The Committee on African Studies, along with the Du Bois Institute, the Gleitsman Program in Leadership for Social Change, the Political Anthropology Working Group and the Harvard Law Documentary Studio are co-sponsoring a special screening event of award-winning documentary Dear Mandela. Dear Mandela captures a story of the first post-Apartheid generation, through the eyes of three ‘young lions’ who fight mass eviction from their shantytowns, an take their government to the highest court in the land, putting the promises of democracy to the test.
Filmmaker Dara Kell as well as Mnikelo Ndabankulu and Zodwa Nsibande from South African Shackdwellers’ Movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, will be in attendance for a post-screening discussion, led by ACLS New Faculty Fellow Kerry Chance.
When the South African government promises to ‘eradicate the slums’ and begins evicting shack dwellers from their homes, three friends who live in Durban’s vast shantytowns refuse to be moved. DEAR MANDELA follows their journey from their shacks to the highest court in the land as they invoke Nelson Mandela’s example and become leaders in an inspiring social movement.
Mazwi, an enlightened schoolboy; Zama, an AIDS orphan and Mnikelo, a mischievous shopkeeper are part of a new generation who feel betrayed by the broken promises of Mandela’s own political party, the African National Congress. Determined to stop the evictions, they met with their communities by candlelight and discovered that the new innocuous-sounding ‘Slums Act’ legalized the evictions and violated the rights enshrined in the country’s landmark Constitution. With the help of pro bono lawyers, they challenged the Slums Act all the way to the hallowed Constitutional Court.
The extraordinary achievements of the shack dwellers did not come without a price. As the beloved Mandela’s portrait beams down from schoolroom chalkboards and shack walls, Mazwi, Zama and Mnikelo learn of the sacrifices that come with leadership. Shack demolitions, assassination attempts and government repression test their resolve to continue. By turns devastating, inspiring and funny, DEAR MANDELA offers a new perspective on the role that young people can play in political change and is a fascinating portrait of South Africa coming of age.