The ugly truth

2010-09-10 08:19

Farrah Francis travels back in time courtesy of the Codesa Walk and discovers new facts about South Africa and its painful past.

Anger. That’s what I felt. The kind that subsides inside like a cold wave because there is no place to direct it.

Then came shock.

The history books in primary school had left out so much.

And despite growing up in a post-apartheid regime, there were no mechanisms in place to correct our miseducation.

So, an entire generation of people my age are still walking around believing a perceived sense of history, instead of the truth. This is worrying.

I did not know that the first inhabitants of the country were the San and the KhoeKhoe and not one tribe as I was taught in school, known as the Khoisan.

In addition, we were never taught about the diseases brought by Europeans, which killed off thousands of the original inhabitants of the country.

The Europeans were always portrayed as new and shiny, all-knowing and the locals as underevolved nobodies who didn’t know any better.

In addition, the history books failed to mention that by 1857 some 20?000 Xhosas had died from these diseases while a further 30?000 had been driven to starvation.

The facts were like a smack in the face.

I was adrift in a sea of mixed emotions after taking the Codesa Walk at Emperors Palace in Ekurhuleni.

The Codesa Walk is like walking through a giant storybook telling our country’s history from the time of the San and the KhoeKhoe, through to the white settlers.

Details about the rise of the ANC until April 27 1994, when millions of South Africans gathered to cast their first democratic vote, are also there.

To sum up the country’s history in one sentence is a shame but Codesa Walk at the casino certainly extends much further and is much more indepth.

The walkway comprises boards with striking imagery, facts and speeches.

The boards work like gigantic pages from a book.

My anger stems from what the apartheid regime got away with.

Laws such as the Group Areas Acts, Bantu Authorities Act, Public Safety Act and the Terrorism Act.

The Group Areas Act saw three million blacks displaced.

I was overcome with emotion as I thought about what I would do and feel if someone displaced me from my cosy home.

Among the pictures were those of people who were put into ­“hostels” because they were not allowed to live in the suburbs.

Adults were treated like kids at a “hostel” camp.

The anger also came from speeches made by former prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, in which he said that there was a “psychotic preoccupation sweeping through the world where black people thought they are entitled to rights and liberations”.

People actually said that and got away with it?

The ANC and other political parties rallied.

People had had enough and were bringing the country to its knees fighting for their rights. This evoked pride and hope.

The Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) talks – held at the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park, were the beginning of the end as former president FW de Klerk declared “enough is enough”.

Although brief, Codesa Walk has the ability to evoke emotions such as surprise, anger, shock, but hope and pride too.

And finally uncertainty.

As crime and corruption run rampant through South Africa, what will future storyboards look like?

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