Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Living Apart

Between the Umlazi and Umgeni rivers winds the a road that leads from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. KwaZulu-Natal was Natal and KwaZulu when I was growing up at the tail end of Apartheid. A Bantustan was a homeland set aside for Black inhabitants in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia). KwaZulu was for the Blacks and Natal for the Whites. The road to Pietermaritzburg wound Natal through KwaZulu. My world was Westville, Pinetown, Kloof, Hillcrest. Outside my world was KwaDabeka, KwaNdengezi, Umlazi, Phoenix, Chatsworth. Townships allowing some entry to Natal. Outside that was KwaZulu.

KwaZulu, Apartheid South Africa
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Until my teenage years I only had white classmates and teachers. While I was little, there was a lady who stayed on the property with us and looked after us when my parents were working. We had a full time Gardener. There were petrol attendants who serviced our cars. There were cleaning staff at the school. Grounds maintenance. Our worlds were not separate, but there was an artificial parallel separation that kept us apart. Borders that only allow for the free flow of temporary workers, goods and services have a name. Borders without the free flow of people is called Apartheid.

I first visited Umlazi when I was 17. About 400,000 people live there, but it was on the other side of a hill from my world. I had probably met hundreds of people in my life you were from Umlazi, but I had not gone there. The flow was one way. I had no experience of the difficulties because I had grown up in a Police State. Separation was strictly enforced. My world could carry on unaware. I could compare my situation to that of my friends, and those I aspired to be like. I could 'feel poor' because my parents couldn't buy me all the treats I wanted. I could 'feel poor' because we didn't go on fancy holidays. I didn't experience the violence of families being torn apart because some people would be allowed to stay in the townships to provide labour, but others would be sent back to the Bantustans. I never went hungry. My education aimed at empowering me to dream, not disempowering me to serve.

Apartheid didn't end when I was 14. It didn't end when I started being able to paint the Rainbow Flag on my face and start singing 'Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika'. Apartheid wasn't about the vote, it was about the restrictions placed on people to keep them apart. I am not sure Apartheid will end in my life time. As long as we are able to live lives in parallel to people because we only compare ourselves to those around us, we will be living in Apartheid. Until the 7.4 billion lives on this earth affect our worlds, we will be living in Apartheid.

We are Global Citizens. We can chip away at the barriers that stop us from seeing each other.

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