PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF APARTHEID

By Georgia Maphosa
Apartheid has been described as a systematic negation of the other person, and a determination to deny all attributes of humanity, thus leading him or her to develop defensive attitudes while trying 10 regain selfhood.

It is a system the South African white minority adopted in 1948 to “legally” reduce the majority to a
second class humanity. The minds of the majority had to be shaped from childhood in order 10 make them i11tel/ecrual/y and culturally impoverished so that their manipulation could be easy.

Monica Mahloane of Katlehong township in Johannesburg is 50 years old. Her husband died six years ago from tuberculosis which he contracted while working at the Rustenburg Platinum Mines. She was left to fend for six children on a R300 monthly salary, as a domestic worker.

None of Monica’s children has gone beyond the seventh grade. Their schooling was constantly disrupted by disturbances at school, shortage of fees and frequent arrests by the police for allegedly promoting activities of banned liberation movements.

On several occasions Monica’s children have spent up to 12 months in police custody for crimes ranging from pickpocketing to gang assaults. The most devastating incident was when her last-born, Khotso, was imprisoned early this year.

Khotso is 20 and has been sentenced to a 10-year-jail term for complicity in the murder of a white woman.

Mma Khotso, as Monica is fondly known by the township folk, is one of the many thousands of people lost in the abyss of township life– a life that has been referred to by social workers as anarchic and violent.

It is in the townships that young people who have failed to gain respect from the rest of society find solace in gang culture. It is a culture that not only assures them respect from their peers, but also provides them with money they so desperately need.

Clinical psychologists have proved that there is a mental pathology that is a direct result of oppression. Much of the crimes that take place in South Africa show that individuals who commit them are no longer in control of their own actions.

Some have been turned into psychopaths with little regard for life. Others steal to correct what they consider a wrong by those who acquired their riches through exploitation and discrimination.

Many suffer from “post-traumatic stress syndrome” resulting from physical and mental torture in prisons and jails at the hands of the police. Through \\itnessing the sufferings of relatives and friends daily in their lives, they join unknowingly a culture or psychology of violence.

The human condition in the South African townships is degenerating at alarming rates that peoples’ despair is getting out of proportion. The many fights that take place, while not devoid of politics. To a large extent arc an expression of “machismo” and attempts to attract attention.

Youths are reported to have complained that “when ANC President, Nelson Mandela came out of prison, he did not even thank us.”

When liberation movements were banned, one of the strategies they adopted was using youth to create a condition of ungovernability in the country. This was to be done within the parameters of organized struggle. Then liberation movements were unbanned. Negotiations resumed. The government was no longer considered a target but rather a negotiating partner.

The youth had, however, according to observers, been infiltrated by criminals and hooligans and developed a culture of alienation and intolerance in the process.

Now, without a specific target on which to vent their anger, ordinary innocent people have had to bear the brunt.

The situation has been further compounded by the absolute poverty, social deprivation and frustration of knowing that there are no prospects for the future. But youth are not the only victims – so is society at large.

Drug and alcohol abuse arc on the increase and so is prostitution, cutting across racial and age barriers.

Baby dumping, due to social upheavals and the downturn in the economy, has shot up. At the beginning of June one hospital had 20 babies awaiting arrangements for alternative care. The Johannesburg Child Welfare Society reports that it receives about four babies a week. Most of these children are from poor women with other children and no family or state support. The situation is ugly.

The list is long. More than 390,000 women are reported to be raped yearly. Johannesburg alone has at least 34 murders every weekend. As far back as 1984, South Africa was cited as the most crime riddled country in the world after Colombia and Brazil.

Research has shown that the oppressors suffer from extreme fear — fear of the loss of a system of life with power and privilege guaranteed; and fear of failure. They have also developed a persecution complex.

This helps to explain the development of right-wing radicalism and the reluctance of the minority government to give way to democratic forces, political and social scientists say.

Violence is institutionalized as a way to support the power of the minority. Government machinery is set up to protect the system. When crime began to slice across apartheid boundaries into affluent white suburbs, residents of those areas resorted to the use of private security forces using their wealth and power to service them. Moses Mayekiso, of the South African Civics Association (SACA} and chairman of Alexandra (Township) Civic Association (ACA) has argued that such “security” the move will only help to escalate violence.

Through the system of apartheid, the South African government has created a false impression of the state of the economy. Democratic Party MP for Sea Point, Colin Eglin, has said that South Africans have to rid themselves of the myth that their country is a highly developed, capital rich first-world country.

Apartheid has cost the country heavily economically and future generations will have to pay the price. Gaps between communities have to be bridged and disparities rectified.

The system has robbed the non-white communities, and in particular the blacks, of a basic human right, that of decent education.

Human resources experts argue that South Africa will reap a whirlwind as a consequence of the Catastrophic results of Bantu education. It is the new government that will have to bear the consequences. Studies have shown that by the year 2000 there will be a shortage of 212,000 managers and 200,000 technicians. The government is presently trying to redress this situation by recruiting white expatriates, to a country which already face extremely high unemployment figures.

The problems to be faced by the next government are enormous. (SARDC)


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