With Mandela’s death, many have little faith the government will help improve their lives.
ALEXANDRA, SOUTH AFRICA – Tucked behind a black steel gate and a partially collapsed cement wall with barbed wire sits Nelson Mandela’s first house when he moved to Johannesburg in 1940.
A pile of garbage and a giant nylon bag full of empty bottles stand at the entrance to the courtyard with its dirt paths and crumbled patches of concrete. Most nearby houses have no electricity or indoor plumbing. People use buckets to haul water from a communal tap and use outhouses, called long drops, that they lock, so no one steals the metal toilets inside.
In some parts of this sprawling township, the conditions are not much different from what Mandela described in his autobiography about his time here: “It was no more than a shack with a dirt floor, no heat, no electricity, no running water. But it was a place of my own and I was happy to have it.”
Two miles away, past the boulevard where hawkers line the sidewalk selling fruits, vegetables, hats, sunglasses, goats and cellphone minutes, lies Sandton. The well-heeled suburb is home to a swanky mall, gated apartment complexes, the South African stock exchange and an Aston Martin dealership.
The disparity between abject poverty and great wealth that is evident in Alexandra and Sandton is representative of a growing income inequality throughout South Africa since the end of apartheid.
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