As people around the world continue to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, NY1's Dean Meminger continues his series from South Africa on the leader's life and legacy. He spoke with victims of Apartheid who clearly illustrate why Mandela is considered a hero and a saint for helping to end the racist policy.
The memories of apartheid are vivid and the pain still real. South African women who spoke with NY1 say the former racist government policy was often deadly.
"The white man killed our people,” said a woman.
Did you have family members that were killed?
“Yeah, my big brother,” she said.
“My grandfather was killed with white man, my grandfather,” said another.
Often killed by soldiers or the police during the struggle to gain equality, blacks and other people of color were legally oppressed when it came to jobs, education and other human rights. The white government viewed apartheid as good and fair.
"It could as just easily and perhaps much better be described as a policy of good neighborliness,” said a clip from the Nelson Mandela Foundation documentary.
That included blacks needing a pass book and written permission to travel within their own country. The legal chains of Apartheid were broken and abolished not long ago, in 1991.
"No more slaves, we are equal,” said the second woman. "So today there is no whites, no blacks, only one. We are one now."
That term no more whites, no more blacks has emotional and physical significance for Phindile Spies who is biracial. Her birth in 1968 was illegal. So when her black pregnant mother fled South Africa to a neighboring country.
"One of my aunts said, was that you know we would be waken in the night by police and soldiers raiding, looking for your mother and this colored child,” said Spies. “So it was a very difficult situation for her. She feared for her life.”
She could have been jailed or perhaps killed. Spies says her white biological father didn't have those fears.
"It was I that would have been taken away from both of my parents and given another identify in an orphanage,” Spies said. “If they let me live at all. "
When apartheid was abolished she was already a woman.
"When Mandela came out of jail and we got our independence, I got my chance to come back and claim my identity, to claim my share of being a South African,” she said.
A nationality she is now proud of.