One of my deep concerns in returning to South Africa is to see how well apartheid has been eradicated – in people’s hearts and pocketbooks. The documentary film described below doesn’t sound very encouraging. I have not seen it but if you have an opportunity to see it, please comment on how it affected you.
Following the efforts of a South African housing rights group, the documentary “Dear Mandela” illustrates how fresh injustices have succeeded the inequality once enforced by apartheid. The group, Abahlali baseMjondolo*, advocates for Durban shack dwellers who are threatened by a proposed law that would permit rapid evictions. Replacement housing doesn’t emerge, except for crude “transit camps” far from the city center. Government and police representatives stonewall.
South Africa’s comedown from post-apartheid unity has been going on for a while, but “Dear Mandela” usefully outlines the forces of exclusion and generational shifts that have arisen. The tensions over urban development echo experiences in cities the world over. Yet the enabling role played by the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, represents a special disappointment
Excerpt from The New York Times,
September 21, 2012
*The people of Mjondolo”
Last week I saw a picture of mourners viewing the open coffin of one of the miners killed after a demonstration in South Africa. The coffin triggered a memory of the tragic death of one of our Youth Alivers more than forty years ago. I’ve only seen that type of coffin in the picture in South Africa — completely closed except a square window opened to reveal the face of the deceased resting down in the satin quilting.
It brought back a memory of a sweet Christian young man, who had been chosen to be one of four young people to travel to the USA to represent the youth ministry. Not only was Jerome a gifted singer, but Al, my husband, taught him to drive. This was very unusual for a young black man under Apartheid! The team practiced together for many months, and then we sent the four guys off to Swaziland as a “dress rehearsal,” where they sang and danced and shared their testimonies. People loved them.
But Jerome had become very thin during this time. In fact Al had taken him to Baragwanath hospital for a check up. But in the rigid system of the government hospital, they listened a few minutes to his symptoms and sent him to a gastroenterologist. So the team took off with great anticipation for Swaziland a few weeks later, and there Jerome died from a hemmoragic bleeding caused by advanced TB.
Al and my son Nathan drove to Swaziland to bring back a coffin bearing Jerome’s body in the back of our Kombi. He spent the night in our garage (How did we get away with that?) and then Al took him out to his mother in Soweto. As the body rested in his mother’s home, hundreds of friends and family came to console her and to look into Jerome’s face through that little window in the coffin.
In less than two weeks I’ll be going back to South Africa — to Johannesburg, to Soweto, to visit Youth Alive and see many old friends. And to have many memories, joyful and sad, re-awakened . Probably about things I haven’t thought about for many years — just like that coffin reminded me of Jerome. I look forward to seeing him again– in that wonderful place where we’ll never forget anyone.
I just viewed the movie 2016 about the life of President Obama. I wonder how much his father’s attitudes affectedt him? His Kenyan father was somehow privileged to attend Harvard, but while there he took part in a communist group on campus. He resented whites, America, missionaries and all that he felt Kenyans had suffered under colonialism. Our president only met his father once, but he left an indelible impression on his life. I don’t believe the President holds the same views his father did, but his book, Dreams From My Father, indicate that he missed having a father figure in his life, and he undoubtedly still respects him.
In less than three weeks I’ll be in Johannesburg. I remember the attitudes of distrust and dislike on both sides of the color line. Have hearts really changed in the thirty-five years since Al and I left South Africa? Both white and blacks had more than a day to experience the effects of Apartheid. How long will it take to remove its stains?
One man who worked hard to bring blacks and whites together is Desmund Tutu who led the Truth Commission. Tutu will be in Denver in November as part of an Erickson (the group that owns my community, Wind Crest, and fifteen others like it) event in combination with other organizations in Denver. I hope I’ll be able to go to hear him, especially after having just spent two weeks in South Africa myself.
South Africa went through decades where ordinary black people could not use their gifts and talents; could not reach to the stars as we in America think we can. The Apartheid government believed they had to hold the controls because, as I was often told “they are adolescents.”
I’m reading Nancy Pearcey’s TOTAL TRUTH again, as she develops an understanding of our Christian World View. In describing the life of our forefathers she writes: It began to seem that ordinary people were quite capable of making rational choices to advance their own interest. And when they did, lo, they created wealth all around. . . by that time it had become a common “discovery” that ordinary people, operating freely and autonomously, were quite competent and capable after all.
Astonishingly, by the middle of the eighteenth century in the larger American colonies, per capita wealth was far higher than anywhere else in the world. There was no longer any need for an authoritarian government to stand as traffic cop over limited resources! (emphasis mine)
I’m looking forward to meeting many of my old friends, ordinary people, who are using entrepreneurial skills and leadership to enrich the country and build the Kingdom of God.
(If you are able to get The Soweto Legacy (see About Books) you’ll see how elitist power corrupted their dreams)