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Apartheid victims speak

The intriguing stories of the experiences of eight ordinary Worcesterites during apartheid, have been captured alongside 21 other South Africans in a book that was launched in Worcester on Thursday evening, 1 August.

The book, These are the things that sitwith us, is about making visible the undocumented everyday experiences that shaped the lives of ordinary South Africans during the country’s brutal and painful past.

“We would have like to have had all of the 50 million South African’s stories in this book, because all of our stories matter. All the stories together make up the rich tapestry that is this country,” said co-editor Friederike Bubenzer from the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, who spoke at the Worcester book launch.

The other two co-editors are Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and Marietjie Oelofson.

The book seeks to establish, at least in part, through the stories of 29 South Africans, the impact of apartheid on the lives of South Africans.

Each story was published in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa and with this, the publishers hope to stimulate conversation among South Africans across language barriers. The book took about four years from beginning to end.

According to Bubenzer they chose individuals from three communities; Bonteheuwel, Langa and Worcester. “The three communities we chose, were communities that we had existing relationships with, both as an institution and as a research body, so it was much easier to connect with people who would be willing to share their stories, Worcester being one of them,” said Bubenzer.

She says they also felt that it was important that the book was centred around the location where events had happened, so that people could centre the memories around events such as the Shoprite bombing in Worcester in 1960.

Gobodo-Madikizela, from Stellenbosch University, says that they wanted to understand, through the research and the book, what the relationship is between the younger generation of today and those who went through the experience of apartheid.

“We wanted to know which stories connect the younger generation after the end of apartheid with the older generation. We wanted to draw the connection between what happened in the past and what is happening today,” she said.

Esther Cenga, Nelisiwe Busakwe, Juan Karriem, Russell Cupido, Antoinette Daniels, Phillip du Toit Senior, Phillip du Toit Senior and Hermien du Toit are the eight Worcesterites whose stories were shared in the book.

“When I saw my story and picture in the book for the first time it was unreal. Tonight it hit me for the first time – the significance of it and to start conversations about it,” Cupido said.

Cenga says for her it was happy moment and a good surprise. “I did not think it would happen. All we need to do is to pray for our country because times are tough,” she says.

According to Busakwe, sharing her story with others brings closure to her.

Karriem says his first purpose with the book is to put his story into context with the whole book. “In terms of apartheid within the South African context, the whole South African has been traumatised. We need the uncomfortable conversation. The uncomfortable conversation means that it can serve as a reminder to all of us of what should not be done in building a democratic South Africa,” says Karriem.

“What struck me every time is the fact that the people and the stories they tell, says something about their place, the different kinds of stories and history a place generates. It is amazing,” says Oelofson.

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