Visiting the cell of Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, was an emotional experience. The man that fought for equality of black people in South Africa. Despite this, Cape Town is often called the racist capital. During my trip, I understood why!
After a beautiful boat trip, we arrived to Robben Island where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years as prisoner. We were guided around on the island by an ex-prisoner, with much knowledge. We got a good understanding of the history. I remember I felt sad, but at the same time relieved because the situation had changed due to Mandela. That I thought. I thought that he had managed to break down the system of segregating in South Africa. As the visit to Robben Island took place on one of my first days in the country, I understood quickly that this was not truly the reality.
Sitting at a restaurant in Cape Town, I noticed that there were just white people there. Then a black couple came in, sitting down at a table. The white waiter came telling them: “Sorry, we cannot serve you”, and showed them the way out. I was looking around the restaurant, thinking that maybe someone else that booked that table, and that the restaurant was full. But there were many free tables. Maybe the restaurant did not have more food, or that they were going to close the serving? But other people entry to the restaurant after them ordering their meals. I was shocked! Was it really like this that the couple was not allowed to eat at this restaurant just because they were black?
A similar event happened to some of the people I went to university with. They went on a class trip to South Africa. They were entering a bar, with some exchange students from Uganda and Ghana. First, some of the customers left seeing them. Thereafter, the waiter told them to leave. Because this bar was just for white people. Though most of the group were white, the black was not welcomed.
Rarely, did I see black and white people talk together. They were separated in most arenas. The guardian claims that as many as 43 percent of the South African population rarely or never speak to someone from another race.
That people have fear of other races I experienced when my friend that lives in Cape Town, got nervous if we walked to an area of just black people. In Port Elizabeth, we managed by accident to drive into a slum area of just black residents. “We are going to be robbed”, the others in the car was screaming, “We have to get out of here fast!”. Like it would the last minutes of our life if we did not get out of there faster than the speed of light. Me, that had been travelling to several African countries, and had black African friends, I was not so scared. But a little bit affected by the reaction of the others. Was this really as dangerous as they claimed? But nothing happened, and we came safe from the area.
Two months ago, I met a man from Cape Town that lived the past 30 years in Norway. He told me that he never want to travel back to birth country again. Tough most of his family still live there, he do not want to go back to even visit them. The feeling of hurt, disgust and anger due to experience related to his dark skin, stops him. “The country is ruined, and I’ll never go back”, he told me.
That being said, South Africa is not the only country where these racist actions happen. Even in my own country, Norway, I can see some of the same patterns. In the US, the case in Ferguson happened under one month ago. Nevertheless, segregation still happens in South Africa as well. Maybe stronger than most other places. So we can ask ourselves: Did Nelson Mandela achieve what he fought so bravely for?