Apartheid in South Africa was nothing short of a nightmare. A nightmare that was the life and reality of people of color in South Africa for over four decades, between 1948 and the early 1990s.
The Apartheid law in South Africa was a nomenclature to describe the racial reclassification and segregation that the country was thrown into, simply because the Europeans in their supremacist mindsets decided that it wasn’t enough to rip South Africans of their natural and economic resources, but to turn them into slaves and nonentities in their land.
People of colour in South Africa were in a cage, and if they made any moves outside the lines that had been drawn for them, they found themselves beaten up, arrested, and thrown into detention without any form of trial.
The figures from history show that at least Seventeen million people of were arrested simply because they were found in areas reserved for whites. People of colour couldn’t ride the same buses, attend the same schools as the whites, use the same restrooms, or even walk on the same side of the street.
As if such gross racial discrimination wasn’t enough, over 3 million people were dispossessed of the homes they had worked hard for many years to build. The whites took hold of these houses and Lorded over them like they had laid a single brick during the construction. And what became of the homeowners? They simply became homeless and had to look for somewhere else to stay; somewhere more fitting for a ‘Black Monkey’
History cannot forget that while there were nearly a million detentions without trial, nearly 40,000 South Africans were driven into foreign exile by their slave masters who hid behind the law to perpetrate gross inhumanity.
Do we talk about the numbers of families that were broken up and destroyed when the Europeans decided to institute racial reclassification, making it impossible for whites and blacks to co-exist and marry, and making children of black and white parents into confused and tortured children, and jailing people who dared to cross the lines and build relationships and families? If this weren’t enough, the blacks were subjected to inferior education standards, they couldn’t develop employment skills for respectable jobs, and even those that did couldn’t find any worthwhile employment.
Apartheid was hell on earth for South Africa, as some parts of the country, specifically the regions dominated by the whites continued to be developed, leaving the other areas to go back in time to a state of underdevelopment, despite the hard work of South African blacks.
But what continues to be shocking is how the white nationalist party woke up one day and decided to put an end to apartheid without as much as an apology or some sort of restitution for how much they have raped and ruined the country to satisfy their selfish desires to lord over others and reap where they did not so.
When then-President F. W. de Klerk started dismantling apartheid laws, his sole reason was that ‘the time for reconstruction and reconciliation had arrived.’ With no comment on the racist records he had set over the years, which several whites admitted to at the time.
Despite calls by many, including Rev. Beyers Naude, a Dutch Reformed minister for an apology by the National Party, especially because it had a semblance of a Christian perspective, the Europeans remained mum.
Yes, we know that an apology doesn’t always solve a problem or wipe off decades of terrible experiences, but that apology and a plea for forgiveness might have been the first step in restoring the relationship between blacks and whites in South Africa. However, Mr. de Klerk chose his pride and whatever misguided convictions he held onto, claiming that there was nothing to be sorry about. Isn’t it then shocking that he chose to apologize while on his deathbed?
When the Parliamentary debate following President de Klerk’s pledge on February 1st to repeal the last apartheid laws took place, the leader of the mixed-race Labor Party, Rev. Allen Hendrickse, also challenged the President to be “big enough” to apologize to everyone who was subjected to suffering under apartheid, but true to his inhumane and unsympathetic nature, he refused to utter even a single word of apology.
Like a two-faced and insolent coward, de Klerk granted an interview where he stated that his decision to undertake fundamental change came as a result of deep soul-searching in his National Party, following which they realized that separate development of racial groups could not succeed. However, he was adamant about rendering any form of apology, stating that it was unhelpful to apportion blame for the past because the solution to the nation’s problems lay in looking ahead.
But how do you expect the generations of people who suffered gross inhuman treatment from the white nationalist party to move on from their traumatic experiences simply because you believe that the solution lies ahead? As they say, a person’s history and past are building blocks on which his future stands. So how are South Africans supposed to move on when the National Party vehemently refused to accept its guilt for all the untold hardships and suffering? It is obvious that they only shelved apartheid because it had become unworkable, and they wanted to explore the colored people more, and of course, the only way to do this is to unite society again.
They refused to see the immorality, injustice, and exploitative character of apartheid. They were blind, deaf, and indifferent, but only by choice. Only because of the benefits they continued to accrue from their evil laws and policies.
There was no moral justification for apartheid. Even in a thousand years, there would be no excuse that could justify the allocation of privileges and rights based on physical characteristics. There is no justification for locking up thousands of South Africans in their land, just so you could claim ownership of their lands, houses, and wealth. There is no justification for thousands of deaths of people, young and old, because of a twisted, racist law that served only the Europeans and their interests.
However, only a few people, who were not even key players at the time deemed it fit to apologise for the oppression South Africans were subjected to. These apologies were quickly rejected by the majority of white leaders.
In retrospect, it has become clear that the white nationalist party resisted giving an apology because they were afraid that demands would be made for hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution, which they would have to pay if they accept their wrongdoing.
Rather than restitution, they chose to throw salt on an open wound by moving on like nothing happened, stealing and robbing the nation as they went.
Many years later, Europe is yet to apologise for the sham of a law that they forced on South Africans and the disaster that occurred as a result of that law. Even South Africa’s last white president, F.W. de Klerk, eventually apologized on his deathbed at the age of 85, admitting the crimes committed against people of colour. The apology video was posted after his death, which can be interpreted to mean de Klerk saw the apology as an afterthought, something that was inconsequential enough to have been addressed while he was hale and hearty.
What South Africa needs is not mere words of apology, spoken from lying lips that feel no iota of remorse for all the wrongs they have done. The country needs a sincere apology alongside compensation for all the suffering they faced at the hands of the Europeans.
No amount of money can make up for the nightmarish experience the South Africans were subjected to at the hands of the Europeans, but they must start somewhere if forgiveness is ever to be given and gotten.