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Stream of Gold
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Apartheid, the Army and me

04 February 2013, 10:00
I am a 47 year old South African Male and have decided to tell you about Apartheid as I remember it. I was born in 1965 to parents that were due to divorce only 5 years later. My father was a deadbeat who disappeared. I lived in many different towns in my youth, from Nelspruit in the East to the South Coast in the South and Windhoek to the North. My Mother tells me we lived in 29 towns and that is not counting the houses in my first 5 years of life.

I played with black kids growing up on the farm and plots we lived on. I lived in a family that were not at all political so my childhood was a time of being blissfully unaware of what was happening in my country. I went to school and never questioned why there were no black kids in the school, It was just the way it was. Just to cover all the advantaged stuff, we were poor and lived in a one bedroom flat with my mother until I was well into my teens. I shared a 3/4 bed with two brothers in the dining room.

I never finished high school because shock horror it was not free, nor were school uniforms. I recall dodging school inspections because my hair was too long, my shoes were takkies not authorised uniform. We couldn't afford for me to finish school despite my 75% average until standard 7. I went and did an apprenticeship at 16, If you think my story is different to most whites you'd be wrong. My friend Piet and our mate Lionel and a multitude of other kids went into the trades along with their brothers and sisters because school was unaffordable for those living in plavces like DeKlerkshof, Triomf and Klopper Park.

Nothing was given to us for free. At 16 I was invited to join the SADF. I use invited light heartedly, it was either that or a jail sentence. I got on a train at Park Station to Kimberley in January of 1983. I then found out about the communist hordes and the blacks that wanted to destroy our future. In May I got sent to 32 Bn in Rundu and spent 19 months defending my country.

At the end of 1984 I was sent back to civvy street, The world was a strange place, I no longer fit in with everything, The music had passed me by, The kids were all wearing stovepipes and tucked in sweaters, I thought they looked gay, back then being a bigot was still considered a right.

I left home again and went to Cape Town where I started working and supporting myself.  I spent most of my wages at the pub, but I was working alongside a coloured bloke and I offered to buy him a beer. I was shocked when he told me this could never happen as we could not frequent the same bar. At the age of 19 I became aware of Apartheid. I suddenly became politically aware and started asking questions.

I became good friends with Eleanor and Amien and was forced to arrive on the flats after dark to have a meal with them. This is when I realised that I had been lied to by my government, I was in no danger back then from the black hordes, the coloured folk were my friends.

In 1991 I campaigned for a yes vote. This vote split families, brothers turned on one another calling each other the most horrific names. Some of those splits lasted many years. The yes campaign won and we were on our way to the elections in 1994. I happily voted for Nelson Mandela and was never sorry I did.

In 98 I was Hijacked and left for greener grass. I lasted 4 and a half years in the buiteland, but I was and never will be a European, I missed the sounds, the smells and the people of my birthland and came home to Mbekis South Africa where garlic and beetroot were being touted as a cure all. Suddenly I was too white for my own country, AA, BEE, BBBEEEE BBBBBBEEEEEEE and so forth were being touted. I was suddenly fully aware of Apartheid again.

Apartheid has never left this country and I fear it never will. It has merely changed management. Asked if I would do military service again, I would offer a resounding no, not because it wasn't fun, not because it was something I was not proud of doing, but because I now know there are no winners in  a war, only survivors. The Afrikaner Volk were still pissed off about the Boer war a hundred years later,  The Irish are still fighting about some insult in 1560.

Humans are by nature not very intelligent. I have heard cries for a civil war by some that are too young too remember. War is not glorious, it is muddy, dirty and bloody. It takes the lives of those in the prime of their lives. Have you ever  noticed that the politicians that pick the fight are not the ones sleeping in bivvies, carrying weapons and dying. It is very rare that their children and grand children are in the front lines.

The generals sending the children to die always eat the best, and are never in sight of the enemy because they are considered to be too valuable. If there is a war, I will send my family to safety and probably join them, not because I am a coward. I know there are no causes worth dying for only causes worth living for.

The day we understand that we are all destined to live under the same sun, moon and stars and stop killing each other, that is the day Humanity can be said to exist.

My grandmother always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, just keep your trap shut" and "If someone is angering you, stop count to ten and then decide what you want to say." When I was a kid we used to chant "stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Today we know this is tripe, words are the worst of all weapons, they destroy trust, the destroy faith, they destroy humanity. Remember every human is an individual, and very individual can be judged, You cannot judge an entire nation, race, tribe or even family by the actions of one individual.

Even in Nazi Germany there were Germans that went against the flow and hid the persecuted, In Apartheid South Africa their were White people that stood up to the government of the day, and today there are people from all the tribes of South africa standing up against the unjustness of the current regime.  Have faith in your fellow humans, and most of all join them in preventing the troubles that can be our future.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."
Martin Niemoller  
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