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Pan Macmillan

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Tony Leon: 20 Years on Apartheid is Still “There” for Most

The Accidental AmbassadorTony Leon believes the victims of apartheid are still affected by the system, 20 years after it formally ended.

In his most recent column for Business Day, Leon recalls a talk he attended between British novelist Ian McEwan and Israeli writer David Grossman, in which Grossman said that for Israeli Jews the holocaust is always “there” or “over there”. He insisted that despite happening in Europe the holocaust “is always with us … it is ever-present”. For non-Jews, according to Grossman, the holocaust “is something that happened ‘then’, at a fixed point of time”, in other words in the past.

Leon says he was struck by this idea, and believes it can be applied to South African’s position with regards to apartheid.

I suspect, and discounting the professional rent-seekers and exploitative ethnic politicians of whom we have no shortage, for most black South Africans, apartheid is always about “there” and not “then”. It remains with the subjects or the direct victims of the system long after its formal ending and even long past the point when the same group has attained full civil rights and even, for some, high levels of material prosperity.

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