There have been key figures throughout history that have been extremely influential in a country's destiny. Nelson Mandela is one such figure. This blog post suggests that South Africa must learn to look forward or otherwise it risks falling in a trap where certain nations have fallen, a trap of difficult exit.
A handful of visionary and bold leaders have led their nations towards independence and sometimes prosperity throughout history. Such was the case of Napoleon Bonaparte in France, Abraham Lincoln in the United States of America, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey or Mahatma Gandhi in India. Other (evil) leaders turned their nations into hell on Earth: such was the case of Adolf Hitler in Germany or Joseph Stalin in Russia.
Some countries have incorporated the importance of past leaders into their history and learned to move forward: such is the case of France and the United States. Other countries have not been able to move forward and still perpetuate in a sentiment of false grandeur the relevance of their former leader: such is the case in India and Turkey. Whereas Germany has condemned and digested the cruelty of Adolf Hitler, Russia has not totally left Joseph Stalin's nostalgia behind. We all know that Gandhi is Asia's most celebrated leader of the twentieth century. However, China, not India, is the country traveling at the speed of light towards Western prosperity and probably beyond.
Compare Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe with Botswana's Ian Khama. Zimbabwe has fallen in the trap of recuperating a former leader of utmost importance in the country's independence from Britain in order to bring him back in the hope that former glory will transform into present and future prosperity. Botswana's impeccable record of choosing a variety of leaders since independence from Britain has kept the sub-Saharan country a champion of African governance and transparency for decades, however all belonging to the dominant Botswana Democratic Party.
South Africa's presidents in the post-apartheid era have all been disciples of Mandela and the African National Congress. Both Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma are political sons of Mandela and the African National Congress. Not allowing leaders outside a country's political establishment to enter the stage is a rather usual trend worldwide. Trends can change, also in countries like Italy and Spain so prone to sticking to the family tradition. This trend is called endogamy.
South Africa's emerging leadership needs to acknowledge first of all the great evils that are hitting South Africans: the AIDS pandemic, the unemployment rate, extreme inequality of income and the wave of unstoppable violence and crime. South Africa's long-term vision must incorporate into its priorities the integration of Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and eventually Botswana into a greater alliance and federated territory. All five countries already belong in the supranational organization Southern Africa Development Community or SADC. SADC was established in 1980 in Lusaka (Zambia).
South Africa needs to radically review its redistribution policies and the efficiency in the delivery of public goods including health care and education. South Africa needs to better manage its natural resource endowment in order to reach fair agreements with mining corporations so that a fair share of the revenue stays home and impacts the worse-off. South Africa should join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a move that a majority of southern African nations have already accomplished, including Mozambique and Zambia (coincidentally Botswana and Namibia have not joined either).
South Africa must address its insecurity issues. South Africa ranks #121 in the World in the Global Peace Index. The country's two major weaknesses are related to homicides and violent crime, where it reaches the levels of Iraq and Pakistan. A total war against homicides and violent crime must be enacted. The police and the army must exclusively serve this purpose. Civil society must follow suit. The same weakness is identified by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which places South Africa at #5 overall but #41 in the personal safety rank. A safer and more peaceful South Africa would be in much better position to attract foreign direct investment and increase its number of visitors (tourists). About 1.97 million tourists out of 8.31 million (total) in 2012 came from overseas on holidays). South Africa could be a phenomenal and more affordable alternative than the United Kingdom or the United States for foreign high school and university students willing to improve their English skills.
SADC countries have signed an aspirational agreement of embracing a common currency by 2018. This common currency should be inspired in the rand as the euro is largely inspired in the Deutsche mark. Namibia's currency is today pegged to the rand.
South Africa can learn to incorporate the vision and generosity of Nelson Mandela into its history and look forward to find new horizons and discover new leadership, which could be inspired in Mandela's legacy but should not be dominated or dragged by it.
It is time for South Africa to take off and make phenomenal progress in the shortest time interval. It is time for the developed countries to support South Africa with funding, with military and logistics support, so that South Africa becomes the leading force in southern Africa in the first half of the twenty-first century. The world can no longer sustain the timid velocity of progress that we all are eyewitnesses of. The top priority must be the welfare and prosperity of society.