The 5th of December 2023 marks the ten-year anniversary of the passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, our former president, politician, and anti-Apartheid activist. Mr. Mandela is famous globally for his historic achievements and firsts – he was the first black president of South Africa, serving from 1994 to 1999, but was also fundamental in leading South Africa’s transition from Apartheid to a multi-racial democracy. In 1993, Mr. Mandela also won the Nobel Peace Prize alongside former president F.W. de Klerk “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” The road to the Nobel Peace Prize and democracy was far from a short and easy one as Mr. Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom details. He spent 27 years of his life in jail, with 18 of those years being spent on Robben Island.

Mr. Mandela’s legacy has lived on in many ways outside of his political legacy and his foundations, including through his family legacy of three marriages, six children and 17 grandchildren. His name also lives on through the hundreds of streets named after him, as well as the Nelson Madela Bridge in Johannesburg CBD, and some more obscure namesakes in a prehistoric Woodpecker (Australopicus nelsonmandelai), a nuclear particle known as the ‘Mandela Particle’ and lastly, an orchid – Paravanda Nelson Mandela. Despite his legacy and achievements, the current South African youth have mixed sentiments when it comes to Mr. Mandela, almost 30 years from the onset of democracy and ten years after his passing.

Some critics have labelled Mr. Mandela as a sell-out, or for not being able to deliver on the promises made during his time in power, although it was only for one term. According to interviews conducted by BBC News, some Gen Z South African’s feel that Mr. Mandela did not do enough in his time to achieve what they call “black economic empowerment.” On the other side, many counter that Madiba planted the seeds for improved literacy, education, and housing in his time, but opted not to follow through with the nationalization of banks, mines, and other industries outside of those that were already state owned. It seems that ‘Madiba Magic’ and Mr. Mandela’s party legacy may no longer be enough for the ANC and what it hopes to achieve in the upcoming elections.