Nelson Mandela Foundation

Khanya Ralarala, an intern in the Foundation’s Information and Communication Technologies and Facilities department reflects on how far we have strayed from the hope of becoming the country of Nelson Mandela’s dreams.

I start my piece with a rhetorical question, "What would Madiba say?", to invite the reader to answer for themselves. Ever since the country lost Madida in December 2013, we have missed his leadership. Since then, several critical issues have reached boiling point, many of which I have come into contact with myself.


“Corruption is a cancer: A cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity.” – United States President, Joe Biden.

The word corruption in South Africa is so common to the point where even the most illiterate person on the street talks about it and knows its meaning. This is because of the magnitude corruption has had on the people, daily news outlets report corruption scandals by politicians. Who, for example, can forget how politicians allegedly stole R500 billion that was borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to save lives? The loan from the IMF was meant to build and improve the country's ailing healthcare system and to support those who have economically been affected by the effects of the pandemic. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) corruption led to the President of the ANC and the country writing a lengthy letter to his comrades labelling the ANC as ‘Accused Number One’ of corruption.

Surely Madiba is turning on his grave that the party he once led and dearly loved is at the centre of corruption. If Madiba woke up today, would he confidently stand up like he did while campaigning in 1994 and ask South Africans to vote for the ANC? These are some of the questions we must ask ourselves. What would his response be when the organisation he joined in his youth has turned into ‘public enemy number one’. One can confidently claim that the public has lost trust in the governing party. This was made evident when the public pleaded with President Ramaphosa to let the Gift of the Givers, a non-governmental organisation administer the funds that are meant to support the victims of the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal. What this simply means is that the Gift of the Givers will be responsible for allocating and spending funds from the national government and private donations, a function of provincial governments. This fact also illustrates the low levels of public trust in the state and its institutions.

Is this the same party that Madiba and his generation fought so hard for to be unbanned by the apartheid government? What would he say if he were to wake up today? Would he utter the same words he uttered during the 5th COSATU Congress while addressing workers, “‘if the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government”?


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

Madiba said these words after his government had done away with the system of Bantu education that had prescribed which education one was suited for based on his or her skin colour. He uttered these words in anticipation that those who had gone to school would automatically be economically active by getting jobs. Current statistics by Stats SA report that more than 34.5% of the country's population is unemployed. This percentage excludes the thousands that have given up on getting a job. The majority of those who are unemployed are young people, many of whom possess FET and university qualifications. What would be Madiba’s response to these staggering statistics of unemployment faced by South Africans?


South Africa is among the most unequal countries in the world where the rich keep on becoming richer and the poor become poorer. According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD), approximately 30.4 million people in the country live below the poverty line of R1268. These statistics are shocking considering that urhulumente wabantu has been in power for more than 27 years now.

As a result of poverty and a quest for ‘isonka’ young people have turned to crime, among many other social ills. What would Madiba say to his ‘comrades’ about the state of poverty in this country, that ever since his death little or nothing has changed? With all these social and economic ills mentioned above, maybe Madiba would have said to each person fed up with the country’s economic conditions: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.