South Africa’s Violent Democracy
An interview with SWOP Director, Prof Karl von Holdt
When South Africa emerged from apartheid to democracy in 1994, decades of popular struggle seemed to have yielded a resounding victory, brimming with hope. “Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long,” newly-elected President Nelson Mandela announced, “must be born a society of which all humanity must be proud.” Some twenty years on, social realities in South Africa complicate the picture: despite new political freedoms, entrenched racialized inequality and poverty persist. In the “rainbow nation,” discontent fostered by enduring inequalities has resulted in a series of xenophobic attacks on migrants from other African countries. How does a sociologist make sense of this complex and contradictory scenario?