South Africa’s most famous leader still sustains the poor people of his country – in spirit. We find this in the township of Alexandra, near Johannesburg. The areas for non-white only – under the old Apartheid regime – are still underprivileged; there’s high unemployment and not enough basic infrastructure and services. It reflects the increasing rich-poor divide in South Africa.
But the people here are proud of the traces Nelson Mandela left here, such as a hide-out of his during his struggle to end Apartheid.
Just next door, Martha Clearens Letsoalo has lived here since then. Her children took part in the 1976 student riots; she was afraid but grateful.
Letsoalo said: “Nelson Mandela means everything to us. We still love him and we still need him. “
Her grandson Tumi Masite is a youth community leader. A renowned body builder, the pride of Alexandra, he runs a gym. He wants everyone to have access to sports. He also trains people with disabilities and HIV. It’s his way of working for equal opportunities, and fighting against exclusion. His priority is to keep young people off the streets, where criminality is common.
Masite said: “There’s no longer sports in the schools, teachers don’t motivate children to stay away from drugs and alcohol. You can see my inspiration here, and our inspiration for the gym. My wish one day is to be like him, even if I can lead in sports, to lead the community to a healthy lifestyle. It can be good.”
A heritage museum that was never finished is a stark example of unfulfilled promises. More than 100 million euros was supposed to be put into renewing the township in 2003. But the money got stuck along the way, never got to them, Alexandrans say – grabbed by the corrupt.
When Apartheid ended, Frans Kekana was able to start his own business, opening a tiny basic goods store in 1994. He grants that Mandela won freedom for South Africans, but says a lot still has to be done.
Kekana said: “Money is money, either way. I can’t eat freedom. I have to eat money, I have to work for the money, you see. What is left to do now is to empower everyone.”
Euronews producer Valerie Gauriat said: “Alexandra township shows the paradoxes facing South African society. It’s proud of the freedom and tolerance Mandela brought, but it’s also plagued by social and economic problems which leave a large part of the black population at the side of the road.”