Mandela legacy battered by South Africa’s troubles

Monday, Dec 04, 2023

SOWETO, South Africa: Soweto´s Vilakazi Street is packed each day with tourists and hawkers outside the home of Nelson Mandela that has been meticulously kept even as the democracy pioneer´s legacy has become rundown in the decade since his death.

Ntsiki Madela, who lives nearby and sells jewellery and hats on a table near the matchbox house museum at number 8115, is among many South Africans who feel let down.

While thankful that Mandela´s 16-year presence in the township now draws tourists, the 47-year-old said: “I haven´t seen any change from Mandela´s democracy and I don´t even see the need to vote.”

With a legislative election due in months -- the 30th anniversary of South Africa´s first democratic vote -- authorities are struggling to get people like Madela to register. Voter numbers have fallen with every election since the first in 1994. And the people who do vote are increasingly turning against Mandela´s African National Congress (ANC) that has ruled since then.

Polls suggest the scandal-tainted ANC´s vote share could fall below 50 percent for the first time as Africa´s biggest economy slumbers and corruption taints its image. Unemployment is among the world´s highest at 32 percent of adults and wages for those in work are low.

Despite the end of apartheid, South Africa has the world´s lowest equality ranking, according to the World Bank.

The government and state firms are carrying more than $300 billion of debt and the figure worsens every day. Street crime and murders have also grown over the past decade and some days Madela and her neighbours go without electricity for almost 12 hours a day.

“We only have enough income to feed our kids, there is constant load-shedding and the cost of living is unbearable,” said Madela, referring to the chronic power cuts. Mandela is seen around the world as a moral compass for the way he wore down white minority rule and his vision of a multi-racial South Africa.

Critics say the ANC leaders who took over quickly dropped Mandela´s torch. Mandela´s legacy has been “undermined” by his own party officials who are “corrupt” and have “deviated” from his “moral consciousness”, independent political analyst Prince Mashele said.