Bafana Mashata grew up worshiping the leaders of the ANC. In school, he learned how Mandela, Oliver Tambo and other anti-apartheid stalwarts ended white rule. But Mashata deplores the ANC leaders who now run his nation.
“Mandela and our other heroes fought for our freedom,” said Mashata, 17, standing outside his uncle’s tin shack that had no electricity or running water. “But our black leaders now sitting on top of the chair don’t care about us. They care only about themselves.”
ANC officials said their policies have significantly eradicated poverty, but that 18 years later, they are still facing obstacles created by the nation’s apartheid and colonial past. “In terms of giving access to basic services, we have done well,” Khoza said. “At the same we acknowledge the task of reversing an apartheid and colonialist legacy that spanned over 300 years is not going to happen overnight.”
There has been progress. The black middle class, fueled by affirmative-action policies and other efforts to empower blacks, has grown in this nation of more than 50 million.
In a report released in September, the South African Institute of Race Relations found that those with access to electricity reached 11.9 million in 2010, up from 5.2 million in 1996. Over the same period, the number of families with proper housing nearly doubled to 11 million and those with access to piped water increased to 12.7 million from 7.2 million, according to the report.
Still, government figures show that about a quarter of South Africans lack proper housing, nearly a quarter are without electricity and nearly a fifth are without proper sanitation facilities. The government, its critics say, has a pitiful record in providing education, leading to shortages of skills; today, a quarter of the population is unemployed, up from 20 percent in 1994.
Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened since 1994, creating one of the world’s most unequal societies, according to World Bank data. Today, whites still largely control South Africa’s economy, and they earn six times more than blacks, according to South African census data released last week.
At the polls, the frustration has started to chip away at the ANC’s dominance. In local elections last year, the party’s share of the vote slid to 62 percent from 65.9 percent in the 2009 national election, according to the country’s Independent Electoral Commission. The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, won 23.9 percent of the vote, up from 16.6 percent in 2009, as it attracted support from many mixed-race South Africans, as well as whites and blacks who left the ANC.