Forced removals still live on in our elders minds and hearts...
My darling daughter is 22 now and doing Honours in Environmental science. One of her projects is near Kimberly scene of many forced removals in the 60’s and 70’s. People were moved off the land for various reasons, one of them to creating a reserve. (My daughter and I agree that actually reserves are not the only way to go necessarily in conservation – I have always contended that we should fence ourselves in and let the animals go free – in fact build roads high enough off the ground for giraffe’s to pass under and to allow the elephant and other old migrations to happen again...)
But back to these forced removals. I have a very caring empathetic child and I am not just boasting (I could do much more boasting but I don’t want you make you too envious!)
The poor child – yes I know she is a young woman – was in tears on the telephone to me. ‘Oh mom, I knew about these things academically, and I knew it was wrong but...and so much poured out.
All I can say is this: let’s not forget those who forced to leave their homes (walls they had built, animals, even tractors, fences, kraals and cemeteries). They had no choice, no-one to help them. The trucks arrived, they had to pack what they could and were moved to they knew not where.
Sometimes their children had already left for school before the trucks arrived. They came home to an empty homestead and got told where it was thought their parents had gone. They had to walk hugely long distances to find their families.
Cemeteries’ were simply razed.
Or the people moved from Sophiatown far from anywhere. They were given a loaf of bread and a litre of milk and just left there. One of our students Granny lived in Sophiatown and described this to me.
People describe ‘being rich’ before the move. And never getting out of poverty again after they were moved. They had their pig fattening, their sheep and cows grazing, their vegetable gardens, their large pots for cooking for festivals, they had a life, they could barter, sell and buy what they needed.
But also whole communities were moved. I remember a large community suddenly springing up on the side of Kieskammahoek village where I went to school (I lived on St Matthews Mission Station). Much, much later I found that they were from a Moravian community. My husband was a Moravian and his father the Bishop then. For some time no-one knew where they had gone and the church searched for their scatterlings...
When one breaks the bonds of family and community one loses so much. Support, history, connections and relationships which prevent any but the most petty crimes.
And I think many of these Elders she was hearing these stories from were so traumatised and their children also that this trauma has been passed to their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren – much as was the case with traumatic events like the Holocaust in the second world war...
So Apartheid’s effects are not dead yet. And to pretend so is to re-write other peoples history. So yes, lets process what happened find a way to move on but please don’t let us forget.
And lets allow ourselves to find a moment to really feel their pain – as a tiny atonement for the evil humans can do to each other. And a way of preventing ourselves of ever being part of such evil acts ourselves...