When the African National Congress came to power in South Africa in 1994, it was right to see itself not just as a new political party that won an election, but as an historic change agent ushering in an era of democracy and freedom. Things—big things—would have to change.
But in addition to changing big things, the ANC has changed little things, indicative of its broader, and obsessive, self-perception as the party that deserves to rule in perpetuity. As R.W. Johnson explained in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the ANC has focused on the task of name changes: renaming roads, airports, even whole cities and provinces, wiping away any vestige of English and Afrikaner heritage. It would be understandable if the ANC’s name-change agenda was focused solely on reclaiming part of the country’s history for an historically neglected population. But there are ulterior political motives behind the name changes:
The main road to the airport becomes Yasir Arafat highway; Moore Road (after Sir John Moore, the hero of the Battle of Corunna) becomes Che Guevara Road; Kensington Drive, Fidel Castro Drive; and Chelmsford Road (after Lord Chelmsford, who defeated the Zulu King Cetshwayo) JB Marx Road, after the former black Communist leader who lies buried next to Khrushchev in Moscow. Naturally, Jan Smuts Highway will be Cetshwayo Highway and Victoria Road, Mandela Road. Most of the city-center streets are to be renamed after local Communists of whom not many have heard.
South Africa has many problems with which to contend: the world’s highest number of people suffering from AIDS, one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime, and a failed state on its northern border. But rather than tackling the problems that keep their nation firmly in the second world, the ANC is renaming public institutions after Marxist guerillas, Communist academicians, and violent Arab nationalists, with a stunning level of vigor it hasn’t shown in its other efforts at reform. Is this really the best the ANC can do?