South Africa is a country of contradictions. Wealthy businessmen of all races often live feet from abject poverty. Multinational businesses happily open up shop alongside a liberation party that governs haphazardly. Many who committed horrific crimes under apartheid walk freely among their victims — in the name of reconciliation. It is a country that bears its scars proudly and talks about them freely, but presently seems unable to do much to heal them.
This policy memo reflects the efforts of the Dartmouth College undergraduate students of PBPL 85, "Topics in Global Policy Leadership," who were tasked with studying racial reconciliation in South Africa, making policy recommendations for promoting reconciliation, and finding lessons for the U.S. in the Rainbow Nation. For the purposes of this memo, we define racial reconciliation as a goal, an aim characterized by a society where race is no longer a predominant line of division, where economic and social hierarchies and opportunity are not shaped by race, where racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity are celebrated and accepted, and where past racial injustices have been both acknowledged and substantively addressed.
Written after ten weeks of intensive classroom study and two weeks of field work in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town, this memo lays out our findings. Following a brief history, major policy sections of this memo reflect a chronological approach to achieving racial reconciliation, in which the reforms outlined in one section "unlock" further policies that would have previously been untenable. Section I outlines ideas for building trust in the public institutions of South Africa's fledgling, but progressive, democracy. Section II focuses on unleashing South Africa's economic potential. Section III explores ways to ensure universal, equitable distribution of public services. Envisioning a new South Africa, Section IV ties these three threads together, examining how they can collectively create bridging social capital and address past (and ongoing) grievances to help the country heal. Finally, Section V will offer recommendations on how the United States can learn from South Africa in attempting to address its own racial divisions.