South Africa...

In 1984-1985 I served a church mission in the Republic of South Africa. I had many varied experiences too numerous to mention on this single web page. At any rate, I will relate one experience that I recently emailed a friend.

When I lived in Africa, my eyes had been witness to a multitude of human rights abuses. It was a critical time in South Africa's history, as the government's policy of 'apartheid' (seperateness) was at its peak. Human life meant very little, if anything, if you were black. Modern slavery was in full effect. And any black human being in a white neighborhood after 10 p.m. was fair game (shot).

One of my most dramatic experiences, of which I can recount, dealt with black Zimbabwean refugees. Rhodesia fell in 1981 and became Zimbabwe. A black leader, Mr. Magabi, soon rose to power. Mr. Magabi was a member of the Sotho tribe and soon announced extinction (genocide) to the opposing tribe, the Ndebele. Many people fled to South Africa. The South African government had many internal problems of its own and didn't appreciate any newcomers. The Ndebele refuges were sought out by the South African Police and taken to the Johannesburg Rail Station where they were shipped to Harari to be disposed of (killed). The train left daily at 6 p.m..

At one of my boardings, we were harboring about a dozen refugees in a small shack (10'x10') in the back yard. They were my friends, I used to enjoy playing soccer with them. One day the Police did come to our boarding to inquire us as to any possible refugee activity. I lied through my teeth, realizing that if caught I may end up in a South African prison. The Police trusted my words, perhaps due to my being a missionary, and left.

One of the most haunting memories of my mission was to be at the rail station a 6 p.m. and witness the death train. I will never forget the many silent and expressionless faces aboard that train.

I have seen first-hand what can happen in a first world by those that abuse power.

An interesting movie that deals with South Africa during that period of time stars Whoopi Goldberg and is titled, Sarafina!. It contains mature subject matter and comes highly recommended.


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