Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Apartheid East London, "Charlies Aunt" and APLA Annihilations, 1993
1993. Mark Esslemont's 'Charlies Aunt' cast: "I'm Charlies Aunt from Brazil, where the nuts come from." Guild Theatre, East London. (Pollock)
Years before, a King Williams Town boys' high had a secret "Kaffir -Bashing Society" where the headmaster had encouraged white boys to use two-by-fours to remove black trespassers. (Later denied). White boys sneaked from their hostel at night, and bashed vagrants sleeping on school grounds. When a vagrant died, teachers and (ahem) headmaster claimed ignorance of the bashings.
Before we'd arrived in East London, an Afrikaner security-man - former cop, shot Xhosa burglars: wounding and killing outcasts on school premises. There was little distance between conscript cadet -masters and outcast killing cadets and cops, in their conditioning, indoctrination, propaganda, generalization and demonization.
Due to the cultural boycott, and as suitable Afrocentric plays were unavailable, I directed Eurocentric Charlies Aunt, while teaching a full timetable, and coaching sport during my 14-16 hour work day. Blumrick continued Mr Gordon's institutional bullying. Rehearsals and lesson preps, cricket-coaching, and coordinating a staff production -team while I was deaf needed virtuoso teaching. Bands and Forword avoided helping, but made snide comments in the staffroom. Blumrick pretended to help, but idled. One afternoon, I drove my cricket team to Buffalo Flats coloured township. Two yellow cop Casspirs were parked on the township main road to intimidate strugglers. APLA slogans were painted on walls: "One Settler One Bullet..."
We won the match.
Back at Selborne College, Blumrick stuttered, "W-why'd you return to Selborne s-s-s-so late?"
"A-A parent complained!"
"So why didn't Bands go to Buffalo Flats? He organized the match. He's too scared to go himself. I've just driven into a coloured township, putting my life and lives of my cricketers at risk, and I'm going straight to play rehearsal, and I've been working from 7:30 this morning, and will continue till midnight. Playing cricket while township people are annihilated, and you complaining about my lateness is bizarre. As a student and teacher, I've thanklessly taught other peoples' children for 20 years. Overtime with others' children is time stolen from my sons."
"H-H-Hang in there!"
"I'm giving it all I've got as play director, sports coach, and teacher, and all you say is, 'Hang in there!' When will you fix the smashed window panes in my classroom?" Silence. I waited another year before Forword spent cash to fix the panes.
1993. One of Mark Esslemont's Selborne College cricket teams. (Pollock) "Mark that!"
My Charlies Aunt cast was form threes and four white boys and one black boy. Clarendon High School actresses strengthened the cast. Paxton was stage-manager again, and learnt lots from me. My deafness was so bad at rehearsals I yelled, "Speak up! I can't hear you!" Voice production was excellent during the Guild Theatre run, and Selborne's caretaker, old boy, said it was the best play he'd seen at Selborne. His school maintenance was slow, despite his new workshop and tools, built at the expense of a new biology lab and equipment. Biology HOD, Midlane was weak, and didn't support his biology teachers. Leah and I quaffed champagne at my cast party. Charlies Aunt was my last directing: transforming youths into unknown parts.
As I got deafer my voice became louder, as I tried to hear myself speak, while boys played up in my classes. My family had to tell me for years to, "Shut up!" They made hush-up gestures when I became too loud and vexatious.
Unrest: Bullying letters in the Daily Dispatch by ex security-cop and East London mayor Donald Card, complained about a white, female teacher defending her councillor father in the press. I never read any happy Donald Card letters published in the Daily Dispatch during my Border years. (Carolyn Hamilton, et al, A Prisoner In The Garden, Viking, Johannesburg, 2005).
Coda: Before the April 1994 elections, Ncamazana, APLA terrorist, had participated in "total annihilation" attacks: including a minibus attack near Nahoon Dam; attack on a bus full of Mdantsane Da Gama Textile Company employees; attack on Highgate Hotel near my home; armed robberies and carjackings; Mdantsane Bahai church attack.
Ncamazana was caught, gaoled for the Highgate Hotel and Bahai murders, and was refused amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Ncamazana twice escaped prison, was re-gaoled, then applied for a presidential pardon.
President Mbeki pardoned Ncamazana and 32 other "political prisoners."
After matriculation, in 2002, one of my Charlies Aunt leading actresses witnessed her partner shot dead by Ncamazana in their East London shop, two weeks after Ncamazana's pardon.
Eventually Ncamazana was gaoled for, "life."
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.