Tuesday, June 12, 2007

1967-68 Apartheid Durban, Conscription and Umfolozi Game Trail

1968. 6S Matric class, Northlands Boys HS. Teacher Flash Gordon. (Mumby)

During the sixties, some boys were drafted into army training, some weren't. In 1967, my fifth form year, Nazi sympathizer PW Botha, defence minister of the Nat government, legislated that all white males, in their sixteenth year be conscripted. Fifteen year old child soldier me. During the next two decades, white boys would be conscripted and brutalized by apartheid. Slimy cadet training, by brainwashed white teachers like Kaydee, conditioned white boys and their parents that militarization was normal in SA.

Heavy SADF soldiers came to Northlands, registering us for national service in the PT change-rooms. Teachers had sold us out to apartheid slavery to protect whiteys. Boys dreaded the mythical cough test, where a military doctor ordered a boy to strip, then placed spoons beneath the boy's balls, and ordered the boy to cough, to check his balls. I never had a cough test, but pissing in a bottle caused comment. Boys dried up.

Some boys made sickness-excuses for conscription exemption. Those "sick" boys had done PT and sports for years. I didn't mention my Perthes hip, a good evasion.

Conscript options: Nine months Citizen Force training in the army, navy, airforce, doing annual camps thereafter; Basic Commando training, then annual camps for 16 years; Medical exemption; Flee SA to work and / or study overseas; Do tertiary education, then flee SA; Jail. Medical exemption, or exile were the only escapes. We were 69-89ers, PW Botha's white peril conscripts, warring for apartheid. I heard no protests about conscription from white, affirmative-action, Durban North parents, just comments like, "Army will make a man of you..."

Kaydee accompanied boys on an Umfolozi game trail. An armed white game-ranger led from the front. An armed Zulu game-warden trailed behind. We learnt spooring skills and wilderness wildlife. We camped below sycamore fig trees by Umfolozi River, checking our sleeping bags for snakes and our crotches for ticks. While I lay in my tent, Skelm threw a 10cm scorpion on my tent. "Fuck off!" I said.

"Stop fuckin' swearing!" said Kaydee. "Do the 2-4 o'clock watch tonight! Don' fall asleep hey? I've seen lion spoor."

On watch, I threw logs on our fire. I shone my torch into sweet-thorn shadows, and saw reflections of antelope eyes. A nagapie's scream skrikked me. Hippos grunted, wading from pools: lumbering shadows, shuffling past camp, tail-wagging dung. "Uuuuunnhh! Uuuuunnhh!..." roared a lion. More fire logs.

Down-wind we spoored a white rhino, dozing on the dry Umfolozi bed. Kaydee smacked rhino's belly. Short-sighted rhino jumped up. We stood single-file. Trees were 200 yards away. Rhino lowered its double horns at us, snorting. Stillness...Sweat...Silence...Rhino trotted to the Umfolozi bank, then pissed backwards on its grassy dung-heap marking its territory. In SA, white rhinos were almost extinct, while ferocious black rhinos charge anything that moved. Game-ranger Ian Player and others saved the rhino from extinction.

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