With Nelson Mandela’s legacy what’s next for South Africa

South Africa celebrates and mourns its greatest son. But challenges lie ahead.


What are the most visible aspects of Mandela’s legacy in today’s SA society and what is in your opinion lost from his legacy but is in fact needed?


Dirk Kotzé, Professor, Department of Political Sciences, University of South Africa (UNISA)

What is today missing?: the quality leadership of Mandela based on his principles, integrity and moral direction. Our current President Zuma is often now in trouble because of the lack of these leadership qualities. Next year in April will be the national elections and the ANC has serious internal problems, especially with its trade union ally (COSATU) which is again an indication of the demise of the Mandela legacy within the ANC ruling party.

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-GatsheniProfessor, Head of Archie Mafeje Research Institute, University of South Africa

The SA society is far from fully reflecting Mandela’s legacy of a democratic and free society where every person enjoys equal opportunities. Despite the celebrated constitution, economic inequalities have deepened. Under the veneer of multi-racial society there is still the problem of  ‘impossibility of co-presence’ as the white and black communities are still separated by race in a neo-apartheid society.  The celebrated constitution has mainly served to maintain the white status quo of economic privilege in a predominantly black country. Mandela is celebrated in white quarters for delivering this ‘repetition without change’ if I may quote Frantz Fanon. This raises the question of whose hero is Mandela? The quest for racial harmony was pushed too far ahead of socio-economic transformation. Mandela lived to allay white fears over and above black people’s aspirations.

William Worger, Professor, Department of History, University of California (UCLA)

I will remember Nelson Mandela above all as an anti colonial leader who along with many others who did the same, committed his life to enabling all South Africans to be free citizens in their own country and to be able to determine their own futures, and as the president of a free South Africa that adopted a constitution that recognized the rights of all South Africans to be free of any form of discrimination whether based on “race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”. His most visible legacy today is a free and democratic and politically stable South Africa.

What has been lost is a fulfillment of Nelson Mandela’s 1994 commitment to return land to the Africans from whom it had been stolen either through wars of conquest in the 19th century or through government confiscation in the 20th century. In 2013, nearly 20 years after the end of apartheid, as at its beginning in 1948, black South Africans who comprise nearly 90 percent of the population of South Africa are left in ownership of less than 13 percent of the land while white South Africans, less than 10 percent of the population, own nearly 90 percent of the land. Nelson Mandela promised to transfer 30 percent of the land by 1999; by 2013 only 5 percent has been transferred. The failure of the post apartheid South African government to alleviate African poverty, unemployment, and land shortage will likely open South Africa to more extreme politics in the future (of the type foreshadowed in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe), with an increasing role to be played by people like Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters Party with their appeal especially to the young and the dispossessed.


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