Apartheid’s Long Shadow

How Racial Divides Distort South Africa’s Democracy

Last April, South Africa celebrated the 20th anniversary of its first democratic elections, which brought to power the African National Congress (ANC) and its leader, Nelson Mandela, who had led the antiapartheid movement for decades. Many had long believed that civil war was the only way that the apartheid state would fall, and South Africa’s mostly peaceful transition from a racist authoritarian state to a multiracial democracy stands as one of the most surprising political developments of the twentieth century. The shift has not been without its problems, but few would contest South Africa’s credentials as a democracy—perhaps the most democratic state in Africa.

Still, democracy is no guarantor of stability or prosperity. And for all its political progress, South Africa faces a daunting array of social and economic challenges, many rooted in inequalities that neither democratization nor economic growth has managed to reduce. Around 47 percent of

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