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  • Writer's picturegraeme

LOCKDOWN REFLECTIONS DAY 64: Apartheid reflections

A good friend of mine, Prof Kurt April, shared something this morning that we all need to read. He’s spot on about what we need to learn about our past, our present and our future in South Africa. Please read this.

I woke up very early this morning and reflected a bit about some of the musings of people in the privileged suburb where I now live and on the social media groups in the area - and it made me think of my own life in South Africa (and not just for the last 60 days of lockdown). I hope that the lockdown serves to help the privileged to wake up to the horrors of Apartheid that the majority of the country endured (and still endure). As a person of colour - as a baby and until a man of 30 years old - every day under Apartheid, there was a curfew in place, the police and the army patrolled our streets; we couldn't leave a radius from the area in which we lived (and not even the generous 5kms we had under lockdown); we were not allowed to be in many white neighbourhoods and suburbs; we could not shop at certain shops and often had to queue for grocery items (in fact, we were not allowed into the front door of many shops); we were not allowed into most restaurants, movie cinemas and museums; we were not allowed on many buses (only the ones demarcated for us); we had to squeeze into the last third of any train (even though we are the majority population); and trying to get to the shops meant running the gauntlet through the Apartheid-created, cramped areas of gangsters (praying that you would get back to your home without being shot - by the police or gangsters, beaten by the police or gangsters, or stabbed by gangsters); we faced brutality on a daily basis by the hands of the Apartheid government at the time, being shot at and smacked around by the very people who are supposed to keep the rule of law - the police (ably assisted by the army); we were forcefully removed from areas where we lived to make way for white residents and removed from the very homes which some of our grandparents and parents owned (without compensation for those homes); international travel was definitely banned for us; we were not allowed to go on a beach or surf (contentious issue in Cape Town under lockdown); unable to get fair treatment in jobs and being the first to get laid off when the company's profits were squeezed; suffered under the skewed health access; we were unable to get loans from financial institutions; no governmental support and definitely not financial support from the government; we were not allowed to operate registered businesses outside of our neighbourhoods (and in the case of townships, not even in your neighbourhoods) - and not in the way you wanted; studying at world class educational institutions in our country were out of the question and eventually when some of us were allowed, it was only permitted for a handful and under permit; we went to bed every night not knowing if you were going to be plucked from it at 2am by the police and driven from police station to police station in the province but also to other provinces so that your family could not trace you ... so your future was completely uncertain.

The restrictive regulations of the last 60 days endured by all, is more loudly moaned about by the privileged in my province ... hopefully it has created a little empathy in some of them, but for many of the privileged I witnessed and read, it just led to moaning about their rights and freedoms that were taken away from them (even wanting to stage protests about privileges that they no longer can enjoy), while a death virus looms outside.

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