In the Shadow and Shade of Apartheid in South Africa: Post-Liberation Impact on the Rainbow Nation

AFRICA, 3 May 2021

Prof. Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

A Transformative Scenario of the Bad, Ugly and Good

28 Apr 2021 – South Africa has annually celebrated “The Freedom Day[1]” on 27th April since 1994, when the oppressive regime of the Whites only Nationalist Party[2] which was in power since 1948, finally gave way to a democratically elected, first Black president of South Africa.  This was the day, 27 years ago when the majority, indigenous population of South Africa, the Africans, together with the white, Indian, so called Coloured[3] and designated “others” as per the racial classification[4] of the people of the “Rainbow Nation”[5] were able to vote for the first time in a national election.

Under the Presidency of Madiba, as he was lovingly called, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela[6] leading the African National Congress Party[7], the official liberation protagonist, brought about a peaceful, bloodless political transformation of power from the minority White group to the disenfranchised masses in South Africa.

This was a momentous step for any country on the African continent which experiences civil war between different sectors of the population, based on race and ethnicity, in fact President F.W. de Klerk[8], the former White president of South Africa together wit President Mandela were recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize[9] for 1993, noting the peaceful transformation.  However, the outcomes and impact upon the citizens was both negative as well as positive when the history of the communities are examined over the past 27 years, post freedom.

Let us examine the official legislated policy of apartheid in South Africa.  Apartheid was promulgated into legislation by the white government of South Africa in 1948 after gaining independence from Britain[10] as a colony which they occupied, exploited and abused since 1881, after the arrival of white man in 1652, Jan van Riebeeck[11] setting himself up as a governor in the Cape of Good Hope, as a Dutch colony.

The Dutch were later invaded by the British who ousted the people of Dutch origins and ruled South Africa thereafter. While apartheid is attributed to the Afrikaner, Nationalist government, it must be noted that while these individuals of Dutch origins might have refined and perfected the philosophy, it was the British who sowed the seeds of apartheid, which actually means “separate but equal” facilities for different racial groups in South Africa in 1950.

The British had used apartheid in all its occupied colonies from Africa, to India and the far East.  This is aptly demonstrated by the different signposts which were found on the beaches reserved for whites in South Africa, stating “Blacks and Dogs not allowed.  Street benches at bus stops and in public places were designated “Whites only.” Buses and public transport were separated; restaurant, cinemas and exhibitions were separated, as well as hotels, residential areas and even places of worship, and there was an act in the legislature which declared mixed race marriages as illegal by the “immorality Act, which prevented from loving couples of different races to be married.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a special police force used to go around hotels arresting couples of mixed racism cohabiting, on whom terms in jails was the sentence for these amorous inter-racial transgressions.  The British also had similar signposts outside certain buildings and parks in India which said, “Coolies not Allowed” in exclusive clubs and public places at the time. Similarly, in Peking the British propagated apartheid[12] by prominent signposting, preventing the locals from attending various clubs and public places reserved exclusively for the whites from the Empire and its allies, to the detriment of the local, indigenous people.

Therefore, while apartheid was separate as envisaged, resulting in forced removals of people of colour from their homes which they occupied for centuries because of violations of the “Group Areas Act[13], which declared separate residential townships for different races, the housing and the townships the residents of colours were forcibly relocated to were by no means equal.  In fact, these new, designated separate racial townships were far removed from the City and CBD. These townships such as Soweto for the Blacks and Chatsworth for the Indian while Dorado Park for the Coloured became sprawling hubs of poverty, criminal gangs as in Mitchell’s Plains in Cape Town where crime is rampant.

These areas were far from being equal.  People of colour were also prevented by laws to own businesses in CBD and whatever retail outlets they had were expropriated, as their land, from people of colour in South Africa.  The access and exit roads to these designated racial townships were narrow, with a common, single roadway, so that these could be easily blocked by the security forces to control the entry and egress of people of color in the event of the slightest evidence of fermenting rebellion from people of colour, who are in the majority.

Furthermore, the freeway exit ramps from the freeway into the city were designed in such a manner as to carefully direct incoming traffic into the white owned businesses in South Africa, to further empower the whites economically, to the deprivation of financial gain for people of colour.   At the height of apartheid in South Africa the Black Africans were obliged to carry on them a “Dompass”[14]an identity card at all times and if individuals were found with their identity cared, they were arrested and put into jail, without any trial. IN this environment, the number of Blacks who were subjected to capital punishment was disproportionately higher compared to any other designated racial groups.

Even basic entertainment facilities such as circus and funfair parks were separate.  For national exhibitions, certain days were designated for people of colour to attend.  Hollywood movies were released in “Non-white: cinemas often months after their release in white cinemas.  The schooling was also discriminated, with white children given free schoolbooks and nothing for the Blacks, in public schools.  Similarly, higher education centres, including medical schools were separate and by law it was illegal for white patients to be attended by medical doctors of colour.  Even the ambulances were different for Blacks and Whites. Often Black patients demised while waiting for a “Black Ambulance” to arrive at the scene of an accident. Hospitals were segregated with certain; hospitals with superior facilities were reserved for Whites only.

Under such appalling, discriminative and Draconian conditions, generations of South Africans of colour survived and progressed educationally, economically, culturally and religiously, for freedom of religion was never curtailed although places of worship were segregated for whites and non-whites as classified collectively, with Blacks, Indians and Coloureds being included in this general racial group. People of Oriental origins including Chinese were classified as honorary whites[15], by law.  The situation was such that entrances to Post Offices, banks, pension offices were also separate for Blacks and the privileged.  “Job Reservation”[16] was operative with nationals of colour could only engaged in teaching, law and medicine.  Whites could make a career in almost anything including, engineering, aeronautics, shipping, pilot planes, trains and public transport.

Such was the shadow of apartheid, in which the oppressed people lived.  Under such circumstances of separate development, racial purity was maintained for each of the racial and ethnic groups.  The cultural identity was maintained.  Each group had a superb opportunity to propagate their respective languages, traditions and extended family systems, whereby the senior family patriarch nurtured the children by educating then on moral standing, values and respect across all independently living racial groups.

Therefore, the people of colour while living under apartheid laws, paradoxically and ironically developed their individual identities in the “shade of Apartheid” and made a success of their lives, over three generations, before apartheid was officially beginning to be dismantled in 1989, in South Africa.[17]

Let us now review the post-apartheid situation in South Africa. Essentially, on paper everyone is “free” and can access most things, previously reserved for whites only in the new South Africa, on the face value, but if one examines the operational ethos at grass roots levels, various official and unofficial forms of apartheid have subsequently emerged in the past 27 years.  There is now an official government Act called Affirmative Action.[18]  This gives priority to Black Africans when it comes to employment opportunities whereby, there is a listed priority for Black females, Black Males then the others are appointed, irrespective of their qualifications, experience and merit.

The selection for any position, including university selection for professional programmes in higher education, are not selected on merit, but on the colour of the skin.  The rationale for this is to empower the Blacks, because they were previously disadvantaged and are still so 27yers after acquiring freedom. There are quota systems for admissions at institutes of higher education based on population demographics.

Another post-apartheid legislature is Black Economic Empowerment (BEE)[19] This refers to a post-apartheid policy aimed at opening up opportunities for South Africa’s black population. It imposes quotas to ensure black South Africans are appropriately represented in both the public and private sector. The intention, of course, being to rectify the damage caused by apartheid. Instead however, it has caused a genuine increase in poverty among South Africa’s white and Indian population, and since President Cyril Ramaphosa [20]came to power, the situation has only got worse, with a very distinct hierarchy having emerged.  The policy has also increased corruption.

Post-apartheid, the cultural values and traditions, as well as languages are lost forever.  Certain languages, both in the African and Indian communities, as well as white communities, are also running the danger of extinction, such as the South Indian, Telegu language[21], where due to breakdown of the extended family systems, coupled with a shortage of suitably qualified teachers, have left nobody to teach the language.  Post-apartheid, inter racial matrimony is freely engaged in.  The vast cultural differences between the marrying couple, in most cases, results in disharmonious relationship between mixed race couples, often leading to Gender Baaed Violence, culminating in murder and femicide.

Masses are converting to different religions, from their parent religion, with often congregants of Shuls, certain Christians churches, Temples and Mosques are forced to deconsecrate and closed, or repurposed into business and economically profitable buildings.  Furthermore, corruption at the highest levels of government, as demonstrated by the “State Capture Enquiry”[22] in South has revealed the extent of rampant dishonesty.  This is also reflected in large scale corruption in law enforcement organisation, legal and accounting firms such as the internationally renowned PWC[23].

Private enterprise by highly paid, civil servants and corruption is also rampant in the legal sector and justice department, where crime files are simply gone missing, or witnesses are executed by a bullet in the hear at drive by shootings, resulting in the cancellation of the case in the non-presentation of witnesses at court proceedings.  Crime and loss of personal security has become the order of the day in all racial groups with violent armed robberies, with shoot outs between well equipped, physically fit gangs and slow reacting, poorly trained, often obese police, in large malls, which are brazenly attacked by crime syndicates, often in collusion with the police.  Cash withdrawal ATMs are dynamited by criminals, as well, with hijacking of secure bank vehicles on major national roads. Bank staffs inform their colleagues if a client withdraws cash and leaves the bank.  The criminals then follow the vehicles, either to rob them, or hijack the vehicle in toto.

Medical litigation[24] has increased fourfold because of lowered admission criteria and assessment standards, in the undergraduate as well as the post graduate curricula at South African medical schools. While statistics show to the contrary, the reality on the ground is often denied by the regulatory authorities.

Home invasion, kidnapping for ransom, homicide and “farm murders” of white farmers, is a regular occurrence and the police are still investigating, many months later.  This will impact on food security, in due course.  Recently, a group of young ladies were attacked at a holiday resort[25], robbed, and were viciously inflicted with serious facial injuries by a gang of armed criminals.  The resort staff then rapidly cleaned the crime scene and the police arrived three hours later to take a single statement.

Such are the sad stories of post-apartheid South Africa, which is now experiencing “reverse apartheid”[26] with minorities at the receiving end.

While political freedom was peacefully achieved, with the transformation to a predominantly Black government, the questions which need to be raised are; have South Africans achieved freedom from poverty, freedom from xenophobia, freedom from inequality, freedom from illiteracy, freedom from crime, freedom from Gender Based Violence, freedom from child abuse, freedom from corruption, freedom from communicable[27] and non-communicable lifestyle diseases[28], such as epidemic of HIV Aids and Coronary Artery Disease, respectively, which has incidentally increased together with morbid obesity in adults and infants of people of African Origin,[29] where thirty years ago, there was none. And freedom from environmental pollution?  Furthermore, most of the Blacks are still in burdened in poverty, unemployment, poor health, illiteracy, lack of service delivery of basic municipal amenities, while the few elite are enjoying the benefits of the political transformation, in South Africa.

Recent events in the country have shown a sharp divide within the ruling party, with a possible civil war, which is the usual, recurrent theme of the sad odyssey of Africa over the years, post liberation.

The bottom line is that the answer is an unequivocal NO, as illustrated in the attached graphic of the statue of Madiba, on Naval Hill, in Bloemfontein[30], South Africa, taken and digitized by the author.

































Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits)

  • Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.
  • Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
  • Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
  • Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
  • Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
  • Activism: Justice for All
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 May 2021.

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