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Monica Dispatch

Apartheid, The State of Being Apart:
An Outsider's View

Cape Town, South Africa and surrounding
Kevin and I sipped on espressos at Melissa's Cafe as we recovered from our "jailhouse blues". We had dropped our stuff at the hostel downtown and were orienting ourselves to Cape Town, which many people consider to be "the most beautiful city on earth." At the cafe we met Bethel, who was from Nairobi, Kenya, and has been working in Cape Town for the last 16 months. We asked her, jokingly, if she had an exit ticket when she arrived on her work visa, but she said she wasn't asked, and she didn't go to jail like we did! (Hi, Mom - We're in Jail! (or - Welcome to South Africa)). We decided to wander the streets of Cape Town with Bethel and our eyes opened to the wealth and beauty of a country riddled with struggles.

Table mountain was our backdrop as we
	learned about life in South Africa
South Africa's wealth of natural resources defies comparison. Remember how we were just in South America? Biodiversity reigns in the rainforests of that continent: on average, each 10,000 sq. km. holds 400 different species. However, in comparison, in the Western Cape of South Africa outside of Cape Town, each 10,000 sq. km. holds 1300 species!! The Western Cape floral kingdom, the world's most diverse, as well as smallest floral kingdom in the world, contains thousands of fymbos (fine bush). This type of vegetation dominates the landscape with over 8500 species of weird and beautiful proteas, heaths, and erica species.

Another blessing for South Africa has been its strong conservation effort for all types of wildlife, including the "Big Five:" lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard, and my favorite, the elephant. The list of superlatives for South Africa runs long: on the preserves you can see the world's largest bird (ostrich), the world's largest land mammal (African elephant), the world's tallest mammal (giraffe), and the world's fastest mammal (cheetah).

Not only flora and fauna, but also vast mineral resources grace the country. South Africa produces three quarters of the world's gold, and more diamonds than any other country. Their supply of 57 minerals makes up 70% of South Africa's total exports.

However, this country, blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery on earth and an abundance of natural resources, has also been cursed with some of the most violent ethnic confrontations in the world. As Bethel told me, here, unlike in Kenya, "It really matters what color your skin is."

Map with Nairobi, Kenya and Cape Town,
	South Africa
When I asked Bethel what she saw of race relations here in the new South Africa, she simply shook her head. "It doesn't really affect me because people think of me as an outsider," she said. "I get along quite well with black people and white people, all kinds of people." In Kenya, she told me, there is none of the constant classification that she sees here. She grew up taking Indian dance lessons with her Kenyan friends of Indian descent, having white British friends, speaking German with her friends from her semester in Germany, and making black African friends from different tribes. "But here," she leans in close to tell me, "apartheid may be dead, but it still exists."

Bethal told us about her experiences in
	the new South Africa

Apartheid (pronounced by South Africans as "apart-ate"), a hated word for many and a fact of life for others, means "the state of being apart." Its main architect, Henrik Verwoerd, of the National Party, which came to power in 1948, formulated a plan that would set up "Bantustans," or black homelands, where black South Africans would live, apart from the white South Africans. Under his direction, he believed South Africa would benefit from a system of "parallel political institutions," or the separate development of blacks and whites. At the time, twelve million Africans were to live on 13% of the land, and the four-and-a-half million white South Africans were to live on 87% of the land, including all the major cities. He said, "If South Africa must choose between being poor and white or rich and multiracial, then it must rather choose to be white." Verwoerd believed a large numbers of blacks and whites living together could not be governed.

Verwoerd's radical policies went into effect at the start of his term in 1958. He made millions of people "go home," by transporting them from their birthplaces to unfamiliar terrain. These people were expected to create a new life without adequate water, sanitation, hospitals, infrastructure, or economic opportunities. Black Africans were divided into one of 10 tribal groups, made citizens of the "homeland" they were assigned to, and forcibly removed to the countryside. It didn't matter who--all were targeted: children, the elderly, the physically ill, the mentally unfit, the unemployed, and the women and children. Only men were allowed to return to the cities as "guest workers" with no rights.

"It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and self-respect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law-abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family-loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life-loving man to live like a monk. I am no more virtuous or self-sacrificing than the next man, but I found that I could not even enjoy the poor and limited freedoms I was allowed when I knew my people were not free. Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me."

--Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Multiple laws passed during the National Party's stay in power that continued to strip the average black citizen of their rights. One such law was the Group Areas Act, which enforced the physical separation of residential areas, and required blacks to carry a pass book at all times. The Mixed Marriages Act made mixed marriages illegal, and the Immorality Act was designed to prevent relations between different races. The Separate Amenities Act created separate public facilities like toilets, schools, clinics, beaches, buses, and hospitals for white and non-white South Africans. Others included the Suppression of Communism Act, the Unlawful Organizations Act, the Sabotage Act, and the Terrorism Act. One of the more famous, the General Law Amendment Act, allowed the Minister of Justice to imprison anyone, including those who had already served the term of their sentence, for any amount of time and without a trial or other legal proceedings. Does that sound fair to you?

These laws did not take effect without resistance. In the 1960's and 70's resistance groups formed and several charismatic individuals, such as Nelson Mandela, came to the forefront of that movement. The movement eventually toppled the state policy of apartheid and created the new South Africa, the "rainbow nation" of today. The "Freedom Charter," signed in June 1955 by groups like the African National Congress and the Indian Congress, articulated the vision of a non-racial, democratic state. Compare this to the National Party's endless classification of groups, which created a "pigmentocracy" of races where non-whites had no power. Bethel said to me, "Can't you tell? Let me explain. Here you are either White, Black, or Coloured. And there are also Indians, and people like Chinese and Malay." Each was treated differently. I can just imagine what people think of Abeja, Shawn, Kavitha, Kevin, and me walking down the street! What classification would YOU be?

In the Black Sash, courageous women like Mary Burton led a crusade for universal empowerment for South Africans and no color distinctions, first silently in 1955, then with more outspoken demands. (You can read about Shawn and Kavitha's meeting with her in Kavitha's dispatch, Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa.

We united around the map with our new
	friend Bethel
In 1960, the Pan African Congress called for demonstrations against these oppressive laws. These demonstrations struck hard at Sharpville, where police shot into a crowd of demonstrators, killing 69 people and wounding 160. Not until this bloodshed, did the world's attention began to focus on South Africa and the increasing complexity of the apartheid problem. The government responded by banning the PAC and the ANC, claimed outside criticism as "interference," and squelched rumblings of injustice from inside by calling it "communist subversion."

Fifty years of nonviolent resistance brought Africans even more repressive legislation. What to do? Some leaders advocated violence. Even Nelson Mandela supported the use of violence at times. The Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation) movement, came to life by the ANC on Dingane's Day, 16 December 1961. It called for mobilization on four fronts: sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and open revolution. On Dingane's Day, white South Africans celebrate the defeat of the Zulu leader Dingane at the Battle of Blood River in 1838, where five hundred Boers killed 3000 of the 12000 Zulus who attacked them. (Shawn and Abeja are going to Zululand next, so check back for more on this!)

"Units of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) today carried out planned attacks against government installations, particularly those connected with the policy of apartheid and race discrimination. Umkhonto we Sizwe is a new, independent body, formed by Africans. It includes in its ranks South Africans of all races... Umkhonto we Sizwe will carry on the struggle for freedom and democracy by new methods, which are necessary to complement the actions of the established national liberation movement...

"The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defense of our people, our future and our freedom...

"We of Umkhonto have always sought -as the liberation movement has sought- to achieve liberation without bloodshed and civil clash. We hope, even at this late hour, that our first actions will awaken everyone to a realization of the disastrous situation to which the Nationalist policy is leading. We hope that we will bring the government and its supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both the government and its policies can be changed before matters reach the desperate stage of civil war..."

---leaflet with Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Manifesto

Nelson Mandela explains they chose this day to show "...that the African had only begun to fight, and that we had righteousness -and dynamite- on our side." Mandela said, "I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die..."

The umkhonto movement was the first of many uprisings. On 16 June 1976, fifteen thousand schoolchildren gathered in the South-Western Township of Soweto, near Johannesburg, to protest against the ruling that Afrikaans, the language of the oppressors, would be used to teach half of all secondary-school classes. Thirteen-year-old Hector Pieterson and hundreds of other kids, fighting with sticks and stones, were shot and killed by a police squad. Cries of "Amandla! Ngawethu!"(Power to the People) rang through the air around the country, as young South Africans were galvanized by the massacre. The team will be visiting Soweto soon to report more details.

We showed each other where we came from on
	the map
Apartheid politics began to lessen temporarily when Balthazar John Vorster, who took office after a 48-year-old white man stabbed Verwoerd to death in Parliament, was pressured to make economic concessions. He permitted black unions and put an end to the "pass laws." Sports were allowed to be multiracial. However, P.W. Botha, Vorster's successor, cracked down with even harsher policies. He rewrote the constitution in 1983 to increase state presidents' power and create three houses of parliament: the House of Representatives for Coloureds, the House of Delegates for Indians, and bigger than both put together, the House of Assembly, for Whites. Blacks, 75% of the population, did not have a House. Violent protest skyrocketed, and in 1985 the government declared a "State of Emergency," torturing people, detaining 30,000 people without trial and censoring the press for the next 5 years.

Although apartheid no longer exists, Bethel says nowadays "People can't really visit each other's houses. If one is black and the other white, the black person might be able to go to the white area, but the white person might get robbed in the black area." I can only imagine how much this held true during the State of Emergency. With frustration, violence, unjustness, and killing, what could the solution be? Tune in with me next time for "Window into a South African home."


Kavitha - Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa
Monica - Hi, Mom - We're in Jail! (or - Welcome to South Africa)

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