Koketso Moeti
Koketso Moeti

When cruelty’s disguised as ‘civilisation’

As expected, the response to my previous post contained some of the usual commentary that taints any attempt at meaningful engagement on race relations in South Africa. From the usual allegations of white people currently being oppressed in South Africa, to how I am too young to comment on apartheid. Another usual assumption made is that calling out racism makes one a die-hard ANC supporter, who supports the current state of things, which coincidentally affects more black people than whites.

A comment that really disturbed me though was one that said Africans should be grateful to whites that they “no longer wearing animal skin” and that they are “civilised”. This comment really took me on an emotional roller-coaster. I went from being shocked at the sheer audacity, to feeling an overwhelming rage overtake me.

Has this person conveniently forgotten that as prescribed by the Bantu Land Act of 1913 and the Bantu Trust and Land Act of 1936, certain areas of the country were demarcated for black citizens? What this means is that, land was taken from people and those who were once able to feed themselves, their families and communities went straight to having nothing. You see, land is not ‘’just land’’ as many often insinuate. It is right at the centre of some of our most pressing problems today. Despite being an overwhelming 80% of the South African population, the land allocated for black occupation is believed to have been only 13% of the territory comprising the South African state. People were taken off land that had been in their families for generations and were taken from their homes. For some, it was the only home they had ever known.

Do you not remember the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? How for weeks we listened to stories of some of the most heinous acts committed by human beings. Detentions, murders, burnings, abductions, beatings, rape and the endless unspeakable tortures that had been carried out under apartheid. Have we already forgotten the haunted looks of parents and partners who wanted the bodies of their loved ones back and those who never got a chance to find out what happened to their children and loved ones?

Let me remind you that the: “Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded in its 1998 report that the use of torture and assault during interrogation was ‘widespread and systematic’, used by security police at all levels and parts of the country, and condoned by the government as an official practice (Coleman, 53 and TRC Report, Volume 2, 187, 220). Physical beatings were the most common form of torture, followed by suffocation, electric shock, forced postures or body positions, and sexual abuse. Police also deprived detainees of sleep, food and drink, kept them naked, exposed them to cold, and even dangled detainees from windows. Many people were held in solitary confinement. This kind of treatment caused shame and humiliation in addition to physical pain and, when the police went too far, death. (Coleman, 54-55) The TRC estimated that, between 1960 and 1990, 80 000 people were held in police custody under security legislation that allowed indefinite detention without trial and reported that seventy-three of those detainees died while in detention. (Coleman, 56-57 and TRC Report, Volume 2, 187) The police detained not only political leaders, but people from all sectors of society, including children.”

Apart from this, we cannot forget that the system tore apart whole families in many ways. Grown men, our fathers and uncles, could be stopped and made to dance like monkeys for the pleasure of the apartheid police. Can you imagine the consequences of undergoing such humiliation in front of one’s family? This is but only one of many ways it was done.

The apartheid system killed many, much more than those recorded. There are many ways to kill a human being, without doing it physically and the apartheid system mastered this.

That anyone considers this to be civilisation of any kind that deserves any form of gratitude just goes to prove that the road to the ”rainbow nation” is indeed still a long way off.

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