Monday, August 13, 2007

Apartheid, De Beers Koffiefontein Job and QwaQwa Roundup, 1987

1987. Mark Esslemont's Sentinel Primary pupils, State of Terror, QwaQwa

I drove to De Beers Koffiefontein mine (1000 employees), south-west of Bloemfontein, and south-east of Kimberley. The mine had been closed for five years. Open-cast mining had begun in 1880s, and the mine had opened and closed according to market-forces. When demand improved, the mine reopened in March 1987. Zeppelin, training manager, with boep en bokbaard, interviewed me. Smarmy Ballon, personnel manager, balding with hangpens and droopy moustache, also interviewed me. They accompanied each other from mine to mine. Ballon needed me to begin job evaluation. "Would you do Industrial Relations work long term?" Ballon hissed. "If you come to Koffiefontein, you must think IR."

"I'd prefer to do training thanks." I got the job, and gave Modinger notice.

Fraser lay abed, rigid, immobile, speechless. My van was stolen outside Addington. Cops radioed my van's description to all cop patrol vehicles. The van was never recovered. Durban's townships, grey-areas, squatter-camps thrived on theft.

We hired a car, returned to QwaQwa, and packed up. "While you were away," a neighbour said, "Modinger complained she had to find a teacher to replace you."

Before we left QwaQwa, the hospital superintendent and his English sidekick visited us. "Why're you leaving?" asked the superintendent.

"Better job at Koffiefontein," I said. "Du Toit said we'd get a house on Die Bult three weeks to three months after our arrival. That hasn't happened. We've lived in this dirty hospital house for six months." The superintendent and his pal left distraught.

We chose to live in QwaQwa when we could've stayed in Kleinzee. We'd offered our hands to Sotho, but few suspicious Sotho shook our hands. Example: A QwaQwa cop once fined me for not having a valid SA third-party insurance disk. QDC ran services and built schools, houses, businesses, clinics, hospitals, halls, roads: four decades too late. QDC was the real QwaQwa government, overseen by Pretoria. QwaQwa puppet government, its puppet buildings, ministers, Sotho and Afrikaner lackeys was really an African vigilante city council, funded by Azanian taxpayers.

There was no belligerence from outcast Sotho while we lived in die hoor se handsak (the whore's handbag), which showed relations between local Sotho and Afrikaners, and apartheid apologists' pulling down and uplifting browns in segregated homelands. (Hermann Giliomee, The Afrikaners, Hurst & Company, London, 2003). Cynics would call it winning collaborators' hearts and minds. Cynics lived far from QwaQwa filth, in safe homes, or in exile activist camps, brainwashed by communist propaganda.

Few non-browns chose to breach borders to live in townships, homelands, or self-governing states during States-of-Terror. Calling QwaQwa a self-governing state was ridiculous, as QwaQwa was an outcast African city subsidized and controlled by Pretoria. Living with Leah and Jake amongst 200 000 Sotho, and teaching immersion -English curriculum to Sotho kids during a State-of-Terror was the most subversive thing I'd done. But Du Toit's "Total Strategy" of winning Sotho hearts and minds, and creating urban middle-class vigilantes stumbled at Sentinel, as the quality of "English" teachers was poor. Despite English Azanians supposedly being liberal, few English Azanians lived and worked in QwaQwa. Most non-browns we met in QwaQwa were Afrikaners.

Outcast Sotho were indifferent to us. Some Afrikaners, English and Germans we met in QwaQwa were deceitful and hypocritical. Although born in SA, I reckoned minority Europeans were backpackers, not integrating with majority Af cultures. Within a decade, post-apartheid SA would degrade to QwaQwa conditions: ruling kleptocracy, low living standards, envy, jealousy, insecurity, bad housing, compound-living for the rich, poor services, crap education, polygamy, Aids, crime and corruption.

As for "mother-of-the-nation" and "black-on-black" savagery touted by skin-cringe journalists and photo-journalists who reported township horrors, we experienced none. We saw no killings, klipgooi, necklacing, shootouts, riots, violence from QwaQwa browns. There was apartheid state structural-violence in separate development, and Citizen Force vets completing two years' conscription. We saw no military vehicles, no cop helicopters nor Casspirs in QwaQwa. Cops were local Sotho. I never met any communists nor terrorists in QwaQwa.

We'd witnessed grand apartheid with its separation cruelties and stupidities. One brainwashed Sotho (was he an impimpi?) seriously told me about, "...Importing SA products, and exporting products from QwaQwa businesses to Harrismith, Kestell and Bethlehem. Too many Sotho are unemployed," he crooned, "But some Sotho men work at Welkom and Witwatersrand mines, which repatriate them to QwaQwa when their work contracts end."

When we'd arrived in QwaQwa, Afrikaners had said, "Hello." Silent, staring Sotho hadn't said, "Hello," despite our choosing to live amongst Sotho during swart gevaar. When we left, no Sothos nor Afrikaners thanked us for our positive contributions to QwaQwa during a State-of-Terror. There were no, "Goodbyes."

I owed QwaQwa Education Department (code Pretoria) about R2000 furniture-removal fees. Over two months, I repaid R60/month, then stopped, as we needed the money. Fuck white-on-white violence! Leah gladly left QwaQwa. She never felt safe there.

After apartheid collapsed, together with other puppet homelands, QwaQwa was reabsorbed into SA, and homeland Development Corporations like QDC were stopped. Post apartheid in 2008, Sentinel Primary was still going strong, 21 years after it had begun.

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