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For much of the 20th century, South Africa had been so stiffly divided on racial lines that no consensus seemed possible between the ruling white minority and the oppressed black minority. Observers felt that apartheid would lead to serious political upheaval and bloodshed. However 1990s saw a very smooth transition where in a very civilized manner, political power was transferred to the majority and a new South African emerged as if almost magically. This non-violent transfer of power opened doors to many possibilities but over the years, it has been proved that racism is so deeply entrenched in the society that it will take few more decades to resolve the social and political problems facing the country. Prior to 1994 elections, the political structure in South Africa looked like an extended version of the North and South division in the United States.It looked as if the Northern elites had settled in the poor South. But elections in 1994 changed this scene completely and suddenly masters became subjects. It suddenly turned into a poor developing country with a sizeable population of white rich elite. Unfortunately for a country that has immense economic potential, division on racial lines has proved costly. Statistics reveal that only 11 percent of the population in South Africa can be categorized as highly skilled while 53 percent is unskilled. Comparison with EU indicates serious contrasts with 31 percent population in EU being highly skilled and only 16 percent unskilled (The Times). Similar other statistic would reveal the extent of poverty, inefficiency and unemployment in the country.It is indeed sad that in a country with an enormous economic potential, job opportunities are few. After the elections, when civil service had opening for 11000 posts, some 1.5 million people applied for the position of managers, clerks and cleaners. This shows the extent of unemployment in the country. According to official records, unemployment is close to 15 percent but unofficial figures put it at 40 percent. Most of these unemployed people reside in the black townships. Sub Saharan Africa is already the least developed and slowest growing region of the world. According to World Bank’s 1997 report on “Global Economic Prospects and the Developing Countries”, Sub Saharan region has a sustained growth rate of 4 percent, which is still not enough to reverse the trend of slow progress. It is evident from the fact that at this rate of growth, Sub Saharan Africa’s share of global GDP would go up over slightly to 1.7 percent by 2020 from 1.2 in 1997. And its share of the GDP of developing countries is likely to fall to 5.8 percent by 2020 from 7.6 percent in 1998 (Hawkins, 1997). The region would lose out to more economic-dynamic countries in Asia. Even though South Africa is probably the fastest growing country in this region, still belonging to a slow region casts a negative influence on the growth of individual countries.On sheer political front, the problems are numerous. African National Congress (ANC) is the oldest political party in South Africa. While it initially backed Marxist economic policies, once it came to power, the party decided to opt for a more capitalistic system. President Mandela said in 1994:We need fresh blood. One problem is that some people have an instinctive resistance to this. Some of us feel threatened by the prospect of being challenged. We cannot survive if we do not change. Some comrades do not welcome opposition and tend to sideline and even slander comrades with an independent view. (The Independent, 1994)After coming to power, the party had to immediately deal with many important issues which included charges of corruption on Winnie Mandela, treatment of the leader of the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and charges of embezzlement of funds on some other prominent politicians. These combined with economic problems meant ANC had a tough journey ahead. In 1995, it was declared that ANC would propose a permanent constitution that would uphold the rule of the majority. The institutions that ANC inherited were seen as the root cause of many political problems:The public service was created, rather like the Soviet public service, to impose on every aspect of society a system that ran contrary to human nature. It required coercion in every sphere of life to determine where people lived and worked, whom they married, how they traveled, what they earned. It sought to regulate sport and theatre, arts and opera; it tried to control speech as well as thought. It intervened in the universities and first overturned, then undermined, the school system.  (Sunday Times, 1995)Despite serious political and economic problems, the ANC government remained strong. It introduced changes in the economic system of the country and started a massive housing scheme in 1995. Its successes have been many and its failures even more. But through all this, South Africa has emerged as a significant developing country. According to a report by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) entitled “Infrastructure: “A Foundation for Development”, it was found that South African citizens enjoyed most basic amenities including telecommunications, electricity, railways and roads and these infrastructure were at part with major developed countries of the world though its per capita income is one sixth of these countries. But the report also indicates the flaws where they exist. It found that the disparities between rich and poor had not been minimized, most black schools and libraries lacked basic facilities like telephone, water and electricity.Another statistic in 1998 placed South Africa at 35th position among 46 counties for its performance in the business sector. It was ranked among 25 top countries for its transport system, but was placed 40th on access to telephone lines, and 38th for computers per capita. While economic growth is rapid compared to other countries in the region, South Africa’s growth rate is likely to inhibited by political as well as economic factors. Agriculture contributes less than five percent to the GDP but the country is still producing enough to be self-sufficient in food. Agricultural products and meat, fruit and wine account for 8 percent of exports. South Africa is rich in natural minerals and metals. The country is known for its reservoirs of gold, diamonds, the platinum and coal and this makes it the market leader in production of 14 essential metals including chromite, copper, gold, iron ore, crude steel, lead, manganese, nickel and diamond. Mineral exports account for 55 percent of all exports while it contributes 8 percent to GDP. South Africa has one of the most advanced manufacturing sectors along with Egypt in the region and it accounts for 25 percent of the GDP.Despite its weaknesses, ANC remains the strongest competitor in the political arena. South Africans demonstrated their fondness of the party by electing it again to power in recent 2004 elections. The National Party, which enjoyed strong support among white elite, failed misery and joined ANC in 2005. Other important political parties include the Democratic Alliance Party that came second in the 2004 elections and the IFP that represents Zulu voters, which managed to gain 6.97 percent of the votes. (Wikipedia)

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