Fighting Years: Black Resistance and the Struggle for a New South Africa

Fighting Years: Black Resistance and the Struggle for a New South Africa

Fighting Years: Black Resistance and the Struggle for a New South Africa

Fighting Years: Black Resistance and the Struggle for a New South Africa

Excerpt

The first full day I spent in South Africa, the blacks stayed home. They stayed home by the tens and hundreds of thousands. The bus stops were deserted, the trains empty. Factories in the country's industrial heartland came to a standstill and the streets of Johannesburg were eerily quiet, as though the city's inhabitants had fled an advancing army.

It was November 5, 1984, and I was on assignment for The Wall Street Journal to do an article about nuclear arms proliferation. That day, however, I filed a story about the work "stayaway" that I learned was the biggest general strike by blacks in a quarter century.

"Are they going to bring down the government?" a hard-boiled editor on the foreign desk growled over the phone.

"Well, no," I replied. "Some day, but not right away."

"So why do we want to run a story now?" he asked. I made a plea for my story, arguing that the strike was noteworthy in blacks' fight against the South African government policy of apartheid. The paper ran an abbreviated account the next day.

What I only dimly perceived during my first week in the country -- and could not explain clearly then -- was that the "liberation" of South Africa from white rule will not be an event. It will not come in a pitched battle or a decisive strike. It is possible that blacks will never storm the Parliament in Cape Town or the imposing Union Buildings that house government ministries in Pretoria.

What blacks call liberation is a process that has already begun in South Africa. It will not end when power is transferred from a white minority to . . .

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