A group of pupils travelled to West Moors Middle School and were captivated by an inspirational talk given by former bodyguard to Nelson Mandela, UNICEF Ambassador, Chris Lubbe. Chris Lubbe was a black child growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. He told the children about his life as a child; the life changing experience when he realised that blacks and whites were not equal and his determination to bring about a change for the people in South Africa.
His moving account kept the children engaged and the questions asked by the children demonstrated how moved they were by the experience. Our thanks goes to West Moors Middle School for hosting such a thought-provoking event.
This is the unofficial version described by Hayden who is twelve.
Chris started off when he was 6 years old. These white government people came to his family’s house and said you have 7 days to pack your stuff and leave or we will force you out. Chris’ family went to a shanty town, which he described as a poor town full of corrugated iron huts. His family had to build their own hut. This is where he lived for the rest of his childhood.
For his 8th birthday his mum bought a ticket for him and his mother to go on a bus. At the time he did not know much about segregation so they got to the bus stop and he saw a sign saying ‘non-whites’. He didn’t know what is was all about or why that was. They went on the bus. Half way along the journey his mother, who had diabetes, got dizzy and light headed and so he asked the bus driver whether he could help. The bus driver said he would stop once they were in the city where they lived near. He did stop next to the pavement and the driver and Chris got his mum off the bus and they found a bench. The only problem was that it was a ‘whites only’ bench. The bus driver told Chris to sit his mum on the bench. He then had to leave as the bus had to get to its destination. Chris then saw two tall white policemen who pushed him aside. Chris told them that his mother was ill and had diabetes but they threw her off the bench onto the concrete floor where she hit her head and was knocked unconscious. He thought she was dead as he saw blood coming from her head and he started crying. Chris tried to stop several ambulances but then realised they were ‘white only’ and they wouldn’t stop. Another black man managed to persuade a white lady to call a black ambulance. A group of black ladies came and asked him what the matter was. He just pointed to his mum, still crying. The ambulance arrived and took his mum to hospital with him by her side. The doctors said she wouldn’t last the night. The next morning Chris and his dad came to the hospital and her heart was still beating but she was in a coma. She stayed like that for three months, after which she miraculously woke up and she was fine!
When Chris was nine years old a black student from a university gave him and his friends the idea of posting letters to the different powers of countries. Chris wrote one to the Queen of England and his friends wrote letters to other world leaders. Because they lived near a dump yard they managed to sell bottles and bottle caps and get enough money for the stamps and so they posted them all. This is the same dump yard where Chris collected books which he could read as he wanted an education. With the amount he collected he opened a mini library. He even had a system for lending the books, where he would write their names down when they started borrowing the book so he could keep a track of them. This was very moving and inspirational. “He actually managed to open his own mini library!” Hayden exclaimed.
Sometime later Chris and his dad were walking along the pavement next to a beach and there was a sign saying “whites only” and under that sign there was another one with a stop sign and a picture of a black dog in the middle. He asked his dad what the sign meant and his dad said “guess”. Chris then said “no black dogs allowed.” His dad said “no…” and at this point Chris realised what it meant, it just hit him. Hayden, amazed said, “just before he said it, it hit me too… and I thought Oh my God!” Chris then said “they were saying black people are dogs and animals”.
As his life progressed Chris started to hate apartheid more and more and so when Nelson Mandela was freed he started working for him as a bodyguard. He was very inspired by Nelson Mandela because he was in prison for 23 years. Chris even visited the place where Nelson was help prisoner, a place called Robben Island just off the coast of Cape Town. He showed him his prison cell and what he would do in the quarry. He chiselled a piece of limestone off a big rock and wrapped it up for Chris. Due to the limestone, Nelson’s tear ducts were damaged. Chris thought he cried a lot at first, but actually it was the damage that the dust and limestone had caused. Journalists were always told not to use flash lights.
After some training, Chris and Nelson went to see the Queen, here in England. When they were having dinner the Queen realised who Chris was and asked one of her servants to get the letter he had written so many years earlier. The servant came back and to Chris’ amazement there was his letter on a silver tray! Chris nearly started crying. The Queen then asked “did you get my reply?” Chris said “no” and then realised the Government in South Africa must have blocked it. Incredible!
The children asked “how quickly did Nelson Mandela, once he became President, mix the races?” Hayden now wishes he had asked if there were any white people who helped in the protests. Chris told them he went to jail twice for his protests even though they were peaceful. Many of his friends and comrades were killed by the police. Yet Chris kept doing the protests. This encouraged other countries to also protest and this is how apartheid and segregation eventually ended.
Hayden said “it was very, very moving and I just don’t get why whites thought they had the right to enslave the blacks and treat them like they were nothing”. Chris told the children to share what he told them to others. We hope you find this as emotional and moving as the children did.
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