Even after spending 27 years in jail, he declared a war against apartheid and spoke about the Independence of South Africa. His courage made Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela a “global icon” and he became the voice of human rights across the world. South Africa began to celebrate the birth centenary of this great leader on July 18, as the Jacob Zuma government decided to organise various programmes throughout the year.
Mandela spent an “inactive” life (both physically and politically) for six-seven years before his death on December 5, 2013. The African National Congress (ANC) was also in trouble at that time. Incidentally, the African nation declared July 18 ‘National Holiday’ four years before Mandela’s death. Perhaps, his own country and party wanted Mandela to ‘leave’ South Africa (and the world) forever. Maybe, he became a ‘burden of ideals’ for his party. However, his presence was required for the survival of ANC. In his birth centenary, the inevitable question is: whether Mandela’s presence will help his party to survive?
At the age of 77, Mandela became the first elected President of South Africa, which is considered as the country of immigrants. Whites started arriving in South Africa from 1652 onwards. As a result, the culture of the “Settlers’ Colony” is diverse in nature. Of course, South Africa has adopted many Western qualities, like punctuality, cleanliness etc. But, the Black-White social division still exists. For example, Cape Town is a city of mixed-culture. In the past, Whites used to take admission in the University of Cape Town (UCT). After Independence, Blacks were also allowed to study there. In reality, Black families can’t afford the amount of money required for getting admission in UCT. The university witnessed a violent student movement in 2016, as Blacks demanded that the university authorities lower the burden of huge course fee.
South Africa is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural country. On the basis of colours, we can divide South African people into four groups: Black, Coloured, Indian and White. Also, there are various ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversities among these groups. During colonial rule and foreign oppression, this division was not so prominent. But, it becomes very much evident in ‘Independent’ South Africa.
Like every newly independent country, South Africa is fighting a war against poverty. There are also some other problems because of this. Moreover, the South African economy is under tremendous pressure as local products fail to compete with foreign products in the era of globalisation. Majority of the employees in shopping malls is Black, while customers are mainly Indians, Coloured and White people. All of them are immigrants.
This discrimination has given birth to ultra-nationalism in South Africa in recent times. A process of identifying trees (brought to South Africa by Indians, Englishmen or Dutch people) has been started to remove the symbols of colonialism. At the same time, another process is going on to bring back some of the tree species of ancient South Africa. So, the important questions are: who will be called ‘South African’ and which language will be considered as ‘South African’ language?
Beauty Khosa, a 60-year-old maid in Cape Town, earns around 5000 Rand per month. She leaves her room at 6am and returns after 5pm everyday. As she lives in a Township (settlement area for Blacks) on the outskirts of Cape Town, Khosa travels by bus and train to reach the main city. She has no other option, but to spend around 50 Rand for travelling purposes on a daily basis. Beauty, who cleared the 10th standard examination in 1972, is the sole bread earner for her five-member family. Her daughter-in-law, along with her child, has left the house and Beauty has no information about them. According to Beauty, it has become increasingly difficult to pay water tax, electricity bill etc. “If you visit a doctor once a month, you have to pay 300 Rand. Then, you have to purchase medicines,” she said.
Beauty further said: “Go and ask the ANC. They will tell you that everything is free of cost. Even you don’t have to pay for education. But, we are paying a school fee of 300 Rand per child. There are 11 subjects and the school provides only two books. We brought the ANC to power because of Mandela. Mandela is no more and his party, too, changes its ideology. Our leaders are using costly cars and enjoying a lavish life. You can’t imagine.”
When a foreign journalist reminded Khosa that the leaders are also Black, she promptly said: “Of course, they are Black. But, they are big leaders. There is a difference between rich Blacks and Blacks (like us) who are living in Townships.” She continued: “There is no public transport system for the poor Black people in the country. Also, there is no proper health service. There is a huge difference between expectations from the government of an independent country and what we actually get. For the government, it was necessary to try to fulfil the people’s expectations.”
Mandela is still in captivity. He is imprisoned in various foundations, currency notes, tea packets and of course in T-shirts. But, he is still out of the reach of common Black people in South Africa.
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