Analysis

20 bizarre apartheid moments

Shaun de Waal

To celebrate 20 years of freedom, the M&G went back to the unfree years and picked 20 absurd apartheid moments.

'The security and happiness of all minority groups in South Africa depend on the Afrikaner ...' — PW Botha, then prime minister, in Parliament, 1981 (AP)

1. Actually, we have no race classification in the strict sense of the word. We have population grouping. We in South Africa are not at all obsessed with race.” – NF Treurnicht, National Party (NP) MP, in Parliament, 1967

2. "The word 'apartheid' does not exist." – D Christophers, NP MP, 1989

3. "Contact across the colour line is welcome so long as the motive for the contact is the greater separation of the races.” – Minister of Health Dr Carel de Wet, 1971

4. "Dr Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs, said yesterday it was necessary to take action to deal with these people who took pleasure in defying social convention in their homes and flats. Not only did white and non-white meet, but they sought to provoke the neighbours by hanging out of their windows … There were neighbourhoods [he said] where just a single liberal did that sort of thing deliberately." – Cape Times, 1957

5. "Jan Smuts Airport, in common with the Union's other ports of land, sea and air, will soon amend its apartheid applications. The words 'European' and 'non-European' will be replaced by the words 'Whites' and 'Non-Whites' over appropriate doors and entrances. The reason is that foreigners, particularly Americans, confuse the issue – and the exit – by tending to use doors that seem to distinguish them from people who originate from Europe." – Cape Times, 1959

6. "The Group Areas Act defined three races, [Group Areas Board chairperson] Dr Van Rensburg said – 'white, native and coloured'. All those who fell between white and native were regarded as coloured. But the Act allowed the coloured group to be subdivided into Indian, Chinese, Malays and those commonly known as coloured people. The Malays were regarded as Malays only as long as they lived in their own group area … If they moved into another area, even across the road, they became coloureds." – Cape Times, 1961

7. "Coloured girls can now work as usherettes in white cinemas – provided they do not look at the screen, Mr John Redman, general manager of Kinekor's theatre division, told me this week. 'When we show a film which our non-white girls are not allowed to see, they usher patrons with a torch and watch the floor,' he said. 'We discussed the matter with the department of labour and I raised this point with them. As a precautionary measure – since non-whites are not allowed to see some films restricted to whites only – we decided that they should not look at the screen." – Sunday Express, 1971

8. "It is an old German method of greeting which meant 'I come in peace'. How can I help it if Hitler also used it?" – Eugene Terre'Blanche, leader of white rights group the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, on the AWB's fascist-style salute

9. "I have never feared any black man in my life and I have fought them to prove it." – Koos van der Merwe, Conservative Party MP, 1990

10. "People are influenced by manners more than appearances. I like to believe I transfix voters with my big blue eyes." – Sheila Camerer, NP MP, 1989

11. "I will have to check whether he's still in jail." – A prisons department official, in response to a query from the Financial Mail about when Nelson Mandela would be released, 1986

12. "I never imagined that power would remain forever with the Matanzimas. It's just that we were the only two with university degrees." – Former Transkei homeland chief Kaizer Matanzima, who fell in a military coup in 1987

13. "At least I'll be able to kiss Desdemona without leaving a smudge." – Actor John Kani, the first black man to play Othello in Shakespeare's play in South Africa, 1987

14. "How can an organisation be secret if women are members of it?" – Verwoerdburg school principal Willem de Vos, rebutting accusations that the Afrikaner Onderwysers kultuurorganisasie (Afrikaner Teachers' Cultural Organisation), was a secret organisation

15. "[An] SABC records committee members, Mr Roelf Jacobs, denied the SABC 'banned' songs. 'We just don't play them,' he said." – Sunday Times, 1989

16. "People have the silly idea that there must be freedom of the press and no repression. They don't realise that ideas are also a source of evil." – Former censor board member Professor Andrew Murray, 1987

17. "The security and happiness of all minority groups in South Africa depend on the Afrikaner. Whether they are English- or German- or Portuguese- or Italian-speaking, or even Jewish-speaking, makes no difference." – PW Botha, then prime minister, in Parliament, 1981

18. "As far as the non-white population groups in our country are concerned, we are not merely dealing with tribal differences. What we are dealing with are differences of ethnic diversity." – PW Botha, in Parliament, later in 1981

19. "President Botha admonished the nation to 'ride the waves, remembering at all times to stay on their feet and sit firmly in the saddle, to avoid being unseated'." – Cape Times, 1988

20. "We are not going soft on the ANC. In fact, the ball is on the other foot." – NP spokesperson Con Botha, 1989

Source: Apartheid: The Lighter Side by Ben Maclennan (1990)


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