Dangerous creams that play on the heritage of prejudice from slavery days

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There is a Sotho wedding song in South Africa that's usually sung by the family of the bride that goes: "Tswang, Tswang, Tswang, Le mmone Ngwana o tshwana le le Coloured." Translated into English, the refrain means: "Come out and see a child who looks like a Coloured."

There is a Sotho wedding song in South Africa that's usually sung by the family of the bride that goes: "Tswang, Tswang, Tswang, Le mmone Ngwana o tshwana le le Coloured." Translated into English, the refrain means: "Come out and see a child who looks like a Coloured."

According to the apartheid pecking order, Coloureds were above Africans, who were at the bottom of the pile. This made it economically attractive for Africans to pass themselves off as Coloured.

Can anyone blame those Africans who have difficulty accepting who and what they are? One does not need to read Frantz Fanon to see the evidence of the self-hatred of Africans as a result of being diminished for centuries.

Enter the skin lightening creams and soaps, which promise to deliver white skin for people who end up disfigured. The toxicity of the products is well proven, which is why many countries have banned their manufacture and distribution. But their availability in a few countries has created a smuggling network which brings them to countries like South Africa where they have been banned for years. Two such creams made in England - Jaribu and Rico - we have come to know well, for the damage they wreak physically and psychologically.

For European companies to continue exporting such products to Africa when they are banned in their own countries, is immoral. Perhaps they justify their business in terms of supply and demand, but they are taking advantage of people who are as sick as those suffering from anorexia nervosa.

Surely it is criminal to put profits before the livelihood of whole communities whose water supplies are contaminated with mercury?

Why are European governments who draw taxes from such companies allowing this travesty to carry on? Is it because the victims are African, and therefore "subhuman"?

Lizeka Mda is executive editor of the Johannesburg Star

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