The dark side of the "Rainbow Nation"

Is the new South African still the place that Mandela intended?

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Violence prevails in South Africa
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Emily Boulter
On 25 July 2011 10:34

"The Horror!" is all one could think whilst casually browsing one of South Africa’s leading news aggregation sites News 24.

One after the other, stories which may only hit the headlines in the UK once or twice a year, are repeated over and over. At a quick glance, the stories themselves would give anyone a chill: “Woman, 65, robbed, raped by 3 men”, “Man gets life for raping 95-year-old” and in one horrendous case, a nine-year-old boy hid in terror as his Hungarian father was stabbed to death.

This is just a sprinkling of the available stories, and it underscores the reality of what 50 murders per day really means, not to mention countless rapes, hijackings, burglaries and assaults which occur in South Africa around the clock.

President Jacob Zuma says that South Africa’s media spends a disproportionate amount of time reporting on crime, and believes that globally the country falls into the "average" category.

His predecessor Thabo Mbeki stated on television that nobody can prove that crime is out of control, and the former minister of safety and security, Charles Nqakula said that those who had a problem with crime can simply leave the country. More shockingly, South Africa’s former national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi was found taking bribes from a drugs dealer.

Public confidence in government officials is eroding and numerous ministries, both provincial and federal, have been pilfered of their resources. Many ANC members are more concerned with economic gain then continuing to build on the legacy of Mandela.

Consider also the petulant ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema.

He was barely a teenager when apartheid ended. Malema once encouraged the killing of white farmers by singing apartheid-era protest songs.He once announced -- no doubt Mandela would shake his head -- “I belong to a radical and militant youth organization, and if you are not militant in the Youth League, you run the risk of being irrelevant”.

Over 3,000 white farmers have been murdered and the numbers continue to grow. Under Malema, the Youth League is expected to groom future ANC leaders, but what kind of example is their youth leader setting?

Through the eyes of tourists and overseas visitors, South Africa may seem beautiful, a place where one can find excellent food and wine, enjoy stunning sunsets and magnificent wildlife. However, the tourists have the luxury of a return ticket home. The stark reality, which faces most South Africans, is that there is nowhere to go and no chance of an effective government on the horizon.

The ANC, if it is honest, has stood idly by while inequalities, which persisted before, have been allowed to widen. The party still continues to play on fears that any change in the voting habits of the majority of blacks will lead them back to the dark days of apartheid.

The ANC promised a “better life for all” and repeats ad naseum, that it is taking steps to create jobs and improve services, but on the ground, most South Africans are confronted with interminable corruption, violence, poverty and the scourge of Aids, which the ruling party has neglected to address.

Much of what the country already has to offer and the vital assets of the economy are being degraded. Many small parks and game reserves can no longer allow tourists to stay due to poor transport infrastructure. Rolling blackouts occur due to the state power company Eskom’s failings to plan for the country’s future energy needs. Skilled professionals are leaving and the country’s education system is falling apart.

According to The Economist only 18 percent of teachers are professionally trained, with only one in 10 black students sufficiently qualified to go to university. With standards dropping, South African graduates have degrees that are no longer recognized internationally and their job prospects are shrinking.

However, what does the man who gave hope to millions of South Africans in 1994 think about the state of his nation?

Nelson Mandela, fondly called Madiba, is living in a country that day-by-day sees his ANC compatriots stomp on his vision for a multi-racial democratic society. What became of all his years of struggle? What became of promises for equality and fairness? And once Mandela is gone, will there still be people around to care enough?

These are questions that blight those who still believe in the new South Africa, but whose voices are drowned out by the personal ambitions of a few.

Emily Boulter works as a foreign affairs researcher in Brussels. 

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