Racial segregation in South Africa: A sign on a cab indicates that it is for white people only. © KNA Image (KNA)
Just days before the general election, South Africa marks 25. Anniversary since end of white rule. And yet racism is once again a major ie in Nelson Mandela's "rainbow nation". What are the causes?
"We are alarmed by the increasing ethnic polarization. Political parties are blatantly exploiting racist tendencies" – concern resonated in the voice of Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he spoke about tensions in the country in 1994, shortly after the dawn of democracy in South Africa. A quarter century later, his concerns are relevant again.
On 27. April, South Africa celebrates the 25. anniversary of the first democratic elections. The ballot that made Nelson Mandela the first black president is considered the official end of apartheid. Since then, the record on reconciliation and development has been mixed.
For millions of South Africans, democratic change has brought electricity, running water and social services. Freedom of speech prevails, the judiciary operates independently. On the continent, South Africa is considered one of the most progressive countries.
Racism still germinates
In terms of reconciliation, Nelson Mandela's rainbow nation may well find itself a multi-ethnic state-but with worrying setbacks. In recent years, for example, racist incidents have repeatedly made headlines. At the beginning of the year, there was national outrage after a school apparently segregated students by skin color on the first day of school.
Education experts were not surprised: South Africa's schools continued to be hotbeds of racism.
Extremists poke where it hurts – that's still inter-ethnic relations in South Africa. The Northern Cape Province, cracked earth roads, red dust: Here, 25 years after the advent of democracy, "Eureka" is to be built, a settlement exclusively for white South Africans. To anyone who joins him in "fighting the uprooting of the white race," founder Adriaan Nieuwoudt promises a plot on his land.
But politicians are also causing a stir, such as the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema. After calling in the past for "Boers to be shot," the leader of the second-largest opposition party has now railed against South Africa's Indian minority.
"Mandela tradition abandoned"
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is trying to play its traditional role of reconciler – but fewer and fewer South Africans want to believe it. "Our government has abandoned the great tradition of promoting reconciliation between ethnic groups, as Nelson Mandela did," former president and Nobel laureate Frederik Willem de Klerk recently criticized. He criticizes the ANC for contributing to ethnic tensions.
Last year, for example, the ANC-majority parliament voted in favor of expropriating land without compensation to rid itself of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.
In fact, the Mandela party seems to be very preoccupied with itself at the moment. Unemployment of 27 percent, the energy crisis and a crumbling economy are compounded by the corruption scandals of recent years. Ex-President Jacob Zuma, his business partners, ministers and leading officials are alleged to have defrauded South Africa's state-owned enterprises of millions of dollars.
Parliamentary elections to follow in May
Eleven days stand between the democracy jubilee and the parliamentary elections on 8 May. May. Some observers predict ANC to win with over 60 percent despite bribery scandals. One reason for this is the lack of credible alternatives. On the other hand, he plays a central role: Cyril Ramaphosa.
The entrepreneur and former trade union leader took over the shambles of his predecessor a year ago and promised South Africans a "fresh start.
He wanted to put the masterminds of cronyism in "jail". And on a symbolic visit to a wine farm in mid-April, a traditionally white sector, he called on the farmers to stand together.
There is no lack of signs. But they will not move South Africa forward on its path of development as long as Ramaphosa does not renounce the corrupt part of the ANC elite, according to political scientists.
Renowned human rights lawyer Barney Pityana warns: "South Africa has lost its moral compass. If we don't take drastic measures now, our future will be nasty".