||In 1994, the apartheid regime fell and South Africa held its first democratic elections.
The country quickly came to be characterized in the terms of democracy, truth, reconciliation,
freedom, human rights, and racial harmony. Pre-eminent amongst such lofty concepts,
both locally and globally, claims to racial reconciliation and equality lent weight
to the notion of South Africa as a “Rainbow Nation.” This thesis ventures beneath
these grand narratives of post-colonial triumph and explores the complexities, contradictions
and shifts within the discursive framing of a harmonious, post-apartheid South Africa.
In particular, the thesis is concerned with how “Born Frees,” young South Africans
born just before or after the political transition who became eligible to vote for
the first time in 2014, have caused a shift in the dominant post-apartheid discourse.
The thesis analyzes their status as political subjects and the socioeconomic realities
they face in order to understand their political incentives and motivations. Ultimately,
the thesis argues that, in response to the socioeconomic inequalities that have become
too glaring to ignore, and a shifting, younger electorate both aware of these inequalities
and disengaged from history, South Africa is moving away from the triumphalist discourse
that dominated the early post-1994 era and towards notions that challenge the illusion
of post-apartheid racial and class equality. The thesis focuses on a number of key
sites including national school curricula, political advertising, and public memory
to show that political discourse is also shifting from history-based or race-based
campaigning to issue-based campaigning focused on economic inequality.