Over the past week South Africa – a country with a unique and complex relationship with the British Crown – has reacted in a conspicuously muted fashion to the death of Queen Elizabeth. While some here are quietly mourning her and remembering, in particular, her unique friendship with Nelson Mandela, many others have chosen to focus, if at all, on the bitterly contested and enduring legacy of Britain’s empire.
“I wouldn’t say I don’t like the Queen – no, no, no. But my everyday reality is [affected] by the impact of colonisation,” said Sibulele Steerman, a university student, standing beside an open sewer in an impoverished township outside Cape Town.
These days, many younger South Africans, in particular, are questioning the compromises that accompanied their country’s transition to democracy in the early 1990s, and are demanding that Western nations do far more to acknowledge centuries of colonial exploitation.
“My grandmother liked the Queen. But we’re a different generation,”…