OPINION | Apartheid system it was so evil by design, You can’t compare it to NOW

Apartheid was so evil in its intent and purpose that it still has people confused. The most educated among us are now starting to ask if life wasn’t better during apartheid than the challenging times we are living in, writes Gasant Abarder in a new #SliceofGasant.

Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a Grenade, is among the country’s most influential media voices. Catch his weekly column here, exclusive to Cape {town} Etc.

Making such comparisons is like being a holocaust denier if you consider that apartheid is a crime against humanity.

There are two types of people in the world. Those who say koeksister and those who rightfully call those delicious, magical orbs we enjoy on a Sunday morning a koesister. Those of us who know, know that you can never call a koesister a koeksister.

Let me explain for the uninitiated. The Dutch used to fashion a plait out of dough and fry it before covering it with a sickly, sweet syrup to create a koeksister. Their south East Asian slaves took the leftover dough, added aniseed, naartjie peels and coconut to make the incredible koesister. Only the most confused will call a koesister a koeksister because the former is far more superior. (I realise I am now dealing in dessert apartheid.)

So, the premise, for those yearning for apartheid, is to ask people to ask themselves – “honestly” – whether apartheid wasn’t better than contemporary South Africa? Let’s entertain this unfortunate notion for just one second.

Yes, we have significant joblessness weighing us down heavily. We have crime and more murders a day than some conflict zones. We have crippling loadshedding holding us back while the rest of the world makes progress. We have a government entity wanting to throw a billion rand at Tottenham Hotspurs!

Significantly, we have the biggest chasm between rich and poor created by inequality.

The inequality is a throwback from our apartheid past that we’re not going to overcome in 30 years. It may take another generation. Or even more, if you consider the dearth of leadership in our country – forged by corruption which is the hardest pill to swallow. This corruption is actually a betrayal of those who fought so bravely against an illegitimate government for regime change.

But worse than apartheid? For those who suffered a crime against humanity, it simply can never be.

As a brown person, I have no right ever to say that what I am living through now is worse than apartheid. For that to happen, I would have had to experience the same kind of horrors that my black compatriots suffered. For the most part, this simply wasn’t the case.

Again, apartheid was so evil by design that it had different levels of privilege based on the colour of a citizen’s skin. White people were the favoured race. Coloured and Indian people had far less privilege in terms of where they could live, who they could marry and what jobs they could have. Even further down the pile were our black brothers and sisters who had absolutely no rights in apartheid South Africa.

I don’t know what is like to be a grown man or woman and having to navigate my own country with an apartheid passport called a dompas. More than this, it was black bodies that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. I am not diluting the significance coloured and Indian activists played in the Struggle. Not at all.

In fact, it would be a bigger insult for a brown person to ask whether apartheid was better than democratic South Africa when coloured activists like Ashley Kriel, Coline Wiliams, Robbie Waterwitch and Anton Fransch gave their lives so that all men and women in this country could be equal. They didn’t die for nothing.

In fact, it is because of the bravery of Kriel, Williams, Waterwitch and Fransch – and the thousands of other black and coloured men and women who were killed in the cause – that I can write what I like in this column. But their sacrifice needs to be honoured in how I take care when writing – with a sense of responsibility, honesty and humility.

You can ask the question of whether apartheid was better than life in South Africa now and run the risk of skipping over the daily aggressions against the vast majority of people of colour still left out of the economy and opportunities. They are the lead characters in the very inequality you hold that apartheid mirror up to.

Or is your very dangerous and divisive premise for online clicks? One would swear you were a johnny-come-lately.

Writes Gasant Abarder –  Author of Hack with a Grenade

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