Saturday, August 11, 2007

Apartheid, Durban Brother's Verulam Brain Damage and QwaQwa, 1987

After leaving family at Leah's folks' home, I drove Fraser to QwaQwa. Fraser was unemployed and going bonkers. We hiked the contour path below Sentinel Peak, climbed the chain-ladder to the top of the escarpment, and camped on the summit-plateau. Next morning, Fraser strode to the top of Tugela Falls, which plunged several steps 850 metres down the basalt abyss into Natal. Ancestral winds ruffled Fraser' s hair. I slurped water from the stream, and admired Mont -Aux-Sources and clouds. Fraser crept down a slope at the edge of Tugela Falls. A bit more and ancestors would've gripped him into Natal. "Fraser!" I called: he babooned back. As Fraser had the morbs, he seemed suicidal. After breathing rarefied Drakensberg air for the last time, we descended quickly - Fraser quicker than me.

Since mom had died, Fraser had lived alone at home, withdrawing from friends, and after his unemployment money ran out, surviving by stealing avocados and fruit from neighbours' trees. He was fit, and had lost his boep by jogging to Rocket Hut Beach, and swimming beyond waves, where there were no shark-nets. He had a nervous-tic, rolling his right thumb and index finger. Creditors harassed him, and Standard Bank threatened to sell Fraser's 22 Chelsea Drive home to recoup his mortgage, which was less than R5000. I couldn't help Fraser financially, as Leah no longer worked, my salary was low, and the tax-man harassed me, as I owed provisional tax, with punitive interest, on our Yellowwood Park home.

Bureaucrats wasted my tax resources on SADF, homelands, homeland-security forces and self-governing states like QwaQwa. One of my brothers-in-law worked for ARMSCOR: in a secret drawing-office on the North Coast. Before he got the job, he was security-cleared, and forbidden to discuss work with anyone.

Unrest: On April Fool's night two QwaQwa cops knocked on our back door, telling me Fraser had had an accident on the Verulam road near Durban, and that I could use their phone. We never got a phone in QwaQwa, due to waiting-lists.

At Addington Hospital, Fraser's face was a bloody mask, fixed by transparent goo. The left side of his forehead was bashed. His right elbow was broken and stitched. Behind his right knee, a gash was stitched. He was comatose. Nurses slipped into his room, pinching his skin, checking for responses, lifting his eyelids, shining torch-light into his eyes, checking for pupil-movement: none. A nurse said, "A sugarcane truck hit Fraser. His ID book, with friends' phone numbers inside, was in his pocket, so Verulam cops identified him. I phoned Fraser's tenant's wife, and she said, 'Fraser was an alcoholic, schizophrenic and suicidal...'"

"She's a smug Durban North hypocrite," I said, "sponging off Fraser, living cheaply in his home, while her husband didn't pay his phone bills. She slags Fraser while he's comatose."

"Fraser's blood was tested for alcohol," the nurse said. "He wasn't drunk."

Jason, Fraser's booze-buddy, showed me the Verulam accident site. On the roadside was a pool of Fraser's congealed blood. Verulam Indian cops had told Jason that Fraser had bled before an ambulance arrived. Trucker Vusi had claimed Fraser had ran down a bank hitting his truck. There were no witnesses. Fraser's blue beach-buggy was missing: never found. Fraser' s injuries didn't match running down a bank into a truck. "Maybe Fraser parked on the bank," opined Jason. "Maybe Fraser, admiring sugarcane fields was panga-attacked by kaffirs. Maybe they slashed his knee, and Fraser fled down the bank..."

Maybe? Playing Pig Dog, I bailed up Indian cops who'd recorded and lost Vusi's statement. Fraser was just another statistic during another bloody State-of-Terror.

Fraser was selling his home to pay off debts and start afresh in Jo'burg. If he was suicidal, his 9mm Parabellum automatic pistol would've killed better than a truck. I bailed up a Durban North estate agent, whose builder husband was cheaply buying Fraser's home, where I'd lived the first 26 years of my life. "My husband deadlined Fraser to leave the khaya," she said.

"Was the sale complete?" Her smirk withered.

"No." She fidgeted. "My husband was renovating Fraser's house, papers weren't signed yet, but he'd paid Fraser an advance."

"Your husband paid Fraser an advance, then renovated Fraser's home before signing transfer papers?" She nodded. "Fraser drove off in his beach-buggy?"

"He stormed off."

I bailed up the estate agent's lawyer in his office, amidst piles of manila folders tied with sisal string. "When will you complete transfer of Fraser's house sale?" I barked.

"When Fraser can sign forms." The lawyer posted me demand-letters, asking Fraser to sign transfer. The letters stopped after I got a decent lawyer for Fraser.

I bayed at creditors, and paid some of Fraser's bills, like telephone and electrical. A Broadway cafe snuffled for money. "Fraser's lawyer will pay you," I said. I snarled at Jason's brother, ambulance-chasing lawyer, who said he'd claim accident-insurance for Fraser, with fat fee deducted from the payment. I stared at Fraser's blank, bloody face for hours. "Go to sleep my little picaninny..."

Esslemonts had lived in Durban North for 40 years, and Fraser had lived his whole life there. While Fraser suffered, no Durban North person helped him in cash nor kindness. Durban North people's action and inaction didn't change my earlier opinion that they were spoilt, snobby and insular.

During our last QwaQwa months, I taught during the week, and during the weekend I back-spoored to Durbs via Oliviershoek Pass and Bergville to see Fraser.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

July 2007 email from a Drakensberg tourism operator:

"...Your blog makes for some amusing reading."