In South Africa’s May 2014 election most of the ‘Born Frees’ (persons born after the end of apartheid in the early 1990s) are eligible to vote in a general election yet a recent “Status of Youth Report” released by South Africa’s National Youth Development Agency found that young voters, with few exceptions, “are regularly less likely actually to turn out on Election Day than other age groups.”
Shenid Bhayroo was one of the thousand-plus journalists that traveled to South Africa in December 2013 to cover the death of Nelson Mandela.
Bhayroo saw a strong public dissatisfaction with the deep poverty rampant across South Africa, poverty many South Africans increasingly blame on failures of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the organization Mandela once led. Many studies list income inequality in South Africa as highest in the world, citing such figures as the poorest ten percent averaging $427 in annual income compared to $80,800 for the richest ten percent.
“What I saw was a greater sense of criticism of the short-comings of the ruling party, even from staunch ANC supporters,” Bhayroo said referencing rising objections including criticisms of corruption and nepotism among ANC officials, particularly South African President Jacob Zuma. “There’s been little improvement in the lives of the working poor.”
Mosi was a member of the ANC’s military wing, living years outside of his homeland in exile. He suffered a gunshot wound in Angola during a 1980s battle against American CIA-funded rebels that were fighting in alliance with South Africa’s apartheid government. Mosi is among the ANC supporters dissatisfied with the policies and practices of that party.
“Too many ANC leaders now drive Mercedes Benz cars. They don’t do things for the poor,” trade union member Mosi said, critical of top ANC officials for engaging in self-enrichment, a repugnant practice of elites worldwide. “The ANC has political office, but the economy of the country is still in the hands of white people,” Mosi said during a July 2013 interview in the impoverished township of Alexandria located adjacent to the most wealthy enclaves in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. “People in South Africa are still poor. Some still sleep on the streets.”
“While political apartheid ended economic apartheid in a different guise took shape,” American scholar Dr. Anthony Monteiro, of Temple University in Pennsylvania, wrote in a December 2013 essay entitled “Nelson Mandela: The Contradictions of His Life and Legacies.” For Monteiro, instead of a “radical redistribution of wealth and income…a program of neo-liberal capitalism and protection of western corporate wealth and white South African interests [was] implemented. In return blacks got the right to vote and modest improvements in the lives of the poor…the suffering of the working masses and poor got worse…”
Nkosi Patrick Molala, a legendary soccer star, anti-apartheid figure and community activist in South Africa who holds the dubious distinction of being the first soccer star in his nation imprisoned for anti-apartheid activities. Molala served eight years on infamous Robben Island , is among many concerned about the grave economic inequities in his nation like 50 percent unemployment about black youth. “Much in the ‘Rainbow Nation’ that we claim is the same as before: Those who were poor then are poor now,” Molala said. Post-apartheid South Africa is a “democracy of those who can make it,” Molala said during an interview last summer.