South Africans turn to Mandela's legacy

Last updated 08:08 13/12/2013
Sipho Mthethwa
'I WANTED TO REMEMBER': Sipho Mthethwa stands next to bouquets laid outside the former Soweto home of Nelson Mandela.
Lesego Chipa
BUSINESS IS BOOMING: Lesego Chipa moved his stall to outside the Vilakazi Street house where Nelson Mandela once lived.

Relevant offers


Hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria Ethnic massacre in South Sudan Africa land grabs endanger elephants New militant group claims responsibility blast in Cairo Nigeria: 85 schoolgirls still missing The woman who will decide Pistorius' fate Pistorius' blame shifting a recurring theme Defence forensic expert's credibility faulted Pistorius murder trial on hold until May Gunmen kill nine in bus attack in Ethiopia

For years Sipho Mthethwa has driven past Nelson Mandela's old home in Soweto's Vilakazi Street on the way to his mid-level government job, a few blocks away.

Yesterday, for the first time, he decided to stop and go in.

"I wanted to remember the late Papa Madiba," he said.

"He was the one person you could look up."

Wilting floral tributes to the former statesman were piled high, next to waxy puddles of burned-down candles. Handwritten signs, expressing sorrow and love, were fixed to the iron fence.

The modest brick house, now a museum, was overrun with people in the days following Mandela's death. Visitors were still arriving yesterday morning, but in smaller numbers.

South Africa is still immersed in 10 days of mourning, culminating with his funeral, at his childhood home of Qunu on Sunday.

But people are now turning their attention to Mandela's legacy, and the country's future.

His African National Congress party led the country out of apartheid, but Mandela gave the party its moral legitimacy, and a series of failures are seeing supporters turn their backs.

President Jacob Zuma was humiliated before the world when he was booed in front of foreign leaders at this week's memorial service for Mandela.

He is embroiled in a huge corruption scandal after more than NZ$25m of taxpayer cash was lavished on his rural home. Ostensibly, the renovations were for security, but included a pool and entertainment system.

- E-tolls installed on roads in the Gauteng province have incensed motorists in the congested cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

- Unemployment is at more than 25 per cent, driving high crime rates – during the memorial service Archbishop Desmond Tutu's home was burgled.

- While South Africa is one of the BRICS countries of emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - growth remains sluggish at around 2 per cent.

- The ANC's flagship Black Economic Empowerment policy has largely failed. After the global financial crisis, half of blacks aged 15-34 were without jobs, three times the rate for whites.

Now, for the first time, analysts are predicting the party's vote share could fall below 60 per cent at next year's elections.

"The perception of this country will be negative now that he [Mandela] has gone," Mthethwa, a 48-year-old father of four said. He believes the huge numbers of jobless are tied to corruption.

Ad Feedback

"The main thing that could have a very negative effect towards attracting investors to the country will be corruption and, maybe, the type of government officials that we have, especially politicians," he said.


For Lesego Chipa, 27, business is booming.

He's been flogging Mandela t-shirts, beanie hats and ANC-branded sarongs, from a stall on Vilakazi Street since the day after the Nobel peace laureate died.

But the Government should do more to help young people start their own businesses, he says.

"Jacob Zuma has got a lot to do," he said.

"The youth ... were are not happy, he doesn't care for us. Look at the house [where] he is staying. That money that he used [for refurbishment] should have been for the people to develop their businesses."

Nearby Jessica Nashinini, 52, is begging to buy food. Once a financial services worker, she lost her job when she broke both her legs. She's been on a government waiting list for a home since 1999, and she applied for welfare two months ago.

"They tell me I'll get it soon," she said.

"Mandela helped us . . . [Zuma] he doesn't renovate for us. He doesn't give us houses. He doesn't do so many things."

A quarter of South Africans are estimated to be existing on around NZ$1.50 a day, with 47 per cent classed as living below the poverty line.

On the way out of Soweto, grinding poverty is everywhere. Homeless line the walls of a hospital, sleeping in cardboard boxes. In the shadow of the Orlando Stadium, venue for 2010 World Cup football matches, a small slum of tin huts has sprung up.

Half an hour drive away, in heavy traffic, is Houghton.

Mandela died at his home in the northern Johannesburg suburb last week, aged 95. Like Vilakazi Street, the junction of 12th De Laan Avenue and 4th Street has become a shrine, with a sea of bouquets, letters, balloons and candles.

In wide, tree-lined streets, palatial homes stand behind towering walls and razor wire.

But even in this affluent suburb, there is dissatisfaction.

Shaun Ellert, 34, grew up in Houghton and remembers Mandela taking daily walks with his bodyguards.

"We came to pay our respects," he said.

"I mean, this is our area. As kids we used to follow him. I remember I met him once ... he would always stop to have photos with all the kids, he would shake hands with the parents."

Mandela made him proud to be South African as a child.

"He made us into the Rainbow Nation ... he was ours."

Ellert's friend Daniel Fine, 39, said his family was involved in the anti-apartheid struggle.

"They were quite staunch supporters. He changed the country," he said.

Both men are well-off and work in insurance. But Fine says South Africa's economic inequality - on a par with Brazil and Mexico - drives him mad.

"You see all the beggars at the robots [traffic lights] ... and it drives you mad, you feel sorry for them, but what can you do?" he said.

"[So] you ignore it."

Mandela's death won't change anything.

"I can tell you now it won't [change]. There's no maybes. Now there is a feeling of unity and celebration, but South Africa is going to go back to what it was," he said.

Madiba wouldn't be happy with the current government, he believes.

"He wasn't like that. It was a pity he couldn't be 20 years younger."

But while people are "tired" of the government, he believes Zuma will be returned to power. "The ANC are never not going to be in power ... South Africa is meant to be a democracy but it's not," Fine said.

"You just vote for who you want in power and then it is a dictatorship."

Ellert agrees Zuma is too entrenched within the party to be ousted.

"But he is losing touch with the people," he said.

"The promises made to the less fortunate in society in terms of education, healthcare [haven't been fulfilled]. They [the ANC] have let the people down."

- © Fairfax NZ News

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content