IN MANDELA’S WAKE: After Mandela, South Africa’s Ruling Party More Racially Divisive

Published on December 8, 2013

JOHANNESBURG—Nearly two decades ago, Nelson Mandela swept to the presidency on a wave of voter support for an inclusive, nonracial society. In the past few years, as South Africa has slid into economic torpor, Mr. Mandela’s torchbearers have become as divided as the country they govern.

Those divisions reflect a ruling African National Congress at odds over how to take the country forward and surmount its challenges. Some in the ANC continue to champion Mr. Mandela’s vision for a nonracial society that catapulted him to the presidency in 1994. Others want to create one that favors those who were disadvantaged in the past, namely people of color.

President Jacob Zuma announced Mr. Mandela’s death at age 95 on Thursday.

Since Mr. Mandela and others helped end apartheid, the gap between rich and poor has widened, making South Africa one of the world’s most unequal societies. Those inequalities have fomented new tension between blacks who remain impoverished and their better-off compatriots. Centuries-old tensions between blacks and whites have persisted too.

Where Mr. Mandela eschewed race-based politicking, the ANC of late has appeared to play on memories of racial tensions to position itself as the only true champion of South Africa’s black majority.

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