Endgame: Secret Talks and the End of Apartheid by Willie Esterhuyse, Cape Town, South Africa: Tafelberg (NB Publishers) 2012, 363 pp. Paperback, $28.88.
The Rough Guide to Nelson Mandela: His Life, His Impact, His Legacy by Max du Preez, London: The Penguin Group, 2011, 288 pp. Paperback, $16.25.
Eye on the Diamonds by Terry Crawford-Browne, Johannesburg: Penguin Group (South Africa), 2012, 268 pages. Paperback, $24.38.
Mugabe and the White African by Ben Freeth, Cape Town, South Africa: Zebra Press (Random House Struik), 2011, 256 pp. Paperback, $25.75.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Today, many people of South Africa and the region continue to suffer from exploitation by foreign-owned mineral companies, failures of reform organizations to implement real democracy and a rise of dictatorial regimes run by black Africans.
Widespread poverty, especially in South Africa's townships, is growing even worse.
Several books recently published in South Africa provide provocative and powerful insights into these scourges. When, or even whether, real reforms will occur remains unclear.
From Apartheid to democracy
Willie Esterhuyse, a professor and businessman, was a key Afrikaner involved in secret negotiations in the late 1980s between the African National Congress and apartheid government leaders, especially operatives in South Africa's National Intelligence Service.
Esterhuyse, who lives in Stellenbosch near Cape Town, provides fascinating, previously unpublicized insights into years of secret meetings planning how to end apartheid in his new book, "Endgame: Secret Talks and the End of Apartheid."
"Endgame" details the complexities in that transition. Secret meetings, held in England and other countries, were critical to initiating negotiations between top ANC and apartheid government leaders to plan how to end the collapsing apartheid system.
Those meetings also forged a lasting friendship between Esterhuyse and Thabo Mbeki, an ANC activist who later served two terms as South Africa's president, between 1999 and 2008.
Esterhuyse describes conflicts and disagreements during those negotiations, such the wishes of some Afrikaner leaders to create a government that still provided them with special privileges and plans of some ANC leaders to launch new armed rebellions.
Nelson Mandela, released from prison after 27 years on Feb. 11, 1990, was "a visionary leader, a Moses figure," Esterhuyse writes." After he was freed, "Mandela was his true self: peace seeker; conciliator; moderate; non-racial."
Mandela's qualities were critical in calming tensions after apartheid ended and hundreds of previous government "enemies" were released from prison or allowed back into the country from exile.
But "freedom does not necessarily bring peace. It opens up possibilities for new power struggles," Esterhuyse stresses.
In his "Rough Guide to Nelson Mandela," newspaper reporter Max du Preez wrote, "Here was a man who was more of a humanist than an ideologue, who took a pragmatic approach to defeating apartheid and -- having done so -- displayed a unique capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation, delivering his country from near-civil war almost single-handedly, and inspiring millions of people around the world."
Mandela's dignity and compassion, de Preez writes, quickly turned him into a global statesman.
During secret talks before Mandela was released, Mbeki was never anti-Afrikaner, believing negotiations had to take place primarily between the ANC and Afrikaner government leaders.
Before apartheid was officially abandoned, Mbeki also warned existing poverty and economic inequalities would pose major stumbling blocks to creating "lasting reconciliation and peace."
Once black South Africans gained political power, Mbeki believed, they "will find any way whatsoever to gain access to wealth too."
Esterhuyse remembers that Mbeki gave him "many sleepless nights" when he privately told him, "Liberation from a dictatorship inevitably also entails corruption. South Africa's liberation will be plagued by corruption. People who have been oppressed and disadvantaged economically argue that they lost a great deal in the past. Hence they believe they are entitled to 'make up for it.' "
Mbeki said "post-independence elites" often enrich themselves at the continued expense of the poor.
These books provide unsettling insights into ongoing conflicts and new threats to freedom, especially under the current South African President Jacob Zuma, who also participated in those secret gatherings to end apartheid.
The Zuma administration wants to silence critics, du Preez wrote in his book published before the widely publicized controversy that erupted in May over "The Spear." Brent Murray, a white artist who was a longtime opponent of apartheid, created the provocative painting attacking Zuma's sexual and political lives.
Zuma is showing a growing tendency, du Preez believes, "to target the media, especially newspapers, and to rewrite the law books to limit the freedom of speech in the South African constitution."
Influence of foreign mineral owners
Terry Crawford-Browne's "Eye on the Diamonds" looks at economic motivations that originally spurred the creation of European colonies throughout Africa and today's continued efforts by developed nations, including the United States, to preserve influence among African leaders, even if they are brutal dictators.
Africa has high percentages of the world's most valuable minerals: 88 percent of its platinum; 73 percent of diamonds; 60 percent of manganese and cobalt; 40 percent of gold; and 30 percent of uranium.
Countries across the world -- including the U.S., Great Britain, Israel, Russia and China -- are directly involved in lucrative mining ventures in South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sierra Leone and other African nations.