The Apartheid Museum is a must-see when visiting Johannesburg, South Africa. The museum succinctly and frankly tells the story of Apartheid in South Africa and invites further contemplation, no matter what your background is.
Apartheid Museum In South Africa, A Photo Essay
I set aside an entire day for this museum, a venue that I missed during my two trips to Johannesburg and was closed due to the pandemic during my visit last year.
Admission is 150 rand. The museum is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Wednesday – Sunday. Give yourself at least three hours (I took five, but like to read everything).
My broad takeaway is that while the history of the Union of South Africa is a complicated matter, apartheid was and is indefensible. And while a leader like Jan Smuts may not have been as “bad” as Louis Botha or P. W. Botha, perhaps he is even more culpable for knowing what he was doing was wrong, but doing it anyway.
The museum was a reminder of Edmund Burke’s famous quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding that “separate but equal” is “inherently unequal.” The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the ends do not justify the means.
I don’t mean to be trite, but the exhibits do make you stop and wonder why. But when we see so much injustice and inequality in today’s world, is it really a difficult question? Understanding the extent to which blacks were suppressed makes me more grateful for the evolution of Nelson Mandela. I honestly think that if I was treated as sub-human for so long, my bitterness and rage would grow, not dissipate. A truly remarkable man.
Finally, the system ultimately collapsed…just like the Soviet Union. A corrupt institution cannot stand indefinitely.
Reflecting personally, this trip was so fresh in my mind when I foolishly did the “apartheid” lounge post a few weeks back. Of course, that analogy was in poor taste and what saddened me the most was that I failed to reflect a proper understanding and appreciation of that word and what an impact it had on so many lives in South Africa and beyond.
The museum even had the courage to question the here and now. I’ll never forget during a prior visit to Kruger National Park when a woman sincerely lamented how much she missed the Apartheid government because the current one was even more corrupt. In many ways, the government of South Africa is highly corrupt and the ANC has not run the show well. The museum reflected well on the tension of this feeling amongst some of the population.
Please enjoy the pictures below.