Sreerupa Sanyal Mazumder spells out the reality and phenomenon called apartheid
Any discussion about South Africa is incomplete without the accursed word ‘apartheid’.
Yes, the policy started by the minority white Afrikaans government for systematically segregating the blacks, coloured, and Indians from the white South Africans and dividing this beautiful nation into two starkly different entities.
Yet, even after 21 years of the demise of this terrible system, apartheid continues… now in veiled forms.
Mamelodi, a township situated in the east of Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative headquarter, is a case in point. Townships are underdeveloped in urban living areas that are mostly populated by blacks. These townships developed from the late 19th century up to the end of apartheid. During the apartheid era, blacks, coloured and Indians were routinely forcibly evicted from lands that the white minority government termed as 'white areas'. As such, many townships rose on the brinks of popular towns. Even now, these townships have mostly black households. The only exception being that municipal houses have now replaced shanties.
Once into the township, the scene changes drastically. From well-paved roads and artistic gardens, one comes into unpaved and dusty roads; one can hardly see trees around this part of the town. From Mercedes and BMWs (apart from which few other cars ply in Silver Lakes), one starts seeing broken down Suzukis, pedestrians and bicycles, from serenity to chaos. An observant tourist would be shocked at the magnitude of differences between the areas.
|Silver Lakes area|
Even in India, slums and highrises dwell side by side. But what makes Mamelodi different is the race. Here race is still a living, breathing entity. There are no white people in Mamelodi.
Mamelodi is just a small piece of the entire pie. Blacks, coloured, Indians and other previously termed ‘minority’ communities have obviously improved since South Africa ushered in a new regime in 1993 but they have a lot to catch up and a long, long way to go. For instance, in the field of higher education, blacks have one of the lowest participation ratios in proportion to their population. This difference greatly increases when it comes to post graduate studies. More white and Indian students continue to study post-graduation while most black students and coloured drop out.
|A gated estate in Pretoria|
The students from both white and Indian household do not face this problem. While the situation of the whites can be understood, as being the ‘privileged’ race, the situation of the Indians stem from strong family values where single parent family unit is hard to find. Thus, Indians while being previously disadvantaged from the Apartheid regime have actually done far better for themselves than blacks or coloured. Indians mostly dominate the service industry in South Africa. In fact, they are far better represented in higher education and service sectors than either blacks or coloured.
However, there is still hope. Young, black educated youth is joining political parties in a big way. Young politicians from these previously disadvantaged communities are trying hard to convince blacks and other communities to take up education by and large. There is still a long way to go but the beginning has been made.
The writer is a journalist and owner of thesolitaryreflections.blogspot.com