“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”
That is something that Nelson Mandela not only said, but also lived. Today, the democratic legacy he leaves behind in South Africa proudly celebrates its 21st birthday. Democratic elections were held today for the 21st time in the country’s history, a celebration marked with song and dance, and rallies that attracted thousands from all over the country.
At a time when Africa is experiencing high unemployment, rising xenophobic violence, and a denial of many basic services, the celebrations come as a triumph, and also a reminder of work to be done. During his Freedom Day speech, President Jacob Zuma reminded the people that the government has made great strides in providing health care, water, and education to millions.
Zuma denounced the anger he feels is responsible for recent xenophobic violence that has left seven people dead and hundreds more displaced. “There is a lot of anger in our society. We need a psychological cure as a country to drop the anger. It’s not just with the ordinary people, even in parliament we need to be cured, we are sick.” Though ironically, many feel President Zuma himself was responsible for the violence.
Critics of the government feel that it isn’t anger driving their decisions, but the fact that they feel left out of the country’s economic progress, which they claim is largely benefiting the political elite.
South Africa still has an unemployment rate of 24 percent, with 10 million citizens living below the poverty line.
Solly Mavuso, a 28-year-old South African, described the frustrations of citizens: “Lots of youths are not working. Some of them, they come from tertiary [school], but they are sitting at home, they are not working. We believe that we mustn’t just speak, but we must do something about the youth.”
President Zuma did promise that his administration will do all it can to quell the frustration and hopelessness felt by much of the country’s youth.