It’s been 55 years since the Sharpeville Massacre!

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For some reason some members of our society loose interest when one starts talking about how they were persecuted by the system of shame, I don’t know maybe it’s because their forefathers were directly involved on that system or they simple think you are playing the race card again. Mind you whenever there are commemorations to remember our fallen heroes, they don’t attend such events, in-fact they would even change the TV channel broadcasting such event and simply choose to call the day “braai day” !! anyways let me briefly narrate this story without delving into too much detail.

The Sharpeville Massacre happened 55 years ago today  (21 March 1960), at the police station in the township of Sharpeville not far from where I’m sitting writing this blog now. South African police opened fire on the crowd of about 5000 people who were peacefully demonstrating against the carrying of dumbpasses (pass books) killing 69 people. The government relaxed the pass laws after that.

Change of heart

Being influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela thought he could fight the apartheid system through peaceful means, through negotiations, through reasoning with the apartheid principals, but the Sharpeville Massacre was a watershed moment and a turning point in his life. He was forced to go underground, take up arms and fight on.

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Last year I was based in an archive institution putting Johannesburg into Wikipedia. Believe it or not I know the history of almost all the buildings of Johannesburg including who commissioned their construction, who designed them, the original plans, maps and I’ve also seen records of how much each labourer was paid.

But I still don’t know on top of which building this picture was taken. I know it’s inside Johannesburg. I understand it was the last day Mandela left the country to exile.

Ruth Mompati, who is a very well respected politician today was Mandela’s secretary at the time. I think she must know where this picture was taken. In-fact I understand she was the only person (besides Tambo) who knew that Mandela was leaving South Africa that evening.

A week after this picture was taken Mandela appeared on a BBC interview declaring war against the apartheid state. He was officially a terrorist to my girlfriends parents and a freedom fighter my parents.

(hash tag the colour of the skin of my girlfriend is an opposite to that of mine)
I love you South Afrika.
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“I love you my son” my dad told me.

Growing up in the villages I knew that my parents loved me dearly, in fact I can bet I was the favorite since I’m the only boy in 4 girls and I received most of the gifts during Christmas, I was taught to drive at an early age, every time I performed well at school I would get a reward more than that of the girls, but I will never forget new year’s eve when my dad gave me a phone call as usual and right at the end of our conversation he told me he loved me.

I was so shocked by these words, I had goose bumps all over my body and to tell the truth I don’t even know what my response was because although I knew he loved me but in my 35 years, he has never actually said it. After that call I couldn’t sleep. I had to make an urgent calls to my mom, sisters and other close relatives to find out if everything was okay with the old man. To my surprise no one heard anything or know anything wrong, everything was fine.

This made me realize how important it is to always tell your kids how much you love them. How much words alone can boost their self confidence, change how they see the world, change how they see you as a parent, strengthen family bonds.

As much as I’m happy with my upbringing and what I’ve turned out to be, I just wonder how my life was gonna turn out to be if I’ve heard those words 20 year ago.

I love you more Mr Shabangu 🙂

I had first hand experience of how Antisemitism feels like. Thanks to my height !

I’m tall….However I’ve never measured myself or have any interest in doing so in future but people I meet say I’m 6.6 or 6.7. Most of the time people don’t see me but they see my height first before they can see me. This was so true today when I met this elderly couple while queuing to pay for my lunch at the supermarket. They were behind me and exclaimed “gees, you are tall”. Then they went on and on with the usual narrative that I have to deal with everyday from complete strangers like:

Do you know you are this tall?

What’s your height, It must be cold up there !

Tell me is it from your mom side or your dad side?

Who’s the tallest in your family?

Do you play basket ball? ( as if all tall people need to play basket ball, worse I don’t like basket ball)

And to tell you the truth I don’t know how one can answer these questions because they are weird and uncomfortable. Well the man then said something I certainly didn’t anticipate.. He said ” if you were Jew in an extermination camp, you were certainly gonna be one of the first people to be executed” . And I thought to myself isn’t that rude !! I mean I know I’m black and tall but Isn’t that some kind of antisemitism !!.

Other experiences…

At one point I had an interview at a restaurant and in the middle of the interview I excused myself and went to the bathroom, when I returned back the interviewer said God you are tall. Why didn’t you tell me that you were this tall ? and I replied you didn’t tell me the prerequisite of the Job entails that I need to be short, he laughed (I didn’t), he never hired me.

All this is nothing compared to when I got a scholarship to study in Indonesia. Nothing prepared me for what was coming my way.

I didn’t choose to go to Bali which is a tourist Island because I knew that I really won’t experience the real Indonesian lifestyle and culture. I knew that if I wanted to achieve such I needed to be with the real Indonesian people on the ground so that I can learn as much as I can about the culture and the Bahasa language since English is not an official language of Indonesia.  I chose a college in Sumatera. The first six months was hell. The food was different. There weather was different, There were earthquakes ( something which we only saw on TV in my part of the world) and one more thing I was the only black and the tallest person than all the people in that Island. The people have never seen a black person and especially a tall one like me. So you can Imagine how that must have been like….. I digress

This experience with the couple brought me close to experience how hard it was for Jews, Gays and Lesbians, Gypsies, Disabled people in Nazi Germany. Worse how hard they still have to deal with the discrimination to this day !!!.

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite… Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never explained.”…. Nelson Mandela

My experience on the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Yesterday we marked the release of one of the greatest statesman in the world. To most people he was an icon, to others he was God. Most of the white section in our society viewed him as the biggest terrorist and a devil while most if not all blacks viewed him as a freedom fighter.

I was 10 years old. My mom, my sister and I were gathered around our small black and white TV at home. There was great anticipation and tension in the air. All of a sudden for the first time I saw this man I’ve always heard about since I was a baby. No one knew how he looked like, for showing his picture was a crime carrying the death sentence.

Behold, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela !!

As we were watching him on TV coming out of prison it was as if he was coming to us. There was great jubilation from every house hold in my village. People were singing, dancing and shouting songs of freedom . It was amazing how all our freedom was tied in one individual.

I had mixed emotions as I helplessly watched my mom weeping uncontrollable at the sight of Mandela. I did not comprehend the gravity of the situation at the time. My mom hugged and kissed both my sister and I and she exclaimed “It’s a watershed moment we are coming far”.

The impact the release of Mandela had on my family was great !

A few years before the release of Mandela we just lost an uncle who was abducted and killed by the apartheid security forces. Although through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) his killers came forward and admitted to his murder. They however refused to show us where his remains were because his death involved higher ranking government officials who refused to come to the TRC.

I digress…

It was not until I saw Mandela in person at Chris Hani’s funeral 36 months later that I grasped how important his release was. How important it was to forgive.

I love you South Afrika.

Is it ever going to be possible in my lifetime?

Sometimes when I answer questionnaires and I reach the part where I have to put my race I feel a bit uncomfortable.

I feel as if I’m being profiled, It’s as if the whole questionnaire is centered in race and the other previous and following questions are just accompanying this question of race. I mean why do you have to know my race? Isn’t a man suppose to be judged by the content of his character than his skin color?

I mean is it ever going to be possible in my lifetime to see a white elderly woman who is struggling to cross the road and think let me go and help “MY” grandma cross the road over there without having to be conscious that she will think I’m going to try and rob her ?

Is it going to be possible in my lifetime to walk the streets without seeing white people frantically shutting their car windows and giving me that ” keep your distance look” as I pass by.

Is it ever going to be possible in my lifetime to watch a YouTube video about how baboons live in the wild and look at the comments below and not see a comment “I’m here to see how black people live” by fellow white countrymen?

I’m free in theory not in practice. I am a target of policemen who have black skin like mine. I’m always a suspect and guilty of having done nothing. I can’t walk or drive freely in my own country without being stopped, searched and harassed by the special branch police popularly known as amaberete.

Is it ever going to be possible in my lifetime to write this article and never be thought of as pulling the race card ?

Is it ever going to be possible?