Mangcu, Xolela. To the Brink. The State of Democracy in South Africa. Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2008. 208 pp.
Andrews, Penelope and Stephen Ellman (eds). The Post-Apartheid Constitutions: Perspectives on South Africa's Basic Law. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2001. 606 pp.
Davies, Rebecca. Afrikaners in the New South Africa: Identity Politics in a Globalized Economy. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009. 200 pp.
The mention of South Africa brings to mind the colonial expropriation of land and resources and the brutal exploitation of generations of an entire Black African population.; it also brings to mind the demise of apartheid in 1994. Despite the celebration of this victory, the trauma dealt by apartheid still lives in the shadows as South Africa
grapples with issues of democratic leadership, existing inequalities, a collaborative economy, nationalism, cultural identities and the viability of the new constitution. One issue that time and all South Africans will answer is how individual identity will be reconciled with the concept of universalism.
The three books under review possess one interweaving theme--the manipulation of identity by struggles for power, control and survival. Each volume contributes thoughtful discussions on the role of identity as a constitutional right, as a recurring theme in the political, legal, economic and intellectual life of Black, White and Universal South Africa, as linked to entitlement, and as part of the Afrikaner history of struggle against the British government. All three volumes contribute to a greater understanding of present day South Africa in all its complexity and raise questions for continued discussion.
The Post-Apartheid Constitution: Perspectives on South African Basic Law, edited by Penelope Andrews and Stephen Ellman, is a 19 chapter volume of South African and American legal perspectives on the new living constitution completed in 1996. The constitution addresses "... the intense practical problems of transformation in a nation whose past continues to haunt it" (p. viii) and is based on the declaration "... we shall never permit a repetition of our racist, brutal and repressive past." (p. vii). The chapters debate at length laws established to protect a variety of rights to include citizenship without the racialized focus, women's rights, and human rights. "It was the intention to design a constitution that would build a nation by granting amnesty to all, rather than vengeance ... a charter for the transformation of our country into one that is truly shared by all its people...." (p. vii). But interpreting the new constitution created within a new legal mindset may prove difficult. The challenge will be to think universally rather than racially.
In To the Brink: The State of Democracy in South Africa, Xolela Mangcu speaks as a scholar and journalist, using history, biography and autobiography to describe British colonialism, Black uprisings, the dismantling of apartheid within the context of activism, the leadership of Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, and generations of African intellectuals pondering the strategies open to the Black populations. Through autobiographical illustrations he describes the complexity of ANC politics, and the "...