Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Apartheid Koffiefontein, Riet Rivier Flood, Hockey, Brain-Damaged Boet, 1988

1988. Koffiefontein's white cemetery flooded by Riet River.

Scenes which presaged apartheid's collapse: On 22/02/1988, Riet Rivier flooded, due to rains the previous week flooding Kaffir River, Riet Rivier tributary, flowing into Kalkfontein Dam. SATV showed the dam overflowing, and Koffiefontein went hysterical awaiting flooding. I waited on the metal road bridge for Riet Rivier to flood. SAAF Impala jets buzzed Koffiefontein, and National News warned about flooding. Ditlhake community centre and Diamanthoogte rec club prepared for evacuees. De Beers provided trucks to evacuate Ditlhake residents who lived on Riet Rivier bank.

Brown water surged amongst reeds, and by 17:00 water rose 2-3cm a minute. The white cemetery and Ditlhake was flooded. Riet Rivier was 1.5km wide at Ditlhake. Scores of Ditlhake pondoks were under 1.5m of water. Hundreds of evacuees slept in separate black and coloured community halls. De Beers provided food for evacuees, and SADF tents were erected on high ground for evacuees.

A SAAF Puma helicopter put lip-licking, prime minster Botha and minstrel Heunis onto a red carpet on the dorp sports-field, for smarmy Heunis to sing his, "own affairs" aria about devolution. Grey-suited Heunis smoothed his hair on his pink scalp with his podgy hand, while conscript troopies (De Beers white employees) stood at ease by the carpet in their brown army uniforms. MPs leered when Zeppelin sang, "Aaaandag!..." Troopies clicked heels, clenched arses, sucked boeps in, and presented arms, before thrilled MPs soared off presto. "Other affairs" flooding at Ditlhake wasn't inspected by MPs. I didn't bother snapping them: not worth a koffiepit.

I became inaugural secretary of Koffie Hockey Club. The IT manager was chairman (later sacked for IDB). A mining engineer and cost accountant were other committee members. Our male / female teams played Griqualand West Sunday-League hockey against Kimberley and rural teams. We trekked 200 kays each Sunday, playing on Eskom Club fields, CBC fields, other sports fields. We played against high school teams and mostly adult teams. Adolescents were fitter than us, but fuelled with beer, we psyched them out, winning and losing games. Our T shirts stated: "We're here for De Beers."

Besides best-player Craton, our men's team included four coloured players and Pushy, Hollander mining engineer, who was piqued that I was voted onto our hockey committee instead of him. At an after -match binge I told Pushy, "You're Fulla Shit!" The next year, when Pushy was voted onto the committee, he antagonized players by carping non-stop.

Draughtsman Moodley was a brave goalkeeper. He and his family were the only Indians living in a company house surrounded by whites. When I was a kid, Indians were forbidden living in the Vrystaat. Late at night, dorp Afrikaners did wheelies on Moodley's grass verge, leaving ripped grass and scorched earth.

Playing fullback against Vryburg, I tackled a Dutchman charging down the wing. Swiping for goal, he crushed my left index finger between our sticks. Pushy tried pulling my finger straight, leaving me nauseous. Another game, I dropped an Evergreens player with a follow-through blow to his head, when he tackled me from behind. I didn't see him, and Pushy carped, "You're a Dangerous Player!" At our Koffie Club awards-dinner, German-GM was impressed when I was awarded a hockey stick for being, "The Dirtiest Player." I'd written club minutes during work hours. One game, an umpire had shown me a yellow card for turning and bumping a boy. I truly turned, as my broken finger needed protection.

1988. Mark Esslemont & Koffie Hockey Club: 'We're here for De Beers'.

Unrest: Non-ANC, QwaQwa-MP Paki Marake's home was torched by tsotsis. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Vol 3, Macmillan, London, 1999). Whenever there was township strife, ANC lackeys were present. My exit from QwaQwa had been well timed, to avoid trouble for us.

Monthly, when we backspoored to Durban to see Fraser and Leah's folks, I drove past 'Maritzburg and Mpumalanga green hills, where Inkatha and ANC / UDF Zulu factions fought: over 400 killed. (Sean Moroney, Editor, Africa, Vols 1, 2, Facts on File, New York, 1989).

SATV showed boere jabbering about droughts, while Ina Perlman and her Operation Hunger helpers fed hungry, impoverished blacks. (Jane Goodwin, Cry Amandla, Holmes and Meier, London, 1984).

Addington's chief psychiatrist said, "Fraser's condition is grave." For months, Fraser was bedridden. When he began moving, he lay silent. Left-handed, he used a chain and wooden handle, hanging above his head, to pull himself upright. His right hand was pale and clawed. Nurses strapped Fraser to a wheelchair, his crippled feet pointing to the floor. Physiotherapists hadn't massaged his limbs, leaving his calf muscles contracted and Achilles tendons shortened. A Zulu nurse -aide forgot to strap Fraser into his wheelchair. He lunged forward, cracking his forehead on the concrete floor. Concussed: more head scars - back to bed for months.

Matron muttered, "Bed space!" while glaring at Fraser, who eventually wheelchaired around unstrapped. Surgeons hacked notches in Fraser's Achilles tendons, readjusting his feet, wrapping his legs in plaster-casts, so Fraser's Achilles tendons grew "normally." Fraser shivered in agony, suffering pain for months.

Doctors and nurses avoided me, or were non-committal. A social -worker said, "Fraser's an alcoholic and schizophrenic. He'll be a hobo."

"How can Fraser be a boozer and schizophrenic," I asked, "after being brain-damaged, and after being in a coma for ten days, and after Addington staff fried his brain with neuroleptics, causing high temperatures, convulsions, and incapacitating Fraser for months, then allowing him to fall from his wheelchair, re-injuring himself?" Silence. After that, I disliked interfering social-workers. Physiotherapists only worked on mumbling Fraser, after his plaster -casts were removed.

Playing Pig Dog, when I baled up the ward doctor, he denied there was more brain-damage to Fraser after neuroleptics and the wheelchair fall. "Fraser's been brain-damaged three times," I said, "once by a Zulu trucker, once by white nurses and doctors, and once by a Zulu nurse-aide."

See "Zimbabwe: Soldiers are the new illegal diamond miners"

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Regarding IDB, the IT manager's wife messaged me on Facebook: "...he and Frikkie were cleared of everything and the judge called the entire episode professional jealousy."