Letter from Johannesburg: How much has South Africa changed?

 

 

The broken-down yard on the corner of 7th Avenue and Hofmeyer Street says a lot about the pace of change in South Africa. The most famous corner of Alexandra township was home to Nelson Mandela when he arrived in Johannesburg in the 1940s.

For more than a decade authorities have been promising residents that they will get a Mandela Yard Interpretation Centre to draw in visitors and money. All there is for now is a blue plaque next to what was once the great man’s front door. The rusting metal outdoor toilet across the yard is a better gauge of how much lives have changed.

Sitting on the street corner where goats chew on bits of rubbish Lucky Nkadimeng is among the many South Africans reluctant to believe that his most famous compatriot may be in his final days. “He’s going to recover like the times before,” he insists.

A short walk away Thake Mathebe sits next to his vacant car wash in a sparkly USA jacket and Obama T-shirt. He says Mandela was responsible for opening the way for a black man to become President of the US. The 28-year-old is planning to travel to Pretoria in the hope of getting a glimpse of the US leader this weekend when he visits South Africa. But he is more worried about his own former President, whom he says is “too old” to bounce back.

Kgagki Maloke, who runs the Jazz Pub on 7th thinks many of the younger people in Alex are more in love with Mandela’s fame than his practical achievements. Maloke, whose 97-year-old father went to school with another anti-apartheid icon, Oliver Tambo, refuses to join the wave of sentiment towards Mandela. He says that the promise of the “rainbow nation” has proved hollow: “I lived here all my life and there’s more poverty than before.”

Twitter.com: @howden_africa

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor