As we celebrate 25 years of democracy we draw parallels between SA and Rwanda and how youth hold the key to a better future.

Musa Ndlangamandla sat down to interview two born free’s to discuss the comparisons between the two countries.   

Anastasne Nkurunziza and Thandiwe Khumalo share more than just the age of 25. They both attend university in African countries with a chequered past marred by an orgy of merciless death violence and conflict. Rwanda, where Anastasne comes from, was hit by genocide in 1994 which left over 800,000 people dead within 100 days of bloody clashes. 

Thandiwe’s South Africa, is still reeling from the effects of the most heinous crimes against humanity, characterised by the systematic torture and death of millions of black people under apartheid. Whilst South Africa became a democratic state in 1994, the country is still dealing with the effects of years of brutality.

Anastasne and Thandiwe’s journey through life is a text book case of what slain US President John Kennedy envisioned when he famously said:  “The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth.” Granted, both Rwanda and South Africa have risen from a tortured past of murder, broken families and brutality, their story in the 25 years of change seems to have taken an opposing trajectory. 

Whilst Rwanda seems to be on track through programmes that effectively improve the quality of life of its people; South Africa is marred by a myriad of problems that threaten to derail the promises made at the dawn of a new democratic dispensation 25 years ago.

The challenge to turn things around lies squarely on the shoulders of South Africa’s youth, who according to Statistics South Africa 36% of the total population of 58 million people. 

With the 2019 general election less than a month away, South Africa’s youth has to use its vote to usher in a leadership that is people and delivery centred – one that will realign the country’s programmes to what Nelson Mandela promised when he walked out of jail in 1990.

The youth offer the greatest promise for South Africa and they must shoulder the responsibility to turn the ship around and place it on the positive course that Rwanda has taken.

“From the ashes of the genocide, a tiny nation has made great strides in human development. Kagame has turned out to be a dictator, but a benevolent one. In the past 25 years Rwanda has achieved more than any other African country. Today Rwanda is a beacon of stability in a very rough neighbourhood,” observes Sikonathi Mantshantsha, a leading columnist with the Financial Mail.

Unlike South Africa which is much bigger than Rwanda in terms of land size and in terms of resources endowment, the latter’s economy has grown at an impressive 6.1% a year in the last seven years, according to the World Bank. This year that country is targeting a massive 7.8%. Gross national income (GNI) a person has tripled from $620 in 2000 to $1,900 two years ago, according to Mantshantsha.

“Whilst a lot has been achieved over the same period in South Africa, a lot has also gone wrong. After rising steadily through the 1990s, GDP growth hit a high of just over 5% a year in 2007. At 0.8% last year, SA’s economy is dwarfed by population growth of 1.3%. GNI per capita has dropped from $6,150 in 2010 to $5,430 in 2017. Of course, those who want to paint a picture of progress will point out that, correctly, that GNI stood at $3,020 in the year 2000 and at $3,280.”

There are three things that South Africa’s youth can demand from the country’s leadership which have helped catapult Rwanda to the heights it has reached, namely:

Zero tolerance to corruption;

Maintaining a conducive environment for foreign direct investment; and

Clamping down on crime – which has reached emergency levels in many parts of South Africa.

Following are some sobering facts for South Africa’s youth to consider.

If Rwanda were your home instead of South Africa you would:

Live 9.7 years longer  and be 85.58% less likely to be murdered

Be 83.8% less likely to have HIV/AIDS

Use 99.48% less electricity

Consume 96.72% less oil

Spend 89.75% less money on health care

Experience 25.83% less of a class divide