Asian Husband, White Wife Are Outlaws in South AfricaANDREW TORCHIA , Associated Press
Apr. 18, 1985 3:25 AM ET
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Ghaleb Cachalia, a well-to-do clothing manufacturer, and his wife Jo-Anne, an artist, would be an attractive, upwardly mobile couple anywhere in the world except South Africa. Here they are outlaws.
Cachalia, 28, is Indian. His wife, 25, is white. Since their marriage five years ago, they have risked prosecution as criminals under laws that ban sex and marriage between members of different races.
The government's announcement this week that those laws will be scrapped was, for some South Africans, a stunning blow to the elaborate legal structure of segregation built by the white-minority National Party since it came to power 37 years ago. But the Cachalias were less than impressed.
''Why should we sit up and say thank you, just because an unrepresentative government chooses to legitimize what the world accepts as morally just?'' Cachalia said in an interview Wednesday.
''What about my passport? What about where our child goes to school, where we can live, where I conduct my business? What about the vote? The government's tinkering with these little laws that affect very few people. I see it as window-dressing for Washington.''
South Africa's pervasive racial separation policies, called apartheid, restrict freedom of travel and limit voting rights for non-white and assign areas where they can live and work. Asians are allowed to vote for members of a separate Asian chamber of Parliament, and for Asian local governments, but not for white legislative bodies or leaders, who hold the real power.
The Cachalias' problems have been easier than those of some other mixed couples because he is light-skinned, and because they are well off. They can afford private, integrated nursing homes and private, integrated schools for Luiza, instead of inferior state Indian schools.
''If my husband were black, we would have much more trouble,'' Mrs. Cachalia said. ''In South Africa, the darker you get, the worse it gets. There's a color scale. White is 10 and it goes down from there.''
The Cachalias met through university friends and wed under Moslem rites. ''They were the only people prepared to marry us,'' he said.
''For people like us, either we lock ourselves up and be our own jailers or we take on the system. There is no other choice,'' he said. ''To preserve our sanity, we decided to behave as normally as possible, to eat where we like, to go where we want to.
''We do mostly what we please but we use judgment. We don't go to white bars,'' he said.
Once they stayed overnight at a hotel in Bloemfontein, a conservative white city in a province where Asians have no residence rights. ''We felt very uncomfortable. We took our meals in the room,'' he said.
There was a crisis when Mrs. Cachalia suffered a miscarriage with the couple's first child.
''It was Sunday and her doctor was on holiday. As an Indian, I couldn't take her to a state hospital for whites. As a white, she couldn't go to an Indian hospital,'' he said.
''So we went to a private nursing home, which had no doctor. A nurse attended her. She lost the baby. Well, she might have lost it, anyway.''
Their daughter, Luiza, was born a year ago. She is classified as Indian.
''If we wanted to try for a white classification, we would have to put her up for scrutiny - the type of her hair, the color of her skin. We're not into that,'' Cachalia said.
The Cachalias say much ''petty apartheid'' has disappeared over the years. After they married, it became possible for both to ride the same bus. Public toilets in large shopping centers are now integrated and they can sit on a park bench together.
They go to white cinemas, where Cachalia passes for a southern European. ''If he were black, we couldn't do it,'' Mrs. Cachalia said. ''People say, your husband, is he Portuguese? Anything that eases their minds.''