Pass book is back

2016-07-05 08:27

By Rabelani Dagada

DURING the May 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa, I had to retreat to Rustenburg because of fear of being attacked. A lot of Vhavenda and Shangaans, who are actually South Africans, are regarded as "Makwerekwere" a derogatory term which black African foreigners are called by some people in South Africa, and thus they (Vhavenda and Shangaans) too suffered from the xenophobic attacks.

Even today, I cannot walk Joburg’s inner city streets without my identity book because otherwise I will be arrested due to my very dark complexion. I have never gone to the inner city and left without being asked for my passport.

Strangely, it is only black African policemen who treat me like this. I initially used to make the mistake of responding in English and this would make the police even more determined to arrest me. I then started to speak in IsiZulu; gosh, my IsiZulu is very bad and my accent would sound Zimbabwean. Nowadays, I walk in the inner city of my liberated country with a very advanced constitution with my identity book and I stick to Tshivenda language when police harass me.

My friends encourage me to walk without my identity book. These educated friends go further and tell me that if I get arrested for not having my identity book I should sue the minister of police: "Rabs, no ways, these guys can’t treat you like this. There can’t be dompas (identity book) that you are required to carry like during the apartheid era merely because of your dark complexion. Don’t SAPS (South African Police Services) know that this is what Sisulu, Mandela and Bram Fischer fought for?"

I don’t answer, I just shake my head. You see, they don’t understand. By the time I successfully sue the minister of police, I would have been taken to the Lindela Refugee Repatriation camp, possibly get raped, and be deported to Zimbabwe or Mozambique. I would have to spend some three years going to court and paid half a million rand to lawyers.

Where do I get such a lot of money? I am just a university professor, and not the then general secretary of National Union of Mineworkers, Frans Baleni, who reportedly once described his exorbitant union pay as a market related salary.

Another version of this opinion piece was published by the Business Day.

Dagada is a South African academic, analyst, and consultant. He is on Twitter: @Rabelani_Dagada

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