About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Opinion'99

The points

Ø     What do people expect from democracy?

Ø     They want their needs met? How do they define their needs? In terms of their material concerns being met, or in terms of abstractions like "justice," dignity," and the like.

Ø     People fight against injustice; they don't necessarily fight for justice. Wht I get is justly deserved. What others get is unjustly deserved. In transitions there is an incredible amount of "me-too-ism."

Ø     Senses of justice are not abstracts of philosophy, hut thedaily means of asserting oneself.

Ø     All concepts are local.

Ø     Want has taken precedence over need.

Ø     Not having dealt with the psychological impact of the past, South Africa still has no coherent sense of identity.

Ø     The ANC promised a non-racial society: it is not a non-racial society but a mutti-racial one. The longer it take tom understand this, the longer it will take South Africa to heal.

Ø     Blacks have very little choice i.e. choice in the real sense of the term, of being able to choose between real alternatives, not artificial ones. The ANC has let them down, but this does not mean that they are about to abandon the ANC. A crude analogy: the abused wife and why she doesn't simply leave her husband. She has nowhere else to go. All Alternatives are worse. There is also the question of learned helplessness under apartheid, the lives of blacks were regulated and controlled to an unbelievable extent; under the new dispensation they have to let go of these behaviors; they have to get over their dependency on government, of government being responsible for doing things for them, of a lack of senses of accountability and responsibility, of taking things into their own hands, becoming masters of their own fates.

Ø     Draw distictions between what people say and what they might believe; between what people wish to believe and what they actually believe; between what they pofess not to be angry about and what they are; between anger and disillusionment; betwee hope and despair; between hope based on a genuine sense of optimism and hope based on desperation.

Ø     Despair is the starting point. Work backwards.

Ø     The sadness about "new" freedom is that there is no freedom at all. The freedom to be able to speak your mind breaks down in the face of the non-freedoms: no work, no sense of ownership, no sense of having a better life. See quote from Booysan re community life.

Ø     like most revolutions that were not fought purely on military grounds, most blacks in South Africa were not involve in the struggle; indeed more blacks may have fought on the side of the State than fought on the side of the struggle.

Ø     There was never a "National Uprising." Township violence was sporadic and for the most part confined to specific locations. How do people contrast what went on under the security forces, township gang, and what goes on today.

Ø     Hope and despair: All the ANC still has to do is to push the "apartheid' buttons. How easy it is. And how effective. Keep the memories of apartheid alive. The more you do so, the more you preclude fragmentation.

Ø     The guiding principle for any liberation movement is to keep itself together. The lesson: when there is one movement, it is not about to "unliberate itself" by splitting: keep the face of the enemy alive. See Mandela's speech to 50th Congress

Ø     How many will register?

Ø     How have the aspirations of each group changed?

Ø     When a little has to be spread over a large number, the incremental change seems marginal ; at the same time the loss to the many is minimal. For most there is little gain; for the few there is little pain.

Ø     Balancing inequities is impossible when the inequities are so huge, and using indices of a per capita nature are misleading because they fail to take account of absolute disparities

Ø     Some things you can't change unless you impose an authoritarianism that is inimical to the principles that undermine your rule of law.

Ø     Governments are increasingly subject to external constraint. The more emerging the country, the greater the impact of these constraints.

Ø     Populations in emerging countries don't understand constraints. They have been raised on the expectations of the consumer market.

Ø     For emerging democracies, the capacity to meet these expectations and to capacity to bridge them is virtually impossible

Ø      In the short run or perhaps even the longer run thaere is a divergence between what the country can deliver/can afford/and the expectations of the populations.

Ø     What drives expectations? Television and Information Technology. The "flowable" commodities of consumerism, free movement of capital.

Ø     In the absence of alternatives, people make certain inevitable choices since they have no wher else to turn to.

Ø     In the FGR, people consistently contradict themselves, but they'll rarely, if ever, condemn the ANC (condemn as distinct from from criticizing the ANC).

Ø     People show no fear of elections; indeed, most of their images are positive, until one gets to KwaZulu /Natal where fears of intimidation and violence continue to have a presence.

Ø     It is not that they do not harbor fears; rather its the difference between what they reveal and what they don't. They are still wary of the past.

Ø     Indeed, why, after 40 years of oppression, the threat of arbitrary arrest, interrogation, etc. should they suddenly open up to pollsters and the like. Why should these people be trusted. So, in one sense, all our data is "contaminated."

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.