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Broken Dreams

by Kathleen Gabel

South Africa’s Brave New World: The Beloved Country Since the End of Apartheid, by R. W. Johnson (Overlook, 701 pp., $40)

Sixteen years after the end of apartheid and just months after successfully hosting Africa’s first-ever World Cup, how is the “Rainbow Nation” really faring? As South African historian and journalist R. W. Johnson reports, not at all well. The ruling African National Congress (ANC), which continues to use the slogan “a better life for all,” has run the country into a state of near-collapse with its misguided policy decisions, internal power struggles, and blatant corruption.

Johnson’s 700-page book is an unforgiving takedown of the ANC. If his contempt sometimes seems personal, it might well be: As the author takes pains to point out, he was an outspoken liberal and critic of the apartheid regime. In South Africa, these “struggle credentials” lend him the minimum credibility needed to be able to write such a harsh critique of the government.

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