I am in Ladysmith - a rural town in Natal, and the start of the band Ladysmith Black Mambazo .. I am camping in a superb campground in town, very cheap, with mostly poor white trash as my neighbours.
Some are out of prison, all are afrikaners, I buy dinner, they cook .. There is always the acknowledgement that whites and blacks will have to work together to find a solution, because they need each other.
My first experience of being robbed - not serious - I was playing pool in a local bar, and when leaving noticed that my gloves were missing from my helmet. The black barman told me that some white folks that had just left had taken them - I ran out, stopped them, and the driver (whom I had been talking to in the bar) was very suprised. However, between him and the barman they got my gloves off one of his passengers …
Ladysmith is white for two downtown streets, and then turns completely black for the next few streets. I am typing this from the local Internet service provider, who runs linux (administered from Jo’burg) as a black box, actually a caseless box in the closet with a fan pointing at it. They get service through Global One, an international player in telecom, I think the BT/MCI thing or AT&T ??
I visited an indian disco in another part of town with some visiting indians, who had been asked to leave the bar because it was now a ‘private club’ the new way to keep undesirables out the bar. I had not been told to leave but I did, with them. Ho Hum. I also visited the MOTH club, a club for RSA ex-servicemen (Member of the worshipful Order of Tin Hats) which was full of crusty old folks. I was signed in as a guest, as I was wearing a collar and socks this time (in the PM, while waiting for my bike radiator to be repaired ($40.00) I was told the dress code).
The british barman took me aside and told me that, yes, many of the Afrikaners were living in the past. However, many black people, and indians, also saw this as payback time. After all, he said, the white man came here and treated the blacks as oxen .. but white people are lazy now. They are used to the blacks doing the work. I visited Manpower, the government emplyment office, to ask the exact rules regarding ‘affirmative action’. It turns out that there is nothing regarding affirmative action currently written into law. However, there has been a green paper, a policy document that has yet to be written into law, that suggests interviews with companies regarding employment policies, and also suggests spot fines for ‘infractions’. On closer questioning as to what an infraction might be, it seems that if you were colorblind during interviews, and truly hired according to qualifications, you would be in the clear.
However, many companies are hiring black people (after all, that is what we are talking about) in positions like personnel, training, etc. to show an effort.
Lots of battlefields around here, from both the Boer war and the Zulu wars.
I am heading to the eastern Drakensburgs for the scenery and hiking, down then to Pietermaritzberg, through the Transkei, but in two weeks there is a Southern Africa telcom conference outside Jo’burg called TEL.COM ‘97, that looks as though I should be there. So, schedule, as ever, is changeable.
PS. It seems my report on music at the Rustlers festival got lost. Bummer.