How Guyana took Christmas Cheer to the children of South Africa – by Francis Quamina Farrier

— by Francis Quamina Farrier

There was no Christmas cheer for the children of South Africa for decades, during the period of Apartheid, when the minority White-ruled government of that wealthy country of GOLD and DIAMONDS, oppressed the Black majority of the population. It was the period when in South Africa, Santa Claus forgot all the little Black boys and girls. It was during the decades of apartheid when Blacks and Whites were officially kept apart.

While the White minority enjoyed the best that the country had to offer, enjoying the good life, the majority Black citizens of South Africa were treated less than second-class in their own country.       

For example, there were “Whites Only” signs posted in many public places such as Parks and Wash rooms. Many countries around the world, Guyana included, severed diplomatic and other relations with South Africa. The United Nations expelled it as a member. After a long and bloody struggle, apartheid was dismantled in 1991 and democracy returned to that country.

During the most depressing years for the Black South Africans, the White minority government, with all their military might – guns, tear-gas, bombs, fighter jets – which were available and used to keep the Black citizens in subjection, Guyana was a friend and supporter of the oppressed masses. Like the adults, the Black children of South Africa suffered during the years of apartheid, when Christmas for them, was just another day in their miserable lives. When Santa Claus never paid them a visit at Christmas time.

Guyana and many other countries were not silent or inactive about that horrible situation, especially when over sixty unarmed Black children were gunned down by the White police during a peaceful demonstration in what became known internationally as “The Sharpeville Massacre”. Like many countries around the world, Guyana became very involved with the struggle by the Black South Africans for their freedom and gave financial and other tactical support to the anti-apartheid Leaders and Freedom Fighters. Some of the leaders were made “Honorary Guyanese” and issued Guyana passports in order for them to travel abroad to attend anti-apartheid meetings, since their own government did not issue passports to the Black citizens who were in a way, not even bonafide citizens. They  were not even permitted to vote in their country’s general elections. They had no representative in the country’s parliament.

Cuba which was very supportive of the Black people of South Africa and other countries in Southern Africa, sent military personnel to fight alongside the Freedom Fighters. President Forbes Burnham of Guyana made the Timehri Airport available for Cuban planes to stop and refuel before continuing the long flight over the south Atlantic to Southern Africa. Christmas, as the rest of the world knew it, was not experienced and enjoyed by the Black Children of South Africa at that time. The fight to end apartheid was also at a Cultural level.

After the ban on his books was lifted by the South African government, Guyanese author of “To Sir, With Love”, E.R Braithwaite applied for and was issued a special visitor’s visa as an “honorary white”. The highly respected international Guyanese author then paid a visit to South Africa. While there, he secretly interacted with the Black South Africans, and from his findings he wrote the Book “HONORARY WHITE”, exposing many details about the sufferings of the Black South Africans. Another high-profile Guyanese of International standing, Plaisance-born Superstar Eddy Grant, composed the anti-apartheid song, “Johanna Gimme Hope”, which was a cry for the dismantling of the evil system of apartheid. That song became very popular with fair-minded and peace-loving people all around the world and helped with the dismantling of apartheid.

More recently, since the return of democracy to South Africa, Guyana established Diplomatic Relations with the democratically elected government of South Africa and appointed Dr. Kenrick Hunte as Ambassador. This year, the Ambassador and His wife Claire, along with members of staff of the Guyana Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, has already taken Christmas cheer to dozens of children in South Africa.

In more recent years, there has been a growing number of Guyanese who have been visiting countries in Africa, including South Africa. The Guyana Embassy there has noted that most of those Guyanese make organized visits to such areas of the country as Robin Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty seven years, also to the well-known town of Soweto, where they establish relationships with schools and other groups of children. They would then send tangible assistance for the children. The Embassy plays an important role in facilitating such humanitarian projects. Ambassador Dr. Kenrick Hunte and his wife Claire, who both have a background in education, have been very pro-active giving assistance to the children of South Africa since their arrival – Christmas Cheer inclusive.

And last weekend, at the Miss Universe Pageant held in the United States, a beautiful Black young South African woman who grew up in a country in which decades before, little Black girls never had a visit from Santa Claus, was crowned Miss Universe; she is Zozibini Tunzi, Miss South Africa 2019. Many Guyanese are celebrating this achievement, which, had it not been for international support, especially from Guyana and Cuba, to crush the evil system of apartheid, would never have happened. South Africa, has now given the world a Brilliant, Beautiful and Black Queen and the children of that once sad country from whence came the book, “Cry, the Beloved Country”, is now about to have Santa Claus bring them Christmas cheer again.

Guyana Ambassador to South Africa, Kenrick Hunte and his wife, Mrs Clair Hunte give generously to the children of Soweto

Three US-based Guyanese teachers on a visit to South Africa. (left to right) Wendy Babb, Alvilda Arokium (recently deceased)and Mildred Lowe. (Please note the mid-year winter apparel)

A sign during the apartheid times in South Africa

​President Fidel Castro of Cuba with President Forbes Burnham. Probably discussing the South Africa situation.

Eddy Grant – Gimme Hope Jo’Anna (Live at Nelson Mandela Concert)


Miss South Africa, Zobigini Tunzi, being crowned Miss Universe 2019

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/14/2019 at 6:56 am

  • C A.Griffith  On 12/14/2019 at 10:35 am

    Holiday Greetings Uncle Francis. Your missive is a wonderful Historical recital of how the original inhabited Khoisan tribe of South Africa was replaced by Europeans during the late 15th century and later became a dominion of the British Empire.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/14/2019 at 10:34 pm

    Random Thoughts On This Festive Season

    By Derrick John Jeffrey.

    We are left with memories of yester-year’s Christmases and the stress of doing more with less. Children have grown and inherited all we had gone through without wondering how we managed with dollars so few.

    We think of our parents and their struggle to get beyond the Christmas holidays and were able to put a smile on our faces as ethnic delicacies flowing like rain from above:

    Ginger-beer, black cake, garnished rum, garlic-pork, pepper-pot and what not.

    And Father Christmas come and gone through the key-hole of a locked front door leaving toys under unruffled pillows.

    Time passes and we become strangers to ourselves. The joyous feelings etched in our memories have passed on to those we spawn; briefly separated through distance and time yet connected by an invisible silken cord should hopefully bring a sparkle of good will and pleasant thoughts… near or far.

    After all it’s Christmas, and Christmas is Christmas, wherever you are.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/14/2019 at 10:38 pm

    Random Thoughts on This Year of New

    By Derrick John Jeffrey – Thailand

    As the Roman Calendar dictates, we start the counting all over again.

    Did we do that which we were supposed to have done or has time and motion abrades that which we cherish most – a few things were left behind.

    Let not your heart be troubled as today is the tomorrow you spoke of yesterday.

    The New Year is your today and your tomorrow. In catching up, refurbishing and reinventing activities in your new tomorrow, a few vital tools should be used:

    A Genuine Smile, A Listening Ear and A Heart of Gold…I say no more!

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