When Apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of modern South Africa, it was thanks in part to thousands of fighters whose lives are deeply entwined with South Africa’s violent past. The armed struggle in South Africa started in 1961 and ended in 1994. Thousands of young men went into exile in Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola to train and dedicate their youth to the fight against the whites-only rule. Others stayed in the country, becoming both targets and perpetrators of violence from their early childhood. In the early 1990s, fighting in South Africa killed as many as 20,000 people.
Once admired as heroes of an era, the ex-combatants are now denied social support and recognition for their role. They feel they have been abandoned by their former leaders as well as by the democracy for which they fought. The very same democracy that led to South Africa’s first multi-racial elections in 1994. Today 60 percent of them are unemployed, under-skilled, uneducated, living in poor conditions and traumatized as a direct consequence of their involvement in the struggle.
From the frail iron walls of their shacks to the mountains of the Magaliesburg some of them have decided to confront their deep-seated fears; through traditional beliefs and rituals they hope to end years suffered in silence and to exorcise their ghosts.