“This government—our government—is worse than the apartheid government.”—Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.
South African voters are headed to the polls this week for the fourth national election since 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected president after the end of the apartheid regime.
Their country represents epic history in our lifetimes. After a decades-long struggle against brutal, state-run racial segregation, the black liberation movement emerged victorious in the early 1990s. Led by the transcendent figure of Mandela, South Africa swiftly dismantled the apartheid apparatus and, defying dour predictions of a bloody race war, peacefully transitioned to majority rule. Mandela’s government ushered in pluralistic democracy on a continent long-defined by colonialism and autocracy. State officials established remarkably robust constitutional protections for individual rights.
Black South Africans would finally be afforded the economic and social opportunities they’d been denied for so long.
Or so everyone had hoped.
Two decades later, Mandela’s promise of renewal has largely gone unfulfilled as Mandela’s party, the African National Congress (ANC) has maintained its huge electoral majority. The beautiful dream animating the South African experiment is crumbling amidst ongoing corruption, violence, and failed economic policies. As Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu has said of the current regime, “This government—our government—is worse than the apartheid government.”
“Life After Liberation,” directed and hosted by Rob Montz, details the role played by political monopoly in South Africa’s post-apartheid decline. The documentary shows how the ANC has grown corrupt and complacent—and how widespread resentment of the ruling political class is now fueling the rise of a populist demagogue, Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters, who is pushing precisely the sort of Mugabeist socialist policies that have ruined so many other African countries.