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Archive for Thursday, January 30, 1992

CHANGES IN S. AFRICA SLOW, MINISTER SAYS

January 30, 1992

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As a youth in South Africa, a time in which apartheid became official government policy, the Rev. Kay-Robert Volkwijn couldn't have predicted changes that would take place in the 1990s.

"I did not think that I would ever in my lifetime see a movement toward democracy," said Volkwijn, who lives in Lenexa and moved to the United States in 1974.

However, Volkwijn, speaking Wednesday at a University Forum lecture at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, cautioned that the emancipation of non-whites in South Africa is far off.

"It's a long road ahead," said the associate executive of the Synod of Mid-America in Kansas City, Kan. "It's a road that will have ups and downs. Every time we think things have moved to a point where can have a breakthrough, there will be a setback.

"The scaffolding of apartheid has been removed, but the building still stands. Many people still suffer under the apartheid system."

Apartheid is a policy of racial segregation.

VOLKWIJN said he could talk for hours about horror stories of his family's struggle with apartheid, which mirror the experiences of many South Africans. "Believe them and more," he said.

Volkwijn, classified as colored because of his Japanese, Indian and European ancestry, said apartheid guaranteed that non-whites would face "physical and mental abuse."

"You also were dehumanized and of course deprived of full rights as a citizen in our own country," he said.

While in South Africa, Volkwijn said he had difficulty teaching his children why apartheid is abhorent and why they shouldn't hate people who perpetuate the system.

"This was a very difficult struggle to help my daughter understand that she couldn't go on a certain swing in the park," he said.

Volkwijn said an interim government should be established that includes all South Africans. Denial of voting rights to all people means the existing government is illegal, he said.

"NO MATTER how much we talk about reform and change . . . South Africa still has an illigitimate government," he said. "They were elected by a minority of a minority."

After the dismantling of apartheid, Volkwijn said, the most urgent problem in South Africa will be the education of those denied proper educational opportunities.

"There is an enormous job of education ahead," he said.

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