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Cry, the Beloved Country � Student Activity 4

The new South African Constitution is the embodiment of the changes South Africa hopes to make. In its preamble it recognizes the injustices of the puts forth a mission statement aimed at righting those wrongs. It is a document of hope on which the new government has been formed. But a nation cannot be changed simply by words on paper. It takes strong leadership and above all else a motivated people, a people who are willing to support the new government.

The first goal set forth in the preamble is to “heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice, and human rights.” These divisions of the past have been healed by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). This committee’s main purpose is to investigate apartheid-era human rights abuses committed between 160 and May 10, 14. The TRC was empowered to grant amnesty to the perpetrators of the offenses and to give compensation to the abused. It is part of a broader program aimed at reconciling the country’s many racially related problems. Since apartheid’s abolishment levels of political crime have dropped dramatically, but misuse of police powers is still a common problem. In response to this, the government established the Independent Complaints Directorate, which investigates deaths among those in police custody and as a result of the use of excessive force. But the violence still continues.

The new Constitution includes a bill of rights as well. It guarantees “equality before the law and prohibitions against discrimination; the right to life, privacy, property, and freedom and security of the person; prohibition against slavery and forced labor; and freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and association.” It also entitles all citizens to a safe environment, education, and health care. Health care is a cause for concern in South Africa. With the HIV/AIDS epidemic burning through the population adequate medical assistance is hard found commodity. Also with discrimination against those suffering from the disease on the rise, care for those dying may be far in the distance. Domestic violence remains a major problem in the country.

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The many social reforms carry economic reforms with them. Though the economy is highly developed in many areas, the exclusionary action of apartheid has left most natives out of the nation’s prosperity. The government is seeking to create more jobs and instill economic equality in the country. But the government reforms may not be implemented fast enough as the population is reeling under poverty and starvation. This impatience is evident in the agricultural sector most of all. The best farmland is still owned by the whites who once dominated the society. More and more natives are becoming restless on their small farms, which are no more than dust bowls. As the government toys with laws that would redistribute the land equally, many natives are resorting to violence. Following examples of displaced farmers in Namibia and other West African states, the natives have begun to use force to push the whites off their ancestral land. In many cases murder, rape, and pillaging are the result when the whites refuse to leave peacefully.

Alan Paton’s vision of a democratic South Africa is one based in hope and naivet�. Noble as it is, it relies far to heavily on the goodness of men and on the Christian values Stephen Kumalo embodies. In a land where hate and discrimination was law, the ways of old will die hard with those who enforced it. As children are still starving, men dying of disease, and a small minority of the population controlling most of the wealth, South Africa will not heal. The foundation of this new democracy has been laid and it is up to the next generations, the generations born free, to carry on the torch of South Africa.

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