Too often, the news from Africa is bad. Violence, killing and bloodshed continue to make South Africa a boiling caldron whose top seems constantly about to blow off as the dominant white government offers mere cosmetic responses to the suffering African majority's legitimate claims for freedom and shared power.
And in dozens of other African countries, famine continues to threaten the lives of millions of people, despite last year's successful international response to the grinding death and starvation.
But there was a bit of good news coming out of Africa the other day. The fact is, some of the whites who left Zimbabwe and moved to South Africa after blacks gained majority rule are returning home. And that says a lot about the success of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) under its black leaders.
The recent history of Zimbabwe is emblazoned on the memory of Africa watchers. After defying Britain and independent Africa for 15 years and fighting a bloody seven-year civil war, the black majority won its freedom. Six years ago, in the months after former guerrilla leader Robert Mugabe was elected president, an estimated 150,000 whites left the newly independent Zimbabwe.
Saying they feared economic disaster in their homeland, approximately 100,000 streamed into white-ruled South Africa. "A lot of people went down there feeling sorry for themselves, and a lot are now asking themselves why they left in the first place," said Clive Higgins, 25, a mechanical engineer who returned to Zimbabwe last year after four years in South Africa. "A lot of us made a hell of a mistake."
When they arrived in South Africa, they did not find the welcome mat laid out. They encountered limited economic opportunity as a decade-long economic boom began to go bust. Indeed, a 1983 study of this population found that a majority of those in the sample felt they were not doing as well economically in South Africa as they had in Rhodesia.
"I was constantly under the impression from people I met that we really weren't wanted," said engineer Higgins, "that we were taking jobs away from their own people."
Moreover, they arrived as South African blacks were escalating their battles against the evil apartheid system and the Botha government was responding by tightening the vise of domination. Seeing South Africa fight the same type of futile battle against black majority rule as the one that had cost 30,000 lives in their own country, they, with the loss of 30,000 lives, had reason to pause and note, with horror, "Here we go again."
Meanwhile, under Mugabe, Zimbabwe has been making a success of independence. Sound development and economic decisions have provided sufficient economic growth for the whites left behind to prosper but also has allowed school enrollments to double and difficult health problems in the villages to be addressed.
This is not to say Zimbabwe's biracial experiment is problem free. Zimbabwe's national unemployment rate is as high as 25 percent. Some claim growth and stability have come at the expense of great disparities in wealth between the estimated 100,000 whites and the 8 million blacks. The incomes of many of the whites who stayed on to run farms and factories still far outstrip those of many blacks who lag behind in education.
Despite some understandable concern about whether returning whites will take jobs away from qualified blacks, most Africans seem happy to see them come back.
"These whites are Zimbabweans," said Home Affairs Minister Enos Nkala, whose ministry oversees immigration. "If they have gone away under the wrong impression, and now they think they were wrong and want to come back, why not? It's a sign that there is stability here."
Mugabe's six-year-old nation still faces formidable challenges. But Zimbabwe shows that a right-thinking black-ruled nation wants only what any other nation wants for its people -- stability, growth and dignity.