top of page

THE WAY WE LIVED.  14.  I am a victim; aka, because I am Black.  [8min read]  [Part one.]

Round-the-Cape-Peninsula Drive [5]

From Signal Hill, the Kloof Nek Road brings one down to the area above Camps Bay. This allows one to appreciate one of the best views of the Twelve Apostles. In the foreground, the largest and first peak is the southwestern corner of Table Mountain. How many Apostles can you see? It’s any one’s guess – from eleven to thirteen. Maybe it depends on the time of day. We will next head for the distant peak at Llandudno Beach, located around the corner from Cape Town’s third bay, scenic Hout Bay.

14. I am a victim, aka, Because I am Black. [Part one].

From 1972-1974, I spent an enjoyable two-and-a-half year stint at Ceza Mission Hospital, in then Zululand [Kwazulu].

Socially and professionally it still ranks as one of the best times of my life. It gave us wonderful family time. On call duty was done from home and averaged three nights a week. Before that, my alternate weekends and nights on duty meant that my newborn son [he of JP Duminy fame] did not know me. Best he had were my free weekends; midweek days I left before he was up; I arrived home in time to tuck him in, maybe. How good it was to change that life at Ceza [Pronounced Tseza. Locals also called the Citroen a Tsitroen; I loved it then, I still do now].

I learnt some medical Zulu; enjoyed the people that I worked with and loved the red sands and the Zululand grasslands. In the photo below, the lush greenery we see here after the rains was deceptive. I was aware of the poor soil and erosion that made the Government Homelands a nightmare of a place in which to live and feed or raise a family – this was the lot of many in Kwazulu which had extensive soil erosion.

Absentee fathers were sucked away as cheap migrant workers, to service South Africa’s needs in cities, mines, and factories. Women tended the children. The subsequent malnutritional fallout and hosts of diseases resulted in 1970 infant mortalities which were the third worst in Africa [behindSierra Leone and Burkina Fasso]. Now that was a disgrace in the wealthiest country on the continent!

Infant mortality more than ten times higher than Whites was a daily reality of the diseased end-product we had to deal with in our little hospital. So these were some of the REAL victims of the system.

Think of them as the “physical” victims. Here one had a kind of physiological death which never made the headlines. They dwarfed the several hundreds of dead from police brutality. The South African “killing” fields were children’s Deathlands in the Bantustan Homelands and Black city townships.

So what about the “mental victims?” No, not the ones who ended up in asylums after weeks or months of torture by the Security Police agencies [see Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports for chilling detail]. I refer here to your ordinary citizen in life who could not succeed Because I am Black [Read Because I am NOT White].

I am sure that many of us have heard this. Some of us may have used it too. Often we used it quite legitimately!

It was not unusual to hear the complaint that They make it so easy for Whites; they get everything.

I can’t get promoted at work because I am Black.

They get all the top jobs – foremen, managers, supervisors, department heads ……..

Did you ever see a White labourer, cleaner, aa balie collector [night soil collector], milk deliverer, pedal ice cream vendor….?

But could we blame all our failures on apartheid? Could it also be a crutch for one’s lack of success? You failed your University exams, maybe even repeated a year. Yes, They failed me because I was Black. Maybe there was some truth in that. Only our examiners would ever know. During my six years at the University of Cape Town, I heard this occasionally from people whom I thought probably had to fail. Maybe their preparation was not up to scratch; maybe their vivas were weak Who knows? But friends and family accepted that as fact. No one questioned it. Was the I’m a victim mentality the result of a lifetime of denial, marginalisation and discrimination?

[Part two to follow in next posting]




bottom of page