The world stood still when news emerged that Nelson Mandela was critically ill.
His long battle against apartheid is one of the biggest chapter’s in the history of the 20th century.
After his release from prison, he won South Africa’s first all-race elections to become the country’s first black president; liberating and unifying most of its people.
However the emancipation of 80 percent of the population has not led to greater equality. Only a small minority have access to the reins of economic power.
Mandisa Nkamba Kadalie is proud to own a restaurant in the heart of one of Johannesburg’s upmarket areas.
She is one of the “black diamonds” as they are known locally. Exiled during the apartheid years, she returned after Mandela’s liberation to forge a career in finance. Ten years later she made her dream a reality after receiving a loan from an agency set-up to help start-ups in the black community.
“Some people have said to me ‘Don’t say that you own the business, because once people hear that it is owned by a black person, they might have attitude’. I said no, I said no! I fought for this so much! There is no way I’m going to say I do not own it. People that are still scared to say ‘I will take advantage of an opportunity’ should just let go, and take advantage of the opportunities that are there, and see if it works, as long as they are prepared to work hard!” said Mandisa.
Soweto lies a few kilometres from Johannesburg. The township, which symbolised much of the bloody fight against apartheid, is now an example of how life for some has completely changed. New housing projects and smart shopping centres reflect the emergence of a new middle class.
Soweto is a land of opportunities according to Nqobile Nkosi who began his business eight years ago, after receiving training and a micro-credit from the government.
He is the only black entrepreneur who has succeeded in setting up a high quality jewellers workshop in a township. Nkosi started from almost nothing, having sold cakes and ice-cream on the streets to buy his first tools.
“We have started a new culture, a culture of independence, a culture of working hard. It was not a norm for people of colour to manufacture jewellery. And surprisingly when I started training young guys, it’s then that I also realised that South Africa is booming with talent! It’s just waiting to be realised.” Nkosi said.
Today, he has four people working for him. Outside South Africa’s market he also exports his creations to Europe. His aim now is to find funding to open a factory and employ up to 100 staff in order to meet a growing demand.
“The old timers just down the road said to me: “Nqobile, we like what you’re doing, because this is what we fought for! This is what we wanted to see young people doing, now. Being self sufficient you know. Not looking up to their master like 20 years ago, you know!” he added.
Freedom gained under Mandela has not meant prosperity for all. Alexandra is a township which highlights many of the problems facing the black community.
Lacking infrastructure, failing public services, endemic unemployment and a chronic shortage of housing – Alexandra’s needs reflect the reality of a country where poverty affects 60 percent of black families.
Tumi Masite is among those trying to make up for the failings of the state. Private funds have allowed him to equip his gym but he says much more investment is needed.
He wants to help young people escape from the devastating grip of alcohol and drugs that has made delinquency widespread in Alexandra: “We need funders. We need more centres for the children. We need libraries for the people to actually get education,” he said.