During the first seven years (1978 – 1985) of my life, I had no idea what apartheid was. Let alone the fact that it existed. Where I lived, in Manse, where my grandfather was a minister, I lived and played with other children from different race groups. In our house, people were created as equal.
Even though I remember a story my grandfather told me about being a runaway slave and having to hide in ditches to avoid being caught. This story didn’t seem real or make any sense to me.
I remember my grandfather told me about his grandfather that was a runaway slave, that had to hide in a ditch not be caught. At that time, I was still too young to understand. Later at school, one of my teachers showed us the mini- series of Roots by Alex Haley. One day on BET’s Teen Summit one of the young people complained about how they didn’t like the history they are being thought at school, the guest told them “don’t wait on the school system, do your own research.” That day I was inspired to start doing my “own research”. Because I also wasn’t too fascinated by the South African history being taught at school, I started reading Roots and Queen by Alex Haley about American slavery and later books about South African Slavery. There I discovered that my mother tongue, Afrikaans was created by the slaves, hence the various language influences found within Afrikaans. I remember while at school, a professor from the University of the Western Cape once came to our school about his research he did on Louis Botha’s ancestors and that they were free slaves. During this lecture, I also discovered that Afrikaners called themselves free slaves, because they don’t belong to specific tribe. I also discovered when my great-great grandfather was running away, he risked everything. He risked being branded in the face or other parts of his body. He risked having his foot cut off or losing other limbs. Yet he risked it all in pursuit of freedom.
Freedom is a call to action. It’s a call to choose. During apartheid, my grandfather chose to teach his family the opposite of apartheid. He chose to open his door to all different racial groups and nationalities no matter the risk. He chose to teach his children to treat everybody equally. What did he do? During school holidays, he would take his children and some his nieces and nephews on a tour of South Africa via Transkei and Ciskei en route to Johannesburg. He would spend a few days with his friends in Transkei and Ciskei to teach the children values and not corrupt their minds by apartheid. And when his friends came to Cape Town, they stayed over his home. Sometimes a person can be physically captive but mentally and emotionally free. My grandfather had to overcome a lot of challenges in his life living in Stellenbosch which was the testing ground for apartheid. Where he had to witness his dad being demoted, because of his race. My grandfather matriculated at Healdtown. But the journey to Healdtown was not easy. After he completed his primary school (grade 8), he had to work one year and then attend Healdtown. He went back to work as petrol attendant and then back to school again. It almost took him six years to complete his high school education, because the school saw his dedication and every time he came back to school he passed with As they paid for his grade 12. Even though he experienced a lot of injustice in his life, he believed the best in people and where people endured injustice he became their voice. On 26 April 1994 (special elections) he went to vote at the age of 75. He witnessed a fellow Healdtown student become the first democratic president. The next year my grandfather died. 19 years after his death, his legacy continues to live on in my life.
Sometimes, we can be physically free but mentally and emotionally captive. How our elders and ancestors wish they had the freedom we have today. When I look in my own community the young people that choose not to attend school, even though they have the opportunity. It saddens me to see young people as young as six smoking and drinking and sometimes even using drugs and thinking that they are now adults. Not knowing that they are actually living as slaves. Because during the time of slavery in the Cape children were given tobacco and wine to destroy them. Working in the community, I believe it’s my responsibility to inspire them to break the legacy of slavery in their lives and grab the opportunities to bring freedom not only in their lives but in the lives of the family and community.
11 years ago, I was the Circuit Youth Co-ordinator at my previous church and worked on programmes to have youth from different racial groups together. And even later Youth Synods to the voice for racial unity, because of what I was taught as a child. For me, what I experienced the first seven years was more precious than gold or diamonds that I feel that need to share with the world.
This generation has the responsibility to remove the filth of Apartheid and Colonialism and set people free mentally, emotionally and physically. We, as South Africans, can teach the world about unity. Why must we be classified as black or white. Who said you are black or white? What is black? What is Wwhite? If you are white and you take a white piece of paper is that your skin colour? If you are black and you take a black piece of paper, is that your skin colour? Now who told you were that colour, even if you’re not that colour? We are all different shades of brown from the darkest shade to the lightest. That means we all are people are the earth. We all bleed red. We might be different, but we have more in common than we think. If we, as a nation, stop looking at our differences and unite to eradicate poverty and all other social ills.
At the showcase, we started a campaign called “Igniting our South African Identity”. The purpose is bring healing and unity to our beloved country by removing racial classification from all documentations and writing the real history of our nation. On documentations you do not tick at : White/Black/Coloured/Indian/Other box. You create a new box namely “Afrikan” and tick in it. “Afrikan” as a sign of defiance. Our identity is not defined by what colonism or apartheid taught us. Our identity is knowing that we are all Afrikans whether we are the darkest or the lightest shade of brown.
We have a history to be proud of. The oldest running university according to Guinness book World Records is in Morocco. The book of Mark (The Bible) is written in Egypt (there is documents that state that). And the book of Mark was used as a source for Matthew and Mark. Egypt and Ethiopia has the oldest churches not Europe. Africa is known is the epicentre of knowledge from ancient times. Other kingdoms came to Africa to acquire knowledge. China, India and other countries were trading in Southern Africa, before the Europeans even came. Before the Europeans to Africa, Africa was already influencing Europe. Hence alot of Europeans have African ancestry. There is no pure race in this world, we are all related to each other. In learning each other’s ancestral history, we will start to understand where we are all coming from. Where our history might be extremely painful, let us learn from it and educate our descendants to repeat it. My definition of a racist is somebody that does not want to know his family. Let us become that great kingdom of South Africa, where other nations again will come to learn and experience true ubuntu.