In the month that sees Nelson Mandela reach his 90th birthday, Andrew Palmer, who spent two months living a South African township, provides a two part insight into the problems facing modern day South Africa. Andrew currently works at the Parliamentary Resources Unit producing briefings for Conservative MPs on Work & Pensions and International Development.
On the 18 July 2008 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela turns 90. A prisoner, a President, a terrorist and a Statesman, Mandela, or Madiba as he is affectionately known, is the epitome of the division, struggle and reconciliation that makes up life in the rainbow nation of South Africa.
In the 60 years since the first election of the National Party government, the restrictive and degrading shackles of apartheid have been broken yet the scars of the conflict are all too apparent. Mandela’s South Africa remains the African tale of two cities or in fact the tale of 9 tribes, 11 languages and multiple religious denominations. Home to 6% of the continent's population, South Africa produces 23% of Africa's GDP, boasts 45% of its mineral production and 50% of its buying power. In 2007, 9.07 million foreigners visited the South Africa breaking annual tourist arrivals record for the third year running. Yet in the country with 41% of the world’s gold, a staggering 4.2m people live on less than $1 a day. Unemployment is at 23%. 5.5 million people are infected with HIV; with over half of 15 year olds not expected to reach the age of 60.