Tuesday, July 31, 2007

1984 Apartheid Durban, Glenwood HS Cadets and Cash Inheritance

< 1984. Mark Esslemont's Wildlife Society boys camping in Ndedema Gorge, Drakensberg.

My matric SG class passed. The next year, I wasn't timetabled matric, but had to mentor two new male biology teachers in general-science teaching. They both taught matric biology. As I hadn't divulged my early deafness, Mr. Maher was playing power -games. Mr. Maher asked science staff to clear out old chemical stock from a science storeroom. At the end of break, my class lined up outside my lab, while Mr. Maher and science staff, myself included, viewed old stock in the storeroom. Mr Maher left, and announced over his intercom, "Mr. Esslemont, your class is waiting for you." A thousand boys and staff sniggered.

Leah and I enjoyed Spike Milligan's one-man show at the Playhouse: Spike gooned on stage, striking a man-doll with a stick. The doll looked like Nat politicians.

During a National Referendum, white voters agreed to a Tricameral Parliament: where coloureds and Indians would participate in parliament. I voted "No," as coloured / Indian representatives would be out-voted by whites, and blacks would be excluded from parliament. The Nats continued their divide and rule, with a new Indian House of Representatives and a new coloured House of Delegates, dominated by the white House of Assembly, excluding majority blacks, who had their puppet homelands, whether they liked them or not.

Unrest: Townships became ungovernable, (RW Johnson, South Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004) while ANC / United Democratic Front (UDF) mobs, representing black anti-apartheid (ANC) organizations rioted. Back cops accused of being collaborators were murdered. Township homes were razed. Hundreds of township blacks found "guilty" by mobs were "necklaced" with rubber tyres forced over their bodies. Petrol was poured over the victim who was burnt alive - for universal franchise. Shadows remained, after charred body bits were shovelled away. (Bruce Connew, Vernon Wright, South Africa, Hodder and Staughton, Auckland, 1987).

White businesses and buses were boycotted. Work stayaways and terror increased. One night in our duplex, Leah and I heard a thud and our windows rattling, while ANC outcasts attacked Durban oil refinery and oil storage.

In a Musgrave Road church hall, I listened to a conciliatory speech by Zulu chief Buthelezi concerning blacks amongst whites: "We are everywhere, in your homes, in your schools, in your businesses..." (Paraphrased).

During summer, Glenwood boys went tieless. Some teachers wore safari-suits. Others went tieless. Mr. Maher ordered staff to wear ties, despite Durban's humidity. I stayed tieless amongst tieless boys. One morning, on the way to assembly Mr. Maher shouted, "Wear a tie!"

"Why?" I asked. "No boy wears a tie in this heat. You've made a double-standard." I wore a tie.

As there was a positive correlation between cadet-masters and promotions in white high schools, Blikskottel led conscript cadet -masters. I didn't volunteer. One cadet-parade, while cadet-masters wore army uniforms, cadet-sergeants sang to marching boys, "LIK-JUK-LIK-JUK..." Guest-of-honour, SADF Colonel, stood on a podium with Mr. Maher, Inspector Mandrill and Blikskottel, reviewing rifle-bearing, uniformed cadets marching past, while a cadet-band played, "Boomalakka! Boomalakka! Boomalakkawa..."

Malacca rugby-flag canes, erected in a straight-stripe before the podium, guided marching cadets. An eyes-right cadet marched over a cane, which dragged under his crotch, then whacked the following boy's balls. Air exploded from his mouth. Keeping his tearful eyes -right, he marched with bandy legs: Cane in crotch - drag - smack balls - repeat... Ten eyes-right boys' balls were caned. Ten explosions. Twenty bandy legs. The crowd tittered. The band played: "Oooompa! Oooompa! Oooompapa!..." Blikskottel leapt off the podium, while Colonel saluted. Blikskottel gathered canes, dumped them, then furiously jumped on the podium and saluted: "Eh Kwa! Dammit!"

In Murchies Passage, Skate and I grazed Wimpy hamburgers opposite brother-in-law Gee's Idols Eye jewellery store, while Gee was having a shave in a barber shop. Gee's coloured sales-lady and Leah attended Idols Eye. "I got the hardware job," said Skate, while a Zulu man walked into Idols Eye, followed by an Indian security-man.

Indian grappled with Zulu, digging his fingers into Zulu's mouth. I ran to Gee's barber. "Gee! Someone's robbing your shop!" Gee whizzed to Idols Eye, and flung his arm round Zulu's neck, throttling him. Gee had been a conscripted SAAF serviceman. Gee ground Indian's truncheon into Zulu's kidneys, while Indian dug a ring from Zulu's mouth. It was a hard day in a SA recession job for Gee, who didn't lay a police charge.

Fraser sacked Edna and Ndlovu, as he couldn't afford servants. Edna got R1000 from mom's estate. Ndlovu got nothing. Fraser got mom's house. I got the money. To equalize our inheritance, we agreed with Barclays Bank executor that Fraser would mortgage his "new" 22 Chelsea Drive home - stupid advice, which hastened Fraser's decline. Fraser was still employed at Standard Bank, from which he got the mortgage. He'd lived in mom's home all his life, and had tolerated mom's deafness and cancer, while she died. We discarded and sold mom's belongings, but kept heirlooms, like her "Basket of Roses" oil painting by HJ Dykman. Over the years, I'd sat under that rose painting. Another oil painting I inherited showed a mouse swimming around in a bowl of cream, surrounded by hungry cats. We sold dad's oak desk, but kept his stamps.

Beer-gutted Fraser and friend Jason boozed. One night, Jason padlocked Fraser's driveway gate, for fun. The next day, Fraser arrived late for work. Jason, jealous of Fraser's inheritance, in a drunken rage, stabbed a broom-handle through the ceiling of Fraser's lounge. Prick! Jason bossed blacks at Coronation Brickworks. "I keep a loaded, pump-action, double-barrel shotgun in my office," Jason said, "in case kaffirs riot." Jason had been a conscripted State President's Guard.

Leah and I got a mortgage from Permanent Building Society, and used our inheritance to buy a three-bedroom house at 21 Heron Way, Yellowwood Park: near Stainbanks Reserve. When we drove past, we saw Ian Player's Wilderness Leadership School. Ian, of Operation Rhino fame at Umfolozi and Hluhluwe, once told me he used Erythrina lysistemon trifoliate leaves as his wilderness symbol, as the leaves showed the vertical and horizontal of the Christian cross. We sometimes saw giraffe, antelope, zebra, vervet monkeys, and heard purple-crested-louries calling, "Kok-kok-kok-kok..." Ian offered us Drakensberg conservation work, but we declined - poor pay.

Isolde Mellet's Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) was nearby. Isolde nursed injured wildlife back to health, releasing fauna into the wild, if possible. Leah and I did volunteer work at CROW sanctuary, by measuring tortoises' growth. Isolde nursed tortoises after they were burnt in veld fires, or were injured as illegal pets, or run-over by cars. At CROW, young lions, duikers, bush pigs, blue cranes, Cape vultures convalesced. Birds, too injured to be released into the wild, stayed CROW residents. Isolde raised farm animals, and gave conservation talks to school children and interested groups. Isolde offered me a job and free housing, but I declined - poor pay.

Leah and I continued living in our Wild Fig Tree Close duplex, and renovated our Heron Way house, put tenants inside for years, and profited.

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