Jacaranda Trees in Bloom

Is Apartheid Over?

Township Housing
Corregated metal, cardboard, canvas and the ever-present barbed wire makeup the materials of most houses in the township.

“What was it like,” I asked him, “apartheid?”

Joseph. Our driver. He was a large, jolly man in his fifties. He had dark chocolate skin with curly, salt and pepper hair. He looked at me and the smile lines around his eyes wrinkled.

He laughed.

Next Generation
Without education, children growing up in the township face limited opportunities.

Not just a chuckle. Joseph burst into a full belly laugh. He had lived through it.  He was 33 when Apartheid ended.

“You would not believe me if I told you,” Joseph said. “My children do not believe me when I tell them.”

At first, I didn’t understand why he was laughing. I didn’t understand how he could laugh. It wasn’t funny.

“Tell me.”


I pressed him.

“It was horrible. No freedom. No jobs. We had no hope.”

Community Water Tap
In the Township, 3000 people share three water taps.

He drove us to a township just outside of Johannesburg.

“Three-thousand people live here,” he said. “They have no running water. They have no electricity. They share three water taps. They share 20 portable toilets.”

He introduced me to the people. They were quick to smile, but their eyes were guarded, skeptical. I couldn’t understand their words.  Joseph translated.

Who is this white face with a camera?

Community Portapotty
With no running water or sanitation, 3000 people share 20 portapotties throughout the township.

Why does he take our picture?

Joseph told them I was there to tell their story. I was. They were glad. They were friendly. They wanted me to understand. They wanted others to know of their struggle. For them, Apartheid was not over.

I was stunned. They had so little.


Mother and Child
Child rearing falls to the women. The traditional wrap makes an excellent baby backpack.

“Get in the car.” Joseph said it was time to go. It was no longer safe.

I got in the car.

Joseph did not laugh.

“Apartheid ended in 1994. Those were difficult times. I lost my best friend to a gunshot. I cannot describe…I will not describe those days. We did not know if we would live or die. We had no hope.”

“But, Apartheid has been over for 27 years.”

“These people believe the government will take care of them. They think the government will educate them.”

“Will they?”

Joseph laughed. “They say apartheid is over. It is not. But at least now we have hope.”

4 thoughts on “Is Apartheid Over?”

  1. Apartheid is over! But unfortunately the ruling party, the ANC have not attended to this matters like they promised. They have made sure that they have taken care of themselves and their own. There are many people in my beloved country who are so in need of running water and electricity and many other services. In some areas things have improved but in 20 years the government isn’t there yet. Too much corruption – it’s a known fact. Sadly!

    1. I appreciate your comment, Felicity, especially coming from a South Africa resident. You live this every day. I look forward to hearing from you as noteworthy events and honorable people like you make a difference in your country, my country and throughout the world.

  2. I’m afraid real change come ever so slowly. Generations. And that’s if they don’t lose hope. If they loose hope it might never happen.

    1. One of the thing notable things I sensed while in South Africa was the feeling of hope. With Nelson Mandela’s passing, the spotlight has been focused on South Africa. However, the issues in South Africa are not just limited to South Africa. There are intrenched attitudes and behavior patterns that afflict many other parts of Africa. It will, as you say, take generations. And, it will take much hope, prayer and mighty works. Thanks for your comment, Ron.

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