Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Apartheid, Koffiefontein Corporate Writer, 1987

< 1987. Elizabeth, Jake Esslemont & Brat Pack cousins, 294 Freemantle Road, Durban.

Koffiefontein dorp had one black, two white and two coloured townships. Our three-bedroom, brick-and-tile, free De Beers company house, at 14 McHardy Crescent was amongst pepper trees, pomegranates, lemons, grapevines and devil-thorns. We lived in the white company housing area near the open-cast mine. Headgear towered above a 600 metre shaft near a deep pit, and haulage roads gyred into the pit. Underground shaft-mining had begun when the pit became too deep. Mainly Afrikaners lived in the dorp, which was bigger than De Beers housing area. The dorp had two hotels, two garages, shops and Costas the Greek's shop. Podgy Costas sold dear products, and his son drove a joller car. Every Sunday, Afrikaners attended a Dutch Reformed kerk. A Methodist church had monthly services, and we baptized Jake there.
< 1987. Koffiefontein Mine's new whitey houses below a blue ground, kimberlite mine dump.

In the 1920s my grandfather Rev. Frank Cosnett was Methodist minister at Middelburg. He did circuit ministry at Koffiefontein. My mom finished her primary schooling at Middelburg. My son Jake was baptised in the same church where his great grandfather had preached.

Koffiefontein was on the ox wagon road from PE to Kimberley. Long ago, wagon-drivers outspanned at Riet Rivier, and filled koffiepots with fresh water, leaving koffiepitte kernels on the ground. During WW2, Koffiefontein was an internment camp for thousands of Italian POWs, civilian fascists, Roman Catholic priests, Ossewa Brandwag, Afrikaner dissidents and Nazi sympathizers against Smut's government. (Mirella Ricciardi, African Saga, Collins, London, 1981). Future prime minister Vorster and Zeppelin's pa were imprisoned.

At the dorp entrance a sign stated KOFFIEFONTEIN, and a metal koffiepot hung below the sign. A traction-engine stood across the road. In olden days, mined blue-ground (kimberlite) was weathered on concrete-slabs, then traction-engines drove over the blue-ground, crushing ore and releasing diamonds. Next to the traction-engine, under a roof, stood two concrete wall-panels, with two metre high portraits of Victor Emmanuel 111 and Mussolini, painted by a WW2 POW.

Koffiefontein white politics was Conservative or Nationalist. Outcasts' political aspirations were ignored. Diamanthoogte and Rooibult coloured townships were separate from the mine and white dorp. Ditlhake black township was on Riet Rivier bank. Riet Rivier flowed north-westwards joining Modder River south of Magersfontein.

Jake was in nappies, so we needed a domestic. Afrikaans-speaking Christine, best servant we ever had, lived in a Rooibult pondok. Once a week, she walked to our home to clean and launder. After work, I drove Christine back to Rooibult.

After five years' neglect, home and mine fences needed repairs. Strike vanished, and Koffie Club patrons reckoned she was shot by Security in the mine security-area. Zeppelin said, "Strike was dog-jacked man: eaten in Diamanthoogte or Ditlhake."

Months later, I saw a coloured youth cycling across veld with Zeppelin's puppy under his arm. Koffie, succeeding Strike, was a black Staffordshire x bull terrier, a Kimberley devil-dog with cafe au lait smudges on her muzzle and paws. Koffie, nervous bitch, puked in our car when trekking, but was an excellent watchdog. Koffie's spot was at our front door, and she growled when Lucky approached. Bitches bared their teeth at mealtimes. As Pig Dog, I growled, threatening murder when they fought.

On my first work day while cycling to work, I fell off my bicycle, breaking my left wrist. Sotho security-man Morena drove me to Kimberley Hospital, where doctors straightened my wrist, wrapping it in plaster-of-Paris. Koffiefontein's Afrikaner GP had finished his SADF conscription in QwaQwa, and was kind to me, but unkind to non-white patients, forcing them to trek to Fauresmith state doctor, if they couldn't afford his GP fees. A sick coloured died along the way.

My bone-breaking comeback to personnel enabled me to learn to write right-handed. While my wrist healed, I worked on labour -forecasts. I drove to De Beers Finsch Mine, Lime Acres, and photocopied all their job descriptions, which made my job easier. Ballon sniggered, "De Beers mustn't pay your private petrol costs!"

I paid.

Before joining personnel, Ballon had been a miner. During apartheid, there were no black miners, as Dutchmen feared black miners, with a knowledge of explosives, would use their knowledge nefariously. Ballon hissed, "You'll write job descriptions, administer job evaluation, and labour-complement requests, and inaugurate Koffiepit our monthly newsletter."

Other personnel officers reporting to Ballon, were Afrikaner Alleman, and Sotho Eddie, the only black working in offices near me. He'd been a pupil in Soweto during 1976 riots. Like white Mike at Kleinzee, black Eddie manned the mine, and solved my manning queries. Two black IR officers, Jonas and Moses, worked in the mine security-area, and lived in Ditlhake with Eddie. Jonas was a puppet Ditlhake councillor. Strugglers called him a, "Sellout." Total Strategy Warmongers called him a "Middle-class, Urban Vigilante." Dweet, Afrikaner secretary, did my English and Afrikaans typing, and brought her own koffie mug to work, as she refused drinking from company cups used by black employees. She was scared of Aids.

I arranged insurance payout on our stolen van, and bought a VW Golf GTS. I'd been without wheels for three months, and needed a fast car on taxi-smirched, car-jacking roads. The GTS would outrun any dangers. One morning before work, I found contract-workers' cars occupying covered-parking where I parked. I drove across the road, and parked in German-GM's parking place. Ballon said, "Move your car!"

"Why?" I said. "There's no sign showing German-GM's parking-place. His Mercedes is a company car. I'm not parking my Golf in the sun all day." Like Sarel at Kleinzee, Ballon idolized his GM. Ballon worked hard sorting out plastic signs for parking-places. Soon, a JOB ANALYST sign was above my parking-place, and other staff had designated parking-places, including German-GM.

Our gardener, coloured youth, rifled our unpacked boxes, which we'd stored in our khaya, and stole hand-tools. I never reported the theft to cops. One day, without permission, he pushed our electric-mower from our khaya into our garden, then wanted to plug the cord into our lounge wall-socket. We refused, as we didn't want our mower wrecked. He'd already broken the tine off our garden fork. He wheeled the mower back into our khaya, and vanished, never to return.

Kader Asmal, et al, in Reconciliation Through Truth, David Philip, Cape Town, 1997, opined that SAP boss Vlok was the, "Minister who spoke in 1987 of a need to 'annihilate' political opponents, and who was responsible for police practices during the three years between January 1985 and December 1987, when 50 000 people were held without trial - the vast majority, as several studies confirm, subjected to some form of torture. This number was roughly equal to the total number of detentions in the preceding quarter century. Between 1960 and 1990 - including 1985-1987 period - a total of 100 000 people were detained."

< 1987. Koffiefontein. 

See De Beers Group Mines.


Anonymous said...

I was sad to see you too have left the RSA, presumably since it started going downhill after the end of Nationalist Party government and the demise of the laws, esp. The Group Areas Act, which kept the Republic as a safe place to live in.
With 750,000 Whites now having left, like you, the outlook seems grim for South Africa, which, unbelievably not so long ago, could yet go the disastrous way of all these Black-ruled beggar states farther north.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Thanks Anonymous. NZ is safer than "The Country In My Skull," and my sons have grown up in Christchurch, relatively safely, without their close SA relatives.

Recently NZ cops arrested several Kiwis for "terrorist" activities. It remains to be seen if NZ courts regard the alleged terrorists as "terrorists," while testing NZ's "new" anti-terrorism law (post 11 September)for the first time.

To my knowledge, there has been no "terrorist" unrest in NZ, as we experienced it in SA, and neighbouring states during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Warm regards,


Mark JS Esslemont said...

Yesterday, NZ's Solicitor-General announced on TV that the alleged "terrorists" (mainly Maori)would not be prosecuted using the new Terrorism Suppression Act.


Mark JS Esslemont said...

A Joburg man emailed me, enquiring about my maternal granddad Rev Frank Cosnett, who officiated the marriage of his granddad in Koffiefontein, 1920. I emailed him, advising my Koffiefontein contacts.