Friday, June 29, 2007

1975 Apartheid Durban, Virginia Teaching Roundup

< 1975. Virginia Primary School Staff. Men, l to r, middle row, Neville Spencer, Mark Esslemont. Front row, l to r, David Wicker, Donald Young, Keith Temperley

Natal was hard-up for white teachers, so Poms were encouraged to immigrate. A shrieker lady Pom amused us. I taught her daughter. Geordie became Senior-Assistant teacher, teaching William the Conqueror, 1066 and all that, ignoring the Voortrekker Great Trek. SADF never conscripted Geordie, who read a BA at Natal University, and married a Durban girl.

Mevrou Graunch retired to everyone's relief. Dirty Mr. Scouse became VP, and his BO repulsed us. He returned to England to everyone's relief. He wasn't the first or last Pom to work in SA (protected by unwilling conscripts like me), who scuttled back to England during the 70s and 80s when SA got nasty. Mr Young retired to everyone's sorrow. Mr. Ranter succeeded him to everyone's discontent.

Mr. Ranter stopped my Sunday tennis sessions, which I'd enjoyed for years. By the time we tennis players were in our 40s, I'd married, gone deaf and emigrated. Charlie emigrated to UK and married a nurse. Fraser became a bachelor banker, had a motor accident, and lived in a lunatic asylum. The other four married: two stayed in Durban, two including PP, went to the Cape, and divorced as they were moffies. All except Fraser fathered children.

Non-conscript Mr. Ranter skittered around school, forgetting Geordie and I were his only sports-coaching male staff. NED paid Mr. Ranter to spend taxpayers' money, but he neglected school cleaning and maintenance, although Zulu "boys" and Schools' Building Services did the work. Mr. Ranter neglected pupil discipline and allocated resources unfairly. Instead of improving teachers' classroom resources, Mr. Ranter hung curtains on corridor windows.

Over four years' teaching, I learnt that Journal and Daily Forecast (in my case Monthly Retrospect) record-keeping were time-wasters for me, and window-dressing for shloopy, white, male inspectors. After 2 years I knew the syllabi so well, I taught without prep. When my varsity exam-swotting clashed with my Virginia science exam-marking, I didn't mark my science exams. Instead I cooked science marks from my mark book, as I always had a positive correlation between my averaged test marks and my exam marks. Mr. Young and Mr. Ranter never moderated my science exams, nor queried my marks. I expect those unmarked science exams are still archived in brown paper bundles.

As Virginia was a desirable white school, I had to mentor many college and varsity students when they did block-teaching. Management never acknowledged my mentoring expertise, nor paid me for my time-consuming mentoring. In other NED schools, I'd experience similar mentoring ripoffs: Principals took credit for mentoring student teachers, but mentor teachers got no credit.

Pompies and I were the only varsity Speech and Drama, part-time students who did professional acting, but actor pay was crap. Most part-time students were fat, white women, incapable of professional acting, but they all got their degrees.

My Speech and Drama major wasn't accepted by NED for salary increase, until I'd finished my degree. When I finished my BA, I decided to read my Speech and Drama Honours degree full-time, which would give me a masters degree teacher's salary. I would have seven years' tertiary education, including sciences and humanities majors - rare high school teaching combinations.

Hugh offered me an Edgewood drama lecturer post, which I declined.

Fraser and I dumped Paul's death mask in a telcon on Umgeni River bank, by Ellis Brown Viaduct. Months later, we told mom what we'd done with Paul's mask.

1975 Apartheid, Angola Wars and Durban Cantabile Singers

< 1975. Cantabile Singers at Llangollen, Wales. Con beside the drum. (Star Journal)

Portuguese colonial unrest: In 1974, the Portuguese army deposed the Portuguese Premier. (Marion Kaplan, Focus Africa, Elm Tree Books, London, 1983). In 1975, Mozambique and Angolan governments collapsed. Colonials fled to Portugal and SA. Frelimo communist Machel became Mozambique president.

In Angola, communist troops fought UNITA's warlord Savimbi and SADF support troops. Generaals griped, "Kommunis het gekom!" During the late 70s, troopies invaded and retreated from Angola several times. Two months before I married in 1978, SAAF Canberra and Buccaneer jets bombed Cassinga camp, killing 7oo refugees. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Vol. 2, Macmillan, London, 1999).

SA state censored information about destabilization and USA proxy-wars in neighbouring states. When conscripts completed their "bit on the border," they dispersed home throughout SA. A Thornville farmer's son we knew was blinded by a landmine. A Hillary family we knew had two sons killed.

PP's bother-in-law, a farmer, was shot by tsotsis on his farm near PE. The farmer's wife saw the murder, and ran away through bush to a neighbour.

PP and I joined ol' toppie Constance Munro's Cantabile Singers. There were English and Afrikaners in Con's white choir, but no Zulus, despite us singing Zulu songs at choir practices in Con's Manning Road home, while rehearsing for the Llangollen choir festival. While men sang in the back row in Con's lounge, PP and I ogled white girls' bottoms before us. Each week, Leah (17) won our Lucky Legs competition. We sang carols in churches and hospitals, including Entabeni, Addington, Marion Hill Monastery. Cantabile sang black resistance songs Nkosi Sikeleli Africa and Shosholoza...

"Leah's not at home (giggle)... Leah's not at home (giggle)..." said Leah's 20 year old, identical twin sisters, Bebs and Jay, when I knocked on Leah's front door. Leah and I dined at Mike and Janet's Restaurant, got tiddly on champagne, then danced at Dorian's Disco at The Edward hotel, talking non-stop, beginning a life-long romance.

Con wrote excuse letters, enabling PP and me to postpone our 1975 call-ups.

Llangollen choir festival: Nightly, after rehearsals, PP and I boozed with our Welsh hosts. Cantabile excelled at the festival, by singing Zulu and Afrikaner songs: Shosholoza; Bayandoyika; Uyangithanda, Somagwaza; Daar's n hoender wat n eier nie kan le... We performed on TV, were photographed, and signed autographs for thousands of spectators mingling with singers and dancers. We wandered about in volkspele costumes, or African kaftans and square-toed shoes.

After the festival, in London I saw Schofield's Prospero in The Tempest. Opening scene: White sail blowing in the breeze...

On a European Combi trek with Con, PP, others, seeing countries in my dad's stamp books, we camped in Switzerland beside a lake. A tempest blew up a valley, flattening our tents. Tree branches speared into caravans. I grabbed my collapsed tent, and ran to the Combi. I ran back to fetch a key from PP. People wallowed beneath wet tents. Wind howled, while PP screamed, "My pole's still up Mark..."

Back in Durbs, I introduced PP to my neighbour's daughter. PP married her, fathering four daughters. Twenty five years later, PP's wife divorced him.

Unrest: Cape Town skollies murdered mom's niece Moya, an architect student. Moya's brother, medical student, found her corpse in a morgue. As kids, we'd played together in their 'Maritzburg home. We'd scoffed delicious monsters, growing in their garden. Year's later, Moya's family emigrated to Northern Ireland.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

1975 Apartheid, Durban White Teaching and LM, Mozambique Trek

< 1974. One of Mark Esslemont's standard 5 classes, Durban North. (Mumby). In later years some boys in the front row emigrated to USA & NZ - Crombie Hatfield, Giose Morasutti, Paul Swires...

During my last two Virginia years, I taught in the main school building, teaching standards 4 and 5, science, two Afrikaans classes, and sport. A Pom music teacher, non Afrikaans speaking, taught my maths classes. A mother complained to Mr. Young about my disciplining her daughter. Mr. Young allowed the parent to berate me in a corridor, while he hid in his office mouthing, "She's a bitch..." Later Mr. Young quoted AS Neill, "There is never a problem child. There is only a problem parent..."

Virginia flew sports teams to Jo'burg. Staff got drunk at after-sports functions, while parents billeted school kids. Male staff chatted up female staff. After a champagne-razzle, I accompanied a busload of kids all the way to Pretoria. Other staff trekked by car. Screaming kids didn't help my champagne-beer-brandy-babbelaas.

Back in Durbs, I watched a soccer match at Kingsmead soccer stadium, the crowd mainly Zulus and Indians. Whites sat on their grandstand separate from outcasts. At match-end, from the top of the grandstand, I watched Zulus flood from the stadium. A glass bottle flew up, crashing at my feet. It could've been a Molotov cocktail.

Mr. Young gave me his geography notes, and I taught standard 5 geography. Mr. Young went on long leave to Japan. VP, Mevrou Graunch, acted as principal, but did no ECA. She stole my English teaching-aids, when I was on study-leave. I sent a kid to fetch them from her. I marked books in an empty class, forgetting to teach Mevrou Graunch's standard 5 geography class. Mevrou Graunch complained to Ranter, "Why mus' ah sacrrifice mah frree perriods batting forr Marrk whenee mus' teach mah class?" Silent Ranter. I set a dictation for standard 5 classes, then gave my class the test. Mevrou Graunch hauled me into Mr. Young's office. "Why've yous given da test wivvout mah perrmission? Standarrd five dictation tests should've been done togevva."

"I'll reset the test."

Red-haired Katherine Findlay, Donna's Scottish friend, had small breasts and hairy legs. Katherine and I drove to Swaziland in mom's brown Mini. At Mbabane, we swam in the mixed-race Casino Spa pool, and camped nearby...

We bounced along a dirt road to Piggs Peak, then followed Havelock Mine overhead-haulage-cableway over the mountains to Barbeton, back in SA... Beyond Sabie and Pilgrims Rest, Katherine hit a rock in the middle of the road...

At Blyde River Canyon lookout, an oil-trail spoored mom's Mini. Cracked sump - empty. I asked a white motorist to call Graskop AA to send a tow-truck. Katherine and I looked at Three Rondavels mountain. AA tow truck didn't arrive...

We coasted to a holiday-resort, where an Afrikaner manager put us up, free. At a whites-only restaurant, Katherine flirted with a Swazi waiter. "Don't get starry-eyed with blacks," I said. "They're not like Europeans or Poms. You could be raped."

"Don't be a Twit."

I mended the sump with Pratleys Putty, then we drifted down Abel Erasmus Pass, beyond north-end of the Drakensberg into lowveld. By the time we reached stifling Phalaborwa, I'd been called, "Twit," six times. Katherine hadn't washed since Swaziland.

In whites-only Kruger Park we viewed wildlife... The Mini grated. "Watch out for lions!" I said, stopping the Mini, and looking at the engine. "An engine-mounting has broken." Katherine peered at the bush, while I hammered a wooden tent-peg between radiator and bodywork. The peg supported the engine, lessening grating.

At multi-racial Lourenco Marques, Katherine showered at our cheap hotel, and slept in our double-bed. I slept on the floor. Next morning Katherine asked, "Why didn't you sleep with me? - Twit!" What a pain! Katherine was too naive to realize I could've dumped her anywhere in Zululand, Swaziland, Eastern Transvaal or Mozambique.

At a pavement cafe, Katherine eyeballed Portuguese Rogerio, who flirted with Katherine, before we saw her off at the airport.

At a bullfight in LM Bullring, horses galloped round the ring, tiring Bull, riders stabbing spears into Bull's shoulders. Eight Portuguese men stood in line, behind each other, Big Bloke in front, shouting at Bull. Bull charged. Just before impact, Big Bloke leapt onto Bull's head, between horns, grabbing Bull round its neck, his team grabbing Bull by the tail, slowing it down. Bull charged repeatedly, and eight men reprised. Crowd roared. Bull snorted, hoofing sand.

A black Matador, in dandy-dress like the rest, tight-arsed about, waving his cape, while Bull reprised. Crowd roared. Bull snorted, dripping saliva, snot, blood. Matador stabbed more spears into Bull's shoulders. When tongue-lolling Bull stopped: Matador stabbed Bull between Bull's shoulders, with a curved sword. Bull wasn't killed as in Spanish fights, and trotted from the ring with oxen, to be butchered afterwards. Crowd applauded, throwing flowers, hankies, hats into the ring. Bloody African afternoon, while Portuguese conscripts killed Frelimo terrorists in the north.

Rogerio, mechanic, fixed my Mini.

At Pretoria I visited lance-corporal Fraser, training as a white, conscript cook at Voortrekkerhoogte, his arms blistered by oven-burns.

At white Alberton Hotel, the receptionist winked at me, saying, "I'll put you up in my flat." His lounge had a statue of Michaelangelo's David. He handed me a drink, and returned to reception. Having driven from LM that day, I toilet-flushed my drink, then hopped into his double-bed, leaving my underrods on.

The receptionist slipped into bed, sliding his hand up my leg, trying to gryp. I turned onto my stomach, bugger didn't get the hint, tossing and turning, prostrate pas-de-deux. Annoyed at his arrogance I "woke up," pulling on my clothes, saying, "What the hell's going on man? You said you'd flat me, and you're in bed with me! I'll report you to the cops man!"

See Kruger National Park.

1974. One of Mark Esslemont's many soccer teams. Boy on Mark's left, Steve Deeble, later worked with Mark at Kleinzee. Captain, Neil Tovey, on Mark's right later became SA soccer captain. (Mumby)

Note: Mr. Young is a composite character.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

1974 Apartheid, Umzinto, Durban North Commando Camp and UK Trek

Conscripts working a civvie "Key Position" were excused army call-ups. My teacher job wasn't a "Key Position." Many conscripts were students, or men establishing careers, reluctant to waste holidays playing troopies. SADF's solution during the seventies: increase commando basic to nine months; from 1972, increased to a year, Commandos then had to complete camps. After 1976 Soweto Riots, from 1977 Citizen Force troopies had to do two year's basic, then do eight camps. Volk and Vaderland, so-called privileged-white, apartheid beneficiaries paid with their time, some with their lives, while racist, exploitative parents wept. While this occurred, SA's economy boomed, and white immigrants (non-conscripts) poured into SA.

After basic, some graduate troopies' skills were used by SADF. Charlie finished his conscription by doing "camps" as an accountant. Sleeping at home, he worked at Natal Command while wearing commando uniform during "camp:" just cheap labour.

Younger schoolmates arrived at Umzinto bush camp, wearing officer shoulder-pips. Slapgat subversives like me thought army was crap. New RSM, PP called out those with "long hair." An army barber sheared us. Next day, top-brass had a tribunal, where 50 "criminals" sweltered. Kaptein, Majoor and Commandant Bourquin lolled on their arses in a hot tent. PP ordered "criminals" in, one by one, and gave his list to friendly Pikkie, ordering us to sign our name on the list. After sweating hours in the sun, playing Dumb Troopie, I marched into the tribunal tent, bumping into the metal table, shaking top-brass from their catatonia. I saluted, staring into Commandant Bourquin's eyes. "Plead!" he ordered.

"Not guilty."

"Why?" asked Kaptein.

"I had a crew-cut before camp."

"Guilty," said Majoor. "A fine will be deducted from your pay."

Commandant Bourquin nodded. Bugger the troops. I saluted, about-turned, with a mighty boot-stamp, marching into the table on my way out. "Who's that soldier?" asked Commandant Bourquin. (I wasn't ordered to act as lance-corporal at Umzinto).

PP asked Pikkie, "Where's my list?"

"What list?" Top-brass had lost troopies' respect.

Training was the same as other camps: rifle drills, marching, leopard-crawling, bush-patrols, ambushing, D formation, night-patrols, temporary bases, idiots shouting at their betters. We fired blanks with bren guns, and fired our new issue R1, 7.62 automatic rifles. While attacking "terrorists," Pikkie running behind me, fell into a hole. His rifle fired, peppering my right hand with brown-plastic-splinters. A live round would've severed my hand. Troopies gathered round, admiring the bloody damage a blank round did at close range. "My fok!" said Pikkie. Shocked, he handed me a tweezer, asking, "Fuckin' sore man?"

"Stront man!"

Majoor drove me to Natal Command, ordering me to wait for him. Doctor picked out more plastic splinters, then bandaged my hand. I waited hours in the sweltering heat, then AWOLled, by sauntering past the guard at Natal Command gate. Great security. I hitched home and showered, then mom drove me back to Umzinto. "You're in deep shit," Pikkie said. "Majoor searched for you just now."

Majoor shat me out, dismissing me, "Don' fokken do that again hey?" No DB.

Over the years, I picked out splinters rising to my skin surface.

One night-patrol, platoons ambushed a valley, waiting for "terrorists." Ambush-formation was capital H: along the lengths of the H, troopies lay along valley walls. I, with troopies lying across the valley in the middle of the H, wriggled into my sleeping bag, with my "wife" beside me. We pulled string, warning troopies, if we saw "terrorists." Brens hammering blanks from valley walls woke me, flames sprouting from barrels. "Terrorists" drank from my water-bottle. "Terrorists" removed bolts from our rifles: "killing" us. We would've been killed either by real terrorists or by troopies in crossfire.

Pikkie worked as a civvie blacksmith in Durban railway workshops. He'd soldiered in Ovamboland: "I drove a Jeep wivva 0.5 Brownin' machine-gun on top," he said. "Lekker powerful gun man! We set up a vehicle-ambush in a no-go area in the dark. Lights switched off, we waited..."

"When we heard someone walkin' through fokken whatchamacalls, we fired our machine-guns. I killed a kaffir-girl, an' 'er baby on 'er back, for sure. I know I shot 'em, as Brownin' bullets make lekker scorch -marks on flesh. No one else fired fokken whatchamacalls that night." Pikkie exemplified Dumb Troopies I'd met who'd fought kaffirs, kommuniste, terroriste - inner and outer enemies. Apartheid enabled Pikkie to boast about murdering blacks.

Cook didn't patrol, rose early, staggered about pissed, retired late: "'Ere's your kos yous okes." Cook ladled lumps into our dixies. "Enjoys your foods hey? I put bluestones in your koffies. Stops yous wanking hey?"

"Hey fokken cook!" complained Pikkie, "Fokken cheese I fokken jerk off while wanking by fokken railway forges, tastes better than this fokken stront man!"

One supper, we lined up with our dixies in the mess-tent. Cook had gas-cooked our steaks in paraffin, thinking he'd used cooking oil. No one ate steaks.

In December, at our Nairobi Airport stopover, a Kikuyu tribesman begged beside a toilet door... Mom, Fraser and I flew on to UK...

At Birmingham, dad's spinster-sister Wee Jean organized a silver-service meal at a hotel: wines served every course. My dad's UK family were Scots, full of medical and agricultural degrees. My engineer dad had left England for India and SA, married twice, and produced five children in SA. His three siblings had produced five kids amongst them. When Wee Jean asked Fraser about dad's stamps, Fraser said, "Dunno."

At Wrexham, we found dad's birthplace at Clayton Villas Stansty, then we drove around Britain.

In London, Fraser and I bought Soho strip-club tickets. A runner walked us through crowds, dumping us in a basement night-club, with a bar serving dear drinks and delicious dames. We sat on dirty chairs below a dingy stage. To music, girls stripped, and sat before us opening thighs and wet labia in our faces.

1973 Apartheid Durban, Sin Street, Lourenco Marques

1973. Mom's last year teaching at Durban North Primary. (Mumby)

Mozambique unrest: From 1964, in the north a civil war was fought between Portuguese colonists and Marxist Frelimo, Mozambique Liberation Front freedom-fighters, wanting independence from Portugal.

In mid 70s, Renamo, Mozambiquan National Resitance, was formed by the Rhodesian army to fight Frelimo during the Bush War, as Frelimo allowed terrorist training in Northern Mozambique, and terrorist raids on Rhodies from Mozambique. Frelimo fought Portuguese troops for eleven years, before gaining independence in 1975. Many Portuguese fled to Europe in 1975, after Frelimo gave them 48 hours to leave, with only 5 suitcases permitted per person. (Lisa St Aubin de Teran, Mozambique Mysteries, Virago Press, London, 2007).

Renamo continued civil war into the 1980s, fighting Frelimo government troops. After the Rhodie Bush War, SADF supported Renamo fighting in Mozambique. SADF Renamo HQ was at Phalaborwa, which I passed en route to Kruger National Park. SA destabilized Mozambique, as Frelimo allowed ANC bases in Mozambique. During 1980s, SADF and Renamo killed hundreds of thousands of Mozambiquans, either by war, or by causing famine. (Sean Moroney, Africa Volumes 1, 2, Facts on File, New York, 1989). Millions fled their kraals to beaches, cities and nearby countries. (Karl Meier, Into the House of the Ancestors, Inside the New South Africa, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, 1998). SATV showed refugees fleeing to SA. Electric border-fences were built to stop black refugees. Some refugees were housed in camps, and repatriated. After 25 war years, Mozambique was one of the world's poorest countries.

In July 1973, slip-slopping along Durban Western Freeway, I hitched to Joeys. Gambler in a Chev picked me up. Gambler tried passing a meandering truck driven by Grinning Kaffir. Gambler swerved past on the gravel shoulder, then forced GK to stop behind us. Gambler ambled over to GK, grabbed his arm through the cab window, and donnered his face. Gambler ambled back to his Chev, grinning. Doing the ton over Van Reenens Pass, Gambler pulled down his sun-visor. A pistol fell on his lap. He waved his pistol saying, "Ja-nee. I need protection..."

At Jo'burg, I woke in the dark, looked through my window, and saw sparks by the Chev's front wheel. "Don' worry man," Gambler grinned, "My brakes are goin'..."

In midnight Joubert Park, I sat in a dwaal thinking, "Now what?" Joller weaved by, waving a dumpie, stopped, then invited me to his squat. I fingered my Toledo steel paper-knife in my underrods, and followed Joller, who offered a zoll. I declined, but dossed at his squat.

Offering a caravan at her Sabie farm, an Englishwoman said, "Eastern Transvaal's exshilly bootiful..."

On the road east Dronkie Shangaan said, "Put ya pack in da backa mah bakkie!" He offered a swig from his Castle Lager can. "Ah'm dronk Baashie. Drave me ta Komatipoort sho ah kin shober up. Drave me! Eef copsch ketch me dey'll geev me 'ell." Intermittently eastwards... "Shtop Baashie! Shtop! Ah needa pish. Pish!" At roadside stalls, Dronkie chatted up black-birds, while bumming fruit. We separated at Komatipoort: I to the white side of the passport-control building, Dronkie to the black side.

Outside Lourenco Marques's Eiffel-designed station stood a WW1 granite-statue of a heroic woman with bare boobs. I was gyppoed after drinking Krokodil River lowveld water. Station toilets were smelly with shit-sprayed seats and drums fulla kak-papier. Flies buzzed, while I stood spraying, below Eiffel's iron-roof dome.

I bought a beer in a Sin Street bar. Mixed-race couples flirted. A pretty, leggy coloured breasted over saying, "D'yo-wonno-fok?"

"No thanks."

"Koop moya bier." I bought her one, gulped mine and skedaddled.

Portuguese cops stood with black truncheons in Sin street. I strolled into a noisy bar and bought another beer. Fly-blown bulbs hung from a dirty ceiling. Sailors chaffed chicks, negotiating prices. Black whores took escudos up-front before leaving with men.

Whores returned, open for more clients. I didn't want to know them. A whore stuffed escudos in her bra, while I tried to separate her from a Portuguese guy, clawing his money back. A wig flew. Men laughed. Girls screamed. Grim faced cops wielded truncheons.

At a quieter bar, I ordered another beer and a basket of deep-fried prawns. I peeled crisp skins, ate flesh, legs, antennae. Sucked skins. Burped. Licked my fingers. Slurped another beer. Bliss.

At a street-market, I bought naartjies, bananas and bread from black ladies. SA white cities weren't like that. Two decades later, Mandela's people would squash apartheid, putting pavement-stalls on city streets. Sitting in sand, I watched two brown and white cocks fight in a cage, leaping over each other, stabbing with sharp spurs.

At an Esplanade table before Polana Hotel, I shared prawns with a Portuguese poof, practising his English. We drank wine, and the drunker he became, the more he rhapsodied LM Radio, LM Museum, Delegoa Bay, the white sandy beach before us. When he offered to manicure my nails, I left.

At dusk I jogged towards the airport, getting lost in a squatter camp. I sprinted past shanties. Candles and paraffin lamps flickered through windows. The air was charged with menace. Shadows scuttled from hut to hut. A brindled kaffir-dog fucked a skinny bitch. I splashed through stinking alleys, through shit, puddles, rubbish. On such a night, a whitey could be hacked to bits for muti. Airport lights guided me out, then I jogged through white suburbs back to my doss-house.

I was impressed by boxy Honda cars dodging around LM. Honda motorbikes were in SA, but no Honda cars. Decades later, I'd buy my own Honda runabout in NZ.

At Nelspruit a Boer said, "Jy praat goeie Afrikaans vir 'n Nataller." A Carolina English farmer hosted me. We fought a veld-fire hitting flames with green wattle-branches. The fire burnt out on the roadside. Next morning I saw scorched earth.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

1973 Apartheid, Transkei, Durban Hindu Festivals and May Street Forced Removals

1973. Indian Fire Walking, Cato Manor, Durban. >

On a January 1973 Transkei trek, I drove Fraser along a dirt road in mom's brown Mini to Holy Cross Mission, Bizana. Tambo and Winnie Mandela came from Bizana. Tambo was schooled at Holy Cross Mission. (Martin Meredith, Nelson Mandela A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1997). On the way, the car exhaust fell off. We reattached it with coat-hanger wire. Outcast piccanins raced from kraals, thrusting outstretched hands, calling, "Bonsella Baasie!... We had no sweets to give to the beggars.

The Anglican mission brick-church was cool inside. Red choirboy cassocks hung on hooks at the back of the dark nave. The church and sweltering hospital smelt African, a combination of wood-smoke, Nivea cream, Vicks Vaporub, disinfectant, sick-sweaty-bodies, despair. As Fraser had been SCA chairman at Northlands BH, he volunteered a year as hospital-orderly for outcast blacks: then was conscripted for privileged whites. SADF wasted over two years of Fraser's life.

Returning to Durbs, mom's Mini broke down in darkest Pondoland, the exhaust having cooked the boot battery, as we'd incorrectly reattached the exhaust-pipe alongside the battery-cable, running from boot to engine. I asked a passing black motorist to call a garage. A Pondo man brought a battery. "I've no money to pay," I said.

"Don' worry. Sen' me a check when you get beck to Debs. Don' worry!"

Rosie: "Come ta Indian Kavadi festival at Umgeni Road Temple Mak. Aai-yai-yai-yai-yaaai!" Rosie acculturated me her outcast Hindu way.

Sweaty, staring, half-naked Indian men and saried women danced entranced round the temple. Helpers caught falling devotees slipping into trance. Helpers forced skewers through devotees' tongues, cheeks, forehead skins. Shouting, chanting helpers struggled to shove hooks through skins of devotees' arms, chests, backs. Limes hung from back and chest hooks, like green dug layers. No blood. Staring, chanting, drooling, groaning devotees: clapping hands, clashing cymbals, thumping tambourines, banging tabla-drums. Singing helpers syncopate-processed round the temple. "Iinya-iinya-iinya -iinyaaa!..." chanted Rosie.

Priests thumbed ash-dots on devotees' foreheads. Hooks pierced a sweaty devotee's back, and the cart he pulled was attached to the hooks by ropes. One devotee trudged around the temple wearing six-inch-nail, wooden sandals. Camphor smoke and incense melded with smells of coconuts, bananas, mangoes, ripe fruit. On their shoulders, chanting devotees carried wooden kavadis, filled with fruit and garlanded with marigolds. Kavadi fruit was placed on a shrine in the temple. Priests hammered coconuts, offering coconut-milk and flesh to the stone idol Ganesha, elephant-headed god, and other stone gods.

Rosie: "Before kavadi an' fire-walkin' festivals, devotees purify dere bodies, by abstainin' from sex an' meat, an' all, mortifying dere bodies, hoping gods will notice dere devotion an ' spirituality an' all, indubitably blessing devotees an' families an' all."

Rosie: "Come ta Indian fire-walkin' festivals at Cato Manor an' Jacobs Temples Mak. Aai-yai-yai-yai-yaaai!..." Like outcast blacks in Joburg's Sophiatown and outcast coloureds in Cape Town's District Six, outcast Indians were forced-moved from Cato Manor black spot, according to Verwoerd's Group Areas dispossession laws. Cato Manor was bigger than Sophiatown and District Six. My maternal-grandfather's first wife, Jenny Cato's family had first owned Cato Manor.

During the 70s, whenever I drove along Bellair Road through Cato Manor, the Hindu crematorium still cremated Indians, although few Indians lived in Cato Manor anymore. I smelt corpses burning before reaching the crematorium, and the smell stayed after passing the wood-an'-iron Hindu Temple at the roadside, and long after passing the crematorium. During the 60s, 70s and 80s, Cato Manor remained wasteland, coveted by whiteys, as it was valuable Berea real-estate.

At the Hindu Temple near Wakesleigh Road, Indian assistants burnt logs forming a pit of hot, raked coals. Before fire-walking at Cato Manor, a skin-hooked, rope-pulling Indian devotee, pulled a wooden cart, with his hooked-skin wrenched from his back in a series of brown dugs. Dancing, chanting, clapping, drumming, cymbal -clashing Indians followed him from a stream. Fire-walkers, worshipping in trance, danced barefoot over coals. Women garlanded in marigolds, carried bronze pots on their heads. At the end of the smoldering pit, devotees splashed through a water trough, cooling their feet. No blisters, no pain. "How do devotees so it?" I asked Rosie.

"It'sa Tamil custom Mak. It'sa karma."

When karma of the 1950 Group Areas Act expelled Rosie from May Street black spot, she cackled, "It'sa heeeeluva t'ing Mak! We mus' renta concrete-block, double-storey Chatsworth 'ouse - one family on top, one below; or stay with family elsewhere. A helluva t'ing!" Jimmy built a room at his Gum Tree Road shanty in Jacobs, and Rosie squatted with Jimmy, his three wives and kids, and Shorty and Sita. Drunken Maharaj and his wife and kids had already been cast out to Chatsworth.

May Street Indian community was bulldozed. Only the mosque remained, as Dutchmen left worship places alone. It was the second outcast Indian community I witnessed destroyed by apartheid. As kids, Paul, Fraser and I had had sixpenny haircuts at the Indian barber opposite Rosie's slum house. We were the only white customers amongst black hair and Brylcreem. May Street Indian community wouldn't've been a slum, if there was no Group Areas removal threat. Rosie and her Indian neighbours had lived on valuable "white" CBD land.

Later, new Durban Station was built off Umgeni Road, near where Rosie's house once stood. Joshua Doore Furniture Mart and shopping mall was built, trapping station trade. In the 90s, the wasteland where Rosie's house once stood, was occupied by outcast Zulus, squatting in filth, under plastic sheets, cardboard and corrugated-iron: while white punters cavorted at Greyville Racecourse nearby.

May Street slum for Rosie and her extended family had been close to Umgeni Road buses, West Street white CBD and Grey Street outcast Indian CBD. Gum Tree Road squatter camp, Jacobs, put Rosie's outcast family far from jobs, increasing commuting times and costs.

Decrepit Rosie slept in our enclosed back porch - a sunny room. Rosie refused our khaya. We flouted the Group Areas Act for years, as Rosie was supposed to doss in our khaya. On warm afternoons, after work, I sat in Rosie's room, while Rosie reminisced... Rosie's room was close to our neighbour's house. He was a privileged whitey lawyer: arrogant, ignorant Northlands OB.

During weekends, I drove Rosie across town to visit outcast Jimmy. Pompies came once - from white, middle-class comfort, to enforced Indian degradation. I warned Pompies he must accept Jimmy's hospitality, no matter how full he felt. We ate a hot curry, while Jimmy, his three wives and kids watched us scoff every mouthful, under their hot iron roof. They smiled, rocking their heads, while we munched our meal. It was the second time I saw Pompies silenced out.

See Cato Manor Riots.

Monday, June 25, 2007

1972-73 Apartheid, South West Africa Hitching

In December 1972, I hitched to South West Africa. After Upington, an Afrikaner lady picked me up, while her mampara son, result of desert inbreeding, sat between us. She asked me to drive west, as she'd driven all day and was tired. As it was my first desert visit, she insisted I stay in Karasburg with her. "It's impossible to hitch on Sundays," she said. It was my first experience of Afrikaner hospitality from a stranger.

A Boer dropped me off under a kameeldoringboom, saying, "If youz don' getta lif' juz'-now, youz muz walk along my dirrt rroad to my karrrakul skaap plaaz." He was bang I'd die of thirst.

An Englishman muttering, "You're mad!..." took me to Fish River Canyon, reputed to be the second biggest canyon in the world, after USA's Grand Canyon.

At Seeheim, we sank beers with a German taverner. "You're my last patrons," he said. "I'm retiring after thirty years in the desert."

At Keetmanshoop school rifle-butts, noisy natives scared me at dusk, so I slipped out of town and slept in the veld.

Billy, driving a Combi north, picked me up. On New Year's Eve, Billy and I pub-crawled Windhoek. I drank whiskey and soda, glad that Billy drove, as his body absorbed alcohol better. We trekked west via Mount Hakos over the Namib. Near Walvis Bay, we slid down giant coastal dunes. At Swakopmund, we poisoned ourselves with vrot hamburgers, and our projectile-puking coloured motel walls.

On the road north to Tsumeb, I wedged myself amongst three Ovambo men in their truck, sitting on top of the metal engine-cover. They didn't speak English nor Afrikaans. The afternoon was hot, the engine hotter. Ovambos offered me beer. I wondered if they were gun-runners. At stifling Tsumeb, a white poof tried picking me up in a hotel. "Ja-nee," I said. "My hairy arse was already burnt today."

Near Tsumeb, for decades, thousands of conscript troopies were brutalized, courtesy of Azanian taxpayers, at Grootfontein; Ondangwa; Rundu on the Kavango River; Katima Malilo on the Zambezi in the Caprivi Strip; proxy war in Angola.

After weermag army basic, Fraser would do three month border duties at Grootfontein and Rundu. He swam the crocodile-infested Kavango River, never seeing terrorists. He saw Ovambos and Bushmen trackers. I still have the carved Af face in a palm dish, Fraser brought home from the border. Some weermag conscripts had SWAPO Ovambo terrorist contacts, and during and after 1975, contacts with Cubans and Russians in Angola.

Two Afrikaner train-drivers drove me past Windhoek and Rehoboth baster-dorp. We braaied in the middle of the tarred-road beneath the Southern Cross. At Mariental, my chummies snored like diesel-units in their car, while I slept on the ground. Back at Keetmanshoop, it was futile hitching on Sundays. I waited for hours, carving my name in sweet-thorn bark, while traffic slouched by.

At Karasburg junction, a Swiss hitching to Cairo said, "I've hitched three days from Cape Town to Karasburg." He was over-dressed, had a larney rucksack, and didn't blend in. I hitched with a light pack, and covered my attached sleeping bag with a ground-sheet. Using white shoe-polish, I painted number-plate-symbols on my groundsheet, which drivers could see. I tried to look young and non-threatening, but hid mom's Toledo steel paper-knife in my underrods for protection.

A white Volksie-Beetle driver, a white student trekking from Windhoek to Cape Town, sped me south, across the Orange River, through Namaqualand...

At Paarl, I trekked through vineyards, as I wanted to get on the N1 to Bloem. An Indian businessman picked me up saying, "I don' usually pick up white hitchers, as the las' white ou I picked up asked, 'Why'd ya have a swanky Mercedes? Coolies aren't supposed ta have 'em...'"

Speeding north through the Karoo, seeing veld, koppies, horizon and sky, I sang, "Ringing out from our blue heavens..."

"Uit die blou van onse hemel..." cannoned the Indian.

At Three Sisters Junction, I waited till dusk. A donkey wagon rattled past - smooth tyres wobbling on a car back-axle; wooden crate on a car chassis. A coloured, migrant sheep-shearer sjambokked two plodding donkeys. His family, Hotnot wife with four snotkoppe, sat on belongings, trekking the Hottentot, migrant-Springbok way...

I searched for a safe doss-plek. Snake holes were everywhere. "Karoo's a helluva big pozzie..." I thought. "Snakes sliding into my sleeping bag...I could sommer vanish. No one'll find my bones..."

Next day, I hitched to Bloem, showered at aunt Dorothy's, and backspoored to Durbs. During my early teaching years, I hitched to many unknown parts of SA, as I couldn't afford holiday petrol-costs while driving mom's brown Mini.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

1972-73 Apartheid Durban, Natal University Drama

I shared cricket with Mr. Young, who taught me leadership by example. Smarmy Ranter gave up national soccer refereeing to teach woodwork, and boss Zulu "boys" preparing sports-fields, by supervising grass-cutting, pitch-preparation, liming white lines. Ranter taught me soccer coaching, calling kids, "Meat Heads" and "Lame Brains." Coaching boys' sport bored me, as my Saturdays were stolen, watching schoolboy soccer, and umpiring schoolboy cricket. Besides directing drama skits, I coached swimming, and was swimming and athletics house-master, organizing training, heats, and events allocation. After four Virginia years, I was tired of school sports. Mr Young allowed me and friends to play Sunday tennis on Virginia's new courts.

"Ngena! Hlala panzi!" said umnumzaan Mzolo, my varsity Zulu lecturer, when I knocked on his door. Mzolo lectured in English, explaining intricacies of inflected Zulu grammar and vocabulary. Most students knew amabele meant corn, but no student knew its other meaning. Mzolo grabbed his tits, saying, "Amabele." Outcast Zulus were few at Natal University. Their inferior bush-varsity was in KwaZulu.

Puppet Universities: Verwoerd had legalized racially separated universities. (Martin Meredith, Nelson Mandela, A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1997). Fort Hare University in Eastern Cape stayed a restless, black university. Tambo, Mandela, Hani were alumni. Other non-white, puppet universities were: Zululand (Zulus), which I passed en route to game reserves; Durban-Westville (Indians), where I watched some shows; Transkei (Xhosa), which I often passed in later years; Western Cape (coloureds) - a graduate would later teach my youngest son music; North (northern and southern Sotho). During my varsity years, later ANC luminaries Chikane and Ramaphosa studied at Turfloop, University of the North. Later, I'd have dealings with the QwaQwa southern branch. Vista University had black correspondence students.

Non-whites were allowed enrollment at white universities, only if courses, like English Speech and Drama, were unavailable at their separate universities. White universities were: Orange Free State (OFS); Rand Afrikaans; Pochefstroom; Witwatersrand (Wits); Natal; Rhodes; Port Elizabeth (PE); Stellenbosch; Cape Town. UNISA was a correspondence university open to all races. Later I'd work with white, black and coloured graduates from white and non-white universities.

At Natal University, Gillian Hurst taught us Martha Graham movement and Laban movement-notation. Prof. Scholtz, play director, eventually married Gillian. Mom's friend, drama-doyenne, Prof. Sneddon, lectured Shakespeare and Greek classics, emphasizing immutable laws: "Civilization's based on trust. Isn't it?...." Ol' ballie Joan Little called everyone, "Dear..." and drilled linguistics. She battled her new-fangled overhead projector, sometimes projecting transparencies onto the ceiling.

I acted in plays with prof. Scholtz, Pommie and Herrington. Pommie, my age, taught us Theatre Arts, and toured Central and South America for drama ideas, like Aztec, Inca, Maya civilizations. Herrington's video-studio videoed our magazine-programmes and plays. I saw a performance of Herrington's Ulster of the Southern Cross. Students got white, affirmative-action TV jobs after Herrington's video-production courses. When state-controlled SATV began at Auckland Park in 1976, TV was censored. Media contraventions got one gaoled, banned, banished, deported, silenced out. Years later the SATV Baas got an irate phone-call from Groot krokodil, President Botha.

At ol' toppie, Prof. Sneddon's Durban Theatre Workshop Company, Aliwal Street, I professionally played servant Klaas in Kom Ons Trek Tou, Scholtz's Boer War adaptation of Arms And The Man. I liked Shaw's soldier carrying chocolates instead of ammo. I excelled at playing Fools, and enjoyed comedy roles. I played dual-roles Militia Man and Lager Jew in The Representative, punching a fellow actor (one of my tutors Ian Steadman, playing a Jewish role opposite Dorothy Gould). Each performance, I seated a German Officer (Pommie) on a chair, and shaved him using a cut-throat razor. One champagne -pissed performance, I applied my razor to Pommie's throat. Eyes popping, Pommie leapt from the chair, spluttering shaving-cream, and wiping his face with a towel.

Mom retired early, after another nervous break-down. In Addington, she had ovarian cysts removed. I suspected melleril tablets, which mom's psychiatrist had prescribed for years, had caused mom's fatness. She'd thrown away her useless corsets and step-ins. Whenever mom had sat down, cyst weight had splayed her thighs. After the operation, I phoned the surgeon, asking for a prognosis. "Grave," he said. "She's got cancer. I excised most of her liver. She's got six months to a year to live." Fraser and I didn't tell mom, as we believed cancer knowledge would kill her. We knew radiation burning and chemotherapy poisoning were inadequate. Mom went into remission.

Privately, I played Ezeekial Cheever in The Crucible, directed by Hugh at Edgewood. I played a chorus-line part for Westville Theatre Club's Guys and Dolls. I shagged a woman in The Reeve's Tale for Q Players at Greyville Race Course, near Rosie's May Street slum.

My script intermittently changed in my fantasy life and my real life. I played Lancelot Gobbo opposite Pommie's Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, while Prof. Scholtz played Shylock. Lancelot's words, "'Conscience,' say I 'you counsel well.' 'Fiend,' say I 'you counsel well,...'" summarized apartheid's moral dilemma we faced. Wearing a Fool's wicker-hat with a wiggly ping-pong ball on top, I stole the show, as white, teenager groupies enjoyed my acting. Pommie was peeved when I, "a student," took curtain-calls with him and Ian Steadman, my age. Ian became a Wits lecturer.

Pommie helped us part-timers, by telling us what not to learn for Theatre Arts exams. Pommie (never conscripted) sent his Natal wife to USA to have their baby, then re-emigrated, after benefitting from apartheid, becoming a USA drama professor.

Most part-timers were busy teachers, attending evening lectures. Some outcasts attended part-time varsity with me. Mrs. Africa and Nick, an Indian schools' inspector, read drama with me. Nick also read English, French and Zulu with me. We called each other "umnumzaan" - gentleman. I seconded Nick when he ran his first Comrades. Nick emigrated to NZ, but returned. Post-apartheid, Nick was carjack-murdered in Durban.

Pompies, whitey student, taught at Jewish Carmel College (which closed past-apartheid for want of pupils). One night, a white lady student invited Pompies and me to her Berea home for tea. She tearfully told us her husband was screwing an Indian employee. Skande! Her husband breached the Immorality Act, making criminals of her whitey husband and Indian lover. Pompies and I silenced out, as she was setting us up as accomplices to her shame.

Pompies played squash and the piano, and his Light My Fire mobile-disco played the latest hits. Before exams, we revised together at his Yarningdale flat. After studies, we pub-crawled Marine Parade. After graduating, Pompies read his teacher's diploma at London University, then led drama, science and sports at Northlands BH.

As a young teacher earning an m-plus-3 salary (matric plus 3 years' training), dating girls was expensive. I had little money to impress non-Dutch-going girls. During early teaching years, I dated girls whom I met at schools, church, varsity, and through friends and family. No-one lasted, as we had little in common, and I was busy with varsity and teaching. Some of us part-time varsity students socialized at restaurants, movies, discos, balls, pubs, parties and theatre shows. I admired NAPAC's production of As You Like It, especially Jaque's "seven ages" speech. I knew I'd played many parts, and in future I'd play more unknown parts.

After engineering in Umlazi for years, and lecturing in Rhodesia, Donna's dad emigrated to England with his new family, eventually settling in Canada. Donna married her fundamentalist engineer at a teetotal wedding. There, I drank Coke and Fanta. When I quaffed Mountain Dew and Hubbly Bubbly I was maudlin.

Note: Mr Young is a composite character.

See Virginia Preparatory (Primary) School.

Friday, June 22, 2007

1972 Apartheid Durban, Virginia Primary School Teacher

1972. Mark Esslemont's first standard 4 class, Durban North. (Mumby) "Mark you!" >

White Virginia Primary would be my hottest donkey wagon ride. Virginia had 7 class levels - class one to standard five (year 7): 21 classes, about 30 pupils per class. Annual enrollment: about 630 pupils. I began white teaching with white staff, who'd begun careers before apartheid, like mom. Ol' toppie headmaster, Mr. Young had been a businessman before resuming teaching. His black leather shoes had a military shine. He'd fought in Italy during WW2. He raised Southern Cross funds for Boys on the Border. Virginia overlooked N2 freeway, Virginia Airport, Indian Ocean, a bushy valley on the south border. White suburbs sprawled northwards to sugarcane fields.

Mr. Young led Virginia with wisdom, unashamed to weep at an assembly when announcing a wall had fallen on children at a nearby school, after heavy rains, killing them. He kept golden pheasants, and renovated his upper Durban North home. Mr. Young was executive president of Natal Teachers Society, and negotiated better wages for white teachers. Mr Young helped buy NTS Florida Road HQ, and re-varnished Victorian banisters there. He got a bank overdraft, built a school pool, tennis courts and prefabs, which accommodated growing enrollment. NED bureaucrats complained, as they disliked Mr. Young's financial acumen.

"Go buy science equipment!" said Mr. Young. At Protea Holdings and Baird and Tatlock, I bought equipment and chemicals to last for years. In my hot science prefab, my standard four (year 6) pupils were "problem pupils" experienced teachers had rejected.

Ranter, woodwork-master, ranted to me: "Two boys failed, who shouldn't've failed!"

Bumtiddy, their former teacher, slack, menopausal male, who chanted, "Bum-tiddy-bum-tiddy-bum-bum-bum..." to himself in the corridors, had failed the boys, who'd languished most of the previous year outside Bumtiddy's class. Ranter wanted me to battle Mr. Young to pass the boys belatedly. I let it pass, and Mr. Young early-retired Bumtiddy.

A girl was raped by her father, smelt of urine, and disturbed other girls. Another girl's father was jailed for embezzlement. A one-armed boy dolphined in the school pool during PT, and played one armed cricket.

Another boy was hairier than me. A girl's nanny had saved her during the Congo Simba Rebellion in Stanleyville, by hiding her in a barrel, then ghosting her away. I had a termagant Jewess, and the rest were slow learners with fidgety, defiant behaviours. I hadn't heard of ADHD, or ODD, or Specific Learning Disabilities, the labels weren't used yet, but ADHD pupils. ODD pupils and bozos jolled in my class. A freckle-faced boy sometimes flailed his arms, saying, "Thir I need a pith!"

When my class failed exams Mr. Young complained, so I dropped my high-school-trained expectations, passing every pupil at year's end. As no teacher wanted my class the next year, I taught the same pupils - a Danish educational idea. I grew with my pupils. All passed standard 5, prepared for high school. Parents appreciated my efforts with gifts.

After three years' biology teacher training, my salary was about 200 Rand net per month. Men weren't attracted to teaching. I paid monthly pension contributions, which NED would repay with low interest, should I resign. I paid into the Public Servants Medical Aid Association scheme, which didn't benefit me, as I never took sick-leave during my ten NED teaching years. I didn't get a housing subsidy. Most of my salary went to mom for lodging. The rest went on travel, car maintenance, varsity expenses. I took paid study-leave for varsity exams. Durban white schools were similar in physical and academic standards to first-world schools I later saw during my overseas treks.

Non-white teaching perks were less than white teaching perks. Non-white schools had overcrowded classes. Before apartheid, some blacks were well educated in mission-schools, which degraded during apartheid, due to poor state funding. Mandela and Tambo were mission-school generation. Thereafter, Verwoerd's Bantu Education splintered blacks into degraded education, qualifying them for menial jobs. Deja vu: During WW2, Nazi Himmler had wanted defeated Poles to have degraded labourer education. (Laurence Rees, Auschwitz, A New History, BBC Books, Britain, 1999). Black pupils started school older than white kids. Black Bantustan boys often did herd-boy duties, as cattle-wealth was used as lobola to buy wives. Mandela had herded cattle at Qunu, before starting mission-school. In the 70s, some black pupils were 20 years old, or older. When I began teaching, some blacks my age, or older, were finishing inferior studies in black high schools.

Affirmative-action white principals were paid according to qualifications, experience, school size. Principal's pensions were calculated according to pupil roll during the last years of a principal's tenure. Most white principals and teachers retired aged 65. If sick, they were boarded earlier. In NED white schools, teaching and secretarial staff were white, but Zulu male staff, living in a school khaya, were employed as cleaners, gardeners, groundsmen, Gestetner operators, messenger "boys." Mr. Young sacked two Zulus caught buggering in a school kitchen by a school secretary. Apartheid zeitgeist forced migrant-labour, black men, lucky to be employed in white areas, to exist in small khayas, or overcrowded hostels. Their outcast families were forced to exist on the "farm," in degraded, overcrowded homelands.

Fraser (18) was in Northlands matric. We trained for Comrades Marathon by running 10-milers thrice weekly, and doing longer weekend runs. Dad had left his stamp on Fraser and me: assertive young men, softened by the women in our lives. At Durban City Hall, 1180 runners began Comrades Marathon. Mom drove her Mini along the course, carrying refreshments, while Charlie seconded. Fraser and I ran until we hit Inchanga wall, then walked every hill thereafter. I developed egg-sized blisters, and wouldn't've finished, if I didn't have a pair of old takkies in mom's Mini. I hobbled up Polly Shorts. Fraser ran ahead: placed 673rd in 10 hours 6 minutes. My place: 722nd in 10 hours 13 minutes. Mike Orton had won in 5 hours 48 minutes. (Morris Alexander, The Comrades Marathon Story, Juta, Cape Town, 1976.)

1971-72 Apartheid, Rhodesia Trek

On my Christmas Combi trek to Rhodesia with Roy Cowgill, Botswanan roads were corrugated dirt. Botswana was a big cattle ranch with poor Tswana herdsman. At Gaberone, a Tswana cop detained Joe in front of a store: "Yo' hev pukked on a yello' line seh!"

"What yellow line?" Asked Roy Cowgill. Cop scuffed his foot on the only tar strip in Gaberone main road, exposing a faded yellow line below dust. Off we went to the cop-shop, cop walking, Roy Cowgill driving behind cop. At the cop-shop, wanting to pay the fine, we argued with four gesticulating cops. "We must be at Victoria Falls on Monday," said Roy Cowgill. "We must pay our fine now!"

"No seh! Yo' mus' wet fo' de megistret who comes to de court on Mondey. Mondey!" Maybe they wanted a bribe...

Near Francistown, we slept on the roadside. In my sleeping bag, I thought of Shona and Matabele terrorists...I drove a long, dusty trek to the Botswana-South West Africa-Zambia-Rhodesia border. Along the way, Tswana road-workers sjambokked oxen-teams pulling chopped-down acacia trees over corrugations to flatten the road surface. Road-graders were non-existent: an indictment of former British control. Later, roads were tarred when USA funded improvements of the BotZam Road, and when De Beers and Botswana state ran Orapa, Jwaneng and other diamond mines. (Guy Arnold, Africa A Modern History, Atlantic Books, London, 2005).

We looked at Mosi-oa-Tunya, Victoria Falls, and chucked stones into the Boiling Pot from Vic. Falls Bridge. At Wankie Game Reserve, we looked for elephants, but saw none. Eastern Matabele bush would witness massacres during the 70s Bush War, and afterwards during the 80s, when thousands of Matabele were killed by Mugabe's Shona 5th Brigade, trained by North Korean, commie minions. After Bulawayo, Khami Ruins, Motopos Hills, Zimbabwe Ruins, eastern game parks, Salisbury, we trekked to Durbs, via Zululand game parks, where we swiped two rhino skulls lying in the bushveld: good teaching aids.

See Victoria Falls from Zambia.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

1971 Apartheid Durban, Dokkies Roundup

1971. Mark Esslemont playing The Little Prince in 'The Stolen Prince'. (Burge)

I cancelled my extra-maths classes and bunked Dokkies lectures to swot for varsity exams. Meneer JV Smit phoned: "Meneer Ezzlemont, why'rrre youz nottat kollege?"

"I'm swotting for varsity exams."

"Youz muz' rreturrn ta kollege an' atten' alla lekshiz!" Broeder Bul betrayal? On our last lecture day, Meneer JV Smit swooped into our class, to disingenuously present each of his last Engelse studente with a big English-Afrikaans dictionary. Pity Zulu wasn't taught at Dokkies, as Natal's population was mostly Zulu. Portuguese and German, spoken in Mozambique and South West Africa, would also have been useful. Rosie's Hindustani would've been very useful.

Our psychology lecturers had sometimes quoted from Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. I failed to relate my coming of age amongst Zulus, Indians and Afrikaners with Pacific Samoans. Although communism was the "threat" of my generation, Dokkies psycho-lecturers espoused Pavlov, amongst other learning theorists, so Afrikaner studente were classically-conditioned to salivate over signals of volk, taal, kerk, kultuur, rugby, conscription, paternalism: the rewards being privilege and superiority of the volk over outcasts.

I passed varsity exams well. As I had one week's swotting time for Dokkies work, I stayed at Donna's pozzie, where we swotted biology. Lert tablets were useless, so I bought dexidrine tablets from my Broadway chemist to keep me awake. Donna tried a few, and had a fit at supper. Her step-mom shat me out.

My Dokkies diploma was my donkey wagon dompas. I qualified as a biology fundi, aged 20 years 3 months. We applied to 'Maritzburg Head Office for white teaching posts, expecting to have our white school choices ignored. We expected to be sent to Babanango, Zululand, or elsewhere. Most new teachers were posted away from Durban. I was posted to white Virginia Primary, Durban North. Principal Mr. Young had coached me extra-maths before I matriculated. He needed sports-balls on his staff, as he had too many sports-slack lady teachers. I'd live at home and continue part-time varsity. During the next two decades, I'd teach in six white state schools in Natal and the Cape, none of which would expect me to attend job interviews.

After our graduation ceremony, students gathered around meneer Olivier's desk, jostling to receive exam-results certificates. I farted like a honey badger, then wandered off, returning my locker key to Broeder Bul, who became NED biology inspector. Later, meneer Olivier cooed, "Meneer Ezzlemon,' youz teachirrz muz' get dizziplin' hey?" Meneer Olivier's son became 'Maritzburg College principal, then NED English inspector. I was the last English student to leave Afrikaner Dokkies.

At Dokkies and in the army, I'd met good and bad English and Afrikaners. I'd broken away from Durban North and the "Durban North smell." I'd survived conscription. I'd learnt about travel, sciences and arts, but was skeptical about Afrikaner domination. My deceased father and maternal-grandfather were Poms. I'd visited England. Although I spoke English, I wasn't English. I wasn't an Afrikaner, although mom's Hendrikz blood flowed in my veins. Dokkies studente and troopies had 1920s Broederbond brainwashing, like volk, taal, kultuur kerk. (RW Johnson, South Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004). I found some Afrikaners easily led, selfish, brutal, hypocritical, anti-English, belittling.

Apartheid separations had succeeded with me. Only contacts I'd had with outcasts were on a master-servant basis. I knew no educated blacks, coloureds, Indians. I had no non-white friends. I was schooled in English-medium white schools, and had led white students. I'd graduated as a white biology teacher, with zoology distinction, from a white, dual-medium teachers' training college. I spoke English, satisfactory Afrikaans and a bit of Zulu. Donna was so impressed with our slack lecturers, she wanted to be a lecturer.

I was repelled by Dokkies's Afrikaner kultuur, including conscription, tyrannical Afrikaans, and apartheid affirmative-action for minority whites. Exclusive pseudo-intellectual Afrikaners I knew at Dokkies, differed from my loving, inclusive Hendrikz tannies at Somerset East. For twelve years, at Durban schools and Dokkies, I'd had compulsory Afrikaner brainwashing. Enough was enough! Compulsory English and compulsory Afrikaans were the two subjects I'd done most so far. I'd travel further with English. At varsity I had choice.

An expat Rhodie had dropped out of Natal varsity, battled to learn Afrikaans, but acted in Hugh Thompson's plays and completed his Dokkies diploma with me. He avoided both Rhodesian and SA conscription, and later became a white school principal.

I'd ridden the donkey wagon for three years at Dokkies, and would ride it for another ten years in Durban white schools. Dokkies had failed me by not training me as a sports coach. Not all students did PT training. Halfwit lecturers, far from ,"the classroom situation," didn't tell us that new teachers would have to carry experienced, slack teachers, by doing extra ECA, which would waste our evenings, weekends and holidays. That vital "volunteer" aspect of teaching was never explained at Dokkies. Neither did lecturers inform us that conscript teachers would have to coach cadets.

I didn't believe in Verwoerd's crappy Bantu Education turning out rubbish blacks, which was also never discussed at Dokkies. I didn't believe in Calvinist, Christian-National-Education (splintered white education) although I'd teach in white apartheid schools, turning out militarized, racist whites. I didn't believe in minority Afrikaner domination, forcing me to belong to the Natal, white, English tribe, Durban North clan, teaching faction, separated from outcasts. My conscience options were stirring; family destruction; jail; exile; swimming with the rip, rather than against it. I did the first and the last.

Another 19 years of brutal apartheid would pass, before non-whites would be educated in state, white schools, and the five separate English, Afrikaner, Indian, coloured and black education systems would be abolished. I was a Natalian - a white man, despised by Afrikaners for being Natal Engels en Rooinek, and loathed by outcasts for being supremely white during apartheid, with all its privileges. I jogged the green, middel-mannetjie track, between the stony tracks of minority white nationalism / fascism, and majority black nationalism / tribalism. My ocean - Indian; my river - Umgeni; my hill - Berea, where my ancestors rested; my totem: "Haha-ha-ha-haaa..."

Post apartheid, Dokkies became dual-medium again for English and Afrikaners.

1971 Apartheid, Eston, Durban North Commando Camp

Durban North Commando parades were switch-off kit-inspections at Old Fort Road Drill Hall. The mad idea was that troopies could accumulate parade attendances instead of "holiday camps." We had shooting parades at Umgeni Estuary rifle-range, another switch-off. We shot bren-guns, sten-guns, R1s and .303s. In rifle-butts we manipulated targets, then listened to rounds hitting targets. Playing Dumb Troopie, I avoided parades: not the only avoider. Troopies received a written-order switch-off: "Store Emergency-Rations at home, in case of Emergency call-up!" I stored rations under my bed, until I realized the idea was stupid. An oil pipeline burst into a canal near Durban Harbour. Emergency! I wasn't at home. Next parade, PP, recently promoted to RSM, asked, "Where were you when the pipeline burst?"

"Screwing my chick." Parades soon fizzled.

I got a call-up for PP's NCO course, run during weekends, another switch-off. We patrolled sweet-thorn bush and wattle plantations near 'Maritzburg with .303s and brens. We did leopard -crawling; temporary bases; radio procedures; signalling. We leapt in and out of a hovering Puma helicopter, which flew over Durban beachfront back to Natal Command. Taxpayers paid a fortune for Dumb Troopies playing soldiers. PP ordered me into a Drill Hall office, saying, "You failed my course. You're not NCO material."

"I failed as I AWOLled most of your course, and because I didn't lick your fat arse." PP glared. We were both 19 years old. We were schooled in Durban North, had attended Dokkies together, rock climbed together, acted on stage together, did basic together. PP had fixed my moped. Apartheid splintered us as friends or enemies.

Durban North Command HQ, originally on Soldiers Way opposite Durban Station, later moved to Mount Edgecombe. Older, non conscript men, escaping families, volunteered for camps to play Dumb Troopies. At Eston bush camp, PP and other brainwashed troopies, who'd finished NCO courses, ordered old school-mates around. Officers, captains and majors also ordered troopies around. Promotions came quickly to toadying troopies. Durban North Command, supposedly English, included Engelse-Dutchmen, Afrikaners, Jews and other European troopies, a mixed bunch of whites all obeying call-ups. Not a non-white, nor female in sight. Commands were in English and Afrikaans.

One dawn, RSM PP and his brother, promoted to sergeant, strode amongst tents: "Opstaan! Wakey! Wakey! Rise and shine!" ordered PP. "I'm ordering you to be acting lance-corporal for your section!" I acted as lance-corporal at Eston camp, detesting it: just a messenger boy and bren-gun carrier.

One dusk, PP swayed on a mess table, lecturing troopies about, "Terrishtsh." What did pissed PP know? He'd never met a terrorist.

One evening, I hitched with a carload of volunteers AWOLling to Durbs, as there were no passes from camp. The driver lurched along the freeway, while his connection slashed from an open door. They left me at Tollgate Bridge. I strolled to Roy Cowgill's flat on Ridge Road, showered for the first time that week, then Roy drove me back to Eston, where gate-guard Charlie asked, "Where've you been man?"

"Strolling." Charlie didn't report me. He thought like me: "Fuck the army!"

Training, the same as other camps included ambushing drills. We night-marched to Cato Ridge rifle-range, while top brass trekked in PP's Bedford. I staggered over roots and rocks in the dark, blindly clutching Charlie in front. 03:00 We arrived, tired and disorderly. I didn't bother to shoot, as my rifle would need cleaning afterwards.

Back home, I stowed my rifle in dad's oak-cupboard, and decided not to use my .303 again. I reckoned if Broederbonders wanted conscripts to use WW1 and WW2 .303s against commie AK-47s, then, "Stuff them!" Years later, when I returned my .303 to the Old Fort Road tiffy, he nearly had a stroke. Thick rust stopped him seeing the light through my .303 barrel. Thereafter, I was issued with an R1 automatic rifle only for the duration of camps. I wondered why other Dumb Troopies and I got away with slackness at Durban North Command. Perhaps conscripted officers' hearts weren't into punishment and patriotism, or civil war against outcasts. Perhaps keen troopies like PP secretly destroyed mates' bad records in administration. Perhaps Durban North Command, newly formed after my 1967 conscription, just silenced out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

1971 Apartheid Durban, Natal University Versus Dokkies

1971. Mark Esslemont playing Charlies Aunt in 'Charlies Aunt'. Male leads, Walter Perfect left & Kevin Burge right

Back in Durban Charlie, who'd begun BCom at Natal University, had stolen Ursula. I silenced them out for a year.

I registered at Natal University, for whites, to read my part-time BA. I'd ride the varsity donkey wagon for six years. Dokkies and varsity were infested with BOSS spies: English and Afrikaner students paid by security -police to betray classmates. I was careful what I said to suspect informers. For years, whenever I used our home phone, I heard, "Click-click-click..." and eavesdropped conversations. Who'd tapped our phone?

Those were days of house-arrest, detention without trial, passport confiscation, deporting, banning, banishment for those agin' the government. Once, I saw Ursula's sister pumping Black-Power salutes, singing, "We Shall Overcome..." at a Gardiner Street Cenotaph demonstration. "What idiots!" I thought. Their photos would've been snapped by security-police. After the protest, white students all went home.

I was busy with Dokkies and varsity studies, and teaching extra-maths lessons, paying mom back my travel loan. I remember posters on varsity notice boards: "Vote Charles Nupen for SRC President." Nupen later became a labour mediator. His political-science lecturer was Richard Turner, who was banned for years. Later in 1978, my marriage year, Turner was shot dead in his Durban Bellair home. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Vols. 2 & 3 Macmillan, London, 1999).

Other posters: "NUSAS - Emergency Student Body Meeting;" "Vote SASO." Dokkies never had emergency student body meetings. Biko, reading medicine at Umbilo medical faculty, formed the SA Student Organization. Biko's black exclusiveness sounded similar to Afrikaner nationalism. I wondered what Biko's Africanists offered SA? Later in 1977, Biko was arrested near Grahamstown, beaten by security -police, transported naked in a police-van from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria, where Biko died. Biko was buried at black Bisho, near white King Williams Town. (Martin Meredith, Nelson Mandela, A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1997).

Over the years, I majored in English and Speech and Drama, easy varsity majors improving my teacher's wage. In 1970, Prof. Sneddon and Prof. Scholtz of the varsity drama department had helped Msomi produce his black Umabatha - Macbeth, which was performed in London, and world toured. In May 1994, Msomi managed President Mandela's inauguration at Pretoria Union Buildings. Sneddon and Scholtz weren't the only whiteys using Zulus in plays. In 1960, post Sharpeville massacre, Alan Paton had used Zulus in his Mkhumbane musical in Durban City Hall. (Alan Paton, Journey Continued, Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1988.)

Varsity student called Dokkies, "The Funny Farm." Hugh Thompson, promoted to head of Edgewood's drama department, directed Charlies Aunt at Dokkies, "where the nuts come from." I played Lord Fancourt Babberley.

For two years, I'd listened to Donna's boyfriend woes, and endured her jabbering about religion, academics and menstruation. Sometimes at Dokkies, Donna asked me to check the back of her dress for blood-spots. When we studied "Reproduction," the Afrikaner lady lecturer asked me for a sperm sample. I refused, while Donna and Katie giggled. The next day, we didn't ask where the lecturer's sample came from.

Donna's dad, WW2 veteran, had threatened to castrate Donna's boyfriend, so Donna and I dated, mainly because I drove mom's new, brown Mini, and Donna was tired of bussing. Three years older than me, Donna and I studied erotica in Broeder Bul's lab, Burman Bush, Mitchell Park, other places. We lumbered at The Graduate movie, starring Hoffman. Donna's parents encouraged my good influence on Donna, as Donna had repeated first-year. We had candle-lit meals at their Morningside home, served by Gladys their Zulu maid.

< 1971. Mark Esslemont in Valmai Esslemont's brown Mini, 22 Chelsea Drive, Durban North.

One afternoon, Gladys and another maid fought in the street, ripping off clothes and wigs, scratching faces, then Gladys sat on her rival's belly, keening and thumping her head on the road. I separated them, ordering Gladys into my car. Gladys adjusted her clothes, while her rival scuttled off. A white man, who'd watched the fight, strolled over saying, "Servants must sit at the back!" I glared at the moron, and drove Gladys home.

For a zoology bone-project, Donna and I killed two rabbits, by forcing them into buckets with chloroform inside, then sitting on the bucket -lids, until the squealing, bouncing rabbits expired. We dissected the rabbits, boiled the bones, chemically bleached the bones, then mounted the bones on wood as a skeleton-model. After I began teaching, my Zulu and Indian lab assistants killed rabbits, frogs, mice and rats for dissections.

Donna was depressed by her parents' divorce. She played the piano, soothing her nerves. Our romance didn't last, as Donna dated a Christian fundamentalist, engineering student (Natal's Bishop Colenso had refuted fundamentalism in the 1860s). Donna then tried persuading me that Darwin's evolution theory was wrong.

Dokkies cherries wore mini-skirts, and Skelm followed cherries upstairs, while a Zulu cleaner wanked in a broom cupboard below. I dated Katie, who'd dumped her Engelse-Dutchman boyfriend, my SRC rival. Katie flicked her brown hair over her shoulder, her mini-skirted legs more alluring than English lectures. After dates, late at night, Katie's ma glared at me, in her nightgown, while Katie and I chatted over coffee in her lounge. On her 21st birthday, Katie's pa presented Katie her funeral insurance policy. Katie did a fourth year's study at Nokkies, then married Nokkies SRC president.

Our Dokkies English head was an alcoholic, his daughter, fellow student, was anorexic. A Pom, an Irishman and a South African dying of cancer, were English staff, whose English literature was ineffective against Afrikaner domination. Hugh Thompson, directing English and Afrikaner students in English and Afrikaans plays, was most tolerant. I watched an Afrikaans choral-verse rehearsal, done by the Afrikaans department, where studente ranted about Boer War konsentrasie kampe. The Boer War had ended 70 years before, but Afrikaners never forgave Brits for destroying their women and children in camps. Afrikaner students were brainwashed by Afrikaner lecturers with historical grievances, soiling Afrikaner-English student relations, and brainwashing new Afrikaner teachers to indoctrinate the next Afrikaner generation against Engelse.

Late one night, when I arrived home, lights blazed, while white cops left. Deaf mom sat on her sofa. A Zulu thief had smashed the glass of our front door, sneaked through our home, striking matches and putting on my clothes. He stole my only suit and Bata Toughees. Mom was woken by the kaffir, illuminated by a match at her bedside. "MARK! FRASER!" yelled mom. Kaffir fled. Mom burglar-guarded the door, and replaced our hedge with a concrete wall, making our bungalow a Boer War blockhouse. Mom bought a .22 Astra automatic pistol, which she kept by her bedside for the rest of her life.

See Steve Biko.

1970-71, Dokkies Student Tour, Britain and Europe Trek

During my Johannesburg flight I wrote to Durban North Command, requesting a call-up deferment, and posted my Dumb Troopie letter at Jan Smuts Airport. Call-up deferment was easy, If I posted a letter for a lackey to file. Camp absentees were called-up for later camps. AWOLlers were visited by MPs.

The Organization of African Unity prevented SAA landing rights in some African countries. (Roger Childs, Divide and Rule, Macmillan, Auckland, 1990). At Luanda, black and white Portuguese soldiers made us walk a Kalashnikov gauntlet to the airport. Pricks!

We flew round West Africa to England, origin of dad's stamps. London dustmen were striking, so we waded through heaps of black-plastic rubbish-bags on dirty streets. In London and Paris we saw art and dog shit. Soho night-clubs and the Moulin Rouge interested Skelm and me. We bussed through Belgium, toured Rotterdam, and drifted to Delft. In Amsterdam we saw art and dog shit, and visited Anne Frank Huis, but no Afrikaners related it to SA racism. Sex shops in the red-light district sold porn books, magazines, sex dolls, dildos, love potions and creams. Penis candles stood by shop windows. Some whores leaned against wet walls. Others sat on couches, before shop windows, spreading wares. Men in dark coats prowled streets, hunting sex. Katie giggled with Skelm and me.

Our trek-group was mostly cherries, led by meneer JV Smit and meneer Olivier, accompanied by their families. Shopping by cherries was interrupted by kultuur. Photo-shy meneer Olivier hid his face in group-photos, and asked me to snap his legs when he entered buses. His drama scripts later achieved SATV, white, affirmative-action fame.

On our Rhine cruise, we drank a hang of a lot of red champagne...

1970. Hofbrauhaus Mug, Munchen, Germany

After a Munchen Hofbrauhaus piss-up, I stole my mug and another for Katie. We toured newly built Munchen Olympic Village. Tobogganing in a park, meneer Olivier told Katie to lie face-down on a toboggan, then pushed her. A stone stopped her toboggan's descent. Katie flew on cawing, "Eina!..."

At an Interlaken pub, we drank New Year champagne. Faces swam around...Up-down-up... Kissing mouths, moist lips...I scraped vomit from my bedroom hand-basin, and hurled a bag full from my window onto snow: my first time motherless pissed.

Breakfast headache...Nausea..."You rode a lift, kissing girls," cawed Katie.

Mount Rigi: Bouncy cable-car...

Bus trek: Innsbruck, over Brenner Pass to Venice, Pisa, Florence...

Rome: Katie's Afrikaner room-mate ran along a corridor, pleading, "Katie's in dat rroom wivva man. Help asseblief!" I knocked on the door. Katie lay on a bed, her glass dribbling brandy on her thighs. Skelm said, "Katie's with us!"

Pompei, and old bones...Sorrento...Capri, where cherries bought junk.

Greece: Art and monuments - Delphi, where the oracle had gassed herself, conning supplicants; Corinth, where our tour guide was cute; Gigantic Mycenae, where Schliemann had found shaft- graves; Epidavros, where my interest in drama increased; Sparta...My dad's stamps had included every European country we'd trekked, but dad's stamps didn't show that UK and Europe were vrekking cold in winter.

On our last night in Athens, a Greek asked Skelm and me, "Ya wan' some nice girls?" Skelm and I followed Greek to a bar, where Greek presented two cherries. Skelm groped in a corner, while I fondled my cherrie's mini-skirted legs. She had herpes lips. Skelm and I drank beer, while the cherries soberly drank whisky.

After arguing with Greek over our bill, Skelm and Greek walked to our hotel to fetch more money. Held hostage, I inspected the toilet, but a window was too small for me to escape. Greek returned, angry that Skelm had punched him, escaping into our hotel. I drank dregs of the girls' whisky - cold tea! More arguing: then me Pied-Pipering Greek, pimps, bouncers and thugs to the hotel, where the night-manager fixed finances.

"Why'd you drop me?" I asked Skelm.

"Jislaaik! I thought you'd escape. Baba-baba-boo!" In future overseas trips, I'd visit many unknown parts of Britain, Europe and Israel.

Note: Meneer JV Smit & meneer Olivier are composite characters.

Monday, June 18, 2007

1970 Apartheid Durban, Dokkies Dropouts and Driving

< 1970. Mark Esslemont playing Stage Manager in 'Our Town'. Kevin Burge left, director Hugh Thompson middle

Male students faded from Dokkies, becoming businessmen. One became a world famous motor-cyclist. One who'd done army basic with me sold insurance, and killed Border Ovambos as a Commando. PP became a municipal health inspector, inspecting septic tanks. PP did a Commando sergeants course, which went to his arrogant head. After PP left Dokkies, I walked behind meneer JV Smit and meneer Olivier in a corridor, overhearing Meneer JV Smit screeching about cheeky PP: "PP was parmantig..."

Skelm ran Dokkies Climbing Club, and I chaired a Biology Club. We raised club funds by showing English flicks to Afrikaner hostel students, like Midnight Cowboy starring Hoffman and Voight. Carry On flicks were popular. I stopped rock-climbing, after peeling at Gerrys G climb, and seeing Skelm crack his skull peeling from Gerrys G. Skelm later led Drakensberg climbs with varsity students, like Shannon, who still had freckled legs. Some of Skelm's climbing connections fell to their deaths.

Meneer Olivier had halitosis, and couldn't understand why students sat at sides of his language lab, while he lectured from his wooden lectern. Meneer Olivier tried hard to make Skelm and me bilingual. He succeeded with Skelm. I bunked lectures.

I got my driver's licence in mom's new, brown Mini, and drove up Chelsea Drive dip to our home, against a one-way sign below the umdoni tree: my contempt for apartheid signs. For years, I criss-crossed the ancient dune Berea, where friends and relatives lived. Trekking to Dokkies, I drove across Umgeni Road and up Goble Road to Trematon Drive, along Ridge Road, crossing Berea Road, to Natal University, down Queen Mary Avenue to Dokkies, beyond which lay verkrampte south Durbs.

I often drove up Innes Road where I was born, crossing Windermere Road, where in 1988 Fraser would doss in a halfway-house, and get pissed on Florida Road. Donna's mom flatted on Montpelier Road. Some of mom's lady friends lived on Sydenham Road, near Musgrave Road, where my granny Rosa had died. I drove along Nicolson Road where I'd teach, and Manning Road where I'd meet my wife. I banked at Brand Road. Berea Road python hissed me over the Berea to N3 Western Freeway - away from Natal.

Note: Meneer JV Smit & meneer Olivier are composite characters.

1970 Apartheid Durban, Homelands and Hindu Wedding

1969 Dokkies. Mark Esslemont having a Ball. Rob & Pat Dougall left, Mary Ann & Arthur Hill middle, Errol Mattig right

1960-1970. Over 1500 000 people had already been forcibly -removed. (Africa Volumes 1,2, Facts on File, New York, 1989).

The 1970 Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act forced tribal blacks to become homeland outcasts, deprived of SA citizenship. There'd be ten puppet homelands: KwaZulu, QwaQwa, Lebowa, Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele were supposed to be self-governing, but Pretoria would fund restless homelands, with their own puppet parliaments, capitals, civil servants, police, military, airports and border controls. Puppet Transkei, Ciskei, Venda, Bophuthatswana chose to be "independent" states, but no country recognised them, except SA.

Puppet homelands were marginalized, unworkable and impoverished, as few industries evolved, and "border industries" were risible, cheap labour exploitations. Big industries were already established in white urban areas, supported by the migrant-labour system, functioning before apartheid, where mostly black men worked in white urban areas, while most black women and children stayed in tribal Bantustans. Urban blacks were forced back to their homelands when work expired, or when they had no passbooks. Homeland work was minimal, services were poor, and blacks starved. Crime was the only job left.

Jood and I saw white strip-shows at Smugglers Inn. We toured white Cosmo Club, Umgeni Road; white Rob E. Lee, Musgrave Road; white night-clubs overlooking the harbour; white Killarney Hotel near beaches, all served by excellent Indian waiters. At a white night-club in Smith Street used-car sales area, a drunk cherrie slid her tits over. She wore emerald eye make-up and batted her false eyelashes at Jood, who squirmed. Clutching Jood's thigh, she peered at me. "D'ya wanna buya ladya drink?..." Jood dropped out of varsity, faded from my life, borrowing money from friends, then managing a Golden Egg restaurant in Rhodesia during the Bush War.

Rosie had saved for years, and although Shorty her grandson was a man, Rosie arranged Shorty's marriage. Shorty worked night-shift receptionist at a white Berea Hotel, and while Rosie worked in the day for us, Shorty slept in her May Street Indian slum bed.

Jimmy, Rosie's nephew, illiterate carpenter, had three wives, who looked after his kids. The youngest wife did Jimmy's book-keeping. Jimmy built a room for Shorty and his fiance Sita at Jimmy's Gum Tree Road shanty in Jacobs.

Jimmy erected a marquee at his shanty. Mom, Fraser and I were the only whites at Shorty's wedding. As guests of honour we sat facing Indian guests. Shorty wore a grey suit, and Sita wore a white Sari embroidered with gold thread. Both were garlanded in marigolds. A Hindu priest lit camphor cubes, said holy words, thumbed ash on Shorty's and Sita's foreheads, then thumbed a red tilik on Sita's forehead. Afterwards we feasted on chilli-bites, samoosas and curries.

1970. Shorty Naidoo's Wedding, Gum Tree Road, Jacobs, Durban. Esslemonts & Rosie Naidoo backdrop.

Rosie grew chillis in mom's garden, and cooked curries for us. Rosie sucked toothache-easing cloves. I didn't mind Rosie ordering me about: "Buy me snuff at Riverside bus-rank Mak!" Rosie was addicted to snuff, which she sniffed up her nostrils, and rubbed on her gums, making her eyes water. Mom paid for Rosie's rotten teeth to be extracted, then paid for Rosie's new false-teeth.

Rosie smaaked cane-spirits: "Buy me a nippa cane Mak!" Although mom had signed the pledge, mom sometimes drank sherry for medicinal purposes. Using her fingers, in our kitchen, Rosie ate curries off her enamel plate, and drank sweet Joko tea from her enamel mug.

As Rosie refused using our khaya shower, Rosie stripped off her blouse and petticoat after work, and washed herself at the outside tap by our kitchen. Rosie left work dressed in her sari, always wearing her gold-trinket wealth hanging on a yellow cord tucked in her bosom, and her snuff-tin-money-bag tucked in her sari at her waist. Although her husband was dead, Rosie wore a gold wedding-ring, and wore silver toe-rings on two toes. Rosie worked barefoot, but wore shoes in cars, buses and on special occasions, like Shorty's wedding, and visiting Umgeni Road Hindu Temple.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

1970 Apartheid, Dokkies College and Comrades Marathon

1969-1970 Old and New SRCs trying not to look pissed. "What a piece of work is a man!" 1969 SRC president, Arthur Hill below champagne bottle

My second Dokkies year: We got crapulent on champagne at our first SRC meeting. At meetings, mainly Afrikaners debated trivia, like miniskirt length, or "Should studente be allowed to wear college blazers [a privilege] if they bunked assemblies?" Most students didn't wear blazers, due to Durban's humidity. I sat in silent protest next to my SRC wannabe, reminding him that I'd won more SRC votes as a first-year student than he'd got as a second-year student; I taught myself typing, operated the SRC Gestetner printer, and distributed SRC notices; I organized volunteers to street-collect charity money; I roster-read SRC messages at assemblies, while Afrikaners sat docile, and PP, Skelm and other English students fidgeted and mocked. My SRC experience inculcated a dislike for committees, manipulative management and patronizing Afrikaner politics.

I sometimes arrived late at lectures as my moped broke down. I wrote no exams, as we were continuously assessed. Hugh directed Our Town. I played Stage Manager. Later, I played juvenile lead opposite Katie in Gelukkige Dae, adapted from the Happiest Days of Our Life. When cross, Hugh Thompson bashed chairs, throwing them down aisles. Big act: "meneer Olivier! Stop acting like a baboon!" said Hugh Thompson.

"Ah'm notta ba-boon. Ah'm a lecherrerr." Meneer JV Smit broke up the squabble. (Note: Meneer JV Smit & meneer Olivier are composite characters).

Takkie-shod training for Comrades Marathon, I ran 10 milers thrice weekly from home, crossing Umgeni River near Athlone Hotel, re-crossing Umgeni near Blue Lagoon, running along N2 freeway to Virginia Airport, up the hill past Virginia Primary to the water-tower, along the Ridge, down Northway and back home. I ran 14 milers to Natal University and back along Ridge Road, past Burman Bush, over Umgeni, up Northway back home. Cool evenings, early mornings and warm summer rains were best running times. I sometimes ran with Skelm, running from Durban North to Ballito Bay.

Before dawn, I greeted Clover Dairies Zulu milkmen, while they delivered milk bottles with aluminium seals. They wore white uniforms, car tyre sandals, and pushed white hand-carts. Their pierced ear lobes had metal rings or wooden cotton reels attached, causing their lobes to wobble while they ran.

Before Comrades, I soaked my feet in meths, hardening them. I prepared chocolate and sarmie snacks. Carbo-loading hadn't been favoured yet. I enjoyed apple-slices sprinkled with salt, preventing cramps. Runners had various corpse-revivers. Mine was whiskey. Skelm said, "Jislaaik! Run like a kaffir!"

30/05/70. 06:00. 759 runners lined up in the dark at Durban City Hall. Trimborn cock-crowed while we ran off. I was one of 25 novices. We had 11 hours to reach 'Maritzburg, over 80 kays away. Mom drove her Morris, while she and Jood seconded me. I passed Skelm on Fields Hill. Skelm dropped out. After I hit the wall at Inchanga, Jood lost me. Incensed, I bummed oranges till Camperdown...

Jood gave me whiskey on Polly Shorts. I jogged past sweet-thorns into 'Maritzburg, finishing 284th in 9 hours 8 minutes. Hallelujah! Dave Bagshaw won in 5 hours 51 minutes. I won a silver medal. In later years, competitors increased thousand-fold, seconds were abolished and silver medals became harder to win. I hated up-hills, but on down-hills I flew like a fish eagle, singing, "Kaaa! Ka-ka-ka -ka-kaaaa!..." (Morris Alexander, The Comrades Marathon Story, Juta, Cape Town, 1976.)

Unrest: SA had been banned from competing in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. 1970. SA was banned indefinitely from Olympics until SA abandoned apartheid. International cultural, sports and business boycotts were silencing out my whitey generation. (Roger Childs, Divide and Rule, Macmillan, Auckland, 1990.)

1970 Mark Esslemont, first Comrades, near Cato Ridge