Cultural Revolutions

Law Survives

Winnie Manela's recent conviction shows that something like the rule of law survives in South Africa after the unconditional release of her husband. On a visit to Johannesburg several months ago, I found myself more than once, to my amusement, arguing the court had to convict Winnie Mandela, to South Africans who smiled at me in disbelief, a measure of their demoralization. The release of Nelson Mandela without the renunciation of violence P.W. Botha had required of him served to put the slogan that had carried Mandela through 27 years of imprisonment on the lips of ordinary white South Africans, and worse still, maybe in their minds: I mean the notion that the so-called violence of the government, usually called apartheid for short, justifies murder and terrorism, a simplistic view of Western history more current in our universities than in the townships of South Africa.

South Africa is a difficult country to visit because almost everything you see contradicts, or at least raises questions about, what you have heard. I went there for a three-week visit in March, almost two years after I had completed Prisoners of a Dream: The South African Mirage, a book that had turned out an unwitting defense of this country I had never visited. I went to see the living country with the dread that I would have to acknowledge horrors I had denied in writing but that a visit would force me to see. Once there I found that the country...

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