Friday, August 17, 2007

Apartheid, Koffiefontein Businesses, CTU, De Beers Discipline, 1988.

< 1988. Part of De Beers Koffiefontein Mine Pit.

Besides their De Beers work, "staff" had various money-making schemes. Zeppelin began a fast -food shop in the dorp Main Street, ran by his wife. An English mechanic began a garage, ran by his son. Alleman bought a shop on Ditlhake-Diamanthoogte road, (ran by his wife) bought a plot, planted vegetables, and transported vegetables from Bloemfontein. Black mine -workers stopped in their donkey-carts outside Alleman's shop and bought produce. Frikkie began a video shop in Main Street, ran by his wife. Thieves cut through burglar-guards and stole all Frikkie's video equipment. Frikkie lost money and closed shop. I stopped buying milk from a Boer's wife, after she delivered milk with a blood swirl in our milk.

Moodley resigned, and made money subcontracting draughtsman services to De Beers from a dorp office. Nel, our McHardy Crescent neighbour, also resigned from the engineering drawing-office and went private. His daughter Elaine, older than Jake, played with Jake, while he sang, "Baa Baa black sheep, 'ave you any woo'?... an' one for the li'l boy who lives down Elaine..." As there were no English teachers in Koffie kindergarten, we were worried Jake would become Afrikanerized, so Leah started a play-group for English Koffie-kids.

I acted for Frikkie when he went on leave, or when he was secretary for NUM-De Beers wage-negotiations, chaired by NUM negotiator Ramaphosa, in a cyclone of killings by black mineworkers (like NUM's August 1987 national goldmine and coalmine strikes). Frikkie and German-GM flew back and forth between Koffiefontein and Jo'burg meetings, and when negotiations deadlocked, there was shop-steward / management trekking between mines and Jo'burg at company expense. Frikkie minuted wage negotiation meetings, typed minutes at Koffiefontein, then distributed minutes to mines.

Doppelganger warned me before my departure to an IR supervisor's course at CTU: "Your company car's wheel-alignment's faulty." While I drove, the car vibrated all the way to Vereeniging, but wheel-wobble lessened when I drove over 100 kays per hour. At the course I met mining men from all over SA. On my return near Kroonstad, my car's right back tyre blew out at 140 kays per hour. I slewed to a halt without mishap. While I bumped back to a Kroonstad garage for a tyre change, tyre bits flew off, smacking the car.

Meanwhile at McHardy Crescent, a whirlwind had blown roofs off mine houses. Leah had stood by a wall clutching Jake to her breast while our house roof trampolined.

Frikkie blasted me for wrecking a company car. "There was a wheel-changing kit in the boot." He puffed his pipe. "Why didn't you use it hey?"

"It was hidden in the panelling. I was shocked. I drove to Kroonstad with a flat-tyre so a garage could fix it."

"But you blackened the fender hey?"

"I knew you and Ballon would blame me. I could've been killed because the engineering department was negligent. Doppelganger told me before I left Koffiefontein that wheel-alignment was bad. My options were to use my Golf, or use the only available company car. I want the maintenance-foreman disciplined for poor work performance."

"No way! You wrecked the company car hey?"

Ballon hissed, "These teachers in IR!" My diamond days were ending.

Gijima called Zeppelin and Ballon, "AWB" behind their backs and dubbed IR, "The Firing Squad," as we processed employee dismissals. NUM shop-stewards monitored dismissal hearings with interest. Morena caught Mhlongo going through the mine security-gate with cosby clamps in his pocket. At his disciplinary hearing Mhlongo said, "Et otherr mines wherre ah worked, eef ah tooks tools an' cosby clamps home nobody minded. Everrybody done eet." German-GM sacked Mhlongo.

Underground, an Afrikaner knifed Gijima. Hollander Pushy separated them. German-GM sacked the Afrikaner, who joined an AWB -dominated platinum-mine in north-west Transvaal.

Pushy attended German-GM's business-breakfasts and joked, "GM chews my balls, while I eat his shit." Morena gave Pushy a breathalyser test at the mine security-gate. German-GM sacked Pushy, as dronkgatte endangered others on-the-job. Besides Hollander Pushy, Polish, Portuguese, Pom, Irish, Aussie, Kiwi and Kenyan white foreigners also benefited from "fast track" senior jobs. None were conscripted by SADF, and all benefited from apartheid.

Morena was absent once too often. I minuted his dismissal hearing, while Jonas interpreted for Morena and German-GM.

Black hostel-dwellers went on a wildcat strike about hostel food, so I "minuted" a crisis meeting between management and NUM shop -stewards. My deafness had gained, with periods of intermittent silence and intermittent hearing, lasting unpredictable days, or weeks, or months. I had permanent tinnitus, blackouts, dizziness, nystagmus and nausea. "What was the meeting about?" I asked Alleman. "I couldn't hear anything."

"You'd better buy a hearing-aid," said Alleman. I did. I was still in denial. Thereafter, I played Luister by tape-recording meetings and writing minutes.

On Main Street, I reversed my Golf towards a parking-place by the dorp supermarket. The dorp Magistraat drove into my parking-place. I leapt from my Golf shouting, "You saw my reverse-lights on. Why'd you take my parking?"

Magistraat glared at me, then glared at Gijima sitting on the kerb, then slithered into the supermarket.

"Dumela," grinned Gijima, doffing his shades. "Magistraat drop you?..."

Leah and I felt Jake needed more English playmates, and De Beers wasn't making us richer. As a teacher I could get a R50 000 housing subsidy, a big perk. East London Selborne College offered me a biology teaching job, which appeared suitable.

See Koffiefontein Tourist Info.

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