13 August 2007

Me Scared............?

When I told a couple of black colleagues (separately) that I had visited the Red Location Museum, they both responded with surprise that I had gone there. They both wanted to know if I was not afraid to go into a “black township”.

My response was, “Should I have been?”

At the time neither of them responded to my question, but later on I pushed for an answer and got one.
According to my colleague there were a lot of young black people who felt that whites have no business going into “their” areas and will attack white people if given an opportunity. He said that as they were not aware that I was “ok”, as I had taken a stand against apartheid, I was at risk.

When I said I had not felt threatened, his reply was that as long as I stayed within the precincts of the museum I would be fine.

I find it hard to believe that can still be so much hatred and bitterness about and I wonder how widespread these sentiments are. Township tours have become big business in the South African tourism industry and are well received by the foreign tourists – so are these sentiments real or perceived.

Let me put the background to this situation into context.

The Red Location is a “black suburb” that was established under British colonial rule in 1903 and maintained under the old apartheid regime, which sought to separate the race groups through legislation. Living conditions there were appalling – many of the buildings were constructed of wood and corrugated iron dating back almost 100 years and had fallen into disrepair. During the 1970’s and 80’s the area, as with other black areas, became a hot bed of resistance against the old regime.

The residents fought for the ideals of equality and justice. Unfortunately as with most conflicts, there were unspeakable atrocities on both sides, which left the protagonists with deep seated bitterness and many unresolved issues. Generally the atrocities of those who come out on top are the ones that are overlooked at the end of the conflicts.

The reality is that the hatred can live on long after the conflict is over and if allowed it can fester and breed and create other problems.

I guess it is possible that that there can still be deep seated resentments. But then there are also the criminal elements who will try and mask their activities under a guise of “respectability”, like taking their revenge on whites for the injustices of the past. However, the elements I believe my colleagues were talking about are criminals who will
kill a young woman for her mobile phone or a policeman for his firearm. Crime is one issue nation building is another.
This is why reconciling the opposing sides in any nation that has fought a civil war is so important. In this regard I do not think that the role of our Truth and Reconciliation Commission in bringing the truth to light and building bridges will ever be fully appreciated.

My visit to the Red Location Museum showed me that we still have a long way to go in building a truly united nation. However, one cannot build a nation by continuously looking backwards you can only do so by looking ahead and moving forward.

I will be return to the Red Location there is still a lot to see.


Cheesy said...

ty.. Very insightful post....

karoline said...

very much so, would seem that focusing on the appropriation of that belonging to the 'self' blinds many to the ugliness they unwittingly contribute back into this world. in fighting for their own rights, they neglect anyone elses...

Max-e said...

Thanks for your comments Cheesy and Karoline.

This is Africa. So much baggage from the past, but we have the potential to move past that.

One of todays problems is that since 1994 there has been such a focus on rights that many have neglected their obligations. This can be seen in the civil unrest and strike action that is so prevalent today. Freedom for some has in essence become licence.

It is not all doom and gloom - this is a fantastic country full of opportunities