Unknown heroes

There are millions of unpriviliged people in South Africa who still suffer from the injustice done to them by a minority of (religious) fanatics who feel themselves superior above people with a different skincolour and (multi-)cultural background. And they are still there and pulling hidden strings where possible. It’s an illusion to change the world overnight and that’s not what this story is about.

This little story is about those heroes the world has never heard about; South Africans who stood for their right but without the ‘privilige’ of the right media contacts or the resources to go in exile or an invitation from the ‘university’ at the Djerzinsky Square in Moscow…. Not that they ever wanted to. But they are known within their own community where they are honoured and prayed for in silence for generations to come.

Stanford has its own ‘forgotten’ heroes (one in special) and thanks to Annalize Mouton who wrote and published the book “Portrait of a Village” we know about Mathilde May and others but first a little background:

 Before the forced removals of he ‘coloured’ to the ‘location’ outside the village people of different walks of life were living peacefully together. “There was no segregation and according to both White and Coloured it was a harmonimous coexistence”, writes Mouton. The first eviction was in 1957 when coloured people were removed from their houses directly bordering the village and the second between 1972 and 1974 when ‘coloureds’ were removed from the village itself.

“Before these removals people of all races and colour respected one another and lived together harmoniously; now there was distrust, anger and sometimes bitter resentment ……… Friendship and love accross colourlines became acts of indecency, prosecutable by law……” and “Stanford would never be the same.”

The book quotes Matt Dreyer (coloured with German blood): “To think that after generations one gets evicted from your own house and land like a criminal. Forever gone were the freedom, the peace, the unity, the love in which we had dwelt together with our White neighbours” ……. “Except for the White man who came to or house with his shotgun when he heard we had to move and shouted ‘There go the Hotnots’ then shot our dog on the spot, the pre-apartheid years were wonderful.”

Between 1972 and 1974 30 families had to move from their properties in the village where they lived for generations but one resisted. That was Mathilde May who together with her husband Charlie build their home in the 1930’s with 18000 self made bricks. She refused to move. Not a town clerk, nor the police, bailiff or whatever authority succeeded in her removal. Everytime an official came to her to hand-over a letter she went for a prayer in her bedroom “Lord deliver me from the hands of my enemies”. At the end her prayers, and a little support from a wealthy woman, helped. She stayed in her own house untill she passed away some 10 years later.

Mouton’s book provides a good insight on a human scale of what ‘Apartheid’ did with people from different backgrounds in a small community. Heartbreaking stories of families who were forced to start a new life in a hostile environment and somehow managed to reconciliate and be succesfull in the present.

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