Growing up during the apartheid eraPresentation Transcript
Growing up during the APARTHEID ERA A view of South Africa from the inside by Marianne J Du Toit 2009-2010
Growing up during the APARTHEID ERA
As a child growing up at the time apartheid was at its peak, the ‘wrongs’ of it wasn’t immediately evident to me. Things were pretty ‘normal’ as far as I was concerned – I went to school with all the other white kids, we had a domestic working cleaning our house, my mom was a homemaker and my dad worked in a large factory.
My first awareness that there was a difference between black & white was when we’d fetch my dad from work at night, and on our way there, you’d see black people, walking hurriedly from work to their homes in the townships. The rule at that time was that at 6.00pm, a siren would sound, which meant that no black people were allowed on the streets after that time. If they were accosted by the police, they had to show their ‘passbook’ (a form of identity), and if they couldn’t produce this, they were arrested and put in jail – no questions asked.
Black people didn’t own anything during that era – no houses, no cars and if memory serves me correct, they weren’t allowed to have accounts of any kind. The realisation hit home one day, when I accompanied my mom to the mall for some shopping. I needed to go to the bathroom and as we walked, I noticed our bathroom door had a sign on it. It read: ‘Whites Only’ . A little further away, I noticed the bathrooms for the black people, and what a contrast it was. Where our bathroom was neat and tidy, theirs reeked of urine and hadn’t been cleaned for God-knows how long.
When we left the mall, I recall a park at the entrance with a few park benches. As we walked, we noticed a policeman having an argument with a black woman seated on the bench, a small child in her arms. Eventually she got up reluctantly, picked up her child and a few bags of shopping, and left the park. When we got closer, I immediately saw the reason why she was asked to leave … she sat on a bench ‘reserved’ for Whites only. I looked at my Mom and asked her why this was happening. She looked at me and answered; ‘ because it is the law in our country.’
Whites sit on a bus stop bench with blacks two weeks after the city of Johannesburg in South Africa allowed blacks to travel on 'whites-only‘ buses in February, 1990.
I remember our domestic worker very well– she’d been with us for as long as I could remember, and I loved her. She had a daughter who’d come to visit once in a while, and I remember the 2 of us playing for hours, making up all kinds of fantasies as we played. Tracy was my friend, and it didn’t matter to me that her skin was black … I never really saw that … all that mattered to me was that she was someone I could play with. The 2 of us would often eat together too … on a blanket, under the tree we’d enjoy the food her mother had prepared for us. Not everyone thought the same as I did, not everyone was as tolerant or sympathetic to the life the black people were subjected to.
This was the malignant disease called ‘apartheid’ – and the vast implications it had on a country and its people. If after reading about this you still feel discrimination against any other racial group, then I suggest you try imagine how it is living under such circumstances.
The National Party (NP) introduced apartheid as part of its campaign in the 1948 elections and with its victory, apartheid became the governing political policy for South Africa until the early 1990s. Although the official policy of apartheid is generally associated with the NP victory, it built on a long history of racial segregation and discriminatory laws intended to ensure indefinite white supremacy. The migrant labour system, based on special land reserves and highly restrictive pass laws; masters’ and servants’ laws which hampered African trade union organization; the job colour bar, which reserved work defined as skilled for whites only; and urban influx control were all established in the wake of the discovery and exploitation of South Africa’s vast mineral resources.
In terms of the Population Registration Act of 1951 all South Africans were classified by race: “European” (white); “Native”, later “Bantu” (African); “Coloured”; and “Indian” (Asian).
These racial definitions determined every aspect of life: where individuals lived, what jobs they held, what type of education they received, whom they could marry, even where they were buried. Apartheid laws prohibited most social contact between races, and authorized segregated public facilities (such as reserving certain beaches for the use of whites only, or stipulating separate entrances in post offices).
A complex network of laws sustained a
hierarchical structure of discrimination, exploitation, and deprivation, in which
Coloureds and Indians formed oppressed minorities in relation to whites, but had considerable privileges compared to
black Africans. They were segregated in specifically defined suburbs in the so-called white or common areas, in terms of the Group Areas Act.
Only those black Africans needed in the white-controlled economy were allowed into the urban areas.
Those who openly opposed apartheid were considered communists and the government passed draconian security legislation that, in effect, turned South Africa into a police state.
After peaceful demonstrations were called by the PAC against the pass laws, protestors were fired on by the police at Sharpeville in March 1960, killing 67 black Africans and wounding nearly 200 others. The government banned the ANC and PAC after what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.
By 1969 the first cracks in the NP’s edifice of control appeared with the founding of the Black Consciousness Movement by the charismatic leader Stephen Biko, who was later murdered by the police while in their custody in 1977 . A wave of strikes in 1972 and 1973 signalled the resurgence of worker militancy, while the independence of neighbouring Angola and Mozambique as well as Zimbabwe and Namibia added to the ferment of the times.
On June 16, 1976, some 10,000 schoolchildren in Soweto demonstrated against the imposition of the Afrikaans language in schools. When the police fired on the students, popular protest reached a new level and shattered
much-fostered illusions of the stability of the apartheid state.
Soweto student uprising ‘76
The war in Namibia and South Africa’s destabilization of its neighbours had become increasingly costly for the South African government in men and money. The ANC began to enjoy renewed support and publicity inside the country; prominent businessmen visited its leaders in exile, and members of the government began talks with its still-imprisoned leader, Nelson Mandela.
In February 1990 the new president, F. W. de Klerk, proclaimed a formal end to apartheid with the lifting of the ban on the ANC and the PAC, and the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela from prison, after a worldwide campaign.
Nelson Mandela together with FW de Klerk at press conference
In April 1994 South Africa held its first democratic, non-racial elections.
On May 8, 1996, South Africa adopted a new post-apartheid constitution that embodied a unique set of fundamental human rights. Under it racial, religious, and gender discrimination are prohibited; education, health, housing, food, and water are fundamental human rights; and freedom of expression and other political rights are protected. This was a major achievement after two years of negotiation.
A body known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up by act of parliament in 1995 “to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation” .
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Despite the declared end of apartheid, the long years of state-enforced discrimination and deprivation have left a difficult legacy.
Whites still hold economic power despite the growth of a small black middle class, while black Africans suffer the brunt of extremely high unemployment, poor education, appalling housing, and impoverished living conditions.
Nevertheless, the ending of apartheid and the establishment of democratic non-racial rule in South Africa remains one of the major achievements of the 20th century.
We refer to ourselves as the ‘rainbow’ nation and rightly so! Our country is made of so many different and diverse cultures, and despite our differences, we all strive to make this transition process as successful as possible. There are, however, a few things that hamper our progress – crime, unemployment, racial xenophobia – to name but a few, but we remain positive that we will prevail and succeed.
In 1995 we hosted the Rugby World Cup a few months after our first democratic elections. Rugby was always seen as a ‘white’ sport and often other races would jeer the players. This time, however, the whole country stood behind our national rugby team, The Springboks . I think a lot of it had to do because our (then) President, Nelson Mandela, supported them 100%.
I still recall when Mr. Mandela asked François Pienaar how it felt to win in front of 47 000 people (the attendees at Ellis Park), Pienaar smiled and answered; ‘We won in front of 45 million South Africans’.
François Pienaar receiving the trophy from the president´s hands. Mr. Mandela with Webb trophy
That day, all of us, no matter who we were or what we did for a living, felt a part of something so unbelievable; something I think we might’ve given up on … the feeling of HOPE – the belief that we can overcome our differences and make this beautiful country of ours a place we could all be proud of. My Africa – my home.
The work of art is not yet complete …there are still so many pieces of the painting that need attention. We’re a work in progress, and I do believe that we would succeed in our endeavours, and leave behind a legacy we can all be proud of...
The Pledge of the Peaceful Silent Majority reads as follows:
I am proudly South African.
I publicly declare my opposition to any form of prejudice and discrimination.
I believe in the right of every individual to be treated with dignity and respect.
I will strive to build bridges and break down barriers between myself and my neighbour.
I will treat others as I want them to treat me.
I celebrate the unique role I play in ensuring a prosperous future for the diversity of peoples who make up our Rainbow Nation.
I endorse the vision of our great leader, Mr Nelson Mandela who said: “Never, never, never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”
I will invest in our future: I undertake to instil these values in our children. Archbishop Emeritus Tutu
Nelson Mandela, icon of peace Nelson Mandela is an icon of peace, and a wise man that everybody turns to for advice on how to solve their countries' problems and promote good ideas. He was not afraid to criticize the policies of President George W. Bush, and Israel, or the campaign against Islam. He also directly contributed to South Africa's success in winning the right to host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, in what represents a historic "masterstroke," The world has the right to be proud of Nelson Mandela, for he is a true legend that is living amongst us.