Wednesday, June 27, 2007

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.

No comments: