I started at the DP with some trepidation. It was my first office-based job and I was not used the hours. I started on a part time, mornings-only salary but worked full day because Mum did. It took ages for Roy to secure the funding for a full time me (by which time I bet he wished he hadn’t) so for 9 months I worked part time and volunteered the rest of the time, my income only supplemented when it was elections and we canvassed in the evenings.
In a very short space of time, I realised just how much was being done by this office. It was not a traditional political party office. Much of Roy’s time was spent trying to intercede for victims of state-sponsored violence, whether it was directly the result of the police having their sadistic little games or the third force (people armed and sponsored by the government to promote the idea of “black on black” violence, which would apparently give the outside world the idea that black people were all war-mongering savages who had to be kept in line otherwise they’d murder each other before murdering all the good white people who looked after them so well (please read that in ironicfont).
And when it was impossible to intercede, he gave them a voice, took statements, affidavits, went out into danger zones and recorded the violence. He also fed several people, took risks no person would normally take, to record, understand, distribute and ensure a history was kept.
I answered the phone, greeted people and then graduated to taking statements and when Roy was out or on a call, taking calls like the following:
“Democratic Party offices, KwaZulu-Natal Region, Demokratise Partay, Kwa-Zulu Natal, how can I help you? Hoe kan ek jou help?”
Except I didn’t actually get that phrase out because it was interrupted.
“Mama, mama, where is Roy?” *bullet noises
“Um, he’s on another call at the moment (he was, to some white bigwig who was no doubt boring the pants off him), can I help you?”
“Mama, mama the police are here, they are killing our children”. *more bullet noises.
I said “wait”, ran into Roy’s office and mimed extreme distress. He finished the call and took the lady’s, whose name was Beatrice.
Several children killed, gunned down in cold blood. No reason. Just because they could do it and get way with it. It was apparently “like killing animals”.
Let me tell you about the 12 year old boy who arrived late one night. Roy had to go out and asked me to take his statement. I was not qualified to do an affidavit (you had to be a justice of the peace).
He arrived, mute, with a white bloke and a group of black people who had come with him to support him. What you need to know is that he came home from school to discover pieces of his father all over the house. Great big bloody globs of him, recognisable only when the boy found his father’s head.
Let me tell you about the university student who I shall not name here because he may not thank me to be reminded of the months and months he spent incarcerated under the apartheid regime. I can’t recall what he did, but it was minor, something like handing out leaflets.
He was picked up under the “detention without trial” laws (which meant the police could pick you up and you could be detained pretty much indefinitely, with no recourse to a lawyer, a phone call to your family, at worst, news of you only coming through the prison grapevine, in bits). Over 25,000 people were detained like this up to July 1985 (http://www.disa.ukzn.ac.za/webpages/DC/rejan91.10/rejan91.10.pdf), some of them for years and years and years. The late 1980s were no different.
And there he was, poor K, a sensitive, caring boy who had worked hard to get to university, his family supportive of him, his Indian background giving him some grace in 1989 but not enough for him to be spared. In jail, tortured and spat on and denigrated, he started to fall apart. His mother tried every avenue to get him released but the state stood firm. He was a “terrorist”, working to overthrow the government.
Let me tell you that when I heard of K’s arrest, when his mother called the office for help, I fully realised how much danger I was in. I had committed “crimes” far worse than K, over and over and over again.
And I resolved to continue doing them, over and over again. For those who could not, whose lives were now lived in the shit and stink of jail boxes, reduced to the playthings of psychopaths who got a kick out of making their existence hell.
K was eventually released, after an exceptional amount of pressure, a shadow of himself.
Shall I tell you about Lucky? I can mention his real name (well the English name he was given by his parents because you were not allowed to register any children under their Zulu names) because he is dead. Lucky, who was a known informant, who gave us details of things that had gone on when the victims of this evil were too scared to speak out, who gave comfort and care to those whose children had been ripped from their arms and killed, or whose husbands had been picked up, only to return to them as a disabled shell, broken hands, broken legs, face chewed off, broken heart.
By the time Lucky called, we had the UMAG (unrest monitoring action group) phone installed at home. It was late, way past bedtimes when he called and my Mom picked up. He was at a safe house that was soon to become very unsafe indeed. The police had cottoned on to what he was doing. So he was running, through K section, Kwa Mashu in search of safety.
Throughout the night he rang us, from safe house to safe house, from his cousins to his brother in law, from comrade to comrade. He never said where he was (our phones were bugged most of the time), just phoning in to say he was still free, still alive and I guess to hear a voice on the end of the phone.
Lucky made his final phone call at around 5am as the sun was coming up. His last words were “Eve, eve I think they have found me” and the phone went dead. It remained engaged for hours after that and when it was eventually answered, the residents denied any knowledge of Lucky’s presence. He never called again. No doubt his broken, tortured body lay somewhere in the dust.
Another snapshot for you. Another glimpse into what these utter, utter cunts were like.
After reading all of this, do you really think that the South African government could be negotiated with? The ANC did try, on a number of occasions. Do you really think that they gave a shit about the people they saw as scum and no better than animals?
Do you think that it would have been okay if Mandela had just stood by and watched his countrymen being tortured and murdered and said “you know what, I’m a pacifist, and karma will get them in the end?”
Mandela not only endured so much, endured 27 years of jail (and don’t think for one fucking moment that it was the type of jail we get in the Western World), separation from his beloved wife, lost out on his children growing up, lost out on his career as a lawyer, lost out on everything because he would not submit and say “okay boss, I’m a kaffir, I’m lower than low and just because the colour of my skin offends you, I’m going to sit here and rot whilst you plunder the country, kill anyone you like, rape my female relatives and then urinate on them because their colour has tainted you”.
What were his choices really? He could have tumbled back into obscurity but instead became the figurehead for a movement, a movement remarkable in that many of his followers had never even seen his face, that would not submit to the tyranny of pale-skilled psychopaths who exalted in their apparent superiority.
Mandela stood firm, and he stood proud, he had his lungs ruined by hours of chipping rock in the dust and sun, he saw his beloved wife treated like a whore, her children not allowed to see her because she was a banned person and a banned person under some circumstances was not allowed any company. He was in jail and unable to do anything to prevent his family from being torn apart.
He saw his comrades equally badly treated and what did he do?
When he was released, when he had every right to tell every white cunt who supported the apartheid regime and therefore supported the enslavement, torture and murder of tens of thousands of innocents, to fuck right off his land and his birthright, he instead turned around, the victor at last, and did something remarkable, he held out his hand not just in peace, but he then put his arms around those who had oppressed him and embraced them. And thus led a war torn country into something resembling a rainbow nation.
I can’t forgive those fat white men, with their moustaches and their pale skins. I will never forget the terror of hearing them outside the house, the denigration when I came into contact with them, the time the policemen tried to abduct me and one got a knife in his arm as a result. I’ll never forgive them the torn, bloodied bodies, the dead children, the raped women, the terror they inflicted in the name of race and statehood.
How Mandela did it, I will never, ever know.
So the next time someone says they are conflicted about Mandela, remember the people he stood for, the people he sat in jail for. Remember all those broken, torn lives, the bravery and the forgiveness. When they call him a terrorist, remember the terror inflicted on people just like you and me, for the sin of having been born “black”.