Independent Online

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

Emancipation Day: A story of slavery and ongoing trauma on the Cape Flats

The intense traumas that passed down the ages through the parents and families and communities that were enslaved, coupled with the militarised racist ideology of apartheid supremacist reasoning, has not disappeared. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African news agency (ANA)

The intense traumas that passed down the ages through the parents and families and communities that were enslaved, coupled with the militarised racist ideology of apartheid supremacist reasoning, has not disappeared. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African news agency (ANA)

Published Dec 2, 2020

Share

by Professor Brian Williams

I was at the local shop in Kensington and purchased a commodity that I needed for my laptop.

Story continues below Advertisement

This normal activity suddenly assumed greater historical meaning when I remembered that December 1 was looming. This day is known as Emancipation Day. Slaves at the Cape were freed on December 1 in 1838.

It is tragic that human beings could be purchased in the same way that one would buy any product. The dehumanisation of our people, who were reduced to commodities, was made possible because of the mindset of those who colonised us.

This reality explains the tragedies and trauma that went along with being regarded as an object. I asked a few young people if they knew where the slave tree was in Cape Town. None of them knew. The tree that witnessed such deep humiliation no longer exists and in its place there is a plaque in Spin Street.

The intense traumas that passed down the ages through the parents and families and communities that were enslaved, coupled with the militarised racist ideology of apartheid supremacist reasoning, has not disappeared. The Cape Flats communities are the bearers of this burden of transgenerational trauma that has injected itself into the veins of our communities.

This dramatic truth has been removed from the public mind in contemporary society where the descendants of slave owners and slaves continue to live in Cape Town. There is a steel veil of secrecy that hides this historical reality. In 2020 in Cape Town, I often think, who and where are the modern descendants of the slave owners? There is no doubt that many people of the Cape Flats are descendants of slaves. It is also true that we share lineage from the Khoisan, indigenous social groups from other parts of South Africa, people from Europe as well as those from the Far East.

The first slaves at the Cape were from Mozambique and Angola and eventually became assimilated within the local Khoisan population at the Cape. Together with slavery, the indigenous people of the Cape were subjected to colonial dispossession and other typologies of violence that intergenerationally carried over the centuries.

Story continues below Advertisement

Traumas embedded themselves in the families of the subjected communities of the Cape and today the Cape Flats is the most violent place compared to other city suburbs in Africa, China, America, Russia, Brazil, India, Australia and Europe.

"I asked a few young people if they knew where the slave tree was in Cape Town. None of them knew. The tree that witnessed such deep humiliation no longer exists and in its place there is a plaque in Spin Street.“ Picture: Theolin Tembo/Cape Argus
"I asked a few young people if they knew where the slave tree was in Cape Town. None of them knew. The tree that witnessed such deep humiliation no longer exists and in its place there is a plaque in Spin Street.“ Picture: Theolin Tembo/Cape Argus

A study released on June 12, 2020 by the Mexican Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice lists Cape Town as the 8th most dangerous city in the world.

We continue to be haunted by the devastation of communities on the Cape Flats as a result of entrenched cultures of violence. This pain has travelled across the frontiers of time from colonialism, into apartheid and post-apartheid, 1994 democracy, and continues to wreak havoc in the lives of millions of people here in Cape Town.

Story continues below Advertisement

Trauma is a response to painful events such as direct violence, cultural and structural violence. Acute, chronic or complex trauma creates damage to the mind of the victim. This can result in a series of different negative conditions at an emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioural level. Repeated trauma over generations and centuries against subjected social groups will result in internalised oppression.

Males who view themselves as protectors but who are unable to protect their families may be the worst affected. Their shame causes them to become the abusers of those closest to them. Everyone is traumatised but the ones not able to deal with their own traumas lash out at others who are vulnerable.

Addictions are attached to traumas and that in part explains why the Cape Flats has the highest drug abuse level in South Africa, followed by alcoholism.

Story continues below Advertisement

Violence may also become a way of assertion, albeit in a negative way.

In previous articles I wrote about the existence of violence on the Cape Flats, the point was repeatedly made that we need to challenge the culture of violence with positive peace strategies.

The law of attraction is a powerful force when we look to the creation of harmony though proactive remedies that seek to affirm the human spirit. The power to heal exists within us and it is my view that there should be a greater focus on strategies that seek to transform thinking towards inner peace as well as peace projects to deliver peace.

Strategies that seek to address violence cannot be successfully applied if transgenerational violence is not recognised as a contributor to the current endemic violence. Peace Ambassadors have shown that peace is possible. We can make choices for peace instead of defaulting to violence. The Peace Ambassadors project looks at the concept that “we are our own liberators” and that we must take responsibility to start the inner healing process through peace action to serve others.

* Williams is Visiting Professor in fields of Peace, Mediation and Labour Relations, University of the Sacred Heart, Uganda, and chief executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected]

All letters must have your proper name and a valid email address to be considered for publication.

Related Topics:

Share