Friends & Friction: Reparations can offer a bright future

2014-11-19 13:45

At least this much I remember: it was a sunny day. But from there onwards, everything fades in the mist of time, except for the vivid peaks and the scary valleys that shook me to my impressionable core and etched certain beliefs on my soul.

I also remember I saw Busi again that day. She was so special – a neighbour, a sister and a friend combined in a single girl.

Her bright, white eyes beamed the promise of the life ahead – a girl growing into a woman shaped by the culture in which she lived, and in return adding her own touch as it evolved into a future unknown.

Like a big disaster that annihilates some species on our planet, the forced removals struck our township, and I lost my Busi. So when I saw her again on that day, I enjoyed the very rare boyhood elation that women will never, ever understand.

I also remember a tall gentleman wearing a jacket and a jersey, and a toddler who was more of a pest than a playmate who kept interrupting our reunion.

I was there because my mother and I had come to visit her friend who rented a single room in a shebeen. The toddler was her son and the gentleman in the jacket was her husband.

Something says to me he was just a lover, but maybe that is only a prejudice introduced by time.

There was a lot of drinking during the day. After dark, we all huddled up in the kitchen, then the daily soapie began: the gentleman in the jacket started beating his wife badly, but I paid that no mind.

It was like watching an amateur boxing match, something that people did for fun. Adults beat their children, men beat their women and white men beat everybody.

Everyone in the kitchen begged the gentleman in the jacket to leave his wife alone. Apartheid emasculated black men and turned them into dangerous, attention-seeking beasts.

Let me tell you this: you will never understand the pain of forced removals until the names of your best friends have become faceless in your memory and some of the faces you knew well slowly lose their names.

The lives and the friendships that have been lost can never be replaced. I am not asking for those.

I am also not asking for retribution, but for reparations similar to the Reparations Agreement signed between Israel and West Germany. In terms of that agreement, Germany was to pay Israel for slave labour and the persecution of Jewish people.

Before our country bursts into flames, we need an urgent “reparations conference” to decide how to deal with all the corporations that enforced apartheid.

The allegations that IBM’s technology was used to make the pass laws possible must be investigated and if found to be true, the company must be held responsible and fined heavily.

Datsun and Land Rover, which customised the riot police vehicles, must also be investigated for being accomplices in the crimes against humanity.

Parliament needs to pass a “reparations act”, which will enable us to deal with the companies and farmers who were accomplices and beneficiaries of an evil system.

We must then use that money to give our children the brighter future that was stolen from our forebears.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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