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Assessing South Africa in All Its Dimensions

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010

In 1980, the controversial U.S. diplomat for Africa, Chester Crocker, memorably described South Africa as a "magnet for one-dimensional minds." The accuracy of that assertion has been confirmed over the course of the post-1994 democratic era, during which mood swings among both the commentariat and the wider populace have caused South Africa to be viewed from several, radically contrasting, but ultimately one-dimensional perspectives.

Between 1994 and 1999, under the presidency of Nelson Mandela, South Africa was routinely described as a "miracle," a country that had somehow managed to navigate the treacherous waters of the transition from apartheid, while putting in place the foundations for a successful multiracial democracy. Because of this, South Africa was hailed as a model for the resolution of conflicts in other societies deeply divided along racial, ethnic or religious fault lines. ...

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