Monday, February 16, 2015

South Africa's Born Frees

South Africa’s post-apartheid generation, the “born-frees”, discontent grows. Thakeng Moreki lives in Orange Farm, a sprawling, impoverished shantytown 40 miles south of Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa—his community a place bypassed by the economic gains that the end of apartheid was supposed to bring to the nation’s poor. Unemployment exceeds 40 percent in Orange Farm, South Africa’s most populous shantytown, with 350,000 residents. And the lack of opportunity evident across the country falls heavily on the “born frees”—those who grew up after apartheid ended in the early 1990s. The “born frees” have begun to question their country’s leadership amid rampant unemployment, limited opportunity and entrenched political corruption.

“We have democracy in South Africa but leaders are like: They eat first and then they leave what is left for the people,” Moreki said “The people fought for democracy, but these leaders forget what they fought for.”

“Young whites still enjoy the inheritance of apartheid, and we are still at a disadvantage because the wealth is not properly shared,” said Thula Gumede, 21, a politics and public management major at the University of Johannesburg. “Those who took land and resources still have it.”

Owethu Mbambo, another University of Johannesburg student, said she shares Gumede’s view. “Affirmative action for blacks in South Africa is attacked as unfair,” Mbambo, 22, said. “Blacks are given the moral burden to ‘get over it.’ We are told to be happy to be free. But it is only a one-way street. White people are not changing like we are being told to change.”

Richard “Bricks” Mokolo, a paralegal and community activist who runs the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Center, said neoliberal economic policies adopted by the ANC, under pressure from entities including the United States, have structurally excluded millions. “Shortly after the election of Mandela, I realized that the policies the government was adopting would make poor people suffer more than under apartheid,” Mokolo said. He once led a successful fight to stop ANC government privatization of water service in Orange Farm. “The government and the private sector are not creating jobs. Even college graduates are unemployed.”

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