By Leila Hall and Qhakazambali Mthembu
You “wouldn’t get out alive.” During the 2006 Soccer World Cup – held in Germany earlier this year – a former government spokesperson gave this warning on German public radio to non-white visitors regarding certain small towns in the state of Brandenburg. There are numerous areas of Germany that pose a very real threat to minority groups in the country. It has been estimated that a higher percentage of people have been the victims of extreme-right attacks in Brandenburg than anywhere else in the world since 1990.
There are parts of Berlin, such as Marzarhn and Hellersdorf, which Africans know are “no-go areas” or “black zones” where they will almost certainly be attacked or killed. Frequent cases of violence have been documented. In April 2006, a 37-year-old Ethiopian engineer was beaten into a coma in Potsdam and there have been similar attacks on Africans and dark-skinned people in Berlin, Wisner and other cities last year.
Germany, however, is not the only place with clearly demarcated “no-go” areas for non-whites. Orania is an exclusively Afrikaner town in the Northern Cape which still insists on maintaining a separatist society along the old principles of Apartheid. Non-Afrikaner workers are not permitted into the town, and all jobs are held by Afrikaners, from manual labour to management positions. There are black and coloured townships a mere 40 kilometres away, but the inhabitants of these know that they are unwelcome in Orania. According to Orania’s founders, the town’s purpose is to preserve Afrikaner culture and heritage and follow Afrikaner selfwerksaamhied (self reliance).
There are only between 500 and 600 Afrikaner families living in Orania today, but several people fear that, with time, Orania will grow into a greater Volkstaat (a fully independent “homeland” for Afrikaners) which will attempt to secede itself from the rest of South Africa. It is hard not to question the potential threat that such a separatist society and hard-line Afrikaner nationalism pose to South Africa’s diverse and multi-racial democracy. In 2002, the South African police announced that they had arrested 20 Afrikaners allegedly involved in a plot to overthrow the ANC; and in 2005, Orania’s unlicensed radio station was shut down after allegations that it was expressing racist views.
Closer to home, it is hard to ignore Grahamstown’s very own “no-go” areas. The idea of ‘black zones’ is becoming the grim reality of any night out in Grahamstown, according to some students.
There is undeniably a clear racial divide in terms of people’s choice of clubs and bars here and there have been several reports of incidents of racism and homophobia over the past few years.
“Friar’s is one place where you walk in and you just feel black,” says Tracy Damons a fourth year Rhodes University student. Friar Tuck’s has often been at the centre of racial controversies – with several alleged incidents of barefaced racism and discrimination at the club. There have been reports of racist remarks, of black students being ignored, being the only people asked to produce their student cards or even being asked to leave the club. “When we tried going into Friar’s one night, he [the bouncer] stopped us and asked for our student cards. This is crazy, there were like 20 other people going in before us with no hassles, but no, as soon as he sees a group of black girls there is a problem,” says Phumzile Van Dam a fourth year law student.
Though the management of the club was not available for comment, Sarah Jager, a regular customer of the club said “I heard it’s racist, but I do not think it is because I have never experienced any racism at the club and generally that’s where I hang out”.
There are also some places where homosexual students have been made to feel very unwelcome – such as the Union, where students reported an alleged “gay bashing” incident in May earlier this year.
Sinqobile Radebe, who studied at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg before coming to Rhodes, said that “This separation happens everywhere you go really, it’s all about those stereotypes surrounding taste in music and stuff, but it seems like here, things are just on an overly racial tip.”