Apartheid first hand

On the commute this morning I was asking our host, KB about growing up during Apartheid. In 1994, KB was in 8th grade and Apartheid “ended”. When KB was growing up she lived in Botshebelo, which is an impoverished community of blacks who were pushed out of the black side of the nice city Bloemfontain. Each weekend KB and her parents would take the bus 90 minutes into Bloem. She remembered it as being cold and uncomfortable. Her dad would often bring a blanket to keep her warm. They would shop for supplies and then get back on the bus for the ride home. It would take someone one in a car about 50 minutes, the bus made frequent stops so it took them 90 minutes. Then they would have to walk a few kilos home with all their supplies.

Most of the black women during this time would work as housekeepers for whites. They would drive in on a bus from Botshebelo, clean all day and then take the bus back home. They would make the equivalent of $100 per month and a bus pass for the month costs $70. So after 1 month of work they had $30 for their family. Because of this many of the women stayed at their job, only going home occasionally. Often the fathers where far away working in the mines, which left children to fend for themselves.

KB discussed how black is always associated with something bad. In their culture Black cats are bad luck, white cats mean peace. Black symbolizes death, White symbolizes life. Black people were thought to be cursed because of the color of their skin. God made people white on purpose so anyone that is black is evil.

The school system was set up for Whites (Afrikaans) and when black children entered secondary school they were not prepared and often did poorly. KB has 2 daughters who she sends to a white school because she knows it has a better educational system. They are the only black girls in the school. KB says the concerts are so boring as the whites just sit with their arms crossed and listen, where as a black school there would be dancing and clapping. She wishes her girls could have that, but she has to make choices and compromises. A black school may have 50 kids per class with not pencils. They often come from broken and impoverished homes. I asked her about discrimination. She said that it is still a problem and people are very sensitive about it. If a while person says “hi” to a black person they are assumed to be overcompensating. If they do not say hi they are thought to be discriminating.

Now white people and the government own land but back people do not. There is a lot of mistrust between races. Black people shopping in a nice store are often asked if they work there. HIV is still a huge issue and there are 30-40 funerals every Saturday in Botshebelo.

It was powerful to hear a first-hand account of someone living in South Africa who has experienced so much. It was also a bit embarrassing to hear that Johannasburg is NOT the capitol of South Africa as I always assumed it was. Actually South Africa has three capital cities: Bloemfontain (judicial) Cape Town (executive) and Pretoria (legislative). 2 of these cities I have not head of until I began planning this trip. I better spend some time studying up on African countries and their capitol cities!


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