Many years ago I heard this phrase for the first time. ‘Good neighbourliness’. The speaker was the erstwhile president of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Pieter Willem Botha, also known as the ‘Groot Krokodil’
He was talking about the Apartheid. He was saying how people really want to blame everything on Apartheid, but they don’t really understand the word. The people he was referring to are Non-Afrikaans speakers, or differently stated, those who do not speak and therefore do not understand the finer nuances of the language. But let’s be even more specific: the people that PW was referring to were Black South Africans. We see even in our day, that politicians have developed a habit of acting in a corrupt manner or fail in their duties to serve the needs of the people and then say: ‘It’s because of Apartheid’
Let me clarify what I mean. It is beyond doubt that Apartheid benefited the few and crushed the masses economically, socially and otherwise. It is a fact beyond dispute. It gave a minority an unassailable lead that will take centuries to correct. My personal take on the matter is that it will never be corrected. We will never achieve the perfect society, no matter what system or ideology we subscribe. That said, we cannot take the view that as we will never achieve equality, that inequality should be tolerated. Of course not! We should always strive to be fair.
For about a week or two I was quite impressed with PW Botha’s articulation of how he sees Apartheid. I did not agree with him of course, but felt that he had formulated his flawed argument quite well. I then discovered that he was a copycat. He was in fact repeating the exact words of a man whom many regarded as the architect of Apartheid, Dr Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd. In explaining the concept of separate development, Verwoerd argued that Apartheid is really ‘good neighbourliness’ or conscientiousness. Or politeness if you like. You guys there and we will be here, then everything is neat and tidy and we co-exist in peace and harmony. This is what the naïve Dr Verwoerd wanted the world to think is what he means. Of course what he had in mind was more manageable structure to manage the population and allocate resources. For example: when it comes to education he would allocate as follows: [W] R1211 per child [I] R 771 per child [C] R 498 per child and [B] R 146. Clearly planners were thinking hierarchically and effectively trained those of the lower end as manual workers and those on the higher end as those in charge. You need not be a rocket scientist to understand this.
In fact then Minister of Native Affairs (Dr Verwoerd) once uttered these words: ‘There is no place for the Blacks (he used another word) in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. What is the use of teaching of the B-child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice. That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.’
Also if one considers legislation like the Immorality Act then it becomes abundantly clear that what the leaders of the day had in mind was anything but ‘good neighbourliness.’ In accordance with the Immorality Act it was considered immoral to fall in love with someone of another race. Their key target area was sexual relations between the races. In reality they were more concerned about preserving what they regarded as a superior race. And as we know the attraction of the forbidden fruit meant that many violated the law but was able to cover it up effectively. They would commit the so-called immoral act and then simply distance themselves from the consequences of these acts. These ‘consequences’ were often children. There were no laws against European adultery so one can deduce that it was definitely not regarded ‘immoral’; I suppose they would have explained it away as ‘we all make mistakes sometimes and deserve a second chance.’
Good neighbourliness has its origins as you would have guessed, in the Bible. It comes from the parable that Messiah told about how one should act towards your neighbour. The word ‘neighbour’ is not ‘the one living next door to you’ but it becomes clear that the translated word ‘neighbour’ really means ‘the one in need that crosses your path.’ It is quite interesting that the Samaritan in the parable was the guy who acted in accordance with Torah. By naming the good guy a Samaritan to a Jewish audience, it became offensive to them. Messiah was not making a racial statement but rather to say that the guy whom they would not expect it from, acted in the right manner. In the parable the Samaritan is contrasted against the Levite and kohen (priest). Both the Levite and kohen had theological reasons why they could not assist the man who through no fault of his own was attacked by evil man.
So to call Apartheid ‘good neighbourliness’ is the work of malicious imposters. Proper and good neighbourliness is to act like the Samaritan did. He really took care of that Jewish man in need.