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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — South Africa is now beginning to contemplate the retirement of Thabo Mbeki, its second president since the end of the apartheid era. So this is a particularly opportune moment to look back and assess our achievements, note our failures and perhaps see what elements in our transition to democracy may be applied elsewhere.

This is an exercise we in South Africa are not accustomed to undertaking, for as a people we tend to sell ourselves short. We seem to take for granted remarkable achievements and do not give ourselves enough credit. As a result, we tend to see an invisible cloud behind every ray of sunshine; we seem to think that our achievements have meaning only for ourselves.

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