The door to the world was flung wide open and light flooded the country. With the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 and SA’s first democratic elections in 1994, the country emerged from isolation into the league of nations. The transition was a global event. The late Nelson Mandela’s release from prison was covered live on international television and radio and, as the country emerged from the darkness, fragile and fraught, its every move was captured and analysed the world over. It was the centre of the attention and it responded in kind. Its constitution, finally agreed to in 1996, was touted as a world standard. It was a benchmark not just for hope but best democratic practice. Progressive, drawing upon international standards and with a Bill Human Rights at its core, it was the envy of developing countries, and even established democracies, everywhere. The decades of isolation, maintained through sanctions and international scorn, had driven SA into a hole. How hard it fought, how mu...

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