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Nelson Mandela at Capitol Hill
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
9 October 2019, 1:57 PM

 

This week 25 years ago – late statesman Nelson Mandela became the first foreign leader to address a joint session of the US Congress twice.

Mandela thanked the US lawmakers for the country’s role in ensuring the dismantling of apartheid.

Despite long and intimate historic ties between South Africa and the United States, Washington is credited with effectively facilitating the end of the legislated racial oppression.

This was done through the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which ordered sanctions against Pretoria.

It was passed by the US Congress and sought to push the apartheid state into the negotiation table with anti-apartheid activists.

During his address, Madiba expressed the hopes and fears of his young government.

“We came also to share with you our dreams of genuine independence, democracy and the emancipation of all our people, you whose forebears had, at earlier times, dreamt of independence, of democracy and of the emancipation of all the people of these United States.”

On challenges that lie ahead as South Africa embarks on the road of democracy he said: “The question that arises is whether we shall embark on that road walking alone or whether you will be with us, having decided thus, in the process of the exercise of your own sovereign will.”

Mandela also called for the eradication of poverty and conflict across the world.

Watch related video below:

The US Congress was left in awe by Mandela’s sense of purpose, lack of bitterness and hope for not just a fair, peaceful and just South Africa but a better world for all.

Reflecting on his legacy soon after his passing, Former House Speaker John Boehner referred to him as a champion of peace and racial harmony.

“His perseverance in fighting the apartheid system will continue to inspire future generations. Mandela led his countrymen through times of epic change with a quiet moral authority that directed his own path from prisoner to president,” he said in a statement.

Mandela’s address of the joint the US sitting on 6 October 1994 was a second one.

His first was on June 26, 1990, two months after his release from prison.

He is, however, the only SA president and the third private citizen in US history to have addressed the US Congress.

Mandela is also the first foreign leader to have addressed the Congress twice.

He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1998, which is the highest civilian honour bestowed by the United States Congress.

 

Plight of Mpumalanga family of six surviving off pension grant
8 October 2019, 8:51 PM

Government’s social security programmes are hailed as some of the successes of the democratic dispensation.

In 1994, just 2 million people received social grants. The number has now gone up to over 17 million, with at least 3.5 million of the beneficiaries being the elderly.

South Africa’s old-age pension programme was first established in 1928 for white and coloured populations.

Although modestly extended to the Black majority in 1944, it was only in early 1990 that the system was broadened to accommodate all South Africans.

While it is hailed as one of the world’s most generous social safety nets, the high cost of living and high unemployment rate mean pensioners, especially in rural areas, often find themselves having to choose between buying food for their families and repairing their dilapidated homes.

 According to Stats SA, about 32.5% of households headed by the elderly have five or more members and at least more than half of the pensioners live with unemployed children or grandchildren.

SABC Mpumalanga Editor Jonathan Lungu caught up with 92-year-old Chrestina Chuluku who uses her pension money to take care of her five grand-children.

 Watch story below:

Amahle Thabethe
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
3 October 2019, 3:52 PM

 

This week we reflect on the launch of the National Bureau for Missing Persons.

The unit sought to render supportive service to investigation officers.

It was established on 3 October 1994 as part of government’s effort to transform the country’s police service from an autocratic, bureaucratic and militaristic style of command to a managerial style characterised by participation and problem-solving.

The National Bureau for Missing Persons worked closely with Crime Stop, a programme launched in 1993.

The move meant families of the missing persons from all races could now get the emotional support and assistance they needed.

Previously Black families were often met with hostility, especially if their loved ones had links to political activism.

While the number of abductions has reportedly decreased since 1994, the country is still fighting the scourge.

According to the Missing Persons Bureau, a child goes missing every five hours in the country.

Most of them are either runaways or victims of kidnappings and human trafficking.

At least 75% of the missing children were found during the 2017/2018 period, while 2% of them were found dead.

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Efforts to find the missing have been boosted by various non-governmental organisations like the Pink Ladies and Missing Children South Africa.

Social media is also playing a big role now with members of the public circulating pictures of the missing people.

While authorities have acknowledged this as helpful, they are urging South Africans not to neglect opening a missing person’s case at a nearby police station.

This should be done immediately after realising that a loved one is missing.

Police say delays in reporting people missing and provision of sketchy details are some of the reasons they sometimes struggle to trace missing loved ones.

Graphic by Mayleen Vincent

 

New Brighton residents lament government’s alleged neglect
1 October 2019, 5:45 PM

Twenty five years into democracy a minority community in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape claims they have been discriminated against.

Residents from New Brighton say despite being one of the oldest communities, they have never benefited from government’s housing programme or road infrastructure development.

The residents still live in decaying houses built by their forefathers in the 1940s.

The community says it is tired of broken promises and the crime that’s besieged the area.

“We have been fighting for service delivery issues for years now. The people I used to go and complain with have since passed on. I always ask people to go and vote and they usually turn against me, what is the point of voting if we will get neglected like this. The bushes in this area are dangerous. We don’t have houses we want houses or will occupy this vacant land and build from the little that we have,” says Community Leader Danisile Gutyumpha.

“You hear screams in these bush. Our children pass through this bush to go to school. It is unsafe and despicable. How many bodies have been picked up here,” adds another resident Erika King.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has committed to working with the police to strengthen safety in the area.

It’s still not clear, however, when infrastructure development will begin in the area.

Watch full story below:

 

NDP pic
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
25 September 2019, 1:43 PM

 

This week we focus on the country’s first road map to transformation, the White Paper on the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

The paper was released on the 21st of September 25 years ago and set the tone for a kind of country the African National Congress (ANC) government wanted to see.

It sought to ensure fundamental transformation of South Africa by addressing poverty and gross inequalities that were caused by apartheid’s unjust and racially discriminatory laws.

“Addressing inequalities will expand markets at home, open markets abroad and create opportunities to promote representative ownership of the economy. The expansion of the South African economy will raise state revenues by expanding the tax base, rather than by permanently raising tax rates,” read the paper.

It was also aimed at rebuilding the country’s economy which was battered by years of isolation and economic sanctions the international community had imposed on the apartheid regime.

The focus was on getting the economy on the path of high and sustainable growth.

Below are the plans set out to achieve this feat:

The paper advocated for business, civil society and labour to work with government to make the transformation of the South African society a reality.

While scholars deem the policy to have been successful in some areas, including social security, it is said to have fallen flat on achieving economic growth.

Poor fiscal and economic legacy inherited from the apartheid government; the lack of skilled managers and failure to collect new taxes are cited as some of the reasons for this failure.

It was changed in 1996 when government adopted the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) strategy.

The strategy sought to stimulate faster economic growth to provide resources to meet social investment needs.

The country’s economic plan has changed thrice since then as inequalities persist and the country’s economy remains sluggish.

South Africa is now operating under the National Development Plan (NDP), which seeks to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

 

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