“Jaaa..Boet.” Even Vetfaan sounds depressed. “Now a minister; a Cabinet Minister of our Fatherland nogal; goes and tells the Aussies they can blame everything on us – the Afrikaners. I’m getting sick and tired of it.”
“Oh, you’re talking about the honourable Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana? I heard she said “Young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it”. I think she lost the plot.” Gertruida sniffs loudly. “This is the same woman who heads a corrupt department, I’ll have you know. You can’t expect too much discretion from her.”
“But wait a minute, Gertruida. The present government has been in charge of the country for almost 20 years, and still they blame everything that goes wrong, on Apartheid and Afrikaners. It doesn’t matter if the argument makes no sense ; they play the race card or say it’s due to Apartheid. What happens? Everybody shuts up because if they argue, they’re racists.” Servaas is clearly upset. “Now, I’m not defending Apartheid, although it used to be a world-wide phenomenon. Show me a country where it didn’t happen, and I’ll buy you a beer. But…surely blaming Whites for everything must stop at some stage? Obama doesn’t harp on about the American South, does he? The British Prime Minister apologised for the massacre at Amritsar almost a hundred years back, and he wasn’t stoned for it. Life goes on; people must get over the past”
“You’re forgetting one thing, Servaas. A strong, honest government doesn’t have to prop up it’s appeal by reminding voters of the past. They’ll concentrate on the future.” Gertruida tilts her head in mock sadness. “It’s because they seem to be unable to sell their policies on merit, that they keep on reminding the masses they are Black and the Afrikaners are White.”
“But that’s nonsense, Getruida. We don’t live in a Black and White world any more. We can’t continue to see all Whites – or all Blacks – as a unified race. Pigment has nothing to do with it. For goodness’ sakes: Chinese are now officially accepted as Black. Indians are Black. People of mixed decent are Black. There is as little logic in that as saying the Irish and Scots are the same. Or that there is no difference between a German and an Italian.”
“That’s my point exactly. What do you think will happen if the ANC were to tell people to embrace their own culture? If they encouraged Zulus to be Zulu, and Vendas to be Venda, they’ll generate a polarisation like you have in Europe. Dutch people are European, but they revel in their own language and own culture. So do the Swiss and all the other countries you have over there. The ANC’s biggest nightmare is that the separate cultures in the country recognise the fact that being ‘Black’ or ‘White’ isn’t going to cut the cheese. They desperately need to remind a certain section of society that another section of society is the enemy. In unity is strength, remember? So their only hope of survival, is to convince the masses they are this cultureless group fighting a common enemy.”
“Well, I’m through. I’m not saying sorry any more. I voted for change. I stood in those long queues in 1994 and celebrated with the rest of the country. I saluted Madiba for what he stood for. And by drawing my cross on that ballot paper, I prayed for peace and stability.” Servaas has to stop speaking to get his emotions under control. “And what did we get? Look at our country, man…it’s burning! The racial divide is growing by the day because the government is fanning those flames. If our ministers tell overseas audiences the Afrikaners are bad people, I refuse to respect them any more. I’m angry and hurt, man, humiliated.” By now, he can’t hide it any more – the tears well up and Vetfaan has to offer him a hanky.
“We’ll just have to find a way of managing this, Servaas. There’s an election coming up next year…”
Vetfaan holds up a hand. “That’s what the government is preparing for, Gertruida. And I share Servaas’ sadness. Now, more than ever, the ANC must find a way to keep the different cultures in one little basket, believing they act on the basis of skin colour. It’s worked well for them so far.”
“You know what, gentlemen?” Gertruida sits back with a secretive smile. “You mustn’t make the same mistake as the government. They want all Blacks to be united. But…there are more and more voices – some small, some not – calling out in the dark. Many, many people are starting to feel the way Servaas does. Poor people in shanties. Unemployed masses. Middle-class white-collar managers. Mineworkers. Farmworkers.The petrol attendant at the filling station. The waitress at Wimpy. They don’t want to drown in the toxic waste of the past; they want to make sure their children get a proper education, live in proper houses and enjoy a more prosperous future. They want functional municipalities, service delivery, effective policing and honest administration. These are the voters who must make up their minds about who they’ll vote for in 2014. And even the mighty ANC can’t fool all the people all the time, either.
“I can tell you what’ll happen. The ANC will win again – but not with the majority they currently hold. They are saying the things they do, to try and avoid the humiliation of accountability. They love the situation where they can silence the opposition by the democratic process of voting in parliament. Absolute power…remember? But after that election they’ll face a formidable opposition, one that will hold them accountable for the atrocious way they managed the country for the last 20 years. They won’t be able to hide behind Afrikaners any more. The tide, my friends, is turning.”
Servaas leaves quietly. In his cottage, he rummages through the old records until he finds the one he’s looking for. Tonight the rest can bury the past, but he needs to return to an earlier age, a happier time. A time when he could still believe in a bright future where he and Siena would grow old together.
“Siena, I need you now,” he whispers as he places the needle gently on the old vinyl record. “The future, Siena, has become a memory. Like you, it isn’t here any more.