Thursday, August 23, 2007
Apartheid East London, Border Unrest, Son's Birth and Codesa, 1991-1992
1991. Leah & Luke Esslemont, 294 Freemantle Road, Durban
I sent a fourth-former to Mr. Gordon, as the bad boy persisted in reading porn, ignoring biology. Mr. Gordon sent the boy to Blumrick who did nothing. The boy's dad objected to me chastising his son. Mr. Gordon then loitered on a hockey-field, while the boy's dad questioned me: a set-up by Mr. Gordon. "Your son's developed bad habits," I said. "He needs to do biology on the standard grade, and must stop being distracted..."
In a biology meeting Allam said, "The boy's father asked me to mediate the problem." I ignored Allam.
I found a letter in the boy's file. Mr. Gordon had compared me unfavourably with protege staff, stating I was a "rogue teacher." He hadn't given me a copy of his defamatory letter. When I complained, Mr. Gordon said, "It'th my printhipal'th obligathion!"
Morning, 16/06/1991. Our son Luke, aloe-prickly, cycad-wise, was born before noon at Frere Hospital: Caesarean birth, done by our GP. Unlike Jake's birth at Kleinzee, Frere was impersonal and full of self-important staff. A nurse had hustled me out of the operating theatre, so I sat outside. I took big Luke to a nursery, and glared at a doctor who tried taking Luke from me. I was too deaf to hear his inanities about checking Luke's health. Like at Jake's birth, I took photos, which irritated staff. They forgot who was paying their fees.
Leah and Luke recovered in a small ward, where Selborne College had sent flowers. Five year old Jake enjoyed gifts we gave him, as he stayed up late when we visited Frere. Lucky and Koffie barked beserk when piccanin Luke arrived home. They fought each other to sniff out Luke. Good bitches.
Unrest, Inkatha secret funds. Government admitted supplying funds to Inkatha. (Martin Meredith, Nelson Mandela, A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1997).
Tokoza: 23 blacks killed by Mkhonto We Sizwe. (Ibid Meredith).
Cronje sacked most Selborne black cleaners, or didn't replace them after retirement. One's grey skin was covered in sores. I suspected Aids. Sacking black staff was bad race-relations. Classrooms stayed dirty. At a staff-meeting Mr. Gordon said, "Boyth and teacherth mutht clean claththroomth! Teacherth get a broom, bruth and pan, and thupervithe daily cleaning!" I objected, as 800-900 boys went through my class weekly. Mr Gordon cut my objection with a belittling remark, his usual staffroom response to teachers who crossed him. Thereafter I played Luister in staff-meetings.
I'd learnt about classroom trashing protests at puppet QwaQwa, so my classroom stayed dirty, until it was officially cleaned once a week. Mr. Gordon contracted a private company to clean classrooms once a week. Contracted Xhosa cleaners were worse than former school cleaners. Every square millimetre cleaned had to be negotiated in a contract.
During stormy weather, Oceanos liner sunk off puppet Transkei coast, and everyone was saved. Oceanos flotsam would be displayed in East London Museum.
A church was bombed near Kaffrarian Rifles Drill Hall. An "End Conscription" boy I taught escaped injury. His parents considered re-emigrating back to England.
Buffalo Flats coloured teachers protested outside Selborne gates. Despite sports matches with coloured pupils, and Model C enabling coloureds to enrol at Selborne, coloureds targeted Selborne as an elite school. I read their placards while a SAP squad-car slouched nearby.
When Leah pushed Luke in his pram to Devereux Road Pick 'n Pay, Xhosa street-kids accosted her. Demanding Xhosa door-knockers, beggars and street-kids increased during our Worm City years. Taxi wars, klipgooi, skiet en donder continued.
December. Codesa - Convention for a Democratic SA began at the World Trade Centre, Kempton Park. (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk To freedom, Abacus, Little, Brown and Co., London, 1996). Led by ANC's Ramaphosa and Nationalist's Meyer, political parties of all colours negotiated the interim Government of National Unity. Meyer had fought communist onslaught as a "Canary," singing in a troopie choir.
At the end of 1991, Leah's old Durb's friend Joan arranged for Luke to be baptized at Hillary Methodist Church, Durban. It was too risky us driving the 670km puppet Transkei route to Durban. Once we'd passed a toyi-toying mob brandishing toy AK-47 rifles on the N2 near Idutwa. Xhosa and Basotho cattle-rustlers were active on the Transkei ~Lesotho border, so SADF troopies were billeted on border-farms. I carried my .22 pistol in our Golf when trekking the "Ring of Fire" round Lesotho, via Queenstown and Ficksburg, through Vrystaat to Natal.
Once when we'd arrived at Kei Bridge border-post, an Afrikaner customs man stopped us, as we didn't have Jake's birth certificate as a Transkei travel document. Fetching it was an extra 120 kays. Xhosa officials just waved us through. Post-apartheid, homeland border posts were abandoned.
In 1992, I taught biology up to matric - a good year except for the junior history. Annually, I'd complained in writing about my bad work conditions, requesting a permanent lab. Mr. Gordon did nothing. My sports-jacket was stolen from my classroom chair. It wasn't the first theft of my jackets. I reported the theft to Blumrick, who did nothing.
Money was stolen from my car, when I took it for a garage service. The Xhosa driver and his white boss denied theft. My bottom-floor class was vulnerable to burglars, as sash window-catches stayed broken, despite my asking Forword and Mr. Gordon to repair catches. Grey fingerprint smudges left by cops stayed on my class windowpanes, as frequent burglars used my class as a school entrance. Once a tsotsi wheeled a bike away outside my classroom. Boys pursued from class. Midlane also followed, biting his nails. The thief dropped the bike near the school gate and ran away. My boys returned delighted - more fun than biology.
Jake and I dug up earthworms in our garden, and fished off Orient Pier. At Quinera Lagoon we caught a bully fish, and freed it. On a PE trek, I drove Jake to Addo Elephant Park, then his Selborne Pre -Primary teacher got elephant dung for her nature-table. When Jake gave dung to Gerry, Gerry chuckled, "Thenk you verra mush."
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.