Musk’s father, Errol Musk, said in an interview with The New York Times that Elon, his brother and sister knew from a young age that there was something wrong with the apartheid system. Errol, who was elected to the Pretoria City Council in 1972, said they would ask him about the laws that prohibit black people from patronizing restaurants, movie theaters and beaches. They had to make calculations when dating non-white friends about what to do safely, he said.
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“As far as you’re protected against it, that’s nonsense. They faced it every day,” recalls Errol, who said he was a member of the progressive anti-apartheid party. He added: “They didn’t like it.”
Still, Errol gave a description of their lives that underlined how far they were from the violent realities of the country. They got along well with black people, he said, noting his children’s good relationship with their domestic workers, and he described life in South Africa during apartheid as mostly better and safer than it is today.
According to an biography of Mr. Musk, written by Ashlee Vance, Mr. Musk said he did not want to participate in South Africa’s compulsory military service because it would have forced him to join the apartheid regime – and that may have contributed to his decision to South Africa to leave Africa shortly after graduating from high school.
The apartheid system created a distinction between white people, especially those who spoke Afrikaans and those who spoke English, such as Mr. Musk’s family. While political power rested with the Afrikaners — the apartheid perfectionists who descended from Dutch, German and French settlers — English-speaking white South Africans enjoyed wealth that felt like a birthright to some, Ms Cheary said.
“We were the white, English-speaking elite of the world,” she said. “It was literally our kingdom.”
Pretoria Boys had a socially progressive undercurrent. The headmaster of the school had taken part in freedom struggle activities; some students would travel to anti-apartheid rallies.