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South Africa Misses The Mandela ‘Spirit’ 10 Years After Icon’s Death

With murals of his smiling face still covering many buildings, South Africans on Tuesday marked 10 years since the death of Nelson Mandela with a mixture of longing for his integrity and disappointment over what has happened since.

While no official ceremonies were planned to recall South Africa’s first black president, many spared a thought for the leader who emerged from prison in 1991 to end apartheid.

Fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was to give a lecture late Tuesday for the Mandela Foundation.

Mandela, who died aged 95 after a long illness, brought pride and hope to a country torn apart by more than four decades of repressive white minority rule.

But after nearly three decades of government by his African National Congress (ANC), inequality has grown, according to the World Bank, corruption is rife and crippling power cuts hit each day.

We love what he (Mandela) has done, we love the freedom that he has given us,” said Prosper Nkosi, who lives close to Mandela’s old house in the Soweto township near Johannesburg.

(FILES) A view of the cell where Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary and the former president of South Africa, spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned on Robben Island, on January 16, 2020.  (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)
(FILES) A picture taken on February 11, 1990 shows Nelson Mandela (C) and his wife anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie raising their fists and saluting cheering crowds upon Mandela’s release from the Victor Verster prison near Paarl.  (Photo by Alexander JOE / AFP)

– Mandela ‘spirit’ –
Ten years on we still haven’t changed much, I wish things could just improve,” he added.

Johannesburg resident Njabulo Mngadi said South Africa had to rediscover the “Mandela spirit” to bring more reforms.

“All the work that he’s done, we (should) continue with it where he finished off,” said Mngadi. “Things are still bad here in South Africa, things are still not right.”

A national election is expected in the first half of 2024 and polls have suggested the ANC’s vote share could fall below 50 percent for the first time.

Opposition parties are stepping up attacks on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s scandal-tainted ANC.

Despite the doubts and troubles many still hold out optimism for the future.

Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, the white president who approved Mandela’s release from jail in 1990 and then negotiated the end of minority rule.

Dave Steward, chairman emeritus of the F.W. De Klerk Foundation, said Mandela would long be remembered for his work to bring democracy to South Africa.

(FILES) South African President Nelson Mandela (R) holds the arm of former apartheid hardline President Pieter W. Botha as they meet on November 21, 1995. (Photo by WALTER DHLADHLA / AFP)

While we are experiencing many problems that would not make Nelson Mandela happy, he would be happy that we are still a constitutional democracy with functioning courts and a government that obeys the law,” Steward told AFP.

“However many years pass, Nelson Mandela’s legacy and example will remain important to the present and future of South Africa.

The vestiges of Mandela’s struggle during 27 years in prison and his presidency from 1994 to 1999, with de Klerk as his vice president, will not disappear anytime soon.

He features on banknotes and there are Mandela murals and statues in cities around South Africa and across the world.

(FILES) Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela raises fist while addressing on September 5, 1990 in Tokoza a crowd of residents from the Phola park squatter camp during his tour of townships. (Photo by TREVOR SAMSON / AFP)

The Mandela Foundation has however sought to temper criticism of his legacy that has come mainly from younger South Africans.

The foundation has organised a Johannesburg exhibition called “Mandela is Dead” which seeks to help South Africans find new ideas to change the country.

The foundation’s acting president Verne Harris said the “deep nostalgia” after Mandela’s death risked becoming “destructive energy”.

“Maybe we need to let him go. And look for new role models,” said Harris.

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