I grew up on a farm under apartheid. I wrote in About Me how I was left in the care of a black nanny during the day while my mom was at work. The goodness that I experienced from her and from black workers on the farm formed something in my heart and conscience that I just could not go against, not even when I was among my peers who were strongly influenced by racist ideology. This nanny and these farm workers overthrew the apartheid “regime” in my heart, that is the influence of apartheid in my life! But my friend, Loeki, recently told me something that cut deep into my heart and conscience.
Loeki grew up as the daughter of an officer in the apartheid regime’s National Defence Force. On the surface, her childhood looked like a carefree and happy one, but for her, there was always an underlying darkness which marred her childhood years with a fear for black people, political unrest, scary images of police forcing black people into police vans, soldiers and police patrolling black neighbourhoods.
But, in spite of this, there was a bright light shining into this underlying grim and dark atmosphere, driving away these dark shadows from the mind of a little girl. It was Beauty Sibeko, the black nanny in the house… With her warm and good heart, she took away Loeki’s fears. But not only that – she overthrew the apartheid “regime” in Loeki’s young heart!
Loeki explains: “It was Beauty, our nanny, that became my friend and confidant. Her room was a place where I could spend my happiest childhood hours, and I can remember till today every detail about her room, and the smell of her soap. When I became a young woman, it was with her that I shared my deepest thoughts and fears. She became a mother to me and made me realize that the colour of one’s skin is not what defines you as a person. She gave me a true gift – to look deeper than a person’s skin colour.”
Just reading this makes Beauty Sibeko a very good woman. But when Loeki revealed the backdrop, in my eyes this woman became a hero, a revolutionary, a reformer; a woman who deserves a medal, and the deepest respect from all of us!
The backdrop (by Loeki):
“We moved many times because of my father’s job, and Beauty, our nanny who was always with us from my earliest memories, was not allowed to move between different areas. We had to hide her from the police on more than one occasion. She was an orphan, and even though my parents practically raised her, she was never allowed to be one of us. Why? She was black and was therefore treated differently. She was not allowed to eat from our plates, or drink from our cups. She was not allowed to sit on our beds, or use our bathroom. She almost never had a weekend off and was not allowed to have friends come and visit in her room. All these things really bothered me a lot, and I felt a deep remorse and shame about the way she was treated. I tried on many occasions to stand up to my parents, but I was silenced with harsh words.”
When I read this, I felt wretched and cried! Images flashed through my of the things that happened over centuries in our land. I am ashamed of the horrible and ugly stuff that tainted and still taints the soul of so many members of our white population…
The life of Beauty Sibeko has changed the mind and the heart of one little girl, many years ago (Loeki is now 54 years old). I believe there are many more untold histories about these hidden heroes in a Silent Revolution, who have changed the minds and hearts of at least a part of the white population in South Africa. For these lucky whites, South Africa with a black majority rule is home, where we belong. We are not afraid of our fellow black compatriots; we are part of them and love them! These nannies took away our fears. I am extremely thankful for them, and I am pretty sure there are many, many more who are thankful and will agree with me that they are the true heroes of a Revolution! For the hand that rocks the cradle rules (and changes) the world!
John Newton, a former slave trader, after repenting from the horrors of the slave trade wrote a song with the words “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Although I never agreed with apartheid’s racial discrimination, this song strongly appeals to me as a “wretch” who did not resist or stand up against it enough and as one who was far too much part of the system! Here is a link to the song, sung by a new generation of Africans. May they, and all of us, never, never again, experience the oppression of one by another in our beautiful continent (Nelson Mandela).
ADD YOUR COMMENT BELOW…
If you lived in South Africa during Apartheid what is your view on this? If you didn’t but have something valuable to contribute it would great to hear from you too.