Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

The one about Mandela…

As I am sure with most South Africans, today is a day when we all reflect on the past, on how far we’ve come as a country and we can’t help but honour and respect a great man on his birthday, regardless of what your political views are. Please humour me for a moment as I turn all motherly on you. When I became a mother, I became an emotional basket case, I cry for everything, I feel emotional pain for people who are suffering and my heart has genuinely softened – I don’t know that this is a good thing, but since becoming a mother, I really feel like my heart has been physically taken out of my chest and sewn onto my sleeve. This is not a rare phenomenon, most moms I speak to will tell you the same thing; you instinctively become more caring, more loving, more sympathetic and empathetic and I believe that God made us this way so that we wouldn’t kill our offspring in the middle of the night when they are crying for the 4th consecutive hour. ANYWAY, I digress.

I grew up in a Coloured family, in a Coloured community, I attended a Coloured primary school and went to church which was filled with mainly Coloured people. I can’t say that Apartheid directly affected me at all, my memory holds no recollection of having been hard done by, or having suffered because of the colour of my skin. But as I grew up, and listened to stories from the past, and MORE so when I became a mother – the stories told by my father and his father, began to resonate with me, I became painfully aware of how horrendous Apartheid was. That people were tortured, brutalized and killed because of the way they looked, is so inhumane and so unfair. That we were forced to go to certain schools, or swim in certain beaches or shop at certain places, blows my mind away. That a man would go to prison for 27 years and come out smiling and become the first Black democratic president of South Africa, is unfathomable. That we have come so far as a nation who has endured so much, is a miracle.

My dad would attend underground meetings, one of the incidents that still brings on the goosebumps, is when they decided to stand up to the authorities and march to the beaches and throw themselves into the water of what was the so called “White” beach. My dad says that as they approached the water, a massive swarm of policemen with batons came forward to attack and as one body the group continued to run towards the water and in an act of unified defiance and standing up for something they truly believed in, dunked themselves into the water. Can you imagine! Another incident which in hindsight is darkly humourous; my grandfather was admitted to hospital, but being fair in complexion he was admitted to the White ward. When my grandmother had learned of his admission she visited the hospital and could not find her husband anywhere because she was only permitted into the Coloured ward. When the mishap was cleared up, I am sure they burned those sheets which my grandfather had laid on! Ha!

Out of my three siblings, I was the only one to attend what was then referred to as a Model C high school, I didn’t give this much thought until my Dad explained that I was the only child that was politically ALLOWED to, as my brothers and sisters were still “Apartheid” kids – well kind of – and during their years of education, we were forced to attend a “House of Representatives” school (for Coloured people), and Indians attended “House of Delegates” schools. I clearly remember those grey or pale green rulers which were actually printed with the words “House of Representatives” which formed part of a stationery in primary school! I also remember referring to the beaches by race group… coloured beach… I think this is now Sunkist beach – which still is one of the nicest beaches to swim in, in Durban! I have cousins who are considered White, because they looked white and passed the pencil test, and were so classified in their ID books. Same family, same blood line, but they are White because they looked white at the time. They married White people and a whole new shoot of the family was created. Amazing when you think about it!

I was a child protected by my parents and family, prior to 1994, so I can’t say that I formed part of any struggle. As a teenager and young adult, yes I noticed that we were not all equal, but I can’t say that I have been severely affected by a racist crime. Even now, I have good friends across race, religious and cultural lines. But as an adult and a parent, I realize the struggle, I realize the sacrifices that were made by our leaders and by our own parents to get to where we are. I realize that Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom was anything but a “walk” – it was an arduous and onerous journey, one he did not have to take, filled with much pain and grief all because his human heart was so convicted that we all deserved to live a fair and free life.

And for this, I am proud to be a South African. Happy birthday Mr Mandela.

The Wonder Years

On sound advice from a good friend, I’ve decided to chronicle important events of our times, in a bid to give my grown children a feel for the economic, political and socio climate they were born into, and grew up in. Personally, I was born at an amazing time in history – I was alive at a time when the world was rocked by events which changed humanity forever.

I have lived through euphoric moments, with the release and election of our first Black president, Mr Nelson Mandela; the end of Apartheid put South Africa at the forefront of the global arena. South Africa took centre stage again in this decade, showcasing probably the world’s most cataclysmic pandemic – AIDS. Yes it was a worldwide problem, but the South African statistics shocked the world. On a positive note, the Soccer World Cup came home, and it was one of the proudest moments to be a South African. Terrorism reached new heights with the 9/11 attacks on America, as the world continued to wrestle over oil – how would I explain that to my children? America swore in their first Black president. We witnessed firsthand the highs and lows of influential people whose names will forever be ingrained in the sands of time: Mother Theresa, Bill Clinton, Osama Bin Laden, Robert Mugabe, Oprah Winfrey and many more. We’ve lived through other people’s lives, as reality TV overtook the airwaves.  Social networking opened up a whole new world called Cyberspace. Babies could be created in test tubes, sheep could be cloned, and cross-gender /cross-culture relationships became the norm. And sadly natural disasters unhinged the world as they plundered ferociously through continents, killing thousands, leaving millions destitute.

I was a child at a time in history when children could be just that – children. We played in the street until the lights came on, we were in and out of our neighbours homes and everyone was called aunt or uncle. We played games with sticks, tins and leftover bits from our mothers pantyhose. Your teacher was your parent away from home and we were disciplined with canes and rulers and that was ok, because abuse was almost unheard of, so we knew we were being deservedly punished. We’d walk to the local swimming pool, without fear of being snatched, we’d have sleepovers without fear of our friend’s parents. Our own parents trusted our neighbours enough to leave us with them overnight, while they went dancing. I grew up in a time when it was cool to be a kid.

One of my greatest fears as a parent today, is sheltering my children from experiences that they NEED to have, because of my own fear of what society has become. I’m too scared to let Liam play in the street because I’m afraid a drunken driver will run him down, or a preying paedophile will be lurking close by. Besides, there’s NO kids playing in the street anymore! I’m too scared to leave him at a kiddies party because I don’t know the other school parents well enough, so I stand on the outskirts watching and waiting. This is fine now, he’s two years old, but I don’t think he’ll appreciate my presence when he is at a 16th birthday party. I read the back of every label of everything they consume because I am so afraid of them being obese, or being exposed to tartrazine or too much salt or too many fatty acids because childhood diseases are on the rampage and kids are falling down dead from diseases that we can’t even spell. I spend more time in the doctors surgery than I do in front of the TV because they are always sick and constantly on antibiotics. I remember getting standard childhood illnesses like chicken pox, mumps and the odd runny nose, but not constantly needing a humidifier and allergy medication??

I want my kids to know the value of a well meaning stranger who honestly just wants to help them across the street, or to be able to run half naked through a sprinkler at the park, I want them to wave good bye to me at the school gate without being scared of being hassled by an older kid looking to steal their lunch money. YES we were hassled by older kids, but bullying today is nothing like what it was even five years ago. The suicide rate directly related to school bullying is terrifying!!!

So yes, these are the signs of our times. It’s difficult to be a good parent – I’m afraid of underexposing my children to the evils of the world – they need to know about stranger danger and about NOT touching their friend’s blood when he/she gets hurt and about the perils of Mxit, Facebook and other social networking sites. But do I really want to over expose them unnecessarily, and instil in THEM, this fear that has gripped me?

So my children, when you read this, I want you to know that I tried as far as possible to raise you “normally” in an otherwise crazy world. But I also want you to know that I didnt do it alone. I only got this far because of “He who is in me, who is greater than he who is in the world.” I pray for and over you, I’ve dedicated you and I believe that God’s favour is upon you. So although my fears and phobias do keep me up some nights, I know that there’s a greater force looking out for you and loving you even MORE than I do! And that kinda helps me sleep at night.