A European from an anti-apartheid family found himself living in South Africa for one year ten years before apartheid ended. This is what he saw and heard. More
Living in South Africa for one year during apartheid was not something I would normally have chosen to do. I was not a supporter of the system, but financial circumstances forced me to leave Zimbabwe, where I had taken up residence a year earlier, in 1983, in the middle of a three year drought. The economic situation of Zimbabwe, which in those days did not have the irrigation infrastructure that was installed in the 1990s, was deteriorating. As a European I had never really thought that things like drought could affect my life. Now, belatedly realising that things were different in Africa, I decided to either go to America or return to Europe. The most viable way to finance this move was to get a job in South Africa, whose currency was more freely exchangeable than Zimbabwe's. As a white European I did not suffer under apartheid, and I cannot tell stories of harrowing persecution, noble deeds or oppressive brutality. What I can do is give a picture of how apartheid looked to an outsider, and how it would have probably looked to visitors to South Africa. I can only tell you what I saw before white South Africans sensibly voted to end a system which engendered much evil. I know that this book might fail those who feel that the main features of apartheid was that it was a cruel and degrading system that sanctioned state murder and the repression of most of South Africa's population. Although this is true one must remember that for the most the evils of apartheid were well hidden. The book may also enrage those who feel that apartheid was a justified attempt to safeguard western civilisation in South Africa, but personally I don’t feel that excluding most of the population from economic opportunity and murdering those who protested too strongly was a particularly good way to safeguard civilised values. However I can't be blamed for what I didn't write. I can only tell what I saw. The sole merit in the stories I tell is that everything happened, although I have changed many names in order to avoid embarrassment. Some of the stories could have happened in other places – they had more to do with class conflict or human relations than with the particular situation in South Africa.