Themba Hadebe, now an Associated Press, AP, photographer, grew up in Thokoza, a township near Johannesburg. In the early 90s, “black-on-black violence” between the African National Congress, ANC, and the Inkatha Freedom Party, IFP, flared there. It was largely orchestrated by the Apartheid government to delay its own demise. Hadebe, who had wanted to become a photographer since childhood, prevailed against prejudice and ended up working alongside the world’s conflict photographers who gathered here.
Exploring a photo he took after the democratic elections, and that earned him a World Press Photo award, Hadebe, in the video interview, says democracy in South Africa is not as idyllic as it may look to outsiders. And that photographers are still very much needed here to tell the truth. “In a way, it’s an embarrassing picture, but in a way again, it’s a picture that says we are now a society that is affected by whatever can affect you anywhere in the world – crime.
“But at the same time, it’s the survival of the fittest. After the democracy, everybody had high expectations and so forth. And now suddenly, the reality is the opposite. You know, people were expecting, you know, jobs, good jobs… But now, suddenly, things are not like that, which is the reality. Things get hyperventilated, you know, the expectation, and once in the democracy, you look around and the situation is still the same.
“And those who made promises, they are also suddenly stuck with the reality, that you know, being a government, it doesn’t mean that you have money on your pocket all the time to splash it out. You know, there are a whole lot of issues around as well. Even the society is realizing, ‘Oh, the democracy … does not translate to food and … a good job. It’s just an act moving forward,’ he says. “It can be meaningless as well, if it’s not properly managed.”
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