July 29, 2020 by petrujviljoen
Early 2020: It’s a good few blocks to the grocery store. People made a shortcut through a stretch of veld which I often follow. At the entry to the narrow trail I halt to watch a woman walking a path I haven’t seen before. A black guy was coming down the much trodden path, saw me standing as if waiting for him to reach the tar road. I could see in his face he was upset; perhaps I was trying to avoid him because he was black. When he got closer he gave a thin, unsure greeting before I could. My answer prompted him to ask if I was okay, still hesitant in case he got swiped with a racial throwback. Engaging in conversation he realised I was just seeing what’s for what. My heart broke at his relief. His shoulders visibly relaxed. That’s the way it is for ordinary (one has to qualify) black people in this god-forsaken town. And everywhere else, I realise.
I forget the year, perhaps 2012 or 2013. Newish in town, here from Joburg, attending a meeting for the first time to see where, indeed if, I can fit in, hoping to find employment. Be of help? – blush. The racist jokes around the table were such I packed my notebooks, left and took the white people to the highest office of their political party, which claimed to be non-racial. These political types are so glib, so smooth, so good at side-stepping, so good at The Treatment. I was smeared, lied about, side-lined, my craftwares in the shops put away in cupboards and back storerooms.
Many blue-eyed blonds in this town. One of them, a high-to-do, really high in society, pointed his finger: you must be careful, previously having cited an instance of crime committed against a woman who lived by herself remote from the town … robbed by black people. In the company of two other men from his side – who kept quiet. It’s organised crime I said … a loaded silence. (It makes one wonder: all the farm murders in the country, escalated, prominent since 1994 … )
It took months to get all my wares back.
It’s the time of Covid. The town is in crisis. The local municipality, greedy, owes Escom (provider of electriity) hundreds of millions. Every household is equipped with a prepaid meter. Now slapping a crippling monthly surcharge on puchases which has to be paid before power for personal use can be bought. The poor, clawing their way from one pathetic income to the next is slammed into the ground hard. It’s a crime against humanity. The only local municipality in the country to do so. A slap in the face of National Treasury’s directive, no wage increases for municipal workers(in the time of Covid) they allowed themselves a salary increase. The only municipality in the country to do so. It’s criminal. Food parcels for the destitute disappeared. It’s shameful.
The people of the town draws together in protest. For the first time in its history. The chat groups ablaze with outrage. Eventually race creeping into the conversation. Most unfortunate.
A highly-to-do well-off black community leader, safe, protected, avoids the issues raised. He’s accused of many things; I’m witness to his smugness, his entitlement, his unwillingness to step up to the cause, to the crisis at hand. I’m devastated.
A high-to-do, well-off, historically entitled, blue-eyed blond earns himself the flack from the black community. ‘’We all suffered under Apartheid’’. Blatant, smug, smooth, well-rehearsed, in your face, bloody, hypocricy. I’m devastated.
in spite//in time
I’m still reeling from a public humiliation I received from yet another of the high-to-do, comfortable, blue-eyed blonds, back in January. The power of words, how it can devastate. I pointed out her racism, in the name of her God. A God so made in the image of so many of the blue-eyed blonds He’s actually avoiding me too, in shame I think. I know the Guy. His Mother too. He has taken on a tinge of ochres and browns lately but it doesn’t help very much. — as usual, I offer an apology to the sincere ones. You won’t be fazed I don’t think.
There’s so much more I would have wanted to say: theGeorge Floyd tragedy in America: locally a phrase in one of the many messages crossing my path – we have to keep our knee in their necks until the surcharge in electricity is reversed. Devastating stuff. Terrible! The Collins Khoza case in South Africa – the brutality of it all.
I have to withdraw. I have an appointment with the Mother of God. I think it’s clear She would like to meet with me my side of the rainbow. Since I stopped spitting fire I’m spitting blood. My feet slips around in my rubber garden shoes, a nervous sweat. I’m vulnerable, fragile, a wreck, at the edge of health, at the edge of time.
May there be peace, a cease of war, a cease of rumours of war.