South Africa still not racially united after elections

Kyle Roerink

Student says violence pervades her homeland despite end of apartheid

People are killed in South Africa over simple things like cell phones, said Amy Cooper, freshman fashion merchandise major and South African native.

Cooper said in the past two months men armed with knives hijacked her brother’s car, and someone stabbed her friend’s mother while she lay in bed. She said crime is just a harsh reality where she comes from.

More than 300 murders and violent attacks take place every day, and 126,000 armed robberies occur per year in Cooper’s country, the BBC reported. She said poverty, crime and leftover tension from apartheid are the driving forces behind the depraved actions of some South Africans.

“You have to be aware all of the time,” Cooper said. “Two weeks ago, my brother was hijacked . He parked his car, and five guys took him into the bush, tied him up and smashed a bottle over his head and threatened to kill him with a knife. Somebody screamed when they saw this, and they jumped into his car and drove away with it.”

Cooper recalled a time when she could go to the beach and swim off the coast of Port Elizabeth. She and her friends would dare each other to swim past the shark nets while swimming when she was young. But as she got older, the beaches became more and more dangerous. Today, she said, “no one goes to the beach anymore.”

If there’s one thing Cooper hates about South Africa, it’s the issue of skin color. She said South Africa has been a democracy since 1993, but the effects of apartheid linger. One example is seen in the way black and white citizens choose different political parties. The African National Congress’ constituents are mostly black, and the Democratic Alliance’s members are mostly white, Cooper said.

Wednesday, South Africa’s Parliament elected a new president: Jacob Zuma, a member of the ANC. The president-elect vowed to fight crime, galvanize education and improve the lives of South Africans living in poverty.

“It is very divided within the government,” Cooper said. “The ANC definitely won because (of) the population of black South Africans to white South Africans. Everyone knew the ANC would win.”

Seventy-nine percent of South Africans are black, and 9 percent are white. Cooper said a lot of racial tensions continue because of stereotypes. She went to an integrated high school and had friends who were black and white. Racism existed in her school, she said, but most of the students learned to get along.

“People of our generation were interacting with each other,” she said. “Our national anthem has three different languages. If we work hard together to lift the tensions we can do it. (Apartheid) was something that happened that wasn’t really in our generation. It’s about time we let apartheid go and help each other.”

Salomon Porgo, a sophomore aeronautical engineering major and native of Burkina Faso, Africa, said South Africa is thought of as a country that can overcome adversity. But it is also known as a country that has its problems.

“Many people still live under the poverty level,” he said. “But South Africa is a great country, and it can be a key item to help build the United States of Africa.”

The biggest problem facing South Africa now is the scrutiny facing the president-elect.

In January, a South African appeals court reversed a decision that dismissed Zuma’s combined 16 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

But two weeks before the election, prosecutors dropped the case because of collusion within the prosecution’s legal team. The New York Times reported that Zuma’s legal team found proof by using wiretaps of the prosecution’s collusion.

After Zuma’s inauguration tomorrow, South Africa’s potential will lie in the palms of its new leader’s hands. Cooper said she is uncertain of the president-elect’s and the ANC’s capabilities. But she said she thinks South Africa’s future is unclear because her country has the potential to come together or remain divided by skin color.

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected]