In his autobiography, Kaffir Boy, Mark Mathabane demonstrates the hardships of growing up in the black ghetto of Alexandra in South Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout this book, we examine their daily struggles to survive under South Africa's system of apartheid. Despite the frequent police raids, arrests, and scavenging for food, Mathabane shows us his determination and strength to excel in his education and to have a better life.
The word kaffir comes from Arabic origin and means "infidel". Used by most whites to refer to blacks, it is the equivalent of the term nigger. Members of the African Bantu-speaking peoples were often called "kaffirs". .
In writing his autobiography, Mathabane's goal was to give the audience a real life encounter of his experiences, and paint a picture for readers that would make them understand just how much suffering blacks went through during apartheid. He also shows us how one can be successful and survive if they stand up for what they believe and have the confidence in them to accomplish something in their lives.
From the beginning to the end of his story, Mathabane discusses and depicts the terrible toll of apartheid on the lives of individuals. Apartheid developed from an economic (oscillating) and political system. Advancing what the British had already established in South Africa, it worked by segregating the blacks from the whites. It put the blacks at the lowest level possible while raising the white standard of living (188). The government gave Afrikaners influence in all areas. One man, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, caused apartheid to become the most notorious form of racial domination that the postwar world has known (189). .
Mathabane noticed right away how apartheid used tribalism as a form of oppression against Africans. When he recognized his father's commitment to the "double apartheid and tribalism" (207), he decided that African "superstition" and tribal cultures were not for him.