I had planned to meet some theatre folk in Stellenbosch, but the best laid plans ..
Out searching for interesting people in bars again .. I met Raymond, a colored man (sorry to keep mentioning color, but it still is crucial) who was buying electricity (actually, his son was, and he was waiting).
We dived into politics straight away :-) and chatted for a while. He was a card-carrying member of the ANC, and a member of a vigilante group in South Africa called PAGAD - People Against Gangs And Drugs. However, he could not stay long, and so he invited me to stay that weekend and accompany him to church that Sunday. I of course, said yes.
He lives in Clotesville, the colored township next to Stellenbosch.
The colored folk are halfway between everything - languages, status (managerial, mostly), color. He is married, with two grown-up, married daughters, a daughter aged about 22, a son of 18, and another daughter aged 10. He owned his house (mortgaged for 10 years 25 years ago, so it is his now). Nice little house - three bedrooms, (Parents, single daughters, son & me) 1 bath, kitchen, living room, yard. He had got it, new, as a shell with a roof, soon after the colored area downtown Stellenbosch had been cleared to make way for the University. His wife, and a bosom pal of hers, griped that nothing was the same since then - v. happy childhood, “link” houses where they all ran together with no walls, yards, families to separate them. Seemed like a tremendous sense of community back then.
We went out to buy meat to Braai (BBQ) and beer to drink, and we braai’ed that evening (Saturday) with the family, and his wife’s oldest friend. The friend was 50, divorced, worked in a menswear store in town, and was impeccably turned out. Bitter (of course) about her broken marriage, but very genial.
Raymond explained PAGAD - born of the frustration of seeing crimes committed, and justice not seen to be done. Rapes committed, rapists free the next week. PAGAD, I think, started with the Muslim population, and is still associated with them, and carries an Islamic sense of justice - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. There are rallies held in neighborhoods - well attended - to get a sense of neighborhood support for the group (or maybe just to indicate their influence).
“On the Job”, they wear a uniform of black bomber jacket, black pants, and an anonymising scarf wrapped around the face, and they show up in large numbers (100, maybe), armed, with overwhelming force. Street justice normally dispensed is “necklacing” - a tyre placed around the neck, gasoline put in the tyre ..
He assured me that victims were warned once beforehand to cease and desist. I hope so - and asked him that again. He said that usually the warning was enough. Cannot see that applying to a rape case though ..
Raymond and I walked his wife’s friend home at midnight, and I notice that he wore the bomber jacket and carried a knife in his waistband. We had no trouble ..
On Sunday I felt very underdressed beside Raymond going to the local Anglican church, where the minister was from San Francisco, for two years, the church was full, the singing was in English, and not as Gospel as I had hoped .. It was mothering Sunday, and the main sermon was given in Africaanse by a black, female, ministers assistant. I stood up in the wrong place .. Mutter and kinder, or something ..
Very nice. The kids normally went to Sunday school next door, but were involved this Sunday. We went back, ate (again, curry this time), and after a swim in the local pool, and an afternoon nap, Raymond’s wifes sister showed up with her Muslim husband. She had converted, so much to Raymonds disgust that he said he never spoke to her. He did not like the husband either. He was dressed well, with brand new brand name sneakers, that I had to upbraid him about.
What a materialist example to the young, one that they were only too willing to follow. Raymonds son practiced drawing - what did he draw ? copies of Reebock, Adidas, Nike advertisments. Ugh.
Well, they did have 5 TVs in the house - as well as the sons nice stereo, PA system. The kitchen had a washer, tumble dryer, two fridges, microwave - no dishwasher, kettle had broken.
Our Muslim friend was out of work, and blamed (as does everyone except blacks) the new ’equal opportunity’ that requires big companies to hire 85% black people if they are suitably qualified. well, the qualifications process is not as watertight as the US, and transcripts are thrown together on word processors ..
Cricket match that afternoon of the field outside - between two neighboring Shabeens - local houses that sell alchohol illegally, and are the hub of social life.
I explained that I had come to Stellenbosch in the hopes of meeting some other colored people ..
Well, you wouldn’t know them ..
?? My wife knows everyone ..
Hmm .. rummage - here it is - Blank Adams ..
Oh yes, the newspaper reporter - he has an earring too.
So it appears their sense of community is not all gone. they have the church (though not all go to the same one) schools, and, of course, the shabeens.