Thursday

Twisting History

Mzansi Afrika speaks about apartheid's history books. Those books did not only affect South Africans but many southern Africans as well. They affected me. I remember reading about Mr Moyo and Benny and Betty in Town. The understanding was that Benny and Betty were from out of town. Quite convenient for cementing the nasty Homeland business.

I went to Peka High School in Lesotho. PK, as we called it, was a political hotbed. Some of Lesotho's most stalwart leaders went there. While I was there I learned volumes about life and about politics, both national and international. In 1976 Soweto happened, and South African boys and girls spilled across the border into Lesotho, politicising us even more. Many of them were admitted to Peka High school.

At PK I met and became inseparable friends with Xola, Zeb-Zeb, Pazo, Tebo, and other South-Africans who ended up going to high school there. I was always amazed at how they were not bitter. How could they not be? We had just read and heard about Hector Peterson and about many other atrocities. And these guys were just adamant and determined in saying that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White, and no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people." I have quoted that from memory, so please forgive any liberties in it. They are not intentional. Most of those guys could also do unimaginable things to a foot ball. That was right up my alley--How could I resist?

I bring up my friends, whom I haven't heard from in 18 years, because they used to tell us how the apartheid authorities had tried and were trying to twist black history out of shape. They would sometimes tell us what their grandparents or parents had told them, and we would tell them of what we knew of our own history. That's when I firmly decided that white people weren't bad. Only certain white people. A little later I had to concede that there were some bad black people, too. These boys (there weren't any South African refugee girls during my days at PK) knew that they would someday leave Lesotho to go elsewhere to train. They also knew that their Basotho friends would stay behind. So that although we were enflamed by the events across the border, they kept reminding us to think about our own country and to study. And to study. Xola used to drag me to a secluded spot, with a biology book in his hands, to revise and prepare for the exams. A very short while after that he was gone. And I passed my biology comfortably.

I met up with Tebo in America. Very briefly. Then he was gone, too. I would love to hear from them, see how they've made out, try to pick up where we left off, and thank them. Thank them for instilling in me (Mum had already done the ground work) the fact that people are people, and hate has no business in our heads, and that no, the first thing you do is not to kill your enemy but to find out why you differ then try to win them over if you think they're dead wrong, or meet them halfway if you're not sure. Today that's one of the basic tenets of my life. And it is fuelled by my personal experience (having my brother and my nephew taken away by violent political death), my mother's teachings (which have never been teachings, really, but observations, what I learned from studying her), and my own beliefs (my faith in God, in Jesus Christ and in the goodness of humans). Mzansi Afrika says
Ten years into democracy, South African teachers are still battling the legacy of apartheid, whose history primers painted black people as "primitive" and even "barbaric". Before white rule ended in 1994, pupils were taught history along colour lines: white children were told that apartheid represented the ruling Afrikaners' right to self-determination, while for black students, history lessons ended with 1948, the year the white nationalists came to power.
The point I really wanna make, apart from just being carried away as I have let myself be, is to black people who feel they have been painted "primitives." Just like in good writing, show, don't tell that you're in fact more civilised. Smile most things away, go out of your way to accomodate and teach bigots, share with your fellow folks (share yourself that is, and not necessarily your money), learn and learn and learn, and remain yourselves no matter what.

This had to end on that corny note, I'm afraid. I didn't find any other words but those to end it with. If any of my long lost pals read this, I'm at retjoun .at. lycos .dot. com.