The Road to Alexandra
Part 1 of Kaffir Boy begins in the predawn of a bitterly cold winter day in 1965 with the five-year-old Johannes Mathabane lying awake, terrified by nightmares. After his father leaves for work and his mother for the community outhouse, he finally falls asleep. Within moments, his nightmare becomes reality when Peri-Urban, the Alexandra Police Squad, makes one of its unannounced raids. His mother slips back into the house, awakens Johannes, and engages him in a quiet but frantic search for her passbook (apartheid regulations require that every black person in South Africa carry a document containing his or her photograph, name, address, tribal origin, work and marital status). Once it is found, she again slips out of the house—this time in search of a hiding place. Johannes is left alone with full responsibility for his three-year-old sister and one-year-old brother. The following night Peri-Urban returns, this time raiding the Mathabane home. His mother hides in a small, locked wardrobe, but Johannes is forced to witness his father's emotional emasculation as he is taunted and dragged half-naked out of the house. Along with dozens of others, he is handcuffed, taken away in a convoy of trucks, and forced to spend two months doing hard labor on a white man's potato farm for his past crimes—all because he could not afford to pay his poll tax or his tribal tax, nor did he have the money to bribe the police...
(The entire section is 1350 words.)
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