[Fwd: Let's not forget the funny side of apartheid]

*By James Clarke*

Jacob Dlamini recently launched his book, Native Nostalgia (Jacana),
which recalls how some black South Africans remember their lives under
apartheid "with fondness".

He says many who grew up under the system say: "I had a happy
childhood." Some even say: "Life was better under apartheid."

Dlamini insists that we should "not dismiss such sentiments simply
because they make us uncomfortable".

There was certainly a bizarrely funny side to apartheid.

Zulu journalist Nat Nakasa said: "I shudder to think what would happen
to us if apartheid did not have some comical aspects."

For much of the apartheid period parliamentary reporter Ben Maclennan,
then of the South African Press Association (Sapa), kept cuttings from
newspapers and extracts from Hansard that illustrated what Nakasa meant.
He published them in a book in 1990 titled The Lighter Side of Apartheid
(Chameleon Press).

One of my favourites was headed "Seeking Clarity". The chairman of the
Group Areas Board, Dr van Rensburg, explained the law on race
classification thus:

The Group Areas Act defined three races - "White (hitherto known as
'Europeans'), Native and Coloured". All those who fell between White and
Native were regarded as Coloured. But the act allowed the Coloured group
to be subdivided into Indian, Chinese, Malays and those commonly known
as Coloured people. The Malays were regarded as Malays only as long as
they lived in their own group area of Schotsche Kloof. If they moved
into another area, even across the road, those Malays became Coloureds,
he explained. (Cape Times, March 2 ,1961).

Eleven-year-old Sandra Laing, who was White, then declared Coloured and
has now been classified White again, does not quite understand what has
happened to her. (Sunday Times, August 6, 1967).

Jan Smuts Airport, in common with the Union's other ports of land, sea
and air, will soon amend its apartheid applications. The words
"European" and "Non-European" will be replaced by the words "Whites" and
"non-Whites" over appropriate entrances. The reason is that foreigners,
particularly Americans, confuse the issue by tending to use doors that
seem to distinguish them from people who originate from Europe. (Cape
Times, February 24, 1959).

A new bus apartheid system of seating will come into force on some
routes on Monday. In the new system the front four rows of seats and the
longitudinal seats over the off-side wheel in the lower saloon are
reserved for Europeans, and the long seats over the near-side wheel for
non-Europeans. The rest of the seats in the lower saloon and all seats
in the upper saloon are for all classes. The system changes slightly on
Sundays when non-Europeans have both of the long seats over the rear
wheels, the Europeans having the first four rows. The trunk route from
Wynberg to Sea Point will be segregated only between the city and Sea
Point, conductors changing the boards before reaching the city stop at
the Waldorf. (Cape Times, August 18, 1959). (In an interview the manager
of City Tramways denied passengers were confused.)

"We have not discussed the matter in Council, but I am certain that
Beaufort West would be only too pleased to throw the municipal bath open
to the Japanese, particularly in view of the government decision that
they be regarded as whites. The value of a visit from a world-class
Japanese swimming team would far outweigh any race prejudice there might
be. Besides, this is a big wool-growing area and the Japanese are very
interested in our wool," said Mr R V de Villiers, mayor of Beaufort
West. (Cape Times, February 1, 1962).

Parliament was, in retrospect, a Muppet show. Today?

* This article was originally published on page 10 of _The Star_
<http://www.thestar.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3467749> on
December 07, 2009


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