The Apartheid rulers had adopted a Herren Volk policy of white superiority. Therefore, they introduced the Mixed Marriages Act to combat miscegenation… And the Immorality Act was passed.
“Co-habitation” was a term the puritan Herren Volk used to describe sexual intercourse, between Whites and Non-Whites; it was strictly forbidden.
The penalty for breaking the law was extremely severe, landing the culprits in jail with heavy fines. It was reported that the courts were deluged the day before the law was introduced, by people all wanting to be married prior to the law becoming legal. White men outnumbered the hordes who sought to legalise their marriages.
As a girl raised in a convent, breaking the law was definitely not part of my character. But being in love was natural, and we railed against the ridiculous law that was unjust and unfair. In my memoir, I recount several instances in which our marriage became a crime. However, ways were found to overcome and subvert the law simply by marrying according to Islamic or other religious rites.
Bis and I were married by Sharia, that is Islamic tradition, which at the time was still legal, but the law was soon rescinded, and people who had been married according to their religious rites were forced into going to court to have their marriages legalised.
These two laws had far reaching effects for it prevented couples of mixed marriages from travelling together. I was obliged to apply for a passport in my maiden name, and had to leave the country before it became known to the authorities.
Europeans received their passports literally over the counter, and no awkward questions were asked. My political association, not to mention my illegal marriage would have warranted an investigation.
By contrast, Bis had difficulty obtaining a passport. Non-Europeans received theirs at the behest of the Afrikaner clerks. After having to answer many personal questions, and it took weeks and even months before they obtained the necessary travel documents.
We escaped successfully to England where our son was born. Our son’s premature birth in London rendered it essential that we return to South Africa. Doctors advised us the smog and pollution of London that would put his health at risk. With trepidation we took the risk of a return. To do that we had to again travel separately in order to spare me the aggravation of dealing with the petty officials on re-entering the country.
As the plane circled the airport awaiting a place to land, our two preteenagers Enver, and Nadya could not conceal their excitement. After the 5-hour flight from London, what a welcome relief to have the destination in full view beneath us. The children could not contain their excitement, especially as they witnessed the traffic down below. Their immediate reaction was the comparison between the innumerable number of motorcars scuttling down below on the multiple highways. It was unlike anything they had ever seen before.
I was filled with anxiety, it had been four months since Bis and I had parted, and all I wanted was to continue to live in London, England. Bis tried every ruse to entice me to join him. Finally, I’d been persuaded.
He could not have been happier to be reunited with us. After the trauma he suffered in South Africa; in Canada he was on par with his peers, and at last the stigma of being of East Indian descent, and not European was beginning to fade into the past.
“Canada is a haven” Bis said, “Joan, I am a free man, and we will be able to educate our children equal to their peers. They will not have to bear the shame and suffer the humiliation that I had to contend with.”
My only excuse for dilly-dallying in London was ignorance on my part, and I was probably a trifle biased about landing and settling in a small Ontario town.
Five years later we qualified for Canadian Citizenship. On the 19th November 1970 we were pleased to become full-fledged Canadian Citizens. At that time, in small town Ontario, there were no Immigration Offices and far fewer immigrants.
At a simple ceremony conducted in the local Cabinet of Canada Office in Guelph, we swore an oath of loyalty to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and we signed our Canadian Citizenship Certificates before a judge. There was no pomp, no ceremony nor any other witnesses. But, the children burst into the Canadian national anthem, “Oh Canada!” spontaneously bringing much joy to the moment.
Canada had provided my husband with the opportunity to heal his tormented being, something for which he was eternally grateful.
We celebrate Canada Day to remind us what the country stands for; it is for equality and honour, and all are created equal in this bountiful land. It is not perfect, but it provides an opportunity to strive for the best life has to offer, and the best we can be. Canada offers a chance to fulfill all or hopes and dreams, and to live a contented and fruitful life, with tolerance, dignity and gratitude.
This 91-year old immigrant is proud to celebrate and to stand on guard for thee. Happy 152 years!!
My two youngest sisters were under age, and special permission was granted to allow them residence at the convent under the supervision of a governess.
The arrangement suited me as we would be together, and I could continue to spend time with them.
What we missed most was the bedtime stories with my father when he was home.
At first it was strange, but soon we accustomed ourselves to his absence, for we were very proud that our father was in the air force defending against the Nazi invasion of North Africa. The radio broadcasts reported that Rommel the German general was causing havoc, and capturing many of the Allied soldiers, and imprisoning them in internment camps somewhere in North Africa.
The staff and students at the convent were kept busy knitting scarves and socks for the troops. And, we were instructed in first aid classes, conducted by the Red Cross, in case we were required to help, as many nurses were sent to the front.
Blackout curtains were installed as a precaution in the event of an air raid. This seemed unnecessary as we believed it most unlikely that the war would reach South Africa.
Letters from my father arrived rather infrequently and post marked somewhere in North Africa. After a while they stopped.
The loss of my mother was inexpressible and no one replaced her. So, I grew up with a void and envied those mother-daughter relationships I witnessed particularly as a child. Deprived of this privilege, I found ways to compensate for the absence of my mother, and therein lay my solution: I had to rely on myself and found the strength of character in order to succeed in life.
During my young days as a practising midwife, each time I delivered a baby I witnessed the mother’s joy as I placed the swaddled infant in her outstretched arms. The look of utter contentment was a perfect picture that no photograph could do justice. In that moment, the mother exuded perfect and profound love for the wholly dependent miracle she cradled. The spark that was ignited at their first encounter would be ever-present and was a silent force that bonded mother and child and would only deepen with time.
Motherhood by its very definition is selflessness, sacrifice and duty.