South Africa's transition has surprised many by the speed of the change from National Party government, based on white Afrikaaner support, to one dominated by the ANC, with overwhelming support among Africans, except in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal. This study argues that the widely-held view of the emergence of the new South Africa as a modern miracle has to be viewed with extreme caution. The author begins in the 1980s, when political analysts spoke of political impasse and when the "elusive search for peace" seemed mired in insoluble problems. He considers the period from the release of Mandela up to the 1994 elections, and contends that the undoubted success story must be seen against the background of exploding economic and social problems, and polarization on racial lines, reinforced by ANC dominance. The country's path to majority rule bears a strong resemblance to that of other formerly white settler-dominated states such as Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia, but Guelke's view is that the "miracle" has been misunderstood, and the political achievement overshadowed by the problems inherited from the old regime.
Adrian Guelke is Professor of International Relations at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Introduction - the impasse of the late 80s; the release of Mandela and the end of the Cold War; violence and the transition; the passion of the extreme right; Buthelezi and the UNITA option; the heart of the miracle - the 1994 elections; South Africa and world politics; the new domestic dispensation; conclusion - the misunderstood miracle.