Keynote Speech: South Africa: “Cradle of Mankind” to the Defeat of Apartheid

 Critical Turning Points and Time Travel: Lessons for Sustainable Healing and Social Cohesion

10th May 1994 was a critical turning point for South Africa. It marked a new beginning, a new road to reconstruction and development after the terribly destructive effects of colonialism, imperialism and apartheid. It is amazing that South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy and today we are the world’s youngest democracy - 17 years, only. Of course, the pain and wounds of that terrible past require healing which is far from complete.

In Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech, our first democratically elected President said, and I quote:  “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. “The time for the healing of the wounds has come.” Greetings to fellow delegates and friends: Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, two genuine international icons of the twentieth century, have left indelible imprints on South African history. Yet they would be the first to say that they looked like giants because they stood on the shoulders of others – the masses of ordinary people who gave them their support, actively and silently. What were the perceptions of the ordinary people? Time Travel seeks to unpack and articulate this: their interests (class and otherwise), the passion, the fear and the hope that propelled millions to direct their energy to change the course of history. 

A critical turning point was reached in 1955 with the adoption of the Freedom Charter which has in its opening lines the following: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it.” Nine words which drove a vision and was a beacon of hope in face of serious threats of racial war. These words are captured in the democratic South African Constitution. Even today,  these words remain the glue that keeps us together. Time travel with local sites offers a unique and direct empowerment of the current generation, to not only understand and claim their history, but more importantly to understand each other, in our diverse and dynamic South Africa. These experiences offer invaluable lessons for the increasingly multicultural societies all over the world, for  healing and social cohesion. For us it also provides the opportunity to finally have a written record of our history from our own and empowered perspective. This is really important for the dignity, self - respect and affirmation of the majority whose histories are not found in the archives. 

I am not a historian. In fact I have never studied history formally, not at high school and not at university. I am a social worker. But, since getting involved in Time Travel in 2008, I see the enormous potential benefit to society today.It is very appropriate for the school curriculum from a young ageIt is also of value to the current youth and adult population in respect of social cohesion, for creating understanding and tolerance, for bringing about closure, reconciliation and healingfor giving dignity and self-worthfor community development programmesfor therapeutic intervention programmes for bringing about awareness on issues of human rightsa project for life skills programme and for empowermentfor tourism, developing heritage sites, job creationfor advocacy and lobbyingfor programmes with senior citizens and bridging the generation gapfor projects of environmental focus. Promoting international communication and understanding and developing a common focus and perspective of time travel as a methodology so simple, yet so powerful Nelson Mandela’s vision continues to be the beacon for most South Africans.

The reality is that the majority are still quite poor. We have a 25% national average unemployment rate and going much higher (50% and more) in many rural communities. Historically indigenous African areas are characterised by huge under development notwithstanding the considerable progress in delivering water, electricity, sanitation, housing and community facilities. As we deal with this task, communities compete for the allocation of resources and development. There are human failures. There is fraud and corruption, like the rest of the world. The international economic crisis bites deeply and affects us too. One million jobs were lost last year. We still move forward with many capable national, provincial and community leaders working hard to create the better life we all seek. In all of this our past is always the elephant in the room. It rises sharply in times of election. We have unhealed wounds and our reconciliation is incomplete. Even in daily interactions between individuals, a routine problem in life can become a racial one eg a car accident or a problem between colleagues at work. Our past instilled in us deep stereotypes about each other. We have to deconstruct these stereotypes. This can only happen if we begin to understand each other better. To understand these tasks we need to go into history.What happened?Why it happened?What can we learn to help us with the future? It will be impossible to deal with critical turning points in a vacuum of broader knowledge, especially for non-South Africans. It probably applies to most South Africans too because they have not been exposed to it.

There is very little recorded history from the perspective of the masses, although we must recognize the effort in recent years when several biographies have been published. During  the height of apartheid there was massive censorship and all  media that strictly advanced the apartheid agenda. So let us attempt to give a broad perspective of South African history before we zoom into a few critical turning points. 

Archaeological evidence suggests that hundreds and thousands of generations of Stone Age hunter – gatherers populated the South Africa landscape for nearly 2 million years, YET we know nothing or little of their names, language, memories, beliefs and alliances. Mrs. Ples, was found in Johannesburg , believed to be 2,5 million years. Ten Time Travels have been recorded in South Africa from 2006. A remarkable achievement, not only by Kalmar Läns museum but every individual that have made a contribution. One of those recorded histories is based in the Elands River,  Clanwilliam Town. The Time travel of Cape Hunter – Gatherers  - 4000 years ago

During this period, the emphasis of the Time Travel is an attempt to “live a day , 4000 years ago.  There is evidence of San Rock Paintings at this site. Sharing and sustainability was a means of survival.  While curriculum appropriate for primary school learners, Time Travel teaches important life lessons. Even in our modern society, we are dependent on one another for human sustainability. This site is a tourist attraction. San and the Khoi people are the first known inhabitants of South Africa, believed to have emerged from the same gene pools as the African people. The African people: With the development of the iron blade, reaping became easier and agriculture took on a whole new meaning. This led to a mass migration of African peoples known as the southern migration. Settlement of the African People: Many of the Bantu speaking tribes during the Southern Migration, established themselves in today's KwaZulu-Natal. Other tribes tended to move more into the interior. 

The first White arrived in South AfricaIn 1486 by the Portuguese seafarers and named Cape Town as Cape of Good Hope, followed by the Dutch seafarer Jan van Riebeeck  in 6 April 1652. He started the trade of slaves. This was followed by the British occupation of the Cape in 1806 and later 1820. This also included various other European nationalities and even people from Scandanavia. 

Slaves: 1652 – 1822 Slaves were imported from other parts of Africa, Madagascar, India and East Asia. They were mainly used as labourers and servants but many of them were skilled carpenters and bricklayers.Most of the descendants of the slaves are today found among South Africans Coloured population. Time Travel at Bains Kloof in 1853This leads me to the Time Travel at Bains Kloof Pass 1853, Western Cape.The “bottom up approach” in Time Travel acknowledges all the people who have made an important contribution to society at all levels of society .  The convicts, who have built the Pass,  not a single word could be found in any documentation. In “This Place Has Meaning “ Louis  Marais writes:“The experience totally exceeded our expectations as we were astounded by this simple, yet powerful educational method that allows the participants to engage all the senses.” “We could feel what they felt; we could see and learn how they viewed their lives and their position in society.” “Even the attitudes of those in power came through giving us a vivid picture of the social and political relations of the time” “All of a sudden Bains Kloof Pass took on a brand new meaning” 

The Great Trek Frustrated by the rapid Anglicisation of the Cape, the Voortrekkers who were the Dutch decendents decided to move to the interior, what was known as the Great Trek. They build a unique identity and started calling themselves Afrikaners and developed a hybrid language called Afrikaans. Zulu / Voortrekker WarThis led to the Zulu/Voortrekker war in 1836.The Zulus resisted annexation of their land. Discovery of Gold and Diamonds – 19th CenturyWith the discovery of diamonds and gold in the 19th century, urbanisation started in earnest in South Africa. People came from all over the world. What is of significance here, 50,000 miners dug a hole of around 300 x 200 meters and close to 1100 meters deep. (Internationally famous “Big Hole” in Kimberly). This was the beginning of the migrant labour system affecting the African people only. The family system was eroded. Men had to leave home for work in far off places. Women remained to care for the families. This destroyed the fabric of family life, making those at home extremely vulnerable. 

In 1860 saw the arrival of the first Indentured labourers: (slaves in disguise) from India to work on the sugar plantations. This was followed by the Zulu/Anglo war took place in 1879 known as the Battle of the Blood River Of significance, during the Dutch and British colonial years, racial segregation was mostly informal. Later Apartheid would make it law and entrench it. 

CRITICAL TURNING POINTS in the 20th century
1910 Formation of the Union of South AfricaWith the discovery of diamonds and gold the British realized that there was great wealth  outside the Cape Colony.  This led to war between the English and the Afrikaners which ended with the defeat of the Afrikaner, a peace treaty and the formation of the UNION OF SA IN 1910. 

Resistance and Rebellion, The African people saw the peace treaty as the hope for opportunity to establish justice and equality for all population groups. But unfortunately it turned out differently. All non-whites were regarded as just a labour pool. 1906 saw the Imposition of the Poll Tax and the Bambatha RebellionThe Poll tax was intended to force African people into the labour market. Chief Bambatha Zondi refused co-operate with the colonial govt. of Natal in paying of the Poll tax. The Poll Tax was the ultimate law to get the Africans and Indians to co-operate. From the article: “Remembering the Rebellion” – the indigenous people became more and more defiant as the regime were involved in various atrocities:Burning homesteads and destroying crops. Death by firing squads- punitive measures of punishment.Execution was held in public to demonstrate the consequence of resistance.Attacks at nightPrisons, fines and floggingImposition of divide and rule principles- the chiefs against his own people. The tax had to be paid:per hutper head of each familyper no of cattle ownedThis was clearly a strategy to dispossess indigenous wealth and force dependence on the colonial economy. Bambatha, a Chief of the Zondi clan, resisted.

The rebellion spread and was then ruthlessly crushed. On 13 June 1906, it is said that Inkosi Bambatha’s body was found lying in a gorge. It is recorded that the British Soldiers were unable to remove his corpse and they cut off his head and took it to his clan for identification. Inkosi Bambatha had become a legend and many refused to believe that he had died. Very significant, when one considers the events in the last month. History has repeated itself. Many refused to believe Inkosi Bambatha was dead, that it was not his body, that the head was deliberately misidentified to allow him to go into hiding. This debate continues to this date. The mighty and organised British Armies were victorious, adding more suffering to the Zulus. 

The first time travel in our province, now known as Kwa Zulu - Natal, was based in the year 1905, the year of the introduction of the Poll Tax which led to the turning point: Bambatha Rebellion in 1906. It was a time of extreme tension, suffering and turmoil. Undertaking research and following the 7 steps in historic environment education and time travels was very challenging. The documentation available in the Provincial museum archives were literally 90% from the colonial, apartheid and generally white perspective. There was very little about the Black communities (Indian, Coloureds and Blacks).

Many months of painstaking research and accessing oral history of the region was undertaken by both learners and adults. We realized that when the Poll Tax was implemented tensions were also high in Port Shepstone, as the entire province of Natal was affected. At that point in time, at the Umzimkulu River mouth in Port Shepstone, the harbour wall needed repairs and work was proceeding. People gather at the harbour when the steamer arrives, some need to buy groceries while the labourers will load and unload the steamer. The harbour was a place where people came together. It was decided to use the harbour as our time travel site for our pilot project. We had the actual proclamation of the Poll Tax. While the pilot project was aimed at the appropriate standard for high school learners and had to be curriculum appropriate, our committee focus has always been on promoting nation building, tolerance for schools to work together, to share resources and promote equity.

While we are 17 years into our democracy, there is much work to be done to normalize our society after the ravages of oppression over 3 centuries. 3 schools were selected to be part of the pilot project, an ex African, ex Coloured and ex Indian. Mixing the students of the three schools, staff working together and sharing resources might seem normal but was a huge achievement for us. The participants do not keep their present identity, adding value to greater understanding when a Zulu was an Indian in Time Travel, as depicted in this photo.

The pilot project was a phenomenal success. From the learner evaluation I quote:“I remember from the Time Travel how the different race groups joined each other in numerous daily activities”“I learnt to speak freely and encourage myself to stand up for what’s right and what I believe in“ “I learnt that fighting does not solve problems but causes more problems than solution.” From the educators:“Time travel is one of the best learner-centred teaching and learning methods. It breaks down barriers between the teachers and learners, allowing easy flow of communication. This ensures that learners travel hand and hand with teachers on the path of education.”“So little of our local history is recorded. As a history teacher I cannot begin to express how much learners discovered in one day compared to in a classroom setting. The facilitator was passionate, the time period relevant and the children had so many opinions about the Poll Tax. More learners should have been exposed.” 

An equally successful public time travel was with 170 participants to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Indian Indentured labourers took palace in October 2010. It was amazing how the senior citizens brought not only the clothes that had been preserved from one generation to another but their participation was so real in “ living” that moment. 

2nd Time Travel, in Kwa - Zulu Natal - Expansion(Time Travel on the Court Martial on 20th March 1906 at Emjahweni in Mthwalume, Umzumbe) A Time Travel to 1906 has taken place at the heritage site in a rural Umzumbe where 37 members of this community were banished to the St. Helena Island. What is strikingly evident is that, members of families who in 1906 were banished to St. Helena Island have participated in the Time Travel but have not come to terms with this history. They carried this burden of their ancestors until now. There is much healing and closure to take place in this community. Indian Passive Resistance and Gandhi This was also the time when the passive Resistance Movement for Indians started, led by Mohandas K. Gandhi.  Gandhi came to Natal in 1893. It was here that Ghandi wrote that the suffering he witnessed during this period of the Bambatha Rebellion, influenced his philosophy of “satyagraha” which means resisting through non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi returned to India to lead the independence struggle there against colonial rule. 1912 Formation of the Liberation Movement - ANCAs a direct result of the formation of the Union 1910, the ANC was formed as a peaceful Movement to lobby, persuade the government not to implement racial laws and dispose people of their land. Even the Bambatha Rebellion influenced this development because it was realized that the different tribes had to unite to effectively achieve the struggle for liberation. 

When peaceful protest failed, the youth preceding 1944, decided to form the ANC YOUTH LEAGUE which was militant, a critical turning point. This group was led by our well know leaders Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo and Walter Sisulu. Many of our leaders were: Banned, Silenced, Exiled              Imprisoned, Murdered  and  Executed 

In 1948:  Nationalists come into Power.The National Party was an Afrikaner dominated party that came to power on a “separate development” policy which became known all over the world as apartheid. The system was designed for the economic benefit and upliftment of whites only. Laws were passed to enforce every aspect of this policy. Some examples are:
Job reservation for Whites only
1913 Native Land Act secured 80% of the land for the Whites
Separate and inferior education, health and welfare and sport for other races
No mixed marriages and no sex between black and white
Strict censorship and media control
Repressive laws that provided for detention without trial
Pass laws that controlled movement of people.
There were curfews at night for African people.
Indians were not allowed in the Free State
Separate entrances, separate transport, 
separate toilets (and always inferior to that provided for whites).
Group Areas Act enforced separate residential areas for each race.

There were many forced removals Hendrik Verwoerd the key apartheid architect said that there was no need to teach Africans maths and science because they should have no aspirations. His famous words were:“Die kaffer in sy plek. Die koelie uit die land” The anger continued to grow and the people felt repressed. These laws were implemented by FORCE. 

GAMALAKHE TOWNSHIP TIME TRAVEL - an example of Forced removal.Gamalakhe Tin Town was established in the early 1960’s. People were uprooted from stable communities like all over SA and taken overnight  to areas unknown to them, away from towns and cities. In this case, large families up to 10 members, and sometimes two families had to share one tin room, 3m x 2m in size. 

What is so sad, their history is not recorded and our preliminary research from the museum is just the layout of the township and nothing about the people. Oral history is our only tool in recording this important history that will affirm the dignity of the people of Tin Town. There is much need for healing. The Time Travel concept is spreading in South Africa, and because it has to do with our own history, people want to record their history and are willing to contribute voluntarily for now. One of our challenges is to sustain and entrench it. This is where our Education Department and Museums becomes critical, while NGO such as Bridging Ages South Africa, and now with Provincial structures and many organisations as members is taking leadership to steer the process.

There is, I believe a fantastic collaboration between all govt. departments and NGO that is so much needed if we have to  sustain this project. It needs strong partners to achieve this. Worcester Museum has made a start that other museums can emulate in transforming museums to become community linked, relevant for today and appropriate. They are working in close collaboration with Bridging Ages South Africa and BA Western Cape. The have  planned for 45 Time Travels for 2011. Schools have realised that what they try to achieve in months , can be achieved in one Time Travel as all 5 senses are used for effective learning – and it is FUN as well. The senior citizen are part of these Time Travels and hence support from Department of Social Development. 

1955: The Freedom CharterAs already highlighted, The Freedom Charter is a unique document in that  the people were actively involved in formulating their own vision of an alternative society. The drawing of the Freedom Charter involved all racial groups and organisations. The people were consulted throughout SA, meetings took place in a series of campaigns and rallies, huge and small, held in houses, flats, factories, kraals, on farms and in the open. We need to know who the masses were that made this invaluable contribution. How can we learn from this for future generation. Lessons from this generation need to be preserved and made reference to when racial incidents rear its ugly head, including xenophonia. We need to feel proud that our forefathers have also made a contribution to liberate South Africa. It is enshrined that: "South Africa belongs to all who live in it" and that "all shall be equal before the law". 

WOMEN UNDER Apartheid: 1956In one of the largest demonstration staged in the country’s history, 20 000 women of all races marched on 9 August 1956, to present a petition against the carrying of passes by women. What an achievement for the times and it was organized by women of all races. 9th August is now celebrated as Women’s day and is a public holiday. Time travel during this critical period can be used as awareness for human rights, rights of women, we need to learn from the past to build on the future. However this struggle is not yet over, in South Africa and most of the world. 

1976 – Soweto Uprising On 16 June 1976 Soweto (A Black Township) exploded. Apartheid government imposed Afrikaans as the medium of instruction even in African schools. The students rebelled and took to the streets. The student protests spread like wild fire to all parts of the country. The protests were ruthlessly crushed by the South Africa apartheid govt. South Africa was never the same again.  The struggle entered into a new phase. Thousands of young people left the country to be trained by the ANC in exile. This led to international economic sanctions that played a critical role in support of the liberation movement. Sweden was one of those countries, under the leadership of late Olof Palme. Over the next 10 years resistance grew and intensified. There are thousands of stories of imprisonment, torture, deaths in detention and extra judicial executions, “necklace killings” and the enforcement of consumer boycotts.

1983 Formation of UDF (United Democratic Front). 1983 was another turning point in South African history when a new movement of 400 civic, church, students, workers and other organisations was formed  with 3 million members. The UDF  (United Democratic Front) was formed. This period has been powerfully captured in the Ikageng Time Travel.(Ikageng, Potchefstroom, 1986 - AMEs church)Ikageng is a township in Potchefstroom. In 1986 it was the State of Emergency which suspended even the limited liberties that prevailed. For example there was arbitrary arrests, meetings could be banned and very heavy censorship of the media. Yet resistance continued with a virtual state of war prevailing in many townships. Ikageng was chosen as a Time Travel site. Grade 10 students participated in the Time Travel and were highly involved in protest action of the time. What is amazing is the adults who had participated in the Time Travel were actually playing themselves during that period.

During one of the meetings, members of the church were shot dead when leaving one of those meetings. Although a very sensitive Time Travel, some of the questions in the discussion were: whether the history of 1986 is still important today?  Can Time Travel contribute to healing and reconciliation? In such sensitive time travel, it is very important that all aspects are taken in consideration and we have to assess and involve organisations that can assist with therapy and bring about closure and healing. Of course a further question can be added: against this background and in current South African conditions how precious, how relevant is the right to vote for the people of Ikageng. Battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the fall of the Berlin Wall

As internal resistance mounted and international sanctions began to bite deeply two external turning points were to have significant impact on the South African situation. The first was the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola where for the first time the South African military machine was defeated by Cuban and Angolan military forces. The second external turning point was the fall of the Berlin Wall. This represented the fall of the Soviet Empire and Communism as it was then known. In its analysis and in its propaganda, the apartheid state feared the socialist bloc for the material support that it gave to the liberation movements and the ideology that it represented. 

1990-1994: Release of Mandela, Negotiations, Violence, assassination of Chris Hani and Democratic Elections The release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the unbanning of the organisations of the liberation movement was undoubtedly a very significant turning point. It was not an act of goodwill.  It was a strategic decision forced by all the factors and circumstances described earlier. Nevertheless credit must be given to FW de Klerk for his leadership, which defied the patterns of history where unjust systems fight to the bitter end and only after years of bloodshed and destruction decide to negotiate when it is too late.

It has taken 80 years to negotiate for a peaceful solution, from 1910 with the formation of the Union of SA. The province KwaZulu-Natal was virtually in civil war. Thousands died. Families were divided. The experiences and effect of self defence units is a huge story still to be fully told. The peace process driven in the main by civil society is a lesson for the world. The assassination of Chris Hani took the county to the brink of full scale civil and racial war. Millions were mobilized.  Everyone feared the country would burn. Chris Hani’s death was used to secure the date for the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994 which became a new turning point, a euphoric point, a point of reference for all the generations to come. 

ConclusionWe are now 17 years into our democracy. Many wonderful things have happened. Many serious challenges remain. Many, many turning points are not mentioned e.g. Sharpville Day. We have just concluded our Local Government elections. The electoral process is recognised internationally as very fair and credible. As political parties promote themselves, their policies and programmes, it is clear that our race and class fault lines still run deep. It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. 17 years is a short period in the life of a nation. It will require sound leadership and hard work to keep us moving forward. Education has been acknowledged as the number one priority of the nation. Yes we need the technical skills inherent in maths and science to provide the skills that will transform our economy. But we are also human beings, social beings, who need to come to terms with our past and with each other. Time travel offers a unique opportunity to help this happen. 

Gulshera KhanPort Shepstone Twinning Association, South Africa 

Acknowledgement and Thanks to the following persons:Bhekani Paul Zondi – Guidelines (history broad perspective)  - Department of Education, Ugu Region Senior History Curriculum AdvisorOmmesh Maharaj – Correction and Editing – Department of Education- Chief Administrator.Ravi Pillay – Struggle History and general guidance – Husband and Member of KZN Legislature