a day wasted on the youth

15 June 2008
There is a sort of perpetual dance party on the weekends. Many people remain drunk off of the South African Breweries – remnant of apartheid appeasement of township and settlement peoples – and they blast their old tunes and techno beats to the high heavens and well into the late hours of the night. Is this their escape? Is this the real South Africa? Where the people are, is the real South Africa – not Sandton, Florida, or Alberton – but the townships, the majorities, the people that make South Africa; in their miseries, poverty, diseases, lack of family, absence of hope and utter lose for future dreams attained – the real South Africa resides with these people who have yet to realize and actualize their potential with support from uncorrupt (transparent) organizations that can give them and their children the resources to overcome, but never forget.

16 June 2008
The day rings hollow for the busloads of excited school children and township youth as ANC propaganda is spoken and popular music performed for unattentive throngs of young people with a new freedom and privilege to throw away. Politics is wasteful when it is departed from the masses and cannot compose a meaningful message to the future of the country – the youth!

Township youth are bussed in from all over. Politicians speak of real multiracial unity, but we are the only white people in the entire stadium. Speeches talk of 1976 and the youth movement, but there is no real remembrance or understanding of the past events inspired by youth. It has become less a national holiday and more a day wasted on youth, who are unguided in their development. ANC politicians talk of “all to the polls” but there is no real attempt to register youth and get them active in the governmental process. The youth were there for the pop music show as opposed to the meaning of June 16th 1976, those who died, or what it represented for their country. It is a day that has become a market opportunity for many to sell food, clothes, candies, and anything else. It is a day that has become more of an excuse than anything. An excuse for youth to skip school, to leave home, to do things their parents may not approve of, to hear popular music. An excuse for the government to feign caring about the youth, to spout their slogans, and to give lip service to their ideals. An excuse for many to forget the past and waste the future.

Reflections: 17 July 2009
The day rang hollow for me and my understanding of South Africa history, present, and future. Everything I wrote I still believe, especially now with the World Cup coming ever closer, I can only see it as another wasted opportunity. The government scrambles to hide its poor and failed systems, workers have to strike to get a fair wage, politicians have a field day with what this all means for South Africa, but again it is the masses; the majority of the population that suffers or is forgotten.

“It is best to rely on the freely given support of the people”
Nelson Mandela

With Mandela Day being today, Madiba’s 91st birthday, the world recognizing the imprint that one man left on his country and the entire world community. The problem, much like last year’s Mandela Day, was that it was a publicity event. Yes, it was a time to honor a great man and inspire others to action, but it was as if he was begin used, ushered around to coordinate yet another large money making event. Let’s not forget what Mandela did for so many people, let’s not forget those still in so much need across South Africa, the continent of Africa, and the world.

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appendix a: timeline of health care and hiv/aids in south africa

1913 – “Tropical workers” migrating bring in high prevalence of tuberculosis (Packard, 230)
1919 – Public Health Act places government control over mission health centers (Seedat, 63)
1930 – Mines experience shortage of workers (Packard, 229)
1934 – 2000 “tropical workers” brought into SA on experimental basis (Packard, 230)
1937 – The number of “tropical workers” increases dramatically after government ends ban on recruiting mine workers above 22nd parallel (Packard, 230)
1948 – National Party takes control and apartheid laws are enacted
Health budget is drastically cut (Seedat, 63)
Over 40,000 “tropical workers” are entering SA (Packard, 230)
1950 – Population Registration Act required S. Africans be segregated into three racial categories
Group Areas Act establishes separate residential areas for different racial groups, “forced removals” began of those living in the “wrong” area
1951 – Bantu Authorities Act established “homelands” (Bantustans) taking away SA citizenship and rights
Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act began destruction of basic health services developed by individuals in the “wrong” areas
1960 – Black townships became areas of concentrated population far from towns and city centers
*Sharpeville massacre kills 69, wounds 187 protesting the pass laws
1963-1964 – Rivonia Trials
1970 – South African Department of Health takes over control of all health services from ‘local’ governments, including mission and church hospitals (Seedat, 69)
1973 – Department of Bantu Administration and Development begins takeover of all mission hospitals in the Bantustans (Seedat, 69)
1976 – Soweto uprising kills 23, wounds 500 in protest of Bantu Education policies
1976-1981 – Four “homelands” (Bantustans) de-nationalize 9 million Black South Africans
1982 – First case of AIDS diagnosed in SA, increased charges in governmental health services (Seedat, 71)
1983 – Doctors in the Department of Medicine at Baragwanath describe overcrowding and shortage of staff as having reached a ‘breaking point’ (Seedat, 65)
1985-1989 – SA declares ‘state of emergency’
1986 – First AIDS Advisory Group established to aid the government’s response to the growing problem
1990-2003 – Most rapid increase in HIV prevalence rates
1990 – Mandela released from imprisonment
First antenatal survey estimates that between 74,000 and 120,000 people are living with HIV
1991 – Apartheid laws repealed
1992 – Referendum on de Klerk’s policy
Mandela addresses the newly formed National AIDS Convention of South Africa (NACOSA)
Free National AIDS Helpline established
1993-1999 – Internal labor migration increases significantly, specifically among women
1993 – National Health Department reported the number of HIV infections had increased by 60% in the previous two years and was expected to double over the year
1994 – First democratic elections held, Mandela wins
Minister of Health accepts the basis of the NACOSA strategy as the foundation for the government’s AIDS plan
1995 – International Conference for People Living with HIV and AIDS was held in South Africa, Deputy President Mbeki acknowledges the seriousness of epidemic
South African Ministry of Health announces that 850,000 people (2.1% of population) are believed to be HIV-positive
1998 – Treatment Action Campaign is launched
2000 – Department of Health outlines five-year plan to combat HIV/AIDS
International AIDS Conference in Durban, new SA President Mbeki denies HIV causes AIDS, cites poverty as cause
2002 – SA High Court orders government to make nevirapine available
Government remains hesitant to provide treatment to people living with HIV
2003 – Government approves plan to make antiretrovirals (ARVs) publicly available
2004 – ARV treatment program launches in Gauteng Province
2005 – One service point in each of the 53 districts established for AIDS related care and treatment
HIV prevalence reported at 30.2% – a steady increase since 1990
2006 – Former Deputy President Jacob Zuma claims taking a shower prevented HIV transmission after “having sex” with an HIV-positive woman
UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS, Stephen Lewis attacks SA government at International AIDS Conference in Toronto over ARV treatment access
2007 – Mbeki is forced to resign, interim president appoints Barbara Hogan as Health Minister, activists welcome the change and expect greater government commitment to HIV/AIDS
An estimated 1,400,000 orphans of HIV/AIDS in SA
2009 – Apology for Mbeki ARV policy
Development of health services/ access to health services is a major issue in 2009 elections