Mandela's legacy: peace, but poverty for many blacks

Thu Dec 5, 2013 5:08pm EST
 
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - In the 10 years after he withdrew from public life, Nelson Mandela divided his time between a mansion in one of Johannesburg's wealthiest suburbs and his ancestral home in Qunu, a village in South Africa's impoverished eastern Cape.

The contrast could not have been starker.

In one, his neighbors were cast in the image of the white "Rand Lords", the mining magnates and bankers who built the sprawling city - and Africa's biggest economy - from the vast gold reserves in the rock beneath their feet.

In the other, they were black peasant farmers living in thatched "rondavel" huts and eking out a living on windswept hillsides in scenes that have hardly changed in centuries, let alone the two decades since the end of apartheid.

While few query Mandela's achievement in dragging South Africa back from the brink of civil war in the early 1990s and brokering a peaceful end to three centuries of white dominance, tougher questions are being asked of the country he leaves behind.

Despite more than 10 years of affirmative action to redress the balance under the banner of "black economic empowerment", South Africa remains one of the world's most unequal societies and whites still control huge swathes of the economy.

In the words of leading trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi, its structure is akin to an Irish coffee - black at the bottom, with some white froth and a sprinkling of chocolate on the top.

On average, a white household earns six times more than a black one, and nearly one in three blacks is unemployed, compared with one in 20 whites.   Continued...

 
Nelson Mandela waves from the stage with British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and South African High Commissioner Cheryl Carolus at Trafalgar Square during the South African democracy concert, in this April 29, 2001 file photo. REUTERS/Files