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August 21, 2008
UDTS prof sees unrest in South Africa

Story as appeared in Monday, August 18, 2008 issue of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald

UD prof sees unrest in South Africa
He says his visit exposed a nation with a depressed democratic spirit
By SYDNEY SMITH TH staff writer

South Africa was supposed to be little more than another tally to add to the number of countries University of Dubuque Professor David Moessner has lectured in over the years -- a pleasant adventure filled with fond memories and diverse company.

But his recent one-week visit was a window into a troubled African nation.

Between lectures at the University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University and three others during his weeklong stay in South Africa, Moessner observed the country with a keen eye and ear. He returned to the United States with a troubling perspective that has lingered in his mind since his departure.

"I took every opportunity to ask those at the universities where I went about the country and their views about what was going on," Moessner said. "I don't want to make it too negative, but there was a sense of warning, of mourning. The people are now becoming pessimistic rather than optimistic."

Optimism, Moessner said, described the overlying feeling during the presidency of Nelson Mandela, the longtime political prisoner who became first black president of post-Aparthaid South Africa between 1994 and 1999.

When Mandela declined to run for re-election in 1999, Thabo Mbeki was elected, and still holds the position.

"The fear now is that the successor to Mandela does not have the educational level of Mandela, is not in the same vein or spirit of Mandela."

Moessner said the lack of faith in Mbeki has led to other dire predictions for the country. And South Africa's neighbor, the once-prosperous Zimbabwe, is depressed by economic and political turmoil under the leadership of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

"It's a very sad thing, depressing thing. That is the kind of overall feeling wherever I went," Moessner said.

The Dubuque professor said the nation needs decisive action by people who care about sustaining democracy.

"People of good will need to come together and work together in South Africa. When politicians and economic conditions collide and combine in ways (that) destroy a democratic spirit, it takes special effort of people of good will to go against that and stand up for what's right."