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Speaker to discuss Nelson Mandela’s legacy

Drawing on his moments with Nelson Mandela, South African politician Wilmot James will present a talk that tells the story of Mandela’s efforts at improving lives and building a nation.

The talk will take place at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor conference room of the Richter Library.

James is South Africa’s Shadow Minister for Health and is the Federal Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance Party.

Mandela was a member of the African National Congress, South Africa’s current governing social democratic political party. He fought for the rights of black people in South Africa and for the end of apartheid, a system of racial segregation in the country.

After the end of apartheid between the years of 1991 and 1993, Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994 at the age of 75. He died on Dec. 5, 2013 at the age of 95.

Twenty years after the birth of democracy in South Africa in 1994, James will talk about how some aspects of Mandela’s legacy are enduring and others are not, and he will present an analysis of why the modern history of South Africa turned out the way it did.

University of Miami junior Carla Botha grew up in the northern province of Limpopo as a child during the time of apartheid in South Africa. She and her family later moved to the city of Johannesburg before she came to live in the United States in 2009.

She described her family as white middle class South African citizens with all the middle class privileges.

“We had a car … I was privileged to go to school,” Botha said. “We had running water.”

Her father experienced negative consequences due to his racial background after Mandela was elected president, she said.

She explained that soon after Mandela took office, her father lost his job because he was a white male.

“He struggled for two years to find a job just because he was a white male, and white males were seen as the enemy because it was the white males that put Mandela in jail back then,” Botha said.

She still sees things falling apart in the country.

“At this current stage, our country isn’t able to supply enough electricity to the citizens of South Africa,” Botha said. “Gas prices are higher than the prices in America, which is ridiculous because [South Africa] is a third world country.”

Botha said there are also still issues of racial relations between white and black people in South Africa.

“It’s 20 years later and it’s still very racist,” she said. “If you look at America when America came out of racism, [South Africans] are in those beginning years where things are still turbulent and people are still unhappy, and things are not going well.”

Mandela’s activism in South Africa can be compared to Martin Luther King Jr.’s activism in America, Botha said.

“The masses of people, the ‘I have a dream,’ and Mandela having this dream for South Africa…there are a lot of similarities,” she said.

Botha said that Mandela had a lot of empathy for his people and is thanked for democracy and equality laws.

“You can see it changing, but it’s still got a long, long way to go,” she said.

March 31, 2015


Haynes Stephens

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