There was so much hope following the official dismantling of the apartheid apparatus in South Africa some years ago. The ANC has been in power ever since then, however, an observer, Savo Heleta, says apartheid and its resultant disenfranchisement is still very much alive.
While the era of apartheid is gone, South African society is still largely dotted with racial segregation. A brief investigation by Savo Heleta reveals so many things about the relationship between the whites and blacks in recent days. Though there is a new political turn as the post-apartheid politics is controlled by blacks, there are still social and political imaginaries of apartheid in the air.
The first time I went to a white farm in South Africa was in 2005. I was a study abroad student in Port Elizabeth, on South Africa’s east coast. I was part of a group of 26 students from the United States. We visited a few large, white-owned farms in the rural Eastern Cape. The experience was eye-opening and shocking at the same time. The farmers treated us – a bunch of white foreign students – very well. They fed us great food, showed us around and gave us lots of brandy and beer to drink. They also felt like they could be open with us – fellow whites – talking about the “good old days” and pointing out the “failures” of democracy. They kept complaining how their economic situation was difficult, how they weren’t making any money, how their children had no hope in ANC-run South Africa and had to emigrate to Australia.
Heleta went back to South Africa two years ago and his conclusion is that nothing, and I really mean nothing, had changed.
While Heleta was still on the white farm, he was shocked to note that nothing had changed for the black people living in the area and working on these farms.
Black workers were still invisible, living in absolute poverty, nothing but shadows existing in the white-controlled environment where the old rules – written some time ago, officially gone, but still around – remain the order of the day. We never had a chance to speak to them, to ask them how they were surviving on about R1500 per month (about US $110), which is the average pay for black farm workers in South Africa.