It’s been a while, I know. I’ve been studying, went back home to the Netherlands to see family and friends, and struggling what to write next, because what keeps me occupied is a heavy subject: Apartheid. This country, South Africa, is amazing. Beautiful nature, people, plants grow on their own, so much buzz and enthusiasm to achieve great things, new businesses popping-up everywhere. But still, there is always this lingering issue which is always there: APARTHEID.
In my 9 months here, it has been wonderful and exciting to live here. Two days after our arrival, Nelson Mandela passed away on the 5th of December 2013. To pay tribute to this great man, we went to his house in Houghton. At first we felt as if we were intruders. We as foreigners, partly felt as if we shouldn’t be there because it was for the South African people. But the people of South Africa welcomed us, respected us for coming to his house and trying to understand what the death of Mandela meant for the people of the Rainbow Nation. We had doubts whether we should go to the official memorial in FNB stadium (Soccer City), for the same reason. But when we saw there was plenty of space in the stadium, we decided to go anyway. It was one of the most impressive days of my life. People singing and dancing everywhere, all united, with the spirit of 1994 again –> Everybody is the same. We witnessed a nation stand up unitedly embracing Madiba’s legacy.
That spirit and social intercourse that was displayed in the weeks following of Mandela’s death, didn’t last long. It was back to reality. The reality of corruption, disappointment about promises from 1994 not being kept, and the disappointment of the Apartheid that still exists. It shocks me every day. People treating gardeners, domestic help, waiters, recycling men (collecting plastic and other recyclable goods on foot) as if they are not good enough, don’t need respect. If you do say hello and make eye-contact, they are shocked at first and then there is this big smile because they see it is just normal human social interaction.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others – Nelson Mandela
What worries me, is that everything in this country is still linked to Apartheid. The townships like Soweto were built to house the workers during the Apartheid. That architecture and planning is still being used to develop RDP houses (free houses for the poor) outside and far from the city. The ‘whites’ are still living in their suburbs, nowadays more and more resembling gated communities. Every discussion I have with people here, eventually will address the Apartheid legacy and the troubles South Africa has with its history. Policies from the government and municipalities are often still focused on giving back to the black community one way or the other. Which, in my opinion was fair but it is time to look forward (see quote Nelson Mandela). To truly work together and not make a difference between black and white, in social interaction and spatial planning. Not to allow and misuse policies and positive discrimination. In the end, it is still a form of Apartheid and the reason why there is still a divide between black and white.
We need to educate South Africans that while they live apart, Apartheid lives on. – L.N. Sisulu (Minister of Human Settlements)
On the upside, it is possible to talk about these issues, there are demonstrations, the media is paying attention to corruption and other irregularities and policies slowly seem to change. The Minister of Human Settlements addressed some of the issues I am talking about in her budget speech (15 July 2014). Being very aware that the wounds that Apartheid left need time to heal, I am hopeful that one generation from now, the picture will look different. I can’t wait to see how this country will develop in the coming years, there is so much promise and opportunity. I hope I can contribute a little bit by showing respect to everyone I meet.