When freedom is normal

It’s Saturday on Freedom Weekend. My body is tired after this back-breaking work of digging out weeds, grass and other invasive stuff from the aloe garden. So I am happy to pounce on V’s suggestion that we drive to Chintsa East (a huge village on this part of the east coast, relatively speaking) to find a restaurant where we can have lunch.

A corner of my (legal) home: plenty of reason to smile

First stop is the Barefoot Café. I love the barstools here – they are made from old paint drums – and the menu is good, even for vegetarians. But it is packed – there is rugby on the TV – and it smells of beer, which is what pubs tend to do.  

Isis, another normality

We head to Michaelas, perched on the very top of a sand dune. I can’t tell you much about the quality of the food these days, but the views are spectacular. We climb into the see-through lift. It jerks and shudders its way up the sand dune, through the milkwood trees, wild banana (Strelitzia nicolai) and the coastal silver oak (this stuff is all over the place!).

Chop-chop

But Michaelas is about to close its doors for a private function, so we will have to be chop-chop (quick) about ordering food. We don’t fancy a rushed meal, so decide to have a drink on the deck overlooking the sea instead. There are a few other occupied tables, but it suddenly strikes me … “There are no black people here,” I hiss at V.

“What about me?” he says. “You don’t count,” I answer, without really thinking. He laughs because he’s a good sport.

Let me explain. Most South Africans are not racists, but, given our history, we are so very aware of race. And this is, after all, Freedom Weekend. Okay, for the sake of accuracy, it was Freedom Day on Friday, a public holiday to mark our first post-apartheid elections in 1994. With the help of Workers’ Day tomorrow, we are making a long weekend of it all.

As we should: it’s been 18 years since those first elections when we queued and queued to vote (with something like a 90% poll). We did it in our millions, we did it proudly, and despite four decades of the most appalling racism that structured everything in our lives, we did it peacefully. We should never stop celebrating.

Us, the criminals

V and I have our own little celebrating to do on this Freedom Weekend. He is of Indian descent and I am of European descent: for the first few years after we met, we were actually criminals because our relationship was illegal.

The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and Section 16 of the Immorality Act were repealed in 1985. We married in 1986 and it did involve some sort of racial reclassification for me; I’m still not sure what race the morons made me. We do laugh about that now, but it wasn’t funny at the time.

Trying to go to some establishment for dinner or drinks was usually very difficult indeed. He would either not be allowed in or I would be harassed. So it’s kind of nice being able to drift to whichever place we feel like.

Anyway, back to the drinks with a view. On cue, it seems, a black man and two black women wander on to the deck. They take some photographs. They seem in a hurry to leave, but I hear one of the women say: “I like this place.”

So do we. We stay for a second drink.

A legal home

We consider finding another eatery, but we prefer to go home: we live in our home legally, and that means a lot because we remember the Group Areas Act that made it so hard for us to find somewhere to live, a home. That legislation reserved the most prime property for whites. It was repealed, along with the Population Registration Act, only in 1991.

We had to sneak around and hide away, breaking the law, of course. And we came across some nasty little “lefties”, spoilt white brats, who actually made profits out of sub-letting apartments in “white” areas to illegals.

That’s another story. I’ll share it with you sometime. In the meantime, let’s just savour freedom.

I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man. – Nelson Mandela

 

4 thoughts on “When freedom is normal

  1. Do you know that there is a growing "UnFreedom Day" movement that reminds us that many, many South Africans are still not free of poverty? Huge problems remain, but as you say, we should never forget where we've come from and how far we've come.(I shall pass on your compliment to Isis!)

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