Tuesday, 15 June 2010

SOUTH AFRICA


“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” - Martin Luther King, Jr

The World Soccer Cup in South Africa has given the world the opportunity to glimpse the changed society of post-apartheid South Africa. I visited South Africa in the late 1990s when apartheid was still fresh and the bad memories still fresh. It was a revelation and I met some of the most amazing people I had met until then. It was a country that still displayed its scars but there was such a feeling of hope and optimism in the air that it was difficult not to be overtaken by it. Walking in Soweto and talking to the people was a revelation. Seeing faces full of dreams, confidence, dignity and positivity was a joyous thing.

Now that apartheid is well and truly over and the South African people have been allowed to fulfil their destiny, the celebration of the Soccer World Cup is a way of showing the world how their nation is capable of great things. The magnificent Soccer City stadium in Soweto in Johannesburg, with a design inspired by traditional African pottery and a capacity for 104,000 fans is a showcase of this country’s confidence and optimism for the future. A way of showing the world that the new climate of multiculturalism and equality will allow the country to move forward and upward.

Apartheid in South Africa was a system of legal social segregation that was enforced by the white National Party government of South Africa between 1948 and 1994. This was a shocking situation where the rights of the majority non-white people were curtailed and minority rule by the whites was maintained. Many basic human rights of the non-whites were ignored or actively suppressed and the rule was one of tyranny and repression, with non-whites victimised, disadvantaged, underprivileged, powerless, abused and maltreated.

June 16th has been observed as the International Day of Solidarity with the Struggling People of South Africa. This date was chosen to commemorate the massacre in Soweto on June 16th 1976, when hundreds of unarmed school children were brutalised and killed by the police as they demonstrated against the imposition of the Afrikaans language and the Bantu system of Education. The Soweto Uprising was a turning point in the liberation struggle in South Africa. Prior to this event, the liberation struggle was being fought outside of South Africa, mostly in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), South West Africa (later Namibia) and Angola. But from this moment onwards, the struggle became internal and the government security forces were split between external operations and internal operations.

For the state, the Soweto Uprising marked the most fundamental challenge yet to apartheid and the economic and political instability it caused was heightened by the strengthening international boycott. It was a further 14 years before Nelson Mandela was released, but at no point was the state able to restore the relative peace and social stability of the early 1970s as black resistance grew. Many white South African citizens were outraged at the government's actions in Soweto, and about 300 white students from the University of the Witwatersrand marched through Johannesburg’s city centre in protest of the killing of children. Black workers went on strike as well and joined them as the campaign progressed. Riots also broke out in the black townships of other cities in South Africa. Most of the bloodshed had abated by the close of 1976, but by that time the death toll stood at more than 600.

Fitting for this day, a poem by Maya Angelou, born 1928, an author, poet and an active campaigner for human rights and racial equality.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

3 comments:

  1. What a beautiful poem, Nic! I love Maya Angelou's work and she is a fantastic woman and a champion of black Americans!!!

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  2. It's a really lovely poem, Nicholas...full of strength and resilience.

    It is great that South Africa is taking centre stage for something like the World Cup, after so many years of being in the news because of it's bloody struggles against apartheid.

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