Desmond Tutu was one of South Africa's foremost freedom fighters in the fight against Apartheid. He died in December 2021, aged 90 years. Photo: Cymru dros Heddwch. Source: Flickr.


Desmond Tutu has passed away - but the work against segregation in South Africa continues

It was in the 1980s that Desmond Tutu played an important role in drawing national and international attention to the apartheid system in South Africa. But even today, South Africa is a country with a large gap between rich and poor, largely due to the legacy of colonialism and the apartheid system.

The former Nobel laureate, one of the world's most famous human rights activists and one of the leading voices in the fight against apartheid in South Africa - Desmond Tutu - died on December 26, 2021. Desmond Tutu explained that his goal with the freedom struggle was a "democratic and just society without racial differences". But how far has South Africa come in working to become a country with equal opportunities and opportunities for all, regardless of ethnicity and skin color?

Large gap between rich and poor

The gap between the distribution of income and land in South Africa is still significant, according to Amnesty. Reforming society after apartheid has both cost a lot of money and taken a long time. The country is still at the top of the countries in the world where the wage gap between rich and poor is largest. The distribution also differs between white and black residents, and the average salary for a white person is six times as high as for a black person.

When the mapping of where people live and where the jobs are, the legacy of apartheid and South Africa's long history of racial differences becomes clear. The differences are noticeable in Cape Town - in the borderland between the richer area Strand and the less rich residential area Nomzamo. Despite the fact that the districts are only a few meters apart, divided by an iron wall, is the differences between living conditions very large.

In Strand there are backyards and driveways. In Nomzamo, the inhabitants live much more densely and the population's access to basic necessities is worse. Almost half of the residents in Nomzamo have access to pumped water, compared to Strand's 92,8 percent. Internet access is 23,9 percent in Nomzamo, in Strand it is 50,8 percent. Finally, a large majority of Nomzamo's population is black, while the majority in Strand are white.

They are not the only districts in Cape Town that are built in this way, but it reflects how large parts of the city look like. The same pattern can also be seen in other cities throughout South Africa. People's opportunities for work also deteriorate as a result of the city's geographical division of white and black people.

Britain legislated segregation

When Britain conquered South Africa from the Netherlands in the 1800th century, the colonized country was not a further economic gain - but everything changed When the British discovered diamonds. As the industry and sales of diamonds gained momentum, the British built railways through South Africa in order to transport the diamonds. The railway was intentionally built in areas where blacks did not live, which resulted in the inequality between whites and blacks being further intensified. To link iron grip on this development for the South African colony, segregation was legislated by the British. This resulted in "The Natives Land Act of 1913", which meant that the black part of South Africa's population was only allowed to own and settle in areas of the country that correspond to eight percent of the land area.

Entire residential areas are demolished

A described and discussed area in Cape Town is District Six. The story of how the district went from being a residential area full of life and nationalities to becoming a neighborhood only for whites and where it was illegal to live as a non-white. It was in 1966 that the district was declared a residential area only allowed for whites to settle in. Others who lived in the neighborhood were forcibly relocated with the help of the law, to then be forced to look for housing elsewhere.

Information sign that can be found today next to District Six Memorial Park in Cape Town to remind of its history. Photo: iStevieboy. Source: Flickr.

Entire blocks were demolished to the ground to be rebuilt for the people who would now be allowed to move in. The demolition of District Six resulted in more than 60 people being forced to move out of their homes. In addition, District Six is ​​just one example of many residential areas in South Africa where demolition and forced relocation have taken place.

The end of Apartheid

After apartheid People who had previously been excluded from economic development could now move to the cities around South Africa to work and create a life that did not go under the Apartheid regime. Several people chose to settle where there was plenty of free land, which often resulted in large residential areas being created in the periphery outside the larger cities. The government built millions of homes and expanded clean water and electricity. However, it had a number of unforeseen consequences, the most important of which is that the only land that could be used for the public housing program was on the outskirts of the city.

For this reason, it intended to overcome the legacy of apartheid inadvertently reproduced the same legacy it sought to abolish. Today, 60 percent live of the black population in these municipalities on the outskirts of cities. In Cape Town, for example, there is land to use to build more homes in the city, but due to the city's geographical location, the land is very valuable, which means that it is often sold to private investors who build luxury apartments. At the same time, in the heart of Cape Town, large parts of District Six are empty. Several of the people who were forced to flee the district have been able to move back, but still more houses need to be built.

Although colonialism and apartheid are over, there are great traces from that time even today. Many of the barriers that were built still remain to be dismantled in South Africa. The work against segregation and injustice that Desmond Tutu to some extent began in his life is far from complete, and South Africa faces several future challenges. 

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