Remarkable changes are taking place in the new South Africa. Planned changes in the health care arena present the new, relatively small discipline* of family practice with great opportunity for development and growth. With established generalist roots and recent formal recognition in South Africa, family practice should be well suited for a lead role in the government's efforts to extend health care access to those denied it under apartheid. Whether family practice moves into that role will depend on whether as a discipline it can project a vision of how it can meet the country's health care needs. Close examination of family practice in South Africa shows how the field reflects many of the societal problems of the past and the challenges of the future. With a clear vision of its role in the new South Africa, family practice could overcome these challenges, as well as answer a broader question about the place of family practice outside of the first world setting.