South Africa celebrates 30 years since the end of apartheid, but discontent is growing – National

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South Africa marked the 30th anniversary of the end of apartheid and the birth of democracy on Saturday with a ceremony in the capital that included a 21-gun salute and the waving of the country’s multicolored flag.

But any sense of celebration on the momentous anniversary was accompanied by growing dissatisfaction with the current government.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, as head of state, presided over the meeting in a huge white tent in the gardens of the government buildings in Pretoria.

He also spoke as leader of the African National Congress party, which was widely credited with liberating South Africa’s black majority from the racist system of oppression that made the country a pariah for nearly half a century.

The ANC has been in power since the first democratic elections for all races on April 27, 1994, the vote that officially ended apartheid.

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But this Freedom Day, which marked that day, took place against a harrowing backdrop: Analysts and pollsters predict that the declining popularity of the party, once led by Nelson Mandela, is likely to see it lose its parliamentary majority for the first time if a new generation of South Africans. make their voices heard next month in what may be the most important election since 1994.

“There are few days in the life of our nation that compare to that day when freedom was born,” Ramaphosa said in a speech on the nostalgia of 1994, when black people were allowed to vote for the first time, the once banned ANC . came to power and Mandela became the country’s first black president. “South Africa has changed forever. It heralded a new chapter in our nation’s history, a moment that resonated across Africa and around the world.”

“On that day, the dignity of all people in South Africa was restored,” Ramaphosa said.

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The President, standing in front of a banner with the word ‘Freedom’, also acknowledged the major problems South Africa still faces thirty years later with massive poverty and inequality, issues that will once again take center stage when millions vote on May 29 . Ramaphosa admitted there had been “setbacks”.

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The 1994 elections transformed South Africa from a country where black and other non-white people were denied most basic freedoms, not just the right to vote. Laws determined where they lived, where they could go on a given day, and what jobs they could have. After apartheid was abolished, a constitution was adopted guaranteeing the rights of all South Africans, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexuality.

But that has not significantly improved the lives of millions of people, as South Africa’s black majority, which makes up more than 80% of the population of 62 million people, is still overwhelmingly affected by severe poverty.

The official unemployment rate is 32 percent, the highest in the world, and over 60 percent for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. More than 16 million South Africans – 25 percent of the country – depend on monthly benefits. subsidies for survival.

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South Africa is still the most unequal country in the world in terms of wealth distribution, according to the World Bank, with race being a key factor.

Although the damage of apartheid remains difficult to undo, the ANC is increasingly blamed for South Africa’s current problems.

In the week leading up to the anniversary, countless South Africans were asked what thirty years of freedom from apartheid meant to them. The prevailing response was that while 1994 was a milestone, it is now overshadowed by the unemployment, violent crime, corruption and near collapse of basic services such as electricity and water that South Africa will face in 2024.

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It is also poignant that many South Africans who never experienced apartheid and who are called ‘Born Frees’ are now old enough to vote.

Outside the tent where Ramaphosa spoke to mostly dignitaries and politicians, a group of young black South Africans born after 1994 and who support a new political party called Rise Mzansi wore T-shirts with the words “2024 is our 1994” on them. Their message was that they were looking beyond the ANC and towards a new change for their future in next month’s elections.

“They don’t know what happened before 1994. They don’t know,” says Seth Mazibuko, an elderly supporter of Rise Mzansi and a well-known anti-apartheid activist in the 1970s.

“Let’s agree that we messed up,” Mazibuko said of the past three decades, in which the youth behind him have been directly affected by the world’s second highest youth unemployment rate after Djibouti.

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He added: “There is a new opportunity in the elections next month.”

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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