By H. Schier a nd J. Henschel
About 21 million people live in the Republic of South Africa. Only 17 per cent. of these are white; 83 per cent. are blacks, coloureds and Indians. The life of the blacks is particularly affected by laws surrounding the government policy of "separate development."
One day — it was a February day — a young black came into the office of a Catholic parish in the area of the black estate at the edge of the small industrial town of Bethlehem in South Africa. Here, like everywhere else in this country, whites and blacks live separated from each other. The blacks live outside , the white area on gigantic estates.
Ile sat there in the armchair as if wanting to leap up at every second, nervous in this alien environment. A strange fear spoke from his eyes, as if someone had constantly scolded him — and he didn't know why.
After the usual greeting there is a moment's silence. The white' priest knows that he must wait a while. "l come from the Moloi I am Mobuti Joseph Moloi, and I should like to become a Christian. My wife wants to do, the same," says the young man finally. "Your wife'? Are you married'?" "Yes, and we have a child."
It turns out that they haven't been married long. He worked in Johannesburg, as a migrant worker in the white-owned industry. Now he has found a permanent job here at £30 a month. So at last they were able to marry.
On the following Sunday he comes for instruction. He brings his wife along. Her name is Mary — Mary and Joseph. And the child on the mother's back seems very content with his parents. The mother explains that she does not work. She has no residence permit here. Without a permit she can find no work, and without work no permit.
They always turn up for instruction on the dot every Sunday. Then for a long time they don't come. Why not'?
One day they appear, late in the evening. The police had picked the up, for the wife has no residence permit here. She .must go to her "homeland", Wietzishoek. But she knows no one there. After all, she was
born in this area. Her parents. it is true. died when she was young. Her mother's sisters looked after her, so many places had been "home" to her before she joined her husband. They paid the police fine; they didn't want to be torn apart. Soon afterwards they were picked up again. This time the husband was unable to pay. They both went to prison. And they had only wanted to live together, like all married couples. "And where are you going now?" Shrugging of shoulders. They didn't know. Someone from the parish takes them in, If the police catch them again, the parishioner too will go to prison — but he puts them up nevertheless.
Some time goes by. The couple' come regularly for instrue-' non again. Then, one Sunday, the husband asks: "Father, can you baptise my child?" He had heard that the Child's name would be entered at the registry office if he had a baptismal certificate. Perhaps his wife would then obtain a residence permit.
According to the rules, children arc only baptised if at least one parent is baptised. To hell with the rules: the child is baptised. Then the couple are back again, beaming. He shows the child's baptismal certificate. And now they have a flat. although he pays a high rent for it. But the police have warned them: if they are caught once more they will be jailed.
By and by the priest can take no more. He rings up the authorities next morning to ask if nothing can be done. He is told that if the couple go through a civil wedding the authorities might think about doing something. ' The priest carries out all the necessary formalities and meanwhile the couple are left in peace. Then they receive another visit from the police. This time the police say the flat is not officially recognised, and the couple are not permitted to live there.. Where are they to go? That's not a police problem,. say the officers.
The priest writes to the authorities and asks if State Security makes it essential to tear this family apart. The local administrator writes, inviting him to a personal discussion. Father will understand the letter runs . . . the writer is a civil servant . . . he must keep to the regulations. A date for the meeting is agreed, and the priest takes along the young couple — she is clearly pregnant — and their child. A strange scene: four civil servants, the priest and, silent and embarrassed, the Molois.
The case is discussed. The priest tries to make the officials uncomfortable by agreeing with them. Finally they say that the couple could really be left in peace. They would only need to have a municipal flat, but these are all full and the waiting lists are long. They'll have to wait about ay ear.
"And for that period they must expect a police visit every few days?" No, the matter will be passed on to a senior official. Till the final decision comes through the family will be left in peace. They keep their word. Joseph goes to his work. Mary keeps the simple room clean. They come regularly for instruction.
And then the official reply is given. The decision is in the negative: the wife must get out, must go to her "homeland", Wietzishoek. She had no residence permit here.
The name of the official responsible for the decision cannot be discovered. There's nothing more to be done. The affair has dragged on to the days before Christmas. No one knows what will now happen. Mary and Joseph Moloi are tested on doctrine, so they can he baptised on Christmas Day.
"Moloi, what do you know about Christ," asks the priest. And Joseph Moloi replies: "He has redeemed and liberated us."
(Translated from the Ger man)