Some stories have so much humanity and bravery it seems like they must be a fiction.
I felt that way when I spoke to Peter Hain and his mother.
The Labour minister was well known for his activism in his youth, campaigning against apartheid in his birth country of South Africa, but his awareness and bravery is traceable back to the actions of his parents Ad and Wal Hain.
In his book, Peter details the fight they had with the powers that be in a country where people were judged to be lesser because of the colour of their skin.
To us, it defies logic that the couple were banned from speaking to groups of people, a practice which saw Ad miss a daughter’s birthday party.
We cannot imagine a world where Ad resolved to be in attendance in court to help young black men gain justice after being picked up without their family’s knowledge.
But we are all too aware of the demonisation of people who are different to ourselves, and the book struck me as a real warning of that sort of thinking.
The book is subtitled ‘Values, duty, sacrifice in apartheid South Africa’, but when I spoke to Ad about her experiences, it struck me that there was little in the struggle that Ad and Wal spearheaded that should be seen as ‘duty’, simply because there were many South Africans at the time who didn’t do their ‘duty’ to fight for freedom, merely toeing the party line.
Ad also went to the Nelson Mandela trial which saw him sent to Robben Island, and was proud to mention the affection that the former South African president had expressed for Ad and Wal and their family.
One more piece of the story that’s almost impossible for us to imagine, but to Ad and Wal, it was just part of real life.
Read the piece here