I watched Goodbye Bafana last evening, a film about the relationship between Nelson Mandela and his prison guard in South Africa under apartheid. My view can be summarized by this comment at IMDb-

…Fiennes plays James Gregory, a racist South African guard whose certainties are nonetheless shaken to the core over the span of twenty years – the time he spends as Nelson Mandela’s prison warden. The movie’s merit lies largely in showing us the daily application of a major historic abomination – Apartheid – through the lives of “little people”, those ordinary men and women of South Africa thanks to whom it was perpetuated. These are “ordinary” white people who are neither heroes nor villains, but obtuse conformists. The violence of the system on its white citizens was considerably more hidden than on its black ones, but it was violence all the same: it was the obligation to remain as ignorant as possible. The alternative was to be persecuted by the status quo.

Dennis Haysbert as Nelson Mandela was suitably stoic and charismatic, a positive counterpart to Forest Whitaker’s villainous Idi Amin from The Last King of Scotland. Diane Kruger was definitely better cast as an “ordinarily” racist, suburban hairdresser wife and mother of two, than as Helen of Troy. By the end of Goodbye, Bafana, I was also somewhat moved. My major complaint with the movie was that like the vast majority of African-set, historical movies made recently, Nelson Mandela and all the black African characters were largely viewed from the outside, through the whiteys’ eyes. These movies’ directors all need to sit in a darkened room and watch The Battle of Algiers together sometime…

Its always the “little people” who allow such uncivilized activities to take place, those who want to lead a “good life” without rocking the boat within a system where conscience means nothing, and neither does human rights, or dignity.

Mandela is a socialist who believes in egalitarianism. But the apartheid government branded him and his group “communist” and banned it. To save the country from “communism,” they chose fascism. One way to consolidate the power of whites was to strip non-white people, particularly blacks, of their voting rights. The “transformation” is interesting indeed-

…In 1950, D F Malan announced the NP’s intention to create a Coloured Affairs Department.J.G. Strijdom, Malan’s successor as Prime Minister, moved to strip coloureds and blacks of their voting rights in the Cape Province. The previous government had first introduced the Separate Representation of Voters Bill in parliament in 1951. However, a group of four voters, G Harris, WD Franklin, WD Collins and Edgar Deane, challenged its validity in court with support from the United Party. The Cape Supreme Court upheld the act, but the Appeal Court upheld the appeal, finding the act invalid because a two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament was needed in order to change the entrenched clauses of the Constitution. The government then introduced the High Court of Parliament Bill (1952), which gave parliament the power to overrule decisions of the court. The Cape Supreme Court and the Appeal Court declared this invalid too. In 1955 the Strijdom government increased the number of judges in the Appeal Court from five to eleven, and appointed pro-Nationalist judges to fill the new places. In the same year they introduced the Senate Act, which increased the senate from 49 seats to 89. Adjustments were made such that the NP controlled 77 of these seats. The parliament met in a joint sitting and passed the Separate Representation of Voters act in 1956, which removed coloureds from the common voters’ roll in the Cape, and established a separate voters’ roll for them. Immediately after the vote, the Senate was restored to its original size. The Senate Act was contested in the Supreme Court, but the recently enlarged Appeal Court, packed with government-supporting judges, rejected the application by the Opposition and upheld the Senate Act, and so also the Act to remove coloured voters…

It only goes to show that constitutions, laws etc are useless in a society where those who hold power don’t respect them, and where people are “little” by nature. Such ideas cannot compete against warfare conducted with legal technicalities as weapons.

State-sanctioned brutal discrimination has been carried out in many “civilized” countries at sometime or the other throughout mankind’s history, with civil society actively supporting it. Labeling the countries and people indulging in such discrimination as “scum” would be letting them off too lightly.

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