Rarely do I display emotions in public, but visiting the Apartheid Museum in the Rainbow Nation earlier this year struck a chord deep within me. From an early fresh-faced activist to a humbled charismatic leader, Nelson Mandela emerged into a divided South Africa after 27-years imprisoned on Robben Island. The iconic wave beside then wife Winnie was to mark the beginning of reconciliation for the country. But will the death of a symbol be the demise of South Africa?
As I travelled throughout the city, reaching the farthest point, it was highly apparent that the apartheid still lingers in some areas. The South West Township, better known as Soweto, houses millions of black South Africans. And that’s the crux of it.
Speaking to local Sowetans, it was harrowing to understand that the majority of those still living in the apartheid-built ghetto are black. In fact as the local born-and-bred Sowetan tour guide told me he had “never seen a white person” living in the area. Only until recently when a local white South African family opted to move to the area, to experience the “other side”, was there knowledge of others living in Soweto. “We are still labelled as all blacks. What they don’t understand is that we are nine different tribes, with different languages. And most of the time, we don’t necessarily understand each other,” he said, only reiterating the point – how far has South Africa come since the end of apartheid and has it actually ended? If people are labelled in a bloc, is it not perpetuating prejudice?
On the other end of the spectrum, white South Africans spoke of the ‘dire’ situation under the ANC. A local businessman told me: “They [ANC] have given all the jobs to the underskilled black people since they’ve been in power, we’ve lost our livelihood”. If this is the case, there seems to be no winners in this ‘post-apartheid’ nation, and the colours of the Rainbow still seems to be clearly divided.
And yet despite its modern day segregation, Madiba (Mandela’s tribal name) continues to echo throughout the country as a symbol of hope and peace, an important tool that the ANC has used to maintain this status quo. Only time will tell if the ANC will be able to hold on its own.
Rest in peace Madiba. (1918-2013)