Tielman Slabbert Apartheid Blog South Africa


posted in: Food for Thought | 11

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).


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. 

11 Responses

  1. Elmien

    I am so thankful that I could read this. I like to say that I am not a racist and hate it when people are treated unfairly, but I have seen on many occasions that it is not possible to come free from racism and feeling that you are better than others without really acknowledging the truth that it is in fact not so. I have seen how fake it can be with me. I try to show everybody how I hate racism because I want the honor for that and because it seems like the “in” thing to do. I really need God to open my eyes and cleanse out all these things so that I really can esteem others higher than me.

  2. D

    Thank you so much for writing about this. My entire life, I have always been deeply interested in learning about life in different areas of the world and reading about it. This subject matter is very close to my heart, especially considering the issues finally coming to the forefront in America right now. I grew up very conscious of these issues. As a black person in America, I was also affected by similar racial issues. I remember being terrified for my brothers’ lives when I was a teenager and we heard of the horrible death of a black man in Texas being dragged by a truck. I remember my mother giving us special instructions to keep us safe as young black people in a predominately white area. These types of memories make a deep impression on you. Many times people try to trivialize them, but I am glad that the discussion has been started. Speaking up is not being out of rest. Educating people about reality does not mean we do not forgive. But the fact that so many are so shocked by this, is evidence enough that change is needed, education is needed. If no one ever speaks up, then no one knows that there is a problem. This was very interesting to read and I look forward to the next one.

  3. Colin

    I have always found it strangely ironic that people could at the same time appear to fear and hate black people and also entrust their children to be cared for by a black nanny. For myself I would only entrust my daughter’s care to someone I deeply trusted.

    (I’m not making a point here, just expressing my ignorance!) I sometimes wonder whether a significant proportion of those almost became racist to keep up their image more than because they believed in it. Did Loeki’s parents not think Beauty deserved to have visitors? Or were they scared of what the neighbours would say? Perhaps there is a mix of things, but it is amazing how easy it is to go along with things we know are wrong to preserve our own honour.

  4. William Goxo

    Thank you Tielman. This ground-breaking testimonial affirms the words in Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good “.

    The goodness that Loekie experienced in Beauty Sibeko overcame all the prejudice and thawed all the coldness in her heart. Peter’s words in Acts 10:34 come to mind: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation WHOEVER fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him “.

    And now, more than 20 years down the line, the good seed that was planted in her child heart has sprouted and blossomed into a glorious tree that grows by the heavenly river and bears glorious fruits of righteousness, goodness and love. This I, we have experienced in her, in Tielman and many others who have chosen the narrow way in the footsteps of Jesus!

  5. Hannelie van As

    Thank-you for an excellent read. And there were many stories like Lokie & Beauty Sibeko’s. Which makes me think of ‘The only thing that is needed for evil to flourish, is for good men to keep quiet.’ As someone who was also raised under the apartheid regime, that was the status quo not to speak out and stand up for what is right. Prisoners without bars of apartheid ideology.
    ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Joh. 3:16. Only Jesus can set us free from our prisons, whatever the nature of it. ‘Who is my mother and my brothers?’ Pointing to His disciples, He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven are my brothers and sister and mother.’ Matt. 12:48-50.

  6. Sandanassamy

    Thanking you for your article. You are poured out your heart so that light can shine in the dark places of my heart . So that by Grace of God I give up my inherited nature which are very much written in your article. God bless you .

  7. Mark Floor

    When reading this blog, I thought about the two questions the Apostle Paul asked 2000 years ago:
    “…..who regards you as superior or what sets you apart as special?
    1 Corinthians 4:7 (Amplified)
    These two personal questions require personal answers…..
    “Who regards you as superior”?
    “What sets you apart as special”?
    A personal working session with the Holy Spirit can guide each one to the real answers.

  8. Sandisiwe

    Thank you Tielman, this is wonderful to read. I grew up during apartheid SA as a black woman born in 82; so I’ve made some observations over the years and I must say that I’ve noticed by the grace God real love coming from the white Afrikaans community, more so than any other white groups in the country. Isolated incidents of hate do not change what I have seen God do in their hearts as they try to be embracing and loving towards fellow black South Africans, reach out to us, out of a genuine heart. I’ve seen this for many years and it’s always struck me as quite extraordinary and only the work of the Holy Spirit. We give Glory to the Living God. We see His hand and the ministry of reconciliation. Much love.

  9. Dimakatso

    Thank you Tielman for taking time to reflect on yours and Lokie’s childhood experience of black peoples who served you and families in your childhood. I’m glad you had positive experiences and can appreciate the injustice of racism.
    As black people, most of us never experienced the joys of having a mother all year long but on Christmas and occasionally during the Easter break when the white families she served went on overseas trips it’s still a bitter sweet thing.
    Bitter because those who experienced the most goodnesses from our mothers treat us with disdain to this day. Sweet because perhaps the joy our mother brought can not be relegated to the recess of their heart. It comes bubbling out in pieces like your writing and by the grace of God will spark a fire for justice that can not be extinguished but spread through out our communities. May the revelation of God’s love for all be a guide to love all his creation.

  10. George Oketch

    I thank and praise God for this reflection. It’s not just Tielmans, but rather applicable to all of us. How was our childhood? Could it be a hindrance to some ones freedom, or someone’s ability to access Christ’s gospel? …
    The nanny could be denied physical freedom, but the Spirit couldn’t, and therefore it worked in their hearts and thus they were full of goodness, peace and quietness. GOD’S SPIRIT CAN NEVER BE RESTRICTED BY HUMAN BARIER.
    May this be real, alive and true in my life. My home should be a place of freedom, peace and love and not vice versa, this way our children would grow in the same environment.

  11. Rebekka Habtab

    I so agree with what “D” and Mark Floor writed. Education about this subject is needed. We need to teach oud children the next generation that there is no one superior more special or better. Every colour is beautifull created by our Creator. And because He loves His creation we should als love everyone.

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