Day 274 (4th June) – Johannesburg

21 06 2011

19,000 murders, 53,000 shootings, 250,000 assaults…

Not hanging around here long, not even to give Johannesburg the benefit of the doubt. However, we did make a little time for the excellent Apartheid Museum. Two hours wasn’t nearly enough time to take it all in. It’s strange to be a product of something that would have been illegal here, that being a mixed race marriage, illegal from 1949 to 1994. This country was and arguably still is, a very messed up place. I still can’t believe they got away with it for as long as they did.

In 1910 the Union of South Africa was created which gave political control to the whites. In 1948 the Afrikaner National Party won the election and went even further by excluding nonwhites from having any political or economic power, and the security forces brutally enforced its laws.  The suppression of black resistance ranged from the Sharpsville massacre of 1960 and the shooting of school children inSowetoin 1976, to the forcible evacuation and bulldozing of squatter settlements and the systematic torture and murder of political activists, such as Steve Biko. In the early 1960’s, many leaders of the opposition party (the ANC) were arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned for long periods; the most famous of those being Nelson Mandela. The system of apartheid was entrenched even further in the early 1970s by the creation of so-called black homelands which were, in theory, ‘independent’ countries. This meant that all blacks within white-designated South Africa were deemed foreign guest-workers, and without a residence pass they could be ‘deported’ to a homeland. After years of conflict, the political prisoners were finally released on11 February 1990, and a peace accord was signed. In 1994 the country’s first democratic elections took place, the ANC winning 62.7% of the vote and Nelson Mandela was made president of the ‘new’South Africa.

After a morning history lesson, we had hoped to take the scenic tourist train fromJohannesburgall the way to Cape Town, however it was fully booked, so had to settle for the not so scenic bus.

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