Tuesday, June 12, 2012

South African childhood under apartheid.

 We grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era.

Johannesburg during the 1960's ,was like any other city in the world, divided into different neighborhoods .Afrikaans speaking South Africans lived in one area and we went to Afrikaans medium schools. English speaking South Africans lived in different neighborhoods and they went to English medium schools. This was not written in stone as we had English- and German speaking neighbors living in our neighborhood. I never met a Jewish person until I went to Cape Town to study when I was 18 years old. My first job was working for a Jewish family that owned a clothing factory in Cape Town.

Cape of Good Hope -Cape Town-1652.

The first Europeans arrived in the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 .The Dutch settled it as a half -way- house for their ships to stop for fresh water and  food  on their way to trade with the East .As there were very few Africans living  at the Cape at that time the Dutch had to import slaves from India, Batavia and parts of Eastern Africa to work the land. During the years that followed  many Europeans immigrated to South Africa like they did to Australia, New Zealand and the Americas. My ancestor landed from Germany in the Cape in 1773, as a soldier for hire .We became part of the white tribe  of Africa for over 200 years by the 1960's.

South African Gold bars.

South African Diamond.

When gold and diamonds were discovered in South Africa -this desolate part of the world all of a sudden become the focus of money hungry people and  governments. The Cape Provence was a British Colony but they were not interested in any other part of South Africa. Once gold was discovered in 1886 near Johannesburg located in the Transvaal- it became another story.

South African map during the Boer War 1900.

The Orange Free State and the Transvaal were two independent Boer Republics .Founded by the Boers when they did not want to live under British rule in the Cape Provence and moved north during "The Big Trek" that started around 1838.

President Kruger of the Boer Republic Transvaal .

President Paul Kruger controlled the gold that was discovered in the Transvaal  ,and Cecil John Rhodes did not like that at all. As Prime Minster of the Cape Colony he instigated the British Government into a war that would take over the two Boer Republics and make them-and the gold mines- the property of Great Britain.

Queen Victoria .

Cecil John Rhodes.

More than 26,000 innocent women and children perished in the concentration camps of this war. There were also African concentration camps and almost as many of them perished during these times. The British "scorched earth" policy burnt down the Boer farms and hoarded the women and children into these camps .The Boers who attacked the British Army in guerrilla type war fare could not continue under these circumstances. Britain won this war - "a cold-blooded deed of state policy employed with the purpose of ensuring the surrender of men whom we were not able to defeat on the field".



Boer War Images.
 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 .

My family lost two farms in the Orange Free State and had to start from scratch. My paternal grandfather spend two years in the concentration camp with his mother and other siblings.

Cecil John Rhodes and British Victory over the Boers. 
After the Boer War (1899-1902) South Africa became  a British Colony .
Many" apartheid" laws were brought in by the British during this period.


President Paul Kruger' body arrives in Cape Town in 1904 .He died in exile in Switzerland.

For the next  46 years South Africa was a British Colony but in 1948 the Nationalist Party won the election and in 1961 South Africa declared itself a Republic. The Boers wanted to vindicate themselves for the Boer War and it took them almost 50 years to do so. Some  of the apartheid laws where put in place  to protect and uplift the Boers -or Afrikaners as we were also called  -who  had fallen on bad times after that war and the depression that followed. South Africa had  nine different African tribes, speaking nine different languages. The Zulus  (President Zuma.) were the biggest tribe and after them the Xhosa. (President Mandela.)They all had their different customs and beliefs. Unfortunately these nine African Tribes of South Africa fell between the cracks while the Afrikaners tried to rid themselves of the British yoke -and become independent .
Zulu Couple.


As a child growing up the only Africans I knew were the two people that helped my mother in the house. My father  had a driver for deliveries and some other African workers that worked in the office. I saw Africans on the street when I went tot the shops but that was it. The Africans that helped in the house was there for my mother .We were not allowed to boss them around or even ask them to bring us a glass of water. They ate the same food as we ate, and their plates were dished up when ours were. Any rudeness towards them were punished severely.


South African farm.

When we visited my paternal grandparents on the farm ,the Africans were part of the family. We could never call them by their first names as kids .We called the men Outa and the women Aia.They were older Africans that has been working for my grandfather for many years and saw my father -and his brothers -grow up. They were treated with respect  and worked  with the family for generations. 


Public toilets were separate and that was mainly because of health reasons.I remember seeing Africans in the streets that had never seen a toilet- never mind knowing how to use them. We were Europeans living in Africa and we had a  very different customs than most of the Africans did. It had nothing to do with hating black people. They were very secure in their way of life as Africans- living in their own country in Africa , and were not interested in a European life style at all.


If  Americans decide to go and live in Japan and want to keep their own customs, eat their own food -is this racist? I don't think so .It is just not what the Americans want to do. They have their own culture and the Japanese have their own culture. Both are free to take ,or reject, from the other culture if they chose do so , but it has little  to do with racism.When I went to study in England my best friend at the Fashion School  was a African-American guy from New York. We were friends because we had something in common . We could talk about fashion and opera. It had nothing to do with race- it was about culture.


American politicians used South Africa to defend the racism that was going on in America,
It was a case of "see how bad the white South Africans are -we are not that bad! Black Americans were brought to America as slaves .The Africans in South Africa were free and living in their own country .The  Europeans living in South Africa were a great minority and consisted of about 9% of the population. 

Nelson Mandela.
Amnesty International never recognized Nelson Mandela as a political prisoner. The reason for this was that he never condemned violence. Once he did denounced violence the South African Government let him out of prison .


President Nelson Mandela.

  After open elections the African National Congress  won the election and Nelson Mandela became the first African President of South Africa in 1994.He did a great job of uniting the nation and  preaching reconciliation. Without his leadership South Africa could have erupted into a civil war.
After him came Thabo Mbeki and now Jacob Zuma( the first Zulu)  is the President of South Africa.


The ANC has been in power since 1994 -

Whenever the current Government  is criticized one is called a racist for daring to do so.
One rarely reads about the South African Government in European, or American, publications for the same reason. During the time of apartheid South Africa  was front page news- all over the world. Everybody was screaming for the end of apartheid- and rightly so. Today while  the corruption in the South African Government is rampant -nobody writes about it. Unemployment is close to 25%.  Second highest crime rate in the world. More Africans are starting to realize that the previous  Government can not be blamed for the problems the country is having now-seventeen years later. It is making the ANC very nervous. In late 2011 the ANC was heavily criticized over the passage of the "Protection of State Information Bill" which opponents claimed would improperly restrict the freedom of the Press. There is a  wealthy African upper class developing in South Africa thanks but no middle class to speak of. Johannesburg has become the New York of Africa. The cost of living is sky high .Restaurants and hotels are compatible to prizes in New York. The ordinary working class African finds that their money is buying them less and less.

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