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The Psychological Impact Apartheid has had on the young generation

By Zuko Komisa

Years of oppression tend to have a significant psychological impact on generations that follow. There is a popular story of a horse that was chained for all its life and the day it was freed did not know what to do with its new found freedom, the restriction of movement was so severe it affected the rest of its life. We look at this phenomenon in the South African context, the veracity of the impact apartheid had on today’s young generation. Reflecting on the 24 years of Freedom in South Africa, the remnants of Apartheid are still evident, the brutal colonial system that put  measures to deliberately exclude the large part of the population on all fronts.

The reoccurrence of racist incidents beyond the truce shows signs a nation that has not completely accepted the changes made many years ago. The psychological disorders affiliated with that result in behavior which need attention and acknowledgment.

Beyond freedom, the major building blocks of a functional reparative society are still under construction. 24 years later, the blow the apartheid system had is still felt by many black people in this country. We still deal with a dysfunctional education system that teaches children to be employees, a colonised higher education system, child-headed households, violence and abuse, absent fathers, a lack of opportunities, patriarchal tendencies in all fronts, race inequality in the workplace, race pay gaps, access to resources; all which affect the black child.

We can not ignore the mental wellness of an entire black generation living with the trauma associated with growing up in a divided society, constantly being told to forget about what happened to their parents. In a country that offered no reparations for the injustices of the past. A legislated system that for years perpetuated the displacement of many families, excluded black people from playing in its economic sector, denied many of basic human rights, subjecting the dominant population a horrific treatment.

Being a young person in the “new South Africa” doesn’t make you immune to what happened in this country in the past. The subtle nuances you observe as a result of a system that dictated that whites are superior to people of colour and firmly placed them high in the hierarchy of privilege. The effect of a life of many living in townships, which were systematically used as concentration camps to breed cheap labor through restrictions and deplorable living conditions. Reconciling the message of an equal society and a rainbow nation in a young black person’s mind is still a massive confusion with a legacy of an unequal system that left psychological damage on the former oppressed.

A conversation needs to be had about the extent to which we are addressing psychological  disorders commonly found in young people, what we are doing to build an equal society as well as  how we are redressing the sense of belonging for the African child in this country.  Lastly we need to actively figure out how we can share in the country’s abundant resources, especially the land.

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