The film, Dear Mandela, helped shed light on what was still going on in South Africa even after Nelson Mandela was elected. Although it was not expected for conditions to change immediately, people of South Africa began to lose faith and hope in Nelson Mandela because of certain promises that weren’t kept. During the first democratic election and many elections after, people who lived in shacks, also known as informal settlements, were promised houses for a better quality of life.
Mnikelo, an elected spokesperson said that he never thought he would be fighting for something that they were promised. Even the constitution stated that no one could be evicted of their home, which showed how people were being deprived of their rights and left to be homeless. It wasn’t surprising to me that there were still unconstitutional things going on because there have been injustices in South Africa for so long. On the contrary, it was surprising to me that housing was on the bottom of everything that the government wanted to achieve.
The Department of Housing goes to the settlements during election time and promises that they will have houses, yet, once the elections are over nothing is accomplished or even started. I can totally see how frustrated they all must have been because over and over they got their hopes up for change and nothing happened. Even though Mandela said that the houses and projects couldn’t be achieved over night, it still led to disappointment when nothing happened.
I found it remarkable how on the Election Day in 2009, people wrote “No land, No house, No vote” on the ballots to express their intense feelings on how they were still being treated. Government tried to implement the Slums Act, which was a life threatening legislation to the shack owners.
The shack dwellings, or informal settlements, were still their homes and not only were they in fear of being evicted but they were in fear of their homes being demolished. Someone in the film said that there is no dignity for people who live in shacks, which is why they fight for houses. Meanwhile, they would still rather be in their own shacks then abide to a law putting them in transit camps. It is mind boggling to think that they were merely fighting for what was already theirs. They weren’t fighting for anything other than what was promised and declared in their constitution.
“Being poor in life, doesn’t mean you’re poor in mind” was one of the most inspirational statements made throughout the film because it epitomizes how their struggle is legitimate and completely fair.
South Africans in the informal settlements are there because of their economic status not because of their level of intelligence or worth. The challenges that they had to face not only motivated them for a positive and successful future but it allowed other people who weren’t living in those conditions see how important their movement was.