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Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A long walk to freedom, mine.

Apartheid. A condition, a state of mind, a value system, a frame of reference and behaviour, a dogma, an ideology, and the closest thing to a religion…a cult.

I think these things, offhand as I stand before a small screen with the face of the High Priest, Verwoerd, very much alive, smiling at me, in a grandfatherly and kindly way, telling me, the post mortem viewer, that this word, (that constitutes a whole world, a universe,) is good for me and all mankind, that its intentions are noble, that all will benefit and be blessed, that this word, that speaks, screams a thousand silenced throats, is the way, the truth… and the life -that my white salvation, and my children’s, children’s salvation lie in its execution. And he ends his speech which is intimate, articulate and in impeccable English with a cheerful, greeting, but burdened with a dark threat of, we whiteys will go it alone, there in our self created wilderness…
do or die.

I’m visiting the Apartheid museum for the first time, on my daughter’s prompting. It’s a cold, wet grey day in Johannesburg and there are a few tourists speaking foreign tongues (and us). The sprawling museum is a long road to walk, it’s large, imposing and complex as is the history of our country but there is a thread that is clearly woven through it all and that thread stitched together makes a fabric called injustice, violence, suffering, courage, hope, faith and love, truth, forgiveness, redemption, and life in a way that I recognise and cherish.

And I am moved to tears by testimonies I have never heard, footage I have never seen. We stop under the nooses, hung from the high ceiling, one for each one who has died in detention, “accidentally.” I walk into the solitary confinement cells, and think of Gertrude Fester as we walked the Sea Point parade, many years ago and she struggling to keep up with us, only on asking, telling me matter of factly, that her ankles were shot from jumping up and down for months on end in such a room to keep herself sane and strong…

I have no understanding of the suffering that plays itself off on the walls in front of me, it is a pandemic pestilence that appears to never end but for the courageous ones who never waiver, never step down, never give up the fight. There is a clip with Pik Botha telling the unseen British voice, with absolute confidence, that there never will be a black president, one man one vote, in the same clip, there is Winnie, speaking with the same confidence…

And for me to walk here, unhindered and absolved, I realize is one mega miracle that goes beyond all understanding. I wonder about all those who have died, who never saw ’94. So many of those on the video’s gave up their schooling, their bright futures for the struggle and now in the year of 2012, are stilling paying the price for that. It is unthinkable. I grasp a little better the rage, the disillusionment of many.

To make a stand costs. To make a stand for justice costs infinitely.

As is the museum on the farm of Solms Delta, telling the parallel history of the farm and slavery, there is hope at the end of the walk, there is a way out of the darkness, carved by those few in number, willing to pay a price.

And I say thank God for them. Thank God for Mandela and the men and women across cultures and class who rose above the trenches and pulled us all along to be our better selves.

What I as a white person born in 1960 cannot comprehend is the goodwill of millions towards me. I am humbled by it. I am in awe of it. I thank you.

Long live our “new” South Africa.
I take the now, anytime, warts and all.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 2nd, 2012 @10:34 #

    For those in the Cape, I can highly recommend the museum on the Solms Delta farm in Franschoek. It's intimate and shattering and restoring all at once. I love small museums, you can get yr head around them.


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