Thursday, June 14, 2007

1969 Apartheid Durban, Rock Climbing and Students Representative Council

1969. Mark Esslemont abseiling at Monteseel. (Burge) >

I rock-climbed Monteseel cliffs overlooking Valley-of-a -Thousand Hills. One night, for a dare, Skelm and I drove naked from Monteseel, past a cop-shop to Craiglee cliffs, where we yodelled, "I did an ol' lady too..." After decades of apartheid neglect, the Valley would become a graveyard for Zulu faction-fighters and thousands of Zulu Aids sufferers. After reading Dale le Vack's God's Golden Acre, I wondered why Zulu men fucked Zulu maidens during and after apartheid, as an Aids cure. (Dale le Vack, God's Golden Acre, Monarch Books, Oxford, 2005).

I stopped rugby after being stiff-arm head-tackled by a Natal under 20s Dutchman. I valued my life, so I played basketball.

One Saturday night, Dokkies rock-climbers raided Nokkies (Natal Training College, Pietermaritzburg) as a rev-up for our inter-college derby. We stained Nokkies swimming pool purple with a hang of a lot of potassium permanganate, stole hostel paintings, painted Dokkies slogans on Nokkies windows, and stole Nokkies college bell. We then stained Dokkies pool purple, stole hostel paintings, painted Nokkies slogans on windows, and wrecked Dokkies staffroom, by overturning furniture and shoe-shining graffiti everywhere. Poepol (PP) and Skelm went mad.

Skelm stuffed Dokkies electric bells with toilet paper, while the rest of us observed. While Skelm clung to a second floor wall, he nearly got assegaied and knobkerried by a Zulu night-watchman, but it was too dark for the Zulu to see Skelm. (I didn't know then, that for the next 25 years, school bells would ring my life away). The next Monday, meneer JV Smit interrogated students. I wasn't questioned. Arthur Hill silenced out. If we were kaffirs and were caught, we could've been hung for sabotage. (T Bell, DB Ntsebeza, Unfinished Business, Verso, London, File 2, Chap 2).

Ursula and I danced at balls in Dokkies hall, with temp bar and college band: English double-bass player, English drummer. Bass guitar and concertina playing Afrikaners had spade-beards, imitating bible -thumping, rifle-toting voortrekker heroes. An Afrikaner cherrie sang English and Afrikaner hits, or Boeremusiek: ay-chikkalay-chikkalay... or tiekiedraai...Ursula and I jittered in circles, linking arms, while Skelm, PP and chicks fox-trotted and waltzed. Schmaltzy music like Sarie Marais made rugger-buggers tearful. Bridge Over Troubled Waters; Homeward Bound; Summer Time; Obladi Oblada; Those Were The Days my Friend; Last Waltz were popular.

Some Afrikaner studente were sentimental. A corridor in the science block was known as, "The Lumber Yard," as Afrikaner lovers, especially physical education studente, could sometimes be seen lumbering by concrete pillars.

PP suggested we become extra-maths teaching partners. I posted flyers in Durban North, and began teaching, charging one Rand per lesson. PP folded, so I had the Durban North market. I bought a 50 Rand, 50cc, Raleigh moped, which got me to Dokkies, sometimes late, due to misfiring spark-plugs.

Arthur Hill nominated me Students Representative Council candidate for the 1970 SRC, so I stuck up election-posters on walls. Skelm, who'd published photos of his bikini-clad chick in Scope magazine, penned tails on the "D" of VOTE DOEP STEM DOEP posters. Duplisani, with black bokbaard, black-rimmed glasses and black pipe became SRC president. Doep was a Broederbonder. I wasn't elected. Arthur Hill recounted votes, first counted by Afrikaners, and found a miscount, casting me, "die klein Engelsman," out of the new SRC. An Engelse- Dutchman, with ducktail hair, leather-jacket and flick-knife was "elected" in my place. Arthur Hill chirped to students and meneer JV Smit, causing mutterings about a "vote-of-no-confidence" in the mainly Afrikaner SRC, before it began. Afrikaner "intellectuals," soon to be foisted on Natal pupils, sneakily pleaded with me: "Don' tell anybody hey?"

Meneer JV Smit assembly-screeched, "A new porrtfolio Liaizon Offizerr 'az evolved..." I was too naive to realize Afrikaner bigots had tried to silence me.

My first practical teaching was at Stellawood Primary, near white Stellawood Cemetery, my briefest donkey wagon ride. Dokkies tutors listened to my crit lessons, then advised...I did all my block-teaching at Beachwood BH, a trickier donkey wagon ride, as I was slightly older than my pupils. Charlie was a matric prefect, but we avoided each other. Roy Cowgill, recent Dokkies graduate, was my mentor. I taught biology to form five (year 11) and general-science.

I'd find Natal, QwaQwa and Cape staffrooms seething with cliques; racists; screechers; eccentrics; squabblers; haters; ranters; boozers; nicotine and caffeine addicts. We taught white kids at the expense of black, coloured and Indian children's educations.

As a young adult, I could've risen in army, drama, or teaching careers, helped by apartheid and my white skin. Over 25 years, some military, drama and teaching jobs and promotions would tempt me, but I'd reject them. Sometimes I was disgusted by my peers grabbing jobs and promotions. Mom's Christianity had gifted me righteousness.

See Care and Use of Working Donkeys: Morgane James

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