Free but fragile: Human relations amidst poverty and HIV in democratic South Africa

  • Christina Landman University of South Africa


Dullstroom-Emnotweni is the highest town in South Africa. Cold and misty, it is situated in the eastern Highveld, halfway between the capital Pretoria/Tswane and the Mozambique border. Alongside the main road of the white town, 27 restaurants provide entertainment to tourists on their way to Mozambique or the Kruger National Park. The inhabitants of the black township, Sakhelwe, are remnants of the Southern Ndebele who have lost their land a century ago in wars against the whites. They are mainly dependent on employment as cleaners and waitresses in the still predominantly white town. Three white people from the white town and three black people from the township have been interviewed on their views whether democracy has brought changes to this society during the past 20 years. Answers cover a wide range of views. Gratitude is expressed that women are now safer and HIV treatment available. However, unemployment and poverty persist in a community that nevertheless shows resilience and feeds on hope. While the first part of this article relates the interviews, the final part identifies from them the discourses that keep the black and white communities from forming a group identity that is based on equality and human dignity as the values of democracy.

Author Biography

Christina Landman, University of South Africa

Research Institute for Theology and Religion



Landman, Christina. 2013. Faith-based communities and politics in Dullstroom-Emnotweni: Local stories of identity, in Oral History Journal of South Africa Volume 1, Number 1 (September 2013):45-57.

Landman, Christina. 2013a. Safe spaces for women in the church: The case of Dullstroom-Emnotweni, in Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae Volume 39, Supplement (August 2013):171-185.