party to help deliver the promises Mandela made. For her the ANC is off-course, with little hope of getting back on track.

Delivering on the promises the ANC made was always going to be a challenge. Compromise was the order of the day. But despite Ramphele's aims and objectives, one South African sums her up, "all talk my friend, she talks a great game".

Her party is struggling in the polls and has not made the kind of impact many would have expected.

So what does the Alex Township native think of the young and upcoming Malema? "Nasty man, a nasty little man, he will drive division deeper". It's the view of one person, who openly struggles with he leadership of Zuma, yet sees no solution in the alternatives.

Politics the world over really is the same.

So is this a new dawn for the rainbow nation? Next year’s elections will be a significant indicator, will people take action on the widespread frustration being expressed about Jacob Zuma? Or will they fall back on the old reliable, stick to what they know, the people who gave them their freedom?

I'm sure Zuma asks himself the same thing. The man Mandela called "my Zulu boy" will get a clear clean answer to that question when South Africans go to the polls next year.