Mark Mathabane was born October 18, 1960, in
Alexandra, a black ghetto just outside
Johannesburg, South Africa. His parents gave
him an official Afrikaans name, Johannes, and a
tribal name, Thanyani ("the wise one").
As a child, he lived in an unheated two-room
shack where the children slept under the kitchen
table on makeshift beds of newspaper and
cardboard. There was no electricity, no running
water, no sewers or indoor toilets. The family
suffered from bitter cold and hunger.
They lived in constant fear of brutal police raids
designed to enforce apartheid (the legalized
segregation of blacks and whites) through
intimidation and violence.
At five, as the caretaker of his younger siblings
during his parents' absence, Mathabane was
often forced to roam the ghetto for food and an
outlet from boredom.
After his father is arrested and forced to labor
on a white-owned farm, the mother and children
are forced to scavenge for food in garbage
Even with all this hardship, his mother
was determined that he attend school!
Inspired by African-American tennis player
Arthur Ash, Mathabane takes up tennis.
He participated in protests against
aparthied but dreams of escaping African
and using an American tennis scholarship
to accomplish this dream.
American player Stan Smith helps him
attain his dream.
Kaffir Boy is not the only thing
Kaffir Boy in America. 1989.
A sequel to Kaffir Boy, describes Mathabanes early
years in the USA as a student, activist, and writer.
Love in Black and White. 1992.
Mathabane and his wife co-author this account of
their inter-racial relationship through the years of
falling in love, marrying, and raising young children.
African Women: Three Generations. 1994.
This book tells stories of Mathabane’s grandmother,
mother, and sister, three strong women who defy
some African traditions and deeply value others.
The Lay of the Land
Most of South Africa is covered by a central
plateau with stretches of grass-covered plains
A series of cliffs and mountains called the Great
Escarpment partly encircle the central plateau,
separating it from the lower, narrow coastal
regions. The GE provides South Africa with much
of its scenic beauty.
The Atlantic waters of the western coast are
cold enough to accommodate penguins, and
eastern coasts sport warmer waters and provide
habitat for parrots.
Until 1994, South Africa was divided into
four provinces and ten widely scattered
tribal reserves, or homelands.
Cape Province, Orange Free State, Natal,
Venda, where Mathabane’s father was from,
is one of the north most reserves.
Apartheid South Africa
Current Day South Africa
South Africa is a country blessed with an abundance of
natural resources including fertile farmlands and unique
South African mines are world leaders in the
production of diamonds and gold as well as strategic
metals such as platinum.
The climate is mild, reportedly resembling the San
Francisco bay area weather more than anywhere in the
During the South African Apartheid (1948-1991)
What did it look like?
South Africa's most
Peter Magubane, is led
away by police while
covering a story in
Alexandra. During the
time of Apartheid, he was
shot at, detained, and
Woman at home. The
walls are decorated
with packets that once
Washing day in the township.
The Children of Apartheid…
Children despite the
background in which
they live, manage to
Because of the lack of
municipal care, many
children resort to play in
piled up rubbish heaps
instead of garden parks
found in White areas.
Also most Whites have
a house with their own
garden, swimming pool,
and some have a tennis
court as well.
It’s extremely hard staring at
the faces of these children, not
having the power to help them.
These photographs were
published to expose the sad
situation of which many South
Africans were unaware, notably
However, at the time, there
were organizations that were
doing a wonderful job at
helping the suffering and
under-privileged, such as
Operation Hunger, run by Ina
Perlman and the Black Sash, a
powerful women's movement.
What was Alexandra like…
The township of Alexandra
was and is still a disgrace
of Apartheid. The sheer
neglect of improving living
conditions for its residents
by the White government
of that time can still be
Alexandra is situated about
5-10 minutes from
Sandton, one of the richest
areas of South Africa.
The History of Apartheid in South
South Africa was colonized by the English
and Dutch in the seventeenth century.
English domination of the Dutch
descendents (known as Boers or Afrikaners)
resulted in the Dutch establishing the new
colonies of Orange Free State and
The History of Apartheid in South
The discovery of diamonds in these lands
around 1900 resulted in an English invasion
which sparked the Boer War.
Following independence from England, an
uneasy power-sharing between the two
groups held sway until the 1940's, when the
Afrikaner National Party was able to gain a
Strategists in the National Party
invented apartheid as a means to
cement their control over the
economic and social system. Initially,
aim of the apartheid was to maintain
white domination while extending
racial separation. Starting in the 60's,
a plan of “Grand Apartheid” was
executed, emphasizing territorial
separation and police repression.
With the enactment of apartheid laws in
1948, racial discrimination was
institutionalized. Race laws touched every
aspect of social life, including a prohibition
of marriage between non-whites and
whites, and the sanctioning of “white-only”
In 1950, the Population Registration Act
required that all South Africans be racially
classified into one of three categories:
white, black (African), or colored (of mixed
decent). The coloured category included
major subgroups of Indians and Asians.
Classification into these categories was
based on appearance, social acceptance,
and descent. For example, a white person
was defined as “in appearance obviously a
white person or generally accepted as a
A person could not be considered white if one
of his or her parents were non-white. The
determination that a person was “obviously
white” would take into account “his habits,
education, and speech and deportment and
A black person would be of or accepted as
a member of an African tribe or race, and
a colored person is one that is not black or
The Department of Home Affairs (a
government bureau) was responsible for
the classification of the citizenry.
Non-compliance with the race laws were dealt
All blacks were required to carry “pass books”
containing fingerprints, photo and information
on access to non-black areas.
In 1951, the Bantu Authorities Act
established a basis for ethnic
government in African reserves, known
as “homelands.” These homelands were
independent states to which each
African was assigned by the government
according to the record of origin (which
was frequently inaccurate). All political
rights, including voting, held by an
African were restricted to the
The idea was that they would be citizens of the
homeland, losing their citizenship in South Africa
and any right of involvement with the South
African Parliament which held complete hegemony
over the homelands.
From 1976 to 1981, four of these homelands were
created, denationalizing nine million South
Africans. The homeland administrations refused
the nominal independence, maintaining pressure
for political rights within the country as a whole.
Nevertheless, Africans living in the homelands
needed passports to enter South Africa: aliens in
their own country.
In 1953, the Public Safety Act and the
Criminal Law Amendment Act were passed,
which empowered the government to
declare stringent states of emergency and
increased penalties for protesting against or
supporting the repeal of a law. The
penalties included fines, imprisonment and
whippings. In 1960, a large group of blacks
in Sharpeville refused to carry their passes;
the government declared a state of
emergency. The emergency lasted for 156
days, leaving 69 people dead and 187
Wielding the Public Safety Act and the
Criminal Law Amendment Act, the white
regime had no intention of changing the
unjust laws of apartheid.
The penalties imposed on political protest,
even non-violent protest, were severe.
During the states of
emergency which continued
intermittently until 1989,
anyone could be detained
without a hearing by a low-
level police official for up to
six months. Thousands of
individuals died in custody,
frequently after gruesome
acts of torture. Those who
were tried were sentenced
to death, banished, or
imprisoned for life, like
The apartheid policy was highly effective of
achieving its goal of preferential treatment for whites,
as is demonstrated:
A South African News
Article from June 2007:
…illustrating that the issue of prejudice,
discrimination, and dehumanization exists in
the world today – History Repeats!
South Africa speaks out on 40 years of
Occupation. June 11th, 2007
SOUTH AFRICA–On Saturday 9th June 2007 a
crowd of approximately 2,500 people braved the
winter weather in Cape Town, South Africa to
protest the 40-year old illegal Israeli military
occupation of Palestine. The protest march came
amidst a global wave of solidarity action marking
the 40th anniversary of the Occupation, and was
the culmination of a week long country-wide
programme which included pickets, candle vigils
and other activities aimed at raising awareness and
displaying solidarity with the Palestinian people in
their struggle for national liberation.
International Solidarity Movement
•The march was attended by
members of various Palestinian
solidarity groups, Trade Unions, faith-
based organizations as well as the
general public. The crowd walked
peacefully through the Cape Town
CBD with raised Palestinian flags and
banners, chanting in unison for an
end to the Occupation and freedom
for all Palestinians.
•A strong emotional bond exists
between South Africans and
Palestinians due to the many
commonalities experienced by both
peoples under the previous Apartheid
regime, and the current system of
The event lasted roughly 2
hours and concluded outside
the gates of the South African
Parliament where a
memorandum was handed
over to the South African
Ministry of Foreign affairs.
The memorandum called for,
amongst other things, the
immediate withdrawal of the
South African ambassador to
Israel and the severing of
diplomatic relations with the •The crowd dispersed
Zionist State. peacefully but vowed to
continue in their efforts,
It also called for boycotts, citing former president
divestment and sanctions on Nelson Mandela’s famous
all Israeli goods as well as words that ”South Africa is
laws prohibiting South African not free until Palestine is
Jewish youth from serving in free”.
Israel ’s armed forces.