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The Economist: South Africa After Mandela: A Question of Leadership

December 16, 2013


"Unemployment, at nearly 25% of the workforce, is higher than it was when Mr. Mandela took office in 1994. If the two million or so adults who have given up looking for work are included, the jobless rate rises to 37%. The economy is growing too slowly to create many jobs, even as much of the rest of Africa is booming."

As the days passed and the news sunk in that Nelson Mandela, the country's first black president, had died peacefully at his home in Houghton, a pleasant suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa reacted at first with sadness but quickly shifted to celebrating an extraordinary life. People congregated through the night outside Mr Mandela's home, as well as at his former residence in Soweto, an urban sprawl a half-hour's drive away. Some came to sing songs; others to light hundreds of candles in remembrance.

A very different form of memorialising could be heard during one of the many Sunday prayer services held in honour of "Madiba", Mr Mandela's clan name. Thabo Mbeki, who served as president after him, said a proper celebration should also include a reflection on whether the country's current leadership was living up to the standards set by Mr Mandela and his contemporaries.

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