South Africa's inequalities strain foundations of 'Rainbow Nation'

Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:23am EDT
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By Stella Mapenzauswa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African writer Hagen Engler is candid about the inner racist he had to exorcise during his progression from a carefree youth who reaped the benefits of white minority rule to a man who has lived for 20 years under a black government.

The present-day Engler, his black wife and their mixed race child could easily be the poster family for the "Rainbow Nation" Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu dreamt of in 1994 when South Africa emerged from the ashes of apartheid as a new democracy.

Since then South Africans have largely put aside their racially divided past and presented a show of unity, be it to rally behind the mostly white national rugby team or the largely black soccer side during the country's 2010 World Cup.

The same harmony was evident in the widespread outpouring of emotion after the death last December of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's much loved first black president.

"People understand each other," Engler told Reuters. "We're not necessarily all living together as one big happy family but we've got a better understanding of each other's cultures."

In his often irreverent book, "Marrying Black Girls for Guys Who Aren't Black", Engler looks at his journey from the youth whose privileged white background easily secured him his first job in journalism, while his black peers struggled.

He recounts his initial, unsettling 1990s encounters with young, self confident blacks who had grown up in exile and were returning to claim their stake in the new South Africa.

Years later, Engler accepts that the African National Congress's black empowerment drive was necessary to steer the country forward.   Continued...

A woman flies a South African flag during the "Nelson Mandela: A Life Celebrated" memorial service at Cape Town Stadium December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Wessels