South Africa may be the most well known country in Africa. Home of the legendary Nelson Mandela, the host of a stunningly successful World Cup, and recently considered by Britain independent enough to no longer necessitate foreign aid, the country seems to be emerging strong from its troubled past.
Yet visiting South Africa itself betrays the harsh reality that is daily life for many of its citizens. While the cities are indeed growing and benefiting from its increased development, a huge number of citizens are still living in desperate poverty. A simple drive to the suburbs shows tin and scrap-metal shanty houses lining the streets, and post-apartheid South Africa still suffering from drastic inequality in pay and opportunity.
A recent UN report showed disappointing figures – 1.4 million children use dirty streams as their main water source, 1.5 don’t have access to flushing sanitation facilities, 1.7 live in shacks, one in four are living with families where nobody is employed and five million adults are living with HIV/AIDS, with 40% of them dying from it.
Much of this can be traced back to South Africa’s turbulent history, and a government that has been so embroiled in dealing with eradicating the legacy of apartheid that it neglected the issues of education and healthcare, but this does not make daily life for the millions of South Africans living in poverty any easier.
A foreign correspondent in Johannesburg reported the living conditions of Seth Maggagane, one of many who lives in a township. He still lives in a one room shack and works as a gardener to support his family. At night, he is bitten by the rats that live in area, even while he sleeps in his bed. He earns extra money by killing them and bringing them to a charity that is working on pest eradication in South Africa; for every sixty rats, he gets one mobile phone. He is on his second.
Stories like this are tragic, yet they’re the harsh reality for many who were born in apartheid South Africa, and who are being abandoned in the country’s push for progress.
– Farahnaz Mohammed