Nelson Mandela’s 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.
“Lots of people actually lack education here in the community. We struggle in the gym you know, to also to try to tell people about health.Something that is little can actually change the lives of people in the community” added Tumi.
The end of apartheid allowed Frans to open his small business some 20 years ago. Freedom is his most precious asset. For the rest, things have not changed much, he says.
“The freedom is there, the rights are there..
But in the economy, the power is still in the white hands. Economically,white people are ruling.
You can’t rule without money! You can’t rule when you are hungry! How can you rule when you’re hungry?” lamented Frans.
Apartheid may be a thing of the past but another form of discrimination is rife in South Africa’s townships. In Diepsloot, the new victims are African immigrants.
Some 40 kilometres north of Johannesburg, live thousands of families in the shantytowns of Diepsloot.
Among them are many immigrants who have come from Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Ghana and even Pakistan.
Here people call them “Makwere kwere” – the foreigners, and they are not always welcome.
Often victims of verbal or physical violence, arson attacks or robberies – crimes of such type are commonplace in such townships.
Recently, two men were killed in Diepsloot. Dozens of small stores like Daniel Ersuncho from Ethiopia, were striped bear and vandalised.
“I lost everything. The door was broken, the shelves were stolen.. they never left even one spoon here. Even money was stolen. When we phone the police they can’t do anything, they just leave. We are not safe,” said Daniel.
Artist and slammer, Abel Dube fled from Zimbabwe where he fought against the Mugabe regime: “People come from outside South Africa, they think, yeah, there are greener pastures, but they’re not so green.”
“We live in fear. We are not sure of tomorrow, and we cannot say xenophobia is dead. It’s still alive,” he said.
“People are frustrated. Because the government is not delivering, and people are unemployed. So they just want away to take away their frustrations. And people need closure and security. And I don’t think anyone is looking after their interests. So they tend to take their anger to other people. It’s hard to live here if you’re a foreigner.”
There is still some way to go before the Rainbow Nation which Nelson Mandela fought for becomes a true reality. Like those who once battled for freedom for all South Africans, Abel too dreams of another world.