How does a country move on from something like the apartheid? How can a country come to terms with 21,000 instances of murder and torture? How can a country rebuild after millions of non-white groups were forcibly relocated to designated areas outside of cities? These were a few of the questions that inspired me to visit South Africa. The apartheid officially ended 20 years ago and I wished to see how South Africa was coping.
The first thing I noticed was the massive level of inequality that exists in the country. In fact, according to some studies, South Africa has the highest level of inequality in the world. This statistic does not surprise me as I started to experience more of the country. I saw Sandton, known as “The Richest Mile” in Africa, where I went to one of the nicest malls I have ever been in This was the most affluent area on the entire continent. Yet only miles away sits the township of Alexandra, one of the most impoverished areas in the region. From the shacks they built out of scrap metal, families in Alexandra can see the lights and high rises of of Sandton, a world they will likely never know.
I am in South Africa during an election which has provided insight into how local people feel about their government and its politicians. Nearly every person I have talked to at one point or another mentioned that they are upset with the corrupt government, especially President Jacob Zuma. People are angry that things are not improving. There are no jobs and levels of unemployment are high. Many are still burdened by the atrocities they experienced. It will be interesting to see the outcome of these elections which are the most contested since the ANC took power in the 90's. This will be a true test of the democracy South Africa has established.
While it is easy to point at the numerous problems in South Africa (violence, inequality, corruption etc) , I will not leave South Africa feeling hopeless. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I have worked with numerous groups and organizations that are fighting to make South Africa a better place. People have not given up; they still believe South Africa can have a promising future. With groups like Khulumani doing everything in their power to right wrongs and achieve justice, I have hope for South Africa yet.