This year, South Africa commemorates the fortieth anniversary of the youth uprisings which tore through the country on 16 June 1976, and ended up being just as important as the Sharpeville Massacre in terms of radicalising black South Africans and hastening the demise of the apartheid government. The country now finds itself at a volatile turning point. After twenty-two years in power, the ANC has become a sclerotic monolith, run by a president who treats state coffers as his personal bank account. Meanwhile, a black intellectual movement has rejected Mandela’s notions of forgiveness and reconciliation, with the Rhodes Must Fall movement demanding the removal of all apartheid and colonial iconography from public spaces, and Fees Must Fall calling for the elimination of impossibly high university fees.
In the last year, a series of racist statements posted by white South Africans on social media sites has exploded the conversation about who “belongs”. The consensus position is that white people got a free pass after the fall of apartheid—they were absolved of their sins by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and in turn were allowed to maintain and increase their economic power in service of the ANC’s trickle-down theories. While Mandela’s ANC successfully managed the political turnover, they badly botched the economic transition.