Apartheid Post Traumatic Disorder in Blacks Exists

2015-07-26 09:19

Bare-chested, in a worn out color navy shorts, bare-footed. It was a cool day or - cool for KwaZulu Natal Midlands weather patterns then. Mother asked I run to get her some item from the general dealer, kwa-Nambithani. I wont remember what the items were that I had to get for mother but they had something to do with her cooking, something tells me it was yeast cube or something else related. Mother hardly sent me to the store.

Nambithani was some 4 minutes boy’s dusty road run away from home. I do not recall exactly how old I was, either seven not eight years old, or younger, I could have been six.

Whatever it was I went to buy for mother, she had given me a coin, a big coin. I was allowed to get myself a treat. I liked all sorts of candy then, guduza balls or champion. I never liked chewing gum, father did not approve of it because we messed the house enough with it. I once slept with gum in my mouth and woke up with it out of my mouth but on my hair.

I was always a very clean child, cat like clean, and obsess constantly about my cleanliness. As bare-chested, bare-footed as I was that day, I was still cute and adorable, clean and smelling as fresh as the original hard block reddish Lifebuoy soap bath could afford.

I was a well nutritioned, clean afro hair cut, and adorable face.

That short run to the store turned into a day I will never forget, passive and helpless as my bladder went on autopilot streaming waste water down my thin legs as this white South African Police-man, cocked his long gun - pressing the barrel against my toe and asking me something repeatedly, I can not recall who or what he was asking, not only because of memory but I barely spoke English then. His fanakalo was also very bad.

No one intervened, the storeowner quickly rushed to lock his store up and dashed away as this white man was now shaking me holding me by my shoulders. The shake wasn’t violent but firm. My bladder was now empty of course and my chest was wet from tears that just rolled down uncontrollably. I do not recall making a noise. I do not recall whether I had already bought my mother’s items or not. I recall a not so old white policeman in uniform and his long gun that he cocked and pressed against my toe. I was scared, terrified, I was going to bleed and die in pain. I cannot recall which toe it was, left or right.

I froze up and thawed again, froze up and thawed again. Then the asthma attack came without notice. He was still shaking me saying things in a stern voice. He would shift back to fanakalo.

Other police were in a lookout and there was one black policeman in the group who appeared concerned but clearly unable to stop it, another white policeman was tending to the police dog.

Fast forward - at 15 years of age, this time both SAP and SADF decided they were bored maybe, it could be boring for them to camp in our yards 24/7. This day they started target practice shooting tear gas at my family house windows. This was a typical daily occurrence of brazen acts. Father was at home. First canister went in through the kitchen window, this did not cause my father too much concern and he knew how to deal with a tear gas canister, the second one came through his bedroom window and we thought it’s the normal violence so we proceeded to our hiding spots. The third one came through the kitchen window again and soon father had found out there was no trouble outside but just target practicing play.

Father decided to walk up to them and tell them there were kids in the house and he wouldn’t accept what they were doing. We watched as my father went to confront the group of cops who had several caspers parked alongside SADF armored vehicles. Neighbours were also alert because of gunfire and all were watching. I felt each angry step my father took towards them, I was amped and proud, told my sis, and father will fix them.

Instead he came back home bloodied, clothes ripped and he looked embarrassed and shamed in front of the neighbours and us. His trauma was palpable. There went the hero. Whites sjamboked him hard, he was bleeding and blue. He was beaten up in front of people, the neighbours who held him at some esteem; some people developed a joke about it.

With hindsight, we are lucky he was not arrested that day.

These stories are far from being unique; they do not even represent half of my brutal and bloodied events that occurred in other events with the police including being shot on my right lower leg.

Many families, young children, women and girls experienced similar and worse. Many carry the scars of direct experience or the breastfed experiences. The trauma that need not be directly experienced but generationally inherited.

South Africans suffer from severe post traumatic disorder (PTSD), in particular black South Africans. The emotional and mental state was left to ‘tigers don’t cry’.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a wonderful thing but it was not designed for all, not for each and every case and issue. Its timing came when most were intoxicated in ‘revolutionary’ celebration. That moment of psychological reprieve, adrenaline if you will, had overtaken most and we let things go just for a moment.

In his political report address to the ANC, on 16 December 1997 in Mafikeng, Mandela mentioned eight principal things the ANC had to ponder over towards the 20th century, the fourth item on his list, he said...

"…Fourth - that process of reconstruction and development will also have to encompass the spiritual life of the nation, bearing on the moral renewal of individuals and institutions, as well as the ideas and practice of a new patriotism."...

Through this the Moral Regeneration Commission was set up and it is doing good work. Is it enough?

What of the post trauma of apartheid experiences, the brutality, the blood and mayhem? We deal with it. We drive expensive cars or get unaffordable credit for the biggest refrigerator in the street. We wear crocodile leather shoes and have no milk in the fridge. We dress up. Cover it up. We fight each other instead too. We have crime, violent crime over cellphones. We hate neighbours. We have chaotic public assemblies, violent protests. We burn down our own clinics and stop our own children from going to school so we can get attention, a town councilor we kill in the name of civil services not received.

It is in the numbers of murders, first it was the white farmers, then the rich no matter what color, we bury our SAPS personnel daily, now the teens who carry pangas, stones or sticks. Youth is deflated and not motivated. They want the state to give things.

We murder in comparison to war zones. This is not about civil services. It’s been here. Always has.

The Law of Action and Reaction comes into play. Thought is incipient action. The reaction is the response from the trauma of apartheid that was left unattended to.

As we sow in our minds, we reap in our environment. What we are reaping from apartheid are deadly streets.

Our conditions flow from the cause; the only response we know to issues is violence.

It will never make sense that a people only a few decades back had no running water, no toilets, no paved roads, no schools, no electricity, no hospitals, no houses, no jobs, no prospects for social progress, nothing – today they kill and burn down property just cause they can’t wait for same no more or they feel robbed.

The prevalence of disease amongst blacks comes from personal neglect due to the trauma of decades of open brutality, violence and mayhem. The South African government instilled violence as a solution for social ills and there will never be a ‘Madiba Magic’ to fix it.

South Africans, Blacks in particular have PTSD over apartheid and the millennia’s have received it from their parents and if not fixed, millennia’s children, their children’s children will inherit the same social degeneration due to Apartheid PTSD. Blacks are wounded but Whites too.

Community Health Centers must be equipped with dealing directly with this issue. It is a socio-economic issue, it is about whether the country will attain its NDP goals or not. It is an investment that must be made and made urgently and aggressively.

I suffer from APTSD and I still need help.

Bongani Mbindwane on twitter @mbindwane, lets talk with hashtag #APTSD (apartheid post traumatic disorder)

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