Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy


Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 43 Summary & Analysis

The rebellion continues in Alexandra. “Anarchy reign[s] in the ghetto.” The white government claims that Communist agitators are responsible for the uprising and as soon as they are dealt with, peace will return to South Africa. Many of Mathabane’s friends talk about leaving the country to join the ANC’s revolutionary militia, returning to South Africa as guerilla fighters. Mathabane expresses this desire to a man from his neighborhood with contacts amongst the “freedom fighters.” However, the neighbor doesn’t think that Mathabane is a killer and encourages him to fight with his intellect instead. The movement will need lawyers, doctors, teachers to lead the way.
The white government’s accusation that the black protesters are Communist agitators puts forth the claim that there is no black protest at all—that black people are content with their lot, and that the disruption is a foreign conspiracy. Rather than listen to the black community’s complaints, the apartheid rulers pretend that such unrest doesn’t exist, again suggesting that they have no interest in listening to the black community, only quashing the rebellion and maintaining power.
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By October, the apartheid government ruthlessly but successfully quells most of the rebellion. Hundreds of protesters are dead, and hundreds of black professionals are detained for encouraging the movement. Thousands of students flee the country to avoid arrest. The white government negotiates with “puppet black leaders,” who argue that Afrikaans should still be the primary language even if the government doesn’t demand it. Worse yet, many black people, including one of Mathabane’s teachers, work as informants for the white police. Mathabane returns to school after nearly six months, but no longer has a passion for learning. Many of his classmates are dead or detained. Most of the school buildings are destroyed.
The tragedy of these several months of unrest, which come to be known as the Soweto Uprising, is that the black community in South Africa is no better off than when they began. After much fighting and bloodshed, no progress is made toward black liberation. This seems to suggest that Mathabane’s earlier view that freedom can only come through bloodshed does not hold true, since the white government controls all military assets, and violent resistance only makes them respond with violence in turn.
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon