Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stepping Into A New World

By Jimmy D.  
Me at Freedom Park overlooking Pretoria
When I told my friends I was going abroad they were shocked at the fact that I chose Africa. They said “why don’t you go somewhere normal like Europe” and laughed at the fact that I needed to take anti-malaria pills. My reasoning is I believe it is important to see the world, and not only go to the developed areas of the world, but also look at the developing areas that have a history of oppression. Learning about history is very important in being able to pave the path for the future.  One amazing part of the Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind program offered by CGEE is that not only are you looking at very developed areas such as Sandton which is considered the richest square mile of properties in all of Africa; you also get to compare it to one of the poorest townships in Johannesburg, Alexandra. Even though some of these townships may be poor in terms of money, they are rich in culture and heritage. During these tours we learned why and how this happened, and the simplest answer is that it’s an after effect of the Apartheid Regime.
Apartheid started in 1948 when the white minority gained power under the guise of the National Party (NP). The Apartheid system was put in place to control social and economic factors in South Africa to favor the NP. The black majority was paid very little wages to create wealth for the white minority in power. This happened through cheap labor and exploitation of the land and the rights of people who inhabited the land. To explore this issue further we took a tour of Soweto, which has a lot of historical context of Apartheid. As a group we saw how the people of Soweto struggled during apartheid, by being forced to live in Townships, in small, run down hostels and one room shared houses. Our tour guide highlighted how the Apartheid Regime would create division amongst the people of Soweto by separating them into communities based off of similarities and pinning them against each other by promoting violence and alcoholism which destroyed these communities and helped the apartheid regime (The NP) control the black majority. Another impactful visit of Johannesburg was the Hector Pieterson Museum, created to highlight the events leading up to the June 16th anti-Afrikaans protests. Hector Pieterson was a young boy who was shot during the June 16th 1976 Soweto protests. What was so important about this event was that the photo below was released to the world and sparked international attention to the horrors of Apartheid. This event also shows the power of media and how important it is to have freedom of the press.
Antoinette Sithole, Hector Pieterson, and Mbuyisa Makhubo
 during the 1976 Soweto Uprisings
What South Africa is still struggling with is rebuilding after apartheid. 90% of the wealth is still held by the 8% white minority. Dale McKinley, one of our speakers and a former member of the South African Communist Party, spoke about how the African National Congress, (ANC) who took power after the apartheid regime fell, with Nelson Mandela as their leader, allowed for the white minority to stay in control of the economic “house”, while being able to take control of the social aspect of politics. The ANC believed it was important to fix the social aspect of politics to create equality and then later figure out how to redistribute the wealth, but as we see today unemployment is at an all time high and South Africa holds one of the worst Gini Coefficients. The Gini Coefficient determines wealth gap between the population within Nations. The ANC wasn’t wrong in what they did and I believe it was very important that they did whatever they had to do to reverse the apartheid era rules. As with any political action there must be a trade off, in this case it was social freedom and equality for all, while allowing the white minority to stay in control of the economic power. If this wasn’t done then the apartheid regime may of stayed longer than 1994. Also what is important to note is that it has only been 27 years since the apartheid regime came to an end and South Africa fully gained independence. I believe that South Africa has come a long way in the short time that has passed and that they have a bright future, especially with the determined people who work and live in South Africa.
Lastly, I would like to include a poem I wrote based off my observations while we drove through Johannesburg.
“Untitled” By: Jimmy DiGiulio
As the road winds in, the skyline comes into view,
Artwork littered around the streets, wall to wall
Trash lying beautifully on the ground as if it belonged,
Poverty is just as prevalent as the cars weaving in and out of the people,
Struggle and sacrifice unite those who reside.

One of the buildings in the Alexandra Township in Johannesburg

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