I am a non white male who grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and first realised the struggles that belay our country in my last years at primary school, grade 7. At this stage, I was naive about what was happening around me and from this young age, was passed an idea that the regime in our country was normal and that we should remain subservient. I only understood what my parents and family members told me as we were not black, but coloured and coloured people had a fear of black people because of constant indoctrination by the white regime of the time. In grade 5 at primary school the riots hit home and primary schools closed for an entire semester due to unrest. When I reached high school, I started to hear about the liberation movement, the ANC and Nelson Mandela. The school had a student body called the SRC. Albeit small the School representative committees had one big advantage, it had hundreds of young people at its fingertips who were full of spunk and optimistic for change. The SRC worked with the MDM at the time, Mass Democratic Movement. I started to participate in the protests in 1989. As teenagers, many of us never believed that we needed to be subjected to white supremacy, regardless of what our parents taught us. We met after school or whenever possible, trying to be discreet, considering that these meetings were frowned upon by many in the coloured community. When it was time to attend mass rallies and marches, the biggest risk was travelling on foot to meeting venues. In my high school years I lived in Mitchell's Plain, commonly known as the largest coloured township in South Africa. As we would convene with other student bodies from other schools, we would normally convene at a common location such as a church, mosque or neutral school. As we never had any private transport and public transport was not available for short distances where we stayed, we walked to these meetings. At that time, it was seen as a criminal offence to be in school uniform during school hours and not be in school, or to walk in groups of 3 or more. We had to walk through our neighbourhoods by jumping residential backyards. This was quite difficult as many of the older coloured folk never supported the liberation movement due to their "fear of blacks" . There were older folk that had understood what was happening though. At one such mass rally at a school in an area of mitchells Plain called Rocklands, we arrived close to the meeting point and stumbled across a group of CNN reporters who were covering a story on the mass action movement against apartheid. We managed to smuggle the reporters into a townhouse that was directly opposite the school we were meeting at. The owners of the house actually allowed CNN cameramen to film from their first story window. Our group was extremely chaffed that we had met and assisted an international news crew. Police brutality was severe. There were several times that we were not that lucky to safely reach our meeting point and would be chased by police and shot with rubber bullets and teargas. It was at these mass rallies that I heard of the man who at that stage had been imprisoned for more than 20 years. I leaned of his hunger strikes as well as other prisoners who were detained due to the struggle. How I had wished that he would be freed, that we would see democracy and a free nation. In 1994, we got our freedom. When Mandela was released in 1994, he made an address at the City Hall in Cape Town City. Myself, friends and fellow comrades took the public train to the city to see him. There are not words to describe the elation at seeing a man you heard so much of and at that stage have not even seen a photo of. And the fact that he embodied what we would have hoped for in a leader, a leader that was fair and would care for all his people as if they were no different to each other, and a leader that would teach us to look past our suffering, forgive and move on. Today, I have a successful career and what I took back from Madiba was his determination to stop at nothing. He won the hearts of all our people regardless of their previous beliefs. I am a senior manager at a large corporation and have never studied further than high school but learnt everything I know from my peers and by teaching myself through books, the internet and constant trial and error. Our country still has still got a long way to go. I might be a senior manager at my corporation, yet all other 11 senior managers are white. I am optimistic, because I see positive change all the time and as the years go by, the positive change just multiples.
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