On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first democratic election after four decades of rule under an apartheid government. Apartheid was introduced into South African law after the second World War in 1948, causing a general segregation of different cultural and ethnic groups. Apartheid favored the white people of South Africa, especially the Afrikaans-speaking population. The Broederbond, an Afrikaans secret society founded in 1918, played a dominant role in the formation of apartheid and control within the government structures of this regime.
During February 1990, after the release of the African National Concress (ANC) president, Nelson Mandela said in a speech that the time was right to intensify the struggle for freedom against apartheid. The next day, he retracted his statement and told the enthusiastic crowds that majority rule would not make blacks more dominant. Mandela, a firm favorite with the masses, was elected as the first democratic president in 1994.
A new constitution gave the blueprint for every South African to live in a democratic, non-racial, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality and undeniable human rights for all. This was the beginning of an opportunity to build a strong economic system and strengthen the independence and security of all citizens.
After many frustrating years of negotiating a peaceful end to the turbulent struggle for freedom, the ANC was voted into power. The transition from a predominately white-ruled society to a black majority government was diplomatic and without violence. Many South Africans anticipated a civil war and rioting under the new leadership. This appeared to be an exaggerated form of fear that quickly transformed the different cultures into a rainbow nation.
Apartheid is legally abolished, and the democracy of a new nation continues to charge forward in an effort to create meaningful and sustainable living conditions to the masses of people neglected under the old government.
The ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, said the legacy of apartheid in South Africa is still alive. He told a press conference that the idea of forgetting about the history and memory of apartheid disappearing in a period of twenty years was impossible. Giving reference to this, he told the media that the massacre of Jews more than 60 years ago remained a memory in the minds of most people.
The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, said 20 years of democracy were not enough time to clear memories of apartheid. The planning minister, Trevor Manual, in a recent statement said the government could no longer blame apartheid for its current failings.
The start of the decline of a once grand country began in earnest as the people who wanted freedom, education, medical facilities and housing remain deprived of their basic human rights. The influx of mostly neighboring immigrants caused a shortage of housing and informal settlements began to spring up on any unused ground. The unhealthy living conditions have yet to be acted upon. Crime escalated at an alarming rate and caused South Africa to be voted a violent country.
There is the freedom to live where you want to, there is the right to use public facilities and there is the freedom to vote for a democratic government. This freedom does not address the underlying problems of poverty and inequality which are stalking the country. The most basic freedom to survive has been withheld from the majority of South Africans.
The May 2014 election should be a celebration for the ANC party, and at the same time, the endless corruption and squandering of public funds should be addressed.
The squandering of public funds by government officials and corruption within the state sector remains a top priority for voters to consider. While the ANC has a popular following and has secured a two thirds majority vote in past elections, there is an indication that their governance is not highly favored. The complete lack of respect and dignity of life is now turning the people of the country toward favoring another form of government. Perhaps other political parties participating in the elections might use the previous mistakes of political players to secure a place in the new government.
The current ANC government will remind the citizens of the significant strides made to resolve the past errors of apartheid and highlight the achievements of raising a new South African flag and implementing an exciting new national anthem for the country. In addition, in the year 2000, the Coat of Arms in remembrance of the combined historical spirit of the people was launched.
While the ANC government will encourage society to reflect upon the progress made and list the challenges of the future, no mention of all the wrongdoings within the society will be made.
Perhaps the crowds will remember the words of Nelson Mandela who said, “If the ANC do not deliver the goods, the people must do what they have done to the apartheid regime.” Twenty years after apartheid in South Africa has not brought about proper living for most, and people eager for change will have another opportunity to change the system when they cast their vote in the 2014 elections.
By Laura Oneale