Dear Mandela

Dear Mandela+ MnikeloThe movie, Dear Mandela, documents the continuing struggle of the black population in South Africa as they recover from the lingering effects of apartheid.

Once the ANC came to power with Nelson Mandela as president, it would be fair to assume there was fair treatment to all blacks and whites and everyone was happier. However this was not the case for thousands of people who live in what’s called the shacks.


A typical informal settlement or shack dwelling.

The living conditions of the shacks are very poor. Multiple people are crammed into one small structure made from scraps of tin, wood, and whatever else they could find to “protect” themselves.

“Being poor in life doesn’t mean doesn’t even mean that you are poor in mind.”

Mandela had promised to give the people in the shack communities, also called informal settlements, new homes. After being in power for years and the conditions had not improved the people grew very agitated. It was disappointing for them to have put so much faith in Mandela’s promise, but the ANC’s response was fair in that something like that could not happen overnight.

number systemThe government had enacted an act called the Slum’s Act, which prevents new slums from developing. The way the government was able to monitor the existing slums and keep new ones from being added was a numbering system. Each shack was spray painted with a number and with each election the number gets crossed off and then repainted on. Those shacks that do not have numbers are demolished by what the shack communities refer to as the “red ants.”

red ant

“Red Ants”

The people living in the shacks were not happy with the Slums Act and began to protest the conditions. In 2005 they formed a road block in Durban, this became the start of Abahli baseMjandolo, or “Residents of the Shacks.” This group became the prime protesters in the persistence of new homes for the residents of the informal settlements.

The South African Constitution states in the housing section 26,

“No one may be evicted from their home or have their home demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary eviction.”

The residents of the shacks brought this issue to court and eventually were able to have the Slums Act shut down.

Shacks still exist in South Africa, unfortunately, however it seems as though things are slowly turning around. The vast number of informal settlements causes a delay in an overall resolution to this issue. The shacks do not call for suitable living conditions in my eyes. I believe every single one of those people deserve a real home. Such a situation is so difficult to completely resolve right away as the ANC pointed out, it will not be done overnight. It’s often difficult to accept the long wait for positive changes, but when it happens it is usually most rewarding.


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