Worcester’s disgraceful ‘dompas’

Yadhana Jadoo

The old “dompas” system was used to restrict the movement of black South Africans during apartheid.

The revelations about the current “green-card system” are a reminder the scars of apartheid remain deeply embedded – so don’t tell us to “just get over it”. If you haven’t read the news by now, here it is: there is a new pass law for workers in Worcester in the Western Cape.

I call it a pass law, because that is exactly what it is.

This “green card”, you see, has once again segregated two sections of society – the rich and privileged from the poorer and less fortunate.

This week, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega confirmed to parliament’s police committee these “green cards” were initiated by the local Sector 4 Community Policing Forum (CPF) in collaboration with police. The “green card” project was initiated after a spate of crimes in the area.

People, such as gardeners, now have to apply for this card to find work or be in the area.

So why is this such a big deal?

Translated into English “dompas” literally means “dumb pass”.

During apartheid, pass laws were used to dictate when, where and for how long a black person could remain in a “white area”.

They were also used to entrench the belief those carrying a “dompas” were inferior to white South Africans. The passbook and the laws stripped people of their humanity. And whatever freedom of movement granted by the “dompas” in your pocket could be instantly revoked – by the police.

If you were not carrying your passbook you were jailed.

A “green pass” immediately takes us back to this dreadful era in our country. It is a very big deal indeed.

When approached for comment, Catherine Jacobs, a member of the policing forum, said: “Our hearts were in the right place … it was a good thing to start.”

How is this a “good thing”, when all this 2015 apartheid-style system has done is help suppress the racist “fears” of the white residents of Worcester? Jacobs should be reminded enshrined in our Constitution is the people’s right to movement.

We are free to walk on the pavements, as I am free to say what the CPF in Worscester did was unprogressive, underhanded and ugly.

A disgraceful and “dom” move.

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