20 May 2019

South Africa: Is Abraham Lincoln's Team of Rivals a Model for South Africa?


Now that South Africa's election has happened, and once the new Parliament is sworn in, the next big task, after Cyril Ramaphosa is formally confirmed as president for the next half decade, is the selection and announcement of his new Cabinet. This first step offers the president a chance to make concrete his repeated promises that a new day has - finally - arrived. But will party politics as usual be enough, or is it time to reach for a government of national unity, drawing on the wider talent pool and concentrating energies on the country's economic and political challenges?

More than a decade ago, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin shot to celebrity status with her book, Team of Rivals. She had previously written a thorough biography of President Lyndon Johnson, literally moving to his Texas ranch to craft the work with him. This followed his virtually forced exile from Washington, after a lifetime as one of the country's senatorial and presidential power wielders - before the Vietnam War proved his undoing.

But Team of Rivals was a rather different kind of history. Instead of a deep study of the entire life of an important figure in history, Team of Rivals...

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