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'Bop': A Fitting Symbol for the New South Africa

March 20, 1994|Jeffrey Herbst | Jeffrey Herbst, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, just returned from a year in South Africa

To make a dent in the huge inequalities in housing, medicine, education and infrastructure inherited from white rule, the new government should fire thousands of these civil servants who work in the bloated South African bureaucracy. Eliminating the enormous duplication (there are, for example, more than a dozen health ministries) would be a critical part of the "apartheid dividend" needed to address the enormous social backlog. But the ANC agreed to protect civil-servant jobs and pensions as part of the price of having to negotiate for power from the white government.

Having to keep on so many agents of the old regime will be an enormous financial burden at precisely the time when every last rand will be needed to address social problems. Indeed, the irony that the Africans and whites who worked for and supported Mangope until the end will be among the most prosperous in Mmabatho for a long time to come, while those who helped overthrow him will remain poor, will be a permanent source of anxiety for the new government.

Bop is a fitting symbol for much of the new South Africa: Some odious agents of the old order were removed but the new government will come into being handicapped by the need to reach an accommodation with the apartheid state itself to achieve power.

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