Nelson Mandela's inauguration as president of South Africa in 1994 seemed to usher in an age of peaceful, rational change. But R. W. Johnson's major new book explains how this was not to be. The profound damage of apartheid and the country's new leaders - in exile or prison for much of their adult lives - were a disastrous combination that poisoned everything from big business to education and AIDS policy to relations with Zimbabwe.
At the heart of the book lies the figure of Thabo Mbeki, whose presidency led to catastrophic failure on almost every front. In South Africa's Brave New World Johnson reveals how Mbeki and those around him brought South Africa close to 'failed state' status - and explores the implications for its future.
R.W. Johnson has spent much of his life thinking and writing about South Africa. An anti-apartheid activist since his teens, he is one of the few people alive who heard public speeches given by both Verwoerd and Mandela before the latter was imprisoned. An ANC supporter, he narrowly escaped jail before arriving in England as a Rhodes Scholar. He went on to become a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1977 his seminal book How Long Will South Africa Survive? was published. Johnson's long exile left him with few illusions about the ANC and its Communist party allies, but with South Africa's liberation he returned to live in the new South Africa, and headed the Helen Suzman Foundation. R.W. Johnson is the South Africa correspondent for the Sunday Times.