Thoughts on Madiba’s Death

I wish I could call this a tribute, but I don’t think I have the words to do this great man justice. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts today (random as they may be) and hope they add up to something worth reading.

See I’m South African, born at the tail-end of the Apartheid regime. In fact, the reason why my birthday is on December 28 is that my mom had me born by c-section so my dad could see me before being posted to border patrol.

Those were war years. I wasn’t even two when he was released. Oddly though, I remember seeing on the t.v. as this man left prison. I noted how everyone on t.v. was happy to see him free, but no one in my family was. So I asked what was going on and the answer I got was something like: “My child, it’s the end of our nation.”

Of course, it meant nothing to me then, because I was too small to understand what a country was. But I remembered thinking he had a nice smile, so I noticed when he was on t.v.

Every time he came on, my family (as I now imagine many Afrikaans families did) greeted his words with distrust. See, that war had set white people in general and the Afrikaners in particular on opposite ends of conflict. Madiba and his contemporaries were fighting for freedom. We… I honestly am very careful to say what we fought for. It’s not really discussed.

The sense I have (and I could be wrong) is that the government was fighting for continued suppression, since complete freedom for all races would (and did) mean loss of power. But the white people on the ground level were fighting for survival.

Why this is is another history lesson in itself. But in short, our ancestors had fought for a place in Africa. If we’d failed, we would have been annihilated. In fact, some of us did fail through history, and most of those did die. It was a fact so long-standing that no white person could imagine that the war could end peacefully for us unless we won.

The day Nelson Mandela was released, we’d lost for all intents and purposes.

People expected “The Night of the Long Knives”, like another Kristallnacht. We’d suppressed and the government had institutionalized so many wrongs that almost all white South Africans expected bloody reprisals, and for South Africa to be turned into something similar to the rest of Africa.

What we didn’t hold reckoning with was that Nelson Mandela was a much better man than any of us had thought. Instead of revenge, he preached reunification. Instead of reprisals, he preached unity. And that coming from someone who’d been sent to jail for fighting for something that was, in retrospect, the right thing.

He won our trust, starting with that day he walked out onto the rugby field before the World Cup Finals in 1995, wearing a beloved Springbok jersey.

And in many ways, he’d steered this country free of disaster so that we could recover and move on. “Us” became something inclusive, something the whole country could belong to.

For that, I am immensely thankful.

Madiba, your strength, forgiving nature and love for humanity inspired more than just a nation. It changed the world. Rest now, Tata Madiba. Your life was and will be a standard the rest of us should and will try to emulate. You deserve it more than anyone else I know of.

Yes… I am still alive.

This picture pretty much sums up how I’ve felt for the past two weeks. The week before, that, I didn’t write because of a string of interviews for a job.

Didn’t get it. No matter.

I just had to take a few breaths, get back to writing and…

Oh yeah. The day of the last interview, me, my gran and my mother returned home to find the power off. My puzzled mom (who had paid the usual amount to our real estate agent) phoned the municipality to find out what happened to our electricity.

She was referred to accounts and was told that the power was cut because of the fact that my mother owed them R12000. Ahem…

That’s *cough* six times our monthly consumption.

It’s also more than what an average worker earns in a month. About three times as much in fact.

So… two weeks in the dark was spent with me stewing in my own juices.

Still, it was somewhat fun, but by yesterday the novelty of boiling water on a gas stove (which we had waiting around in the kitchen), the silence and the time spent with the family (after sunset we played cards to keep ourselves busy) was gone.

Now I’m back, but the ramifications of those two lost weeks only hit me now. I was supposed to finish a significant portion of my rewrites in that time. I was supposed to start editing Doorways again.

And here I am, staring at the computer because I don’t know which one I should focus on first.

Still, I’m glad to be back and more than a little glad to be.

Anything interesting happen while I was gone?

South Africa

Morning all!

So sorry that I didn’t post yesterday, but my PC decided that I should not be able to blog at all on Sundays. Sigh.

Anyway, Jen, you are more than welcome to ask some fun questions.

I decided to rather use the questions as blog topics, but I need a few more (even silly ones) for me to blog about them all week.

Since Nevets’s and Colene’s questions fell into the same theme, I decided to answer both of them today.

Nevets asked:

1) Best and worst thing about living in South Africa?
2) Is there anything distinctly South African about what you write? If so, what?

Colene asked:

1) I work for a South African family and they’re always telling me about how bad traffic is there, is driving always such a pain?
2) Is it scary (because it sounds scary there.)

A word of advice: For those of you that would rather not see the bad side, rather stop on question number three. I didn’t pull punches on number four. I know that this isn’t particularly celebratory of me, but the question was asked and I would insult the memory of thousands if I shied away from it.

I knew from the moment that I read these questions that there are no short answers to them. What few people understand about South Africa (henceforth referred to as RSA) is that we are actually a very complicated nation. Reason number one for this is our history. Reason number two is the fact that we are a nation consisting of at least eleven nations – and all of us don’t really get along with each other. Reason number three is that RSA itself is quite big and varied – so much so that even people from within the same nations but from different regions don’t really understand each other. I think one can compare it to the difference between Northern Italians and Southern Italians or, say… the Union vs the Confederacy before the Civil War.

In fact, in the 1800’s, thousands of Afrikaner farmers and their families moved into the at that time untamed North to escape their British colonists. They established two separate countries. This community actually functioned quite well – except for the fact that they basically intruded onto the Native people’s (e.g. the Xhosa, Sotho’s and Zulu’s) land. (I’d say that the move at that time was at a smaller scale similar to the migration West in the U.S.). Point is that neither the settlers nor the natives were happy with each other’s presence on what each considered to be their land. And these feelings were left to escalate for more or less a century until we were saddled with the mother of all Snafu’s. Namely: Apartheid.

I’m not really going to go into all of it, since I believe that we have moved well and truly past that and since certain segments believe that as a White person, I am supposed to apologize for something that happened at a time that I was a) NOT BORN or b) too young to have anything to do with it – with every reference to this chapter in our history, so I’d much rather just glance past it, if it’s all the same to everyone.

Still. I think you guys have enough of an idea as to our background to understand why we as a nation are where we are. I could go on and on about this, but I might get round to ranting, and you might get bored. SO I’ll just rather move on to the questions.

The best and worst thing about living in South Africa?

Well, there are many great things about living here. One of the best would be our geography. Our climate tends to be gorgeous. Most of the year, the sun shines. Although it does snow, the blizzards tend to be limited to be limited to mountain tops. We rarely get earthquakes,  and when we do, the tend to be mild. I don’t think we’ve ever been hit by a cyclone – although I think there has been two sizable tornado’s (I think they were F-3) and one smallish tsunami. When the Boxing Day tsunami hit, I think that seven people died, because our tides were higher than usual. So overall we’re pretty safe from Mother Nature’s extreme moods. We get in the Cape areas is a wind that literally blows you off your feet – but that only happens every five or so years – and floods, since it rains a lot in the winter and the towns tend to be built in valleys. 

Another geography related plus is the Stunning scenery. Most of you will know about the beauty of Table Mountain. In my opinion, that is probably only the fifth most beautiful place in the Western Cape only. And there are a wide variety of climates. We have cold oceans and warm oceans. We have tropics and deserts.We have pretty much every single climate in between. So I could spend years travelling through South Africa and I’ll still be surprised. 

The worst thing in South Africa will be covered in the second part of Colene’s question. 

Is there anything distinctly South African about what you write? 

I used to think not, since I write mainly fantasy and romances. Although, I’d like to one day write a novel set in a) the Great Trek which I mentioned above or b) the Boer War. But I’m not so sure that it will find a widely appreciative market.

Still, I realized that certain things that come from my experiences living in South Africa make their way into my writing. For example, I’m pretty good at describing fear for reasons described below. I don’t know if that counts though, since I’m sure you can get similar experiences elsewhere. 

Is traffic really that bad?

Well… that depends on where you are. If you’re in the countryside, then no. But even as I say that, I have to qualify that it also depends on which province you’re in. For example in the Free State – where I was born – your number one concern would be dodging the numerous and deep potholes and ruts made by the millions of trucks that drive through. This is in part due to the fact that infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate and that the cross country trains either don’t run or aren’t reliable. Why? Because people steal the copper wire in order to illegally connect to the power grid. I kid you not. Or… they sell the wire as scrap since they have no other way to make money. 

Traffic is a lot worse in the cities, since for as far as I noticed, they only started with a reliable and safe public transport system in the 2000s. Of course, most workers must travel into the cities from the suburbs and so we tend to get lovely snarl ups at about seven in the morning to about nine and from five in the evening until everyone manages to get home. 

Is it scary? 

Once again, that depends on where you live. Things are pretty tame in the Western Cape countryside, but there are certain places in Cape Town that you don’t go to after a certain time. Gang violence is rampant in the poor sections of our cities, same as everywhere else. But in the Western Cape, you’re pretty safe for as long as you are not stupid. For example, going into some of the informal settlements at twelve at night is… well… pretty brain dead. 

Things are a lot worse in the other parts though. Johannesburg and Pretoria are infamous throughout the world for the rampant crime. 

But then there is something going on in the Free State and other rural areas that is kept very hush hush. I guess some of you are aware of the crisis in Zimbabwe in 2000 where hundreds of farmers were killed. So I guess that you will have an idea as to the scope of the situation when I say that murders of that nature has been taking place since the late seventies early eighties. Sure, a lot of those early casualties could be considered casualties of war. But they have grown in intensity in the nineties and has gone on unhindered. And then the government made a law to limit the amount of fire-arms in South Africa. Great idea in theory. Not the best of ideas when the people with traceable firearms and therefore the only people getting sent to jail and getting slapped with huge fines, are those that had been en regle before the laws were made. So the murderous psychopaths get pretty much free run. Especially since the Commando – the rural civilian guard armed and trained by the army – has been forced to disband. Couple this with the fact that we already don’t have enough cops and that most civilians don’t trust those that are there…

We have a freaking problem. But it’s much easier to consider instituting a media tribunal to limit what the press may or may not write about. You know man, hide the problem. Heaven forbid that we should fix it. Think I’m lying? Try researching how many farmers and /or their family members have been killed in South Africa. Any number above a thousand in total is buried deeply. No one knows how many people have been killed. But if it has actually been five hundred per year for the past twenty years, it wouldn’t shock me at all. There isn’t a farmer or farmer’s family that doesn’t know a farmer and/or his family that has been murdered. I know about ten families touched in some way by farm attacks. I know of children orphaned because they were lucky enough to hide under their beds when they heard their parents scream…

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Free State farmer’s community, but I consider it to border on State Sanctioned Genocide. To many of our boys being killed while trespassing on farms? Let’s take away the farmer’s defences. If some have to audacity to keep legal firearms, let’s put those that kill trespassers away for life. Let’s conveniently forget that said trespassers were armed and had trespassed with intention to do harm.

Let’s allow our boys to attack and maim that old white bastard (Incidentally I was eight when I heard him screaming and begging for mercy. There were two attackers. One tortured the septuagenarian while the other kept the two way radio’s button in so that every one on the circuit could hear it. My parents taught me to shoot that weekend.) Let them stitch his eyes closed and pour boiling water over him. After all. He’s part of the Old Guard.

Let fear and hatred and bitterness permeate the communities that supply us with food. If they clear out from the land they’ve been working for generations, we can give them to the families of those very people that killed the farmer and/or his families.

We can do everything we want.

As long as we don’t let the tourists know…

F*cking scary. Isn’t it?