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The Press : World Media Hail South African Vote as a Triumph

May 03, 1994

Last week's landmark elections in South Africa turned the page to a new era. Although credit is due to all South Africans, whose courage and determination were finally rewarded when balloting began last Tuesday, many singled out President Frederik W. de Klerk and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, expected to become the country's first black president. A look at world reaction to the elections:

*

"Yesterday was a marvelous moment in modern history, a day which will be relived in the memory as a triumph of hope over despair.

"For millions of black South Africans the first experience of voting was more, much more, than a mere process of marking a ballot-paper. It was an affirmation of human dignity. It made them free citizens in a free nation.

"What has happened in that beautiful, tortured land is a political miracle. The credit belongs equally to F.W. de Klerk, who so bravely found a way out of the grisly grasp of apartheid, and to Nelson Mandela, a man great enough to rise above the temptations of hatred and vengeance."

-- Daily Mail , London

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"Now, apartheid is gone. But there is no quick fix for all the lives broken by family separations, the missed chances at education and the glaring economic inequalities that continue. . . .

"Huge challenges await the new government. In a country where half the population lives without electricity, probably the biggest ones are economic. But there are fundamental political challenges, too. . . .

"Despite the horrible violence that has occurred, South Africa's transition to democracy has been far more peaceful than it might have been were it not for the Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning leadership of (Nelson) Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk. . . . Paradise is not around the corner. But black South Africans now at least have the power to build a better future."

-- The Gazette, Montreal

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"The revolution in South Africa . . . is the capping stone of the process of decolonizing Africa, the high point in the democratization of the world toward the end of the century. (Israel) has been following (the elections) like others are following them, but also because of the great similarity between the compromise that has been taking shape there since the rise of De Klerk to government and our peace process. . . .

"The reason for the determination (to reach a solution) on the part of the leaders in South Africa is the fact that terrorism and political violence there soars high above that which is to be found here, but the lesson is relevant for us regardless: Without shared determination, without mutual aid and working together out of a desire to build a new reality . . . it is impossible to turn enemies into partners."

-- Davar , Tel Aviv

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"What saved the day was the realization by all political leaders, irrespective of race and color, that their own people would never forgive them for letting opportunity pass by. Hence, the stirring of hope at almost every level, and the repudiation of traditional posturing. For instance, black politicians did not object to the biggest peacetime military call-up in South Africa's history or to Mr. de Klerk's decision to post 100,000 police officers . . . at 9,514 polling stations. It is hoped that this cooperative spirit will survive the elections."

-- Straits Times , Singapore

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"On the one hand, the United States of America has tried to achieve total transparency--a multicultural utopia--and has failed, as black lesbians are pitted against handicapped Hispanics in a welter of political correctness. On the other hand, South Africa is now attempting to do what seems obsolete in the States: to achieve the blind ideal of a uniformity which outshines all differences. South Africa as a melting pot, and the United States as a land of apartheid of the neo-separatists?"

--Cultural section of Der Tagesspiegel , Berlin

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"Whatever challenges South Africa faces after the election, it is of historic importance that nearly 20 million disenfranchised blacks will this week join a political process built on the wreckage of apartheid. Cracks began to appear in the structure of the old system in the 1980s. But few, if any, could have foreseen that a decade later the majority black population would be on the brink of taking power. . . .

"The voting . . . will not solve South Africa's problems; years of enlightened government will be needed to overcome the evils of apartheid. . . . But that should not prevent us from welcoming the last great act of decolonization in Africa, nearly 350 years after the Dutch first landed at the Cape."

-- The Daily Telegraph , London

*

"Through the course of almost three and a half centuries, the South African black population has suffered a racist nightmare and has waged a struggle, many times ignored and silent, to convert its dream of liberty into reality. These elections mark the end of a historic era. However, the convulsed internal political scene clouds the optimism and raises a question: Has the dream of liberty been achieved? . . .

"It won't be easy to erradicate from the entrails of the local society the vices and violence engendered by more than three centuries of racism. The reins of the economy are in the hands of the white minority, the great majority of the black population lives in poverty and the youth are tired of their situation. To make the dream of liberty a living reality will be a titanic task."

--Prof. Hilda Varela Barraza, writing in EL Financiero, Mexico City

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