Last month I was invited to South Africa by the South African Zionist Federation. The visit, my first to the country, opened my eyes to the daunting challenges facing the country and its dwindling Jewish community of 70,000 16 years after the end of the apartheid regime.
South Africa is a country of paradoxes. On the one hand, it is exhilarating to see the blacks now in charge after their long struggle. On the other, the ruling African National Congress' record of governance is at best a mixed bag.
On the positive side, in 2008 it peacefully and democratically replaced the failed former president Thabo Mbeki with his opponent, President Jacob Zuma.
But the negatives are glaring. Corruption is endemic. Rather than punishing officials for criminal behavior, the ANC is going after the messenger. South Africa's ruling party intends to pass a draconian media law to bar journalists from reporting on governmental corruption. The ANC has dismissed opposition to the bill as racist, accusing opponents of attempting to advance a "white agenda."
Auguring particularly ill for the future is the fact that ANC's Youth League is one of the most illiberal bodies in the party. Aside from being among the most enthusiastic supporters of the move to end press freedom, the Youth League is also one of the primary forces driving foreign investors away from the country. Its leader Julius Malema's signature policy is his demand to nationalize the country's mines.
This has been a great year for South Africa. Throngs of tourists visited during the World Cup soccer championship, and the international press coverage was fantastic. Unfortunately, the relative safety enjoyed by World Cup tourists was a striking deviation from the norm. The ANC has failed to provide personal security for South Africans. According to the UN, South Africa has the second highest per capita murder rate in the world. South African sources place the annual murder rate at 23,000.
South Africa is the rape capital of the world. In a 1998-2000 UN survey, one in three women said they had been raped in the past year. One in four men admitted that he was a rapist. Carjackings are a commonplace.
Even more devastating is South Africa's AIDS epidemic. Nearly 20 percent of South Africans are infected with the HIV virus.
One of the impetuses for removing Mbeki from office was that he denied that AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, claiming instead that AIDS is caused by poverty and the legacy of white oppression. Owing to this view, Mbeki refused to allow South Africa to participate in international programs to distribute anti-retroviral drugs which stem the development of AIDS.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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