Friday, June 29, 2007

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.


Mark JS Esslemont said...

June 2007 email from an England Esslemont:

"...I am enjoying reading such bright writing."

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Replied to a Pietermaritzburg email inquiring about Uyangithanda song.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Responded to an email from Finland inquiring about a Cantabile singer.