South Africa's 'Born Frees' struggle with history

Wed Apr 23, 2014 6:36am EDT
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - When Nkululeko Simelane was born on April 27, 1994, her parents did not have to think twice about her name.

Her birth coincided with South Africa's first multi-racial elections, the momentous day that ended three centuries of white domination and 46 years of formalized oppression of the black majority under apartheid.

In Zulu, Nkululeko means "Freedom".

Twenty years later, the leaders of South Africa's no-longer teenaged democracy will mark the date - Freedom Day - with pomp, ceremony and lectures about the sacrifices and achievements of the African National Congress (ANC) in its long struggle for liberation.

Featuring prominently will be the name Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid hero and South Africa's first black president who died aged 95 in December last year, along with other "struggle stalwarts", as ANC elders, both dead and alive, are known.

Nkululeko, by contrast, will celebrate her 20th birthday with a group of friends in one of the many Bohemian, multi-cultural and multi-racial industrial-chic quarters of Johannesburg that have sprung up since the death of white rule.

Unlike her parents and grandparents, hers is not a South Africa of black and white, oppressor and oppressed, the privileged and the powerless.

"There's still a bit of racism around but it doesn't affect me. Broadly speaking, this whole apartheid thing, I just don't feel it anymore," she told Reuters in the manicured grounds of Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, where she is a second-year civil engineering student.   Continued...

Second-year civil engineering student and first-time voter Nkululeko Simelane poses for a picture at Wits University in Johannesburg, April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko