Had apartheid's morbid obsession with racial separation not been so morally corrupt and unjust, it would have been grist to the mill for many a comedy scriptwriter.
When apartheid politicians tried desperately to justify their illogical and unworkable policies, what they said and did was often bizarre, even hilarious. Remember Andries Treurnicht and his bare-faced denial that apartheid was race-obsessed?
“Actually, we have no race classification in the strict sense of the word,” he argued. “What we have is population grouping.”
When it came to jobs, apartheid’s policymakers were sometimes forced to relax their hardline approach simply because there weren’t enough whites willing to take on certain tasks. That’s why they decided to allow coloured women to work as usherettes in white cinemas - provided they did not look at the screen.
I remember well those farcical days - when you had to ask for a girl’s ID before you made your first move on her; holding back a hard pee as you ran around in search of a toilet designated for your use.
Well, all that's a thing of the past, right? But is apartheid truly dead and buried? I’m afraid not, especially after reports that the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa is calling for the return of cemetery apartheid.
Secretary-general Nkosentsha Shezi believes undertakers who are not black should be barred from conducting funerals in townships and black villages - to ensure black business prospers. So while people can mix freely on the surface, it will be a different story six feet under.
To formalise this, I suppose the government may pass its own apartheid-style Separate Cemeteries Act and put up signs saying “Blacks Only”, “Indian Reserve” and “Blankes Alleen”.
But I see problems. How, for instance, do you handle cases of deceased from mixed marriages?
One thing’s for sure - the new measure, if ever implemented, cannot operate retrospectively
When I last visited the Mobeni Heights cemetery, Chatsworth, the Mthembus and Mkhizes appeared quite at home with their neighbours, the Pillays and Govenders, and wouldn’t want it any other way.
Yes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Read more by Dennis Pather