For many South Africans in their imaginations the succession of the African National Congress (ANC) as government and defeat of the apartheid regime (in 1994) was going to make life easier and make resources accessible for everyone. When ANC took power, many people thought the struggle was over and it was the beginning of great things in their lives. The agenda that was introduced in their minds was that the ANC was a party that fights inequality within the colour bar and it caters for all, but today, after 18 years of freedom in the country (democracy era) there are people who feel neglected and failed by the ruling party.
People who experienced the struggle seem to be the ones who are not enjoying the benefits of the past struggle. The victims of the traumatizing circumstances of the past feel like strangers in their own nation. They only read about freedom and equality in the media. They are bombarded with “false” information about the greatness of the new South Africa and are also exposed to empty promises in rallies. They look at the history being told in many different sophisticated ways by people who were victimized by none, people who came from foreign countries (some regarded as leaders that went to exile) and now occupy higher positions in huge companies, government and some are in parliament too.
People identify differences within the ANC. The ANC that existed back in the days and the one that live today are totally different. The policy-makers are not seen as the true reflection of the Africans that people anticipated. The votes people put have taken the country to the route it is going today and not everybody likes it.
On 16 June (today known as June 16, Youth Day) I took a trip to Soweto, the township where the youth of 1976 started the Soweto Uprising and stood firm demanding an immediate ban of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. This is the area where many young people were shot and some killed (roughly 176 black youth) for what they believed in. The place where people like Hector Pieterson lost their lives to the South African brutal police that used rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of angry protesters. Veterans like Tsietsi Mashinini led the uprising (even though many young people who celebrate and commemorate the day don’t even know who he was).
As I was searching for a story to tell, I left Zondi Township and went pass by Mofolo Park where there was a huge event for the day, celebrities were entertaining about 7000 young people who attended the event and they were also advised about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. I passed by and went to Maponya Mall in Pimville but couldn’t find anything interesting. I then went back to Zondi where I managed to find a grandma (gogo) who was so vocal about her history and how it has transformed to be what it is today.
I conducted a long interview with her trying to find out exactly how she has suffered in the past and whether she is enjoying the new South Africa she is living in today. So sadden by the information she gave to me, I couldn’t handle it so I listened to her. From time to time she would ask me not to remind her of what happened in the past as it was bringing bad memories in her mind. But all she was concerned about is the comparison between the apartheid regime and the democratic government.
Below is the in interview with Moreen Hlatshwayo (70years) where she expresses her views
The many comrades that died fighting for liberation, freedom, equality and other rights that South Africans enjoy today wouldn’t like the conditions that people are living under, today.
On the issue of the people from neighbouring countries, she said “How can you wake up from the dust and find many people on top of you? The worst part is that the people (foreigners) come with suggestions. They gain access to places we were never allowed to enter. I thought the world was coming back, I would get access, but they took over. I had a big factory in town, sewing. When the people came back from exile, in neighbouring countries, we were kicked out of Hillbrow to allow foreigners to make business. They messed up our business. They went to the shops we were sewing for and reduced their prices to kill businesses. I had to come back to the Township, and they stayed in the City”
“I started working at Hillbrow since 1983 when I left a factory. I wasn’t allowed to work in the city but I worked under a white madam. And I left the business in 1999 when foreigners took over our businesses.”
“People who were supposed to get the presidency are Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi “Gatsha”. He was one of the people who questioned the reasons for foreigners coming to South Africa. He wanted to implement a policy that would prohibit overcrowding in SA by foreigners who came to this country with the purpose of making business. The ANC sidelined him. He was removed as home affairs minister.”
Asked if she agree that the people who went to exile were going to fight for liberation she said “No, who were they fighting with when we were fighting here in South Africa.”
“Now they are enjoying millions and fighting together. We see people like (Julius) Malema fighting for power and we ask ourselves where were they (hiding) when we faced reality here”
“Apartheid regime was better than today’s government. White people ruled better. Blacks would get arrested for not working, if you are seen in the township not working you would get arrested or they would give you a job in their yards. Whites were torturing us but they gave us food to eat. Today we are tortured more than back in the days.”
Today we can’t go to public toilets because we get killed and robbed.
People who suffered the Soweto Uprising are neglected today by the ruling party.
“PAC deserves to be the governing party. They fought for Black people. Tsietsi Mashinini was not ANC, he was PAC. Tsietsi is the one who led the Soweto Uprising in 1976. Our mothers who were boycotting with Mandela went to drop their ID books at Pretoria. PAC also matched to Pretoria for the ban of the pass laws. They went to submit their ID books. If it wasn’t for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife) who pushed the agenda of the ANC, ANC would succeed. Mandela got popular because of Winnie.” PAC was sabotaged, and I’m happy now that they treat her like a washing towel.
“Winnie told people that Mandela is in prison, he was fighting for the rights as you fight for the rights. Mandela have never beaten anyone, he never killed a white person. He was just a lawyer for the congress.”
“If you read the bible, you’ll remember when the children of Israel when the encountered challenges on their way to Egypt, they said it was better in Egypt because we were eating and drinking. That’s why we are saying, the white rule (apartheid) was better. You wouldn’t find a person unemployed. They were torturing us but they gave us something to eat and live. There were job opportunities; you would even get arrested for not working.”
Sobukwe died for nothing, those are the people who fought for the nation.
“I don’t know why we vote for the ANC, we vote for them so they can torture us going forward.”
“When ANC and IFP fought, they (IFP) destroyed all the hostels. The ANC was trying to protect them and block them.”
“I respected the orders of the struggle comrades. When they ordered us to stay away, I did that even though sometimes my bosses would shout at me and sometimes fire me,”
Important comment made by a young person, David Mbekezeli Mabaso, on the 16th June.
“For us young people in the townships, we don’t even know what democracy is and what it means. People who know what it is are in parliament eating money and pushing nepotism.”
“Everybody who gets power think of torturing black people. Blacks are stupid, not stupid because we are stupid but because blacks are always victimized by everybody including blacks,”
“The government should focus more on subsidizing people. If they can take an initiative to sponsor people for example; the government can take the tax money and give it to Eskom so that people won’t be required to buy the expensive electricity today, we should be only paying half prize at least.”