Tag Archives: Apartheid in South Africa

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.”

“No.”

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.

“Why?”

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.”

Nelson Mandela’s Home, South Africa

Having recently visited South Africa, I was reflecting on my experiences there in light of Nelson Mandela’s passing. A courageous, inspiring leader, he had an influence on a people, a country and a world. As I met the people, talked with them, broke bread with them, photographed them, Nelson Mandela had an influence on me. I came to admire his commitment to moral principles which elevate the human condition. I found, in Johannesburg, a complex and complicated city with contrasts not entirely in keeping with Nelson Mandela’s vision for how things ought to be. In other parts of the country these contrasts were even more apparent. Things are not how they should be. Yet, I also saw hope, commitment, energy and progress. I’m sure Nelson Mandela didn’t accomplish all he hoped to accomplish in his long and influential life. Yet, his vision took root. His commitment and perseverance inspired others. Nelson Mandela made a difference. South Africa made a significant impression on me well beyond the images I took.