Inspiring to make a difference

 

Gregory Fortuin¬†is the National Director of Employment Plus at the Salvation Army. He’s got a long history, from apartheid South Africa, insurance in Australia and New Zealand, South Africa’s Honorary Consul to New Zealand, Race Relations Conciliator in 2001 and 2002, and is on board of all of the big things in New Zealand. ¬†Kiwibank, New Zealand Post, ACC, the founding chair of Youth Suicide Awareness Trust, Prison Fellowship, National President of the African Communities amongst other things.

 

Gregory:

I was born in Cape Town, so the foot of Table Mountain. But, I grew up in a place called Paarl, and so for South Africans I make it very clear that I’m a Paarlander, which is 40 miles north of Cape Town. That’s the wine country of South Africa. With my dad, and his mum, and his brother had bought ten acres of land. That’s where I grew up, a place called Paarl.

 

Oh, Paarl, of course, was made famous by New Zealand cricketers. Stephen Fleming, Dion Nash, Matthew Hart were all fined for smoking dope in Paarl and got suspended. The W. Indies, of course, thought they should’ve suspended the others for lying.

 

Sam:

It sounds like an idyllic place but I suspect it wasn’t.

 

Gregory:

No, not when I grew up. Paarl was typical of the real Afrikaner Dutch places. If you were wanting to see apartheid in its real pronounced, or strongest form, Paarl would be it. When the National Party won the election in 1948, my Granny said that if you were non-white you would’ve been pushed off the pavement, even if you walked on the pavement.

 

Sam:

You grew up- was it- classified as coloured? Is that how it was described?

 

Gregory:

Yeah. Obviously the history of South Africa was that we were colonised by the Dutch first in 1652, and then the Brits came during the Boer War and took over South Africa. Then it was the Union of South Africa in 1910 and the Afrikaner said, “if we can’t beat you over the battle of a gun, we’ll beat you at the ballot box.” Sure enough, 40 years later in 1948 they won the election, and three years later in 1951 they passed all the legislation to do the segregation. Population registration classified all of us as, “white,” or, “coloured,” or “cape coloured,” or “other coloured.”

 

There were an amazing number of classifications just on coloured, or Indian, and Khoisan, African, etc. That classification determined where you could live. If you were coloured then this was the designated area for coloured people. If you were Indian then this was the designated area for Indian people. That just pervaded our life. It’s like I grew up as a so-called, classified coloured, in a classified coloured area, going to a coloured school, and having coloured friends. When I was finally working and walked to the station, and you’d cross the railroad bridge over the small, little, narrow, coloured bridge, as opposed to the wide one for whites. When the train comes you wait for the coloured compartment and sit in the back of the train and when you’d get out of Cape Town Station, you got in by the coloured entrance, etc. When you’re a kid and you’re born into that then you think, “this is what the world’s like.”

 

Sam:

What impact did that have on education? Were the schools differentially resourced?

 

Gregory:

Yep, absolutely. Something like, in the sixties, it was the equivalent of about a 1,000 rand per capita for a white child, and about 200 rand per capita for a coloured child, and about 90 rand per capita for a black child.

 

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