THE GLOBE IN SOUTH AFRICA: A time of despair on the birthday of freedom – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – January 27, 2024)

30 years after apartheid, South Africans are angry about power cuts, poor public services, corruption and economic stagnation – and the ruling ANC risks getting punished for it all at the polls

At the site where the Freedom Charter was proclaimed, the memorial flame is broken and extinguished. The metal around its doorways has been stripped away by thieves. Buildings nearby are gutted and looted, their windows and doors stolen.

The Freedom Charter, written by anti-apartheid leaders in 1955, was the eloquent document that inspired South Africa’s liberation struggle. “The people shall govern!” it declared. When white-minority rule was finally defeated, the charter formed the basis for much of the country’s first democratic constitution.

After apartheid ended, authorities spent $30-million to build a grand square – complete with shops, offices, museums and a four-star hotel – in the dusty field where thousands of delegates had signed the Freedom Charter, in a neighbourhood called Kliptown on the edge of Johannesburg. Its memorial flame was lit in a ceremony in 2005. For a while, tourists flocked to see it.

Today, as South Africa approaches the 30th anniversary of its first democratic election, the memorial stands instead as a symbol of a national crisis: the decaying infrastructure and dysfunctional government of what Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously called the Rainbow Nation.

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