By Molly Kalina (USA) and Shazreh Ahmed (Bangladesh) – Students of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and study abroad students from the College of St. Benedict, MN
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, envisioned South Africa as a ‘rainbow nation’ — a vision of the country where the people of all races were treated equally, had equal opportunities, and political rights. Not all the items on this agenda have been achieved.
The negotiations to end the apartheid era took place between two additional South African Nobel Prize winners: Nelson Mandela and F W De Klerk, both now former presidents of South Africa. During these negotiations, with a backdrop of political violence in the country, the two men decided to come to an agreement and initiate peace. The black populations received political freedom, but were deprived from the economic one.
From the point of view of two temporary residents of South Africa, the remnants of the apartheid era are evident to this day. Even though the overt racist policies, such as the Group Areas Act which separated living areas according to race, have been abolished, the areas remain segregated. The common person “on the street” still refers to each area as the white, black or colored areas.
The townships set up during the apartheid era stand today, and the vast majority of their populations are black. The living conditions in these townships are very poor, and it is hard for us to imagine ourselves in their shoes. We are living in an area of Port Elizabeth which has views and facilities that can be compared to Miami, Florida, but only a few miles away from us are homes in townships that do not have running water or proper sanitation.
It is hard to face these realities when we know the struggles that Mandela and many others have gone through to make this country one of peace and equality. South Africans – and others of us in this world – should continue to passionately pursue Mandela’s dream to make this a better nation: one with equal opportunities and improved lives for all.