Posted in Books

Apartheid of the Mind

The question of apartheid of the mind, how does the average citizen come to terms with the atrocities that were done in their name.Did they really not know are their hands clean, or were they just diluting themselves into thinking that their government was really just trying to keep them safe from communism? The whole idea of apartheid is the compartmentalization of South African thinking.“There were two South Africas: White and Black.Similarly, there was the public world and a private world, the open and the covert” (p. 108).All of this was rigidly separated.The white South African bystanders were able to live with the brutality against blacks because it was carried out in relative secret (p. 109).It was only when the truth came out that some people could not live with it, but then the silence wasmaintained for the greater good (p. 109).

In the book A Human Being Died that Night, Pumla Gonbodo-Madolozela’s goes on a road trip with her sister to see the infamous Vlakplaas.Vlakplaas is a farm just outside of Pretoria, also known as the death farm, where Eugene de Kock and his cronies did some of their crimes during apartheid.Pumla drove there using a map that de Kock had drawn for her in one of her meetings with him at the prison.However, as her sister pointed out, they were getting lost with his directions.The question arises as to whether or not he really wanted to give her the directions, for her to be able to go and see the place where he committed deeds that he his now deeply sorry for, the possibility that her visiting this place would make his crimes more real for her and sway her to the position of not seeing him as a humanworthy of forgiveness.Or he could just be really bad at giving directions.

Either way they had to stop and ask for directions.Pumla “approached a young woman behind the cash register and asked if she could please direct us to Vlakplaas” (p. 104). The young woman asked back “You mean the Vlakpaas?” with a nervous laugh, then she points to the older woman whom she had been speaking to.The older woman explained that her and her sister often walked through one section of the farm. “But they knew nothing about what had gone on during those early years – about what had now come out in the papers” (p.105).In fact this lady with a heavy German accent and her sister wished to buy a whole section of Vlakplaas, and turn it into a game reserve.She knew there were still bodies buried there but she believes that the beauty of deer frolicking wouldgive them a chance to rest in peace.How could these women not know what had gone on there?They were their neighbors, how could they have not seen or heard something to even hint at the dark deeds that were going on in side.I guess sometimes we humans don’t even see what is right in front of us, unless we are ready to accept the consequences.

This lack of knowledge is reiterated as Pumla and her sister drove through the final suburb before reaching Vlakpaas.She stopped and asked an Indian couple standing in their garden for directions to Vlakpaas.They told her that they “never heard of it” (p.106).They were literally seven minutes away and these people had never heard of it either as the death farm or as a legitimate farm.How could these people never hear of their grizzly neighbor?It was probably the only way they can cope with all that has happened, to make it apart from them.If they know nothing about it, then they could not have done something to stop it.

Finally Pumla arrived at the section of Vlakpaas that she was seeking.It was sealed off behind a tall fence with a large gate, a pack of bulldogs charged aggressively.A woman stood back as a young black man approached them.They told Pumla that she had to make an appointment to come and visit, nothing left to do she left.

These ordinary citizens were not the only ones who have separated out their existence from the atrocities that was done in their name.The man who came to be known as “Prime Evil”, Eugene de Kock also possesses this apartheid of the mind.Of separating out his family life from the work he did at Vlakpaas and the over boarder raids.He tells Pumla “It was hell. But they never knew” (p. 107). He talks about being afraid all the time, caring a firearm with him at all times even when he was out with his family.“I was afraid of my own people, my own people, because now they knew where I was, where I worked, when I left home, and where I would be at a specific time (pp 107-108).His children thought he was a business man, for they never saw him in a uniform like the otherpolicemen that they saw.To this day de Kock won’t divulge where his wife and children have relocated to, to protect them.For when your roles are reversed, according to de Kock “What has happened to your enemy can happen to you if you become the enemy” (p. 107)

Images found at the following:

http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9610/30/s.africa

http://www.artthrob.co.za/01june/reviews.html

http://www.artthrob.co.za/01july/news.html

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