Mandela Pleased With Progress After 100 Days
After 100 days as president of the new South Africa, Nelson Mandela surveyed the national landscape Thursday and pronounced himself more than satisfied with the progress so far.
In a speech before a joint session of Parliament, he praised what he called the collective success of the black-led coalition government that was elected in April on a wave of national euphoria to create a multiracial democracy after generations of harsh white rule.
“A hundred days after our inauguration, our overwhelming impression of our reality is that our nation has succeeded to handle its problems with great wisdom,” said Mandela, who wiped his eyes often during the speech as a result of a recent operation for cataracts.
“We have a government that has brought together bitter enemies into a constructive relationship,” he added. “Our Parliament and Cabinet have properly focused on the task of reconstruction and development. And we have a government that is in control and whose programs are on course.”
Mandela’s opening months in office, however, have brought no significant change in the lives of most South Africans. Most of the ambitious programs that he promised during his campaign to improve the welfare of the impoverished black majority have yet to begin and budget limits suggest that at least some of the soaring goals may be impossible to achieve.
But neither has economic chaos, social anarchy and racial war come to pass, as many had feared. Nor is it likely. Independent analysts, opposition politicians and Western diplomats generally give high marks to the young government and the courtly, 76-year-old president in particular.
More important, a public opinion poll suggests most voters are satisfied. According to a survey published Wednesday in the Star, a Johannesburg newspaper, 60% of blacks and whites believe the nation’s blighted race relations have improved since the election and only 4% think conditions have worsened.
The poll said public fears of uncontrolled violence and crime have dropped significantly. Indeed, half of those polled said the new South Africa was better than they had expected; only 9% believed it was worse.
“Whites are satisfied,” said Willie Breytenbach, professor of political science at the University of Stellenbosch. “That’s the irony. Whites don’t feel any difference whatsoever.”
“The honeymoon persists,” said Bill Johnson, an analyst with the nonpartisan Institute of Multi-Party Democracy in Durban. ". . . But the speed of change is much slower than (Mandela) thought it would be.”
Sheer logistics is one reason. Besides trying to draft a new set of policies and programs to redress inequities of the past, the new government has spent much of the last three months simply moving offices, finding staff and learning the complexities of a vast bureaucracy.
The government has focused on its Reconstruction and Development Program, a sweeping plan to reorganize services and policies. About $700 million has been taken from existing budgets and will be used in coming months to kick-start efforts on housing, health care, job creation and education.