What is it that drives us through difficult times? What keeps human beings pushing forward despite tragedy, loss and letdowns? This is a question that you cannot help but turn over in your mind while fighting for justice in a country trying to repair itself post-conflict. After this past week, I believe the answer is hope.
On Monday I traveled to the province, Limpopo, to meet with the Department of Justice. Three individuals from a struggling township attended the meeting to discuss reparations for their community. In 2013 the DOJ published draft regulations relating to community reparations. These draft regulations proposed that 18 communities would receive 30 million rand (about 2 million USD) each in community reparations. That was 4 years ago. The people of this particular community expressed their frustration at not receiving any of the money they felt was promised to them in the draft regulations. Many of their homes were burned down during the Apartheid-era, leaving the community in shambles. As I sat in this meeting I asked myself what the force was that kept these people coming back to fight for the reparations they deserve. Instead of giving in or giving up, the man sitting across the table from me had spent the little money he has and traveled hours to tell the DOJ, "We are crying and we need something to wipe our tears." Why? Hope.
On Thursday, I saw hope prevail again. I interviewed 3 siblings who came to Khulumani looking for help. A week prior, they had opened the newspaper to find an article about a woman from Germany named Melinda. But this article also contained another name: Aplheus Mpikeleli Kubeka - their brother. In 1977, their brother left for exile during the Apartheid era. Their family never heard from him again. Now, forty years later his younger siblings were reading an article about their brothers daughter. Although they discovered that their brother passed away fifteen years ago, they also found out that his twenty-year old daughter was searching for her South African family - searching for them. After reading the article, Alpheus' siblings contacted Melinda and have been speaking to her every day since. The siblings desperately want to travel to Germany to meet Melinda and visit their brother's grave. Even though their parents passed away never knowing what happened to their son, the siblings believe that they now have the opportunity to bring closure to their parents' pain. I am working with a colleague at Khulumani to help the family register their brother as a military veteran, so they can hopefully receive assistance from the Department of Military Veterans. I also started a fundraising page to help raise money for the siblings to fly to Germany. You can read more about the family's story or donate on the blog I write for Khulumani here: https://wordpress.com/post/thedisappearedsite.wordpress.com/44
Friday is a national holiday, Youth Day, so two other Khulumani interns and I decided to see more of the country. On Friday we hiked in the Drakensburg mountains. I have never seen anything more beautiful. We slept at a BnB in a small town nearby, and on Saturday morning we continued on to Durban. Durban is a city on the beach (it looks and feels like Miami!), and I got to swim in the Indian Ocean for the first time.