And I am not bitter and twisted. No chip or plank on my shoulder! In fact I look back and laugh at the stupidity of Apartheid and its finicky laws that were a part of that era. There were sad emotional moments but enough has been said about that. Blacks bore the brunt of a law that was inhumane and sad.
But, what could be funnier than a policeman sitting up in a tree, watching to see if sex over the colour line was happening – but, he is peeping into the wrong window AND he falls out of the tree and the black and white couple he was supposed to be watching – help him up and make sure he is alright!!!
It was’nt so bad in primary school, Compulsory education for Coloureds and Indians was created to keep us from having too much freedom. The Nationalists saw to it that dentists and doctors call around once a week to check on us kids. It was not all free! The Health Department had nurses on standby for Lice or to teach us hygiene and make sure girls were provided with sanitary pads.
Also to make sure kids were not abused by parents or guardians. I got my love of cooking through Apartheid. All schools were compelled to have Cooking and sewing classes for girls and woodwork and Arts and crafts for boys. If your school did not have such classes then busses were provided for kids to be bussed to schools – usually Coloured schools that had facilities. But black schools continued to suffer the injustices of “Bantu Education”.
They had no compulsory education like we did – But we admired those that rose above the insults and degredation! We met kids who had parents that beat the odds – Strong believers in freedom.
My mother decided public school was not for me so I was sent to the Congress school. This was a school that had political connections. My English teacher was Dennis Brutus, who became a radical political activist. He campaigned vigorously to end Apartheid. My biggest shock? Was finding I had Black teachers – Mr Phuteni for Math, Mr Kabani for Science , Mrs Barnes was English and she taught History! The school was held at the Minaar Street Mosque in Newtown.
Schooling was interrupted on a daily basis. Security police would come in, throw our books into boxes and arrest teachers. The girls were in charge of sitting on any subversive material. The books were hard and our thighs would be red from the books digging into it! Every girls nightmare was having one of the big Boers lifting up your skirt to see if you were hiding anything! Its amazing that we had time to be taught!
College was better – as young adults we were more equipped to deal with Apartheid. Mixing with our Black student friends was amazing. We were learning so much. Dating was hard – eating out and going to the cinema tested our intelligent minds! Whites could watch all movies that came into the country – it was then censored and cut to ribbons before it came to our “Non-White” cinemas! No kissing between Black and Whites, of course, no sex either.
Black men were not supposed to beat whites in fights, whites had be dominant even in crap movies! Movies were so badly censored that even the stories made no sense – so we read the books that movies were based on to understand the movies. And ended up loving to read!
If there was a Noble prize for what Mikes Kitchen did then they deserve it. It was the only place we could go to enjoy a nice dinner date. Mikes Kitchen in Auckland Park applied for International Status – this meant that we, South Africans could go in and eat without police closing down the establishment or arresting the patrons!
There was the Carlton Hotel of course, but at prices we could barely afford. Being young and naïve was no excuse to sit with whites in a white establishment! But we did – we schemed and tried to beat the Apartheid monster at every turn – we were like little terrorists! But there were times when we had to run with plates in our hands - with Boere behind us! The only time we would drop our food was to throw it at them to get away!
The Immorality Act was an ugly sordid act. How can you stop two people from falling in love because they were of a different race? The Nationalists were no better than the Nazis who believed the world should be run by the Aryan race – white blonde and blue eyed! It was ok for Coloureds, Indians and Blacks to mingle – but not so the superior white race. Police were given carte blanche to do with the Act breakers as they wished! But we continued to laugh in the face of danger – I would be telling if I mentioned who of us were caught together. That’s my secret!
Throughout our light hearted romps there was the very serious side – like not sitting on the “Whites only” seats at parks. We were allowed to walk through these parks but not sit. The “No dogs or Non-whites” signs at the Zoo. International sport was hard to bear – Black people love sport! That’s when a silent decision was made. We would support all countries playing against South Africa.
One of the best days of my young life was the day the British Lions played the Springboks – we converged on Zoo Lake in our hundreds to listen to the commentators on SABC radio – We screamed in delight every time the Lions scored – we laughed and went crazy as the Boere stood by and watched us. Until they told us to pack up or it will be declared an illegal gathering! Spoilsports!
The greatest game of Russian Roulette we ever played was “Beat the Boer”. We integrated with each other, we would sneak into each other’s suburbs with glee. We would have parties and hide our whitey friends when we knew police were coming around. We had “Hells Angels” visit us! The intelligentsia of the young crowd. Rich young men, mostly from Wits who were against Conscription.
Handsome jocks who made our knees wobble! Lenasia was also the home of the Lenz Army Camp – could those guys party! There were lots of Eurasian babies running around after the raucous party nights! The same young Afrikaans guys who were forced to uphold separate development were having a jolly good time with Black girls. When and if we were caught was a different story – the Boere would haul us off in their vans.
No “one single phone call” was allowed. They would throw us into cells and hit us with canes and sjamboks! Parents would go mad. Many threats of sending us away fell on deaf ears. We continued fraternizing with the enemy – our white friends – whose parents had their heads in the sand insisting they knew nothing about Apartheid and of what was going on!
I will not forget. June 16th reared its head at the time I ended my studies. My brother carried on where we left off – only this time it was more dangerous – the danger of being shot for what he believed in.
But today I am free – and I don’t have a chip or plank on my shoulder! I really don’t! There are those that suffered more at the hands of the Nationalists. That will always remain with us - we cannot wash away their pain - but I hope that with time we all learn to forgive....