Today South Africa celebrates Freedom Day, the anniversary of the country's first democratic elections and the end of the oppressive Apartheid regime.
Sixteen years along as one of the world's youngest democracies, South Africa has made remarkable progress. It has a growing Black middle class, a stable government, millions of new government-built houses, continues to attract foreign investment, has hosted the world championships in cricket and rugby, and in less than 6 weeks will be the stage for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the planet's grandest sporting event.
However, for all the trappings of success, life has not changed much, or at all, for the majority of South Africans. Millions still live desperately poor in substandard housing and with little access to adequate health care and other services. The public education system faces a huge shortage of teachers and resources. AIDS claims 1,000 lives daily and violence against women, too, is at epidemic proportions.
It is a cruel irony that, as Freedom Day festivities proceed, some of the poorest South Africans are being forcibly relocated, a practice that was commonplace during Apartheid. In preparation for the World Cup, certain shanty towns that are "inconveniently situated" (in the eyes of event organizers) have been demolished and their residents displaced. You can learn more about the plight of these shackdwellers at DearMandela.com.
Yet at Art Aids Art we are not trying to promote a gloom and doom outlook about South Africa's future. The country's recent history and progress remain nothing short of a miracle. Positive change, however, will continue only with a steadfast and relentless commitment to the improvement of educational and sustainable economic opportunities for every South African citizen.
Learn more about how you can participate in South Africa's ongoing rebirth.
Photo 1: Wikipedia
Photo 2: BBC