Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Wordless Easter Sermon

download (31)“Oudoom will give the same sermon he delivers every Easter Sunday.  I don’t feel like going.” Vetfaan sips the strong coffee Boggel served, pulls a face and puts down the mug. “He’s always going on about the stone that was rolled away, and the significance it has. Now me? I’ve got enough stones to roll away. I think I’ll sit here and contemplate my life while you guys go.”

The rest of the group sees the determined look on Vetfaans face and decides not to argue. He’s been in a morose mood all week, so picking a fight with him right now isn’t going to help.

Living alone on a farm has many advantages. Vetfaan doesn’t have to get up or go to bed at set times. He usually starts his day when it’s quite dark still, and often flops over into his bed soon after sunset. Meals are simple affairs of bread and whatever else he can find in the fridge. It also allows plenty of time for thinking.

He’s spent a lot of time contemplating life lately. Politics, relationships, the meaning of life, love, hope  and dreams have been foremost in his mind. Somehow, the state of the world and the way we live just doesn’t make much sense to him at this stage. So, under the awning in front of Boggel’s Place, he allows his mind to roam over the events of the year since last Easter. It’s been a good year, a bad year, a happy year, a sad year. He remembers his moments on Springbokkop and the reassurance he got from them.

He’s so engrossed in his thoughts, he doesn’t hear the approaching footsteps. It’s only when Oudoom lays a hand on his shoulder that he wakes up from his reverie with a start.

The whole congregation is there, standing quietly in the sun, in front of Boggels Place.

“They know my sermon by heart,” Oudoom smiles wryly, “but I think they finally got the message. This year I’m not going to repeat it – instead, I thought I’d preach the most important sermon Jesus ever delivered.”

Vetfaan recovers sufficiently to raise an eyebrow. “The Sermon on the Mount? That’s quite something…”

“No,” Oudoom’s smile widens. “The silent one. When He rose from death, He didn’t announce it with a grand speech filled with big words. He left the grave quietly, alive, well. He didn’t need to say it, the Resurrection said it all. His most powerful statement, Vetfaan, didn’t need words.”

“Ja,” Servaas climbs up the stairs to the stoep to sit down next to Vetfaan. “So that’s what we’re doing on Ester Sunday. A sermon of silent love. It’s what our faith should be about, isn’t it?.”

Gertruida  reaches over to pat Vetfaan’s shoulder. “The message Jesus left us with, is to love God and one another, remember? Love, like we all know, needs no speeches. It is. It’s there in how we care for each other, the way we speak and the way we act. St James put it so nicely: faith without action is no faith at all. And St Francis of Assisi taught us to convince people of our faith in any way we can – and only  if we’re really desperate, only then to use words.”

It is a quiet day on Boggel’s stoep. Nobody needs to say anything.

And Vetfaan got all the answers he prayed for so much. Sermons don’t need churches. They don’t need fancy pulpits and long speeches. It’s in the silence of caring, kindness and respect that the message of the Resurrection is most tangible. Anybody can profess to believe, he realises, but it’s absolutely rare for people to live Christ’s most important statement.

Faith, he discovers on the stoep, is like the love of the little congregation holding their morning service in Boggel’s Place. Words aren’t necessary. Words tend to make things superficial, even meaningless. That’s why lawyers make a living by debating laws, politicians believe in their own causes and churches differ. It doesn’t matter what you call your religion, or what ideology holds your truth. It even matters less if words have been the stumbling block in your search for truth.

Trusting that inner voice to guide one’s actions, is what it’s all about. It’s in this wordless sermon we start to mean something to others.,

(Don’t watch this without a box of tissues…)

The Tiny, Frozen Hand We Reach Out To Tomorrow

“Most operas are tragic.” Gertruida is busy with one of her famous lectures on this Saturday morning. Rolbos is quietly celebrating Passover, so the usual Saturday party is a rather subdued affair. To prevent the group at the bar from simply staring at each other morosely, Gertruida has taken it upon herself to do what she does best: telling them what they don’t know. “The list is rather long: La Boheme, Aida, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Rigoletto. Many composers are known for their poignant and sad stories of love and hate, and most of them end with somebody dying. Mostly, the plot is to use love, ambition and rivalry – to make the audience hope for a happy ending. Sadly, it doesn’t happen.”

“I saw something like that, way back in the 70’s. It was an Afrikaans film about forbidden love in a small rural town. Môre, Môre; by Elmo de Wit.  The bad guy wants to kill the teacher who fell in love with the schoolgirl, and hurls a spear at him during an athletics meet. He hits the girl instead. Not a dry eye in the house. It was so sad, I had to see it three times.” Kleinpiet smiles at the memory. “So it’s not only Italians that make us cry. We can do it all by ourselves,”

“I suppose we all need to cry every now and then, Kleinpiet.” Vetfaan has been uncommonly quiet lately, and now gets rewarded by everybody’s attention. “Life is maybe a bit like Gertruida’s operas. We live in the hope of a happy ending, but that rarely happens. Most often, I think, relationships involve heartache. Boy meets girl; fall in love; says goodbye. Most love affairs end like that. Marriages, too. It’s the exceptions that make the rest of us believe in happy endings. So we end up promising ourselves: Tomorrow, Tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow. But, like we know: tomorrow never comes. It’s always a day away.”

“Indeed.” Gertruida lifts her glass. “Tomorrow is the symbol of hope. Somewhere, somehow, some way, tomorrow will be better. That’s what tragic operas are all about; It tells us tomorrow never comes…Don’t wait for something to happen in the future if you’re not prepared to live today to the full. Sure, things might improve; but you’re stuck in today. Forever, all you have, is today. The present. Here and now. This is where it’s at, and this is where you live. People destroy their joy by hoping and hoping – and forgetting they’re living the only now they’ll ever have. That’s the tragedy of life.”

“But then, Gertruida, it impacts on the way we live. Politics only  exist because people hope for a better tomorrow. So do churches, for that matter. Society needs to reach out to to the future, otherwise Life makes no sense.”  Boggel thinks back of the hope he had for a life with Mary Mitchell, and how much joy it brought him. Yes, he wanted it to have a happy ending, but while it lasted, it was the most glorious time of his life.

“That’s why the moment Rudolfo takes Mimi’s hand in La Boheme, it’s such a poignant moment. They’re on the brink of discovering each other. She’s ill and the relationship is doomed, even though they don’t know it at that point. They hope tomorrow will be better, but it won’t, of course. He’ll remain behind, penniless and alone, That’s not the tragedy, however. The tragedy is the beauty of their hope – and the sadness that they didn’t use the time they had to the fullest extent. He could have saved her, but instead they placed their hope in the future. He should have told her he loved her right than.”

“Yeah, Gertruida. Words.” Vetfaan signals for another beer. One of the new ones from Argentina that Harold sent. Araucana Rojiza Fuerte. He just loves this exotic brew. “Words lose their meaning if they are only a set of letters awaiting the future. It’s the now-words, the present-words, that count.”

“That’s what Easter is all about.” Oudoom surprises them all by joining them at the counter. “All human aspirations and hopes have limits. We hope for rain. We hope for fair government. We hope petrol will be cheaper. We hope love will last.  But, my friends, all  these things are bound to the little concept of time. We compare our past with our future.  In that sense, Gertruida is right: do what you do, do well. Remember the song? Give all you heart and all of your love – I remember that from my student days. In human terms, we have to make the most of every moment we live.” He sips the new beer Boggel pushes over the counter and smacks his lips. “But there is only one hope we know will come to fruition.”

He waits for the questioning looks, stretching the moment.

“That’s what this Saturday is all about, guys. The silent time. The waiting. The deciples hoping Christ will arise again, but at the same time not really knowing He will. I mean, rising from the dead? You have to be crazy to hope that.

“But He did. And it changed the way we live, forever.”

“So, Dominee,” Vetfaan leans over, eager for an answer, “you’re saying there’s only one hope left in the whole wide world?’

“No. There are many hopes. Only one, however, is guaranteed.”

“And that is what is important, Oudoom.” Gertruida smiles benignly at the clergyman. “The rest is bound to Time. And Time is a tragedy waiting to happen. We reach out with our tiny, frozen hands to each other, only to know nothing lasts forever. When we reach to the warmth of Eternity, we will never be disappointed.”

“True. Give me another of these Boggel. It’s actually very good… Life is a tragedy, we know that. That’s why we love, we strive, we build, we gather…and die. There’s nothing on earth we can grasp with our tiny, frozen hands to hold on forever.

“I’m working on tomorrow’s sermon with this theme in mind. The only thing we do on earth, is to leave things behind. We leave possessions, poverty, wealth, hope, love. If that contribution is for the benefit of others, life is meaningful. It’s like a relay race. We get, we pass it on. One generation will follow the other. Along the way, we’ll have joy, we have fun, we have seasons in the sun. Remember that one?” Oudoom enjoys shocking his flock. They never realised his taste for oldies. “Soo… it’s about taking hands. Passing the baton. And knowing this tragedy will pass. That, my friends, is what Easter is all about.”

“Yeah.” Vetfaan downs his beer. “The stone hasn’t been rolled away yet. Tomorrow it will be. We’ll always have tomorrow. It’ll come.”

What a frozen little hand,
let me warm it for you.
What’s the use of looking?
We won’t find it in the dark.
But luckily
it’s a moonlit night,
and the moon
is near us here.
Wait, mademoiselle,
I will tell you in two words,
who I am, what I do,
and how I live. May I?
Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.
In my carefree poverty
I squander rhymes
and love songs like a lord.
When it comes to dreams and visions
and castles in the air,
I’ve the soul of a millionaire.

Prayers for Madiba

Please join the Inhabitants of Rolbos in prayer for Nelson Mandela. We salute his contribution to our beautiful country, his statesmanship and his guidance. We need him now, more than ever.

May present and future politicians not only pay lip-service to this great man, but actually make a real effort to understand what he tried to accomplish.

So far, they have failed.


“Servaas, you are particularly cantankerous these days.”Gertruida sits down next to the old man, rubbing the small of his back with a soft hand. “I think you should talk about it. Something is brewing in that grey head, and I think it must come out. You can’t go on like this.”

Servaas looks up at Gertruida’s face to see the kindness and concern there. Suddenly, tears well up. He sniffs loudly.

“It’s nothing, thank you. Something that happened a long time ago. 30 years ago, to be exact. Long gone, not important any more.”

“You know better than that, Servaas. Sometimes those thoughts are the most dangerous of all. They sit there, festering away below the surface, destroying the little happiness you might still have left in you.” She pauses to do a little mental arithmetic. “Thirty years? That was 1982. The country was at war in Angola…”



Operation Super. March 1982.”

Gertruida’s face lights up. “Of course! Servaasie! She lowers her voice as Servaas’ shoulders start shaking, “He was in a support group, wasn’t he? And a landmine got his vehicle?” When Servaas nods, Gertruida tells him she’s so sorry.

“Yeah. He died, and I failed…”

When the telegram arrived to announce the death of his only son, Servaas locked himself in his room. He came out once, to attend the funeral.  For three days and three nights he even ignored Siena’s pleas to come out, saying he was busy struggling with God. That was not true: he was fighting with God, accusing Him of being an unfeeling and unjust deity, unworthy of worship.

“How can you say you failed? You didn’t. You gave the best to Servaasie and the war wasn’t your doing, anyway. You’re being unreasonable, Servaas.”

On the fourth day, he opened the door and told Siena he’d be away for a while. She saw the terrible determination in his eyes and didn’t ask. He took a bag and his old hunting rifle, loaded it into the pickup, and drove off. Now it was Siena’s turn to spend her days on her knees, pleading  God to protect her husband.

He drove up the long, tarred road from Vioolsdrift to Grootfontein, only stopping for petrol and stale meat pies along the way. Three days later he stood on the banks of the Kunene River, gazing at Angola with blood-shot eyes. Camouflaging his vehicle, he stretched out on the back, and slept for a full day. Then, after a meal of bully beef and beans, he took his rifle and started looking for a way to cross the river.

His intention was clear: they took his son. He’d take one of theirs. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. When the evening came, he found a wide, shallow stretch of river where he waded through.

“Servaas? A one-man expedition against a trained army? What were you thinking?”

He lived off the veld, trapping small animals and drinking whenever he found water. The area was rather inhospitable, so he trekked more-or-less up along the river so as not to lose contact with the only reliable source of water.

And then, one night, he heard voices. Clear, singing voices. Voices joined together to sing a hymn – like only the people from Africa can. Multi-tiered singing, combining bass and soprano in alternating verses, praising God.

Servaas never found out who did that singing.

He returned home.

“You did the right thing, Servaas. How can you say you failed?”

“I failed God, for a while. I got angry and turned my back on Him. I was quite prepared to kill anybody I met in Angola: man, woman, child, soldier, civilian. Anybody. Just to feel I took some sort of revenge.”

“Remember the ten plagues, Servaas, and how the first Passover came into being? It was the blood of the lamb that was the sign. Those with the sign, survived. The others didn’t. The same thing happened to you. The hymn was the sign, that’s all. It’s actually a beautiful story.

“You passed them over – whoever they were – just like the plague did the Jews in Egypt all those years ago. And now, with Passover upon us, you should celebrate it, not sit and mope about it.”

“But I never got my revenge, Gertruida!” The old man’s face contorts in a picture of regret. “Now I live with this emptiness inside me. I wanted to fill it, but couldn’t.”

“You know, Servaas, the biggest, worst, most horrible form of revenge is … forgiveness. You cannot fight hate with hate. Hate can only succumb to one force; and that’s the force of love. If we were to be punished for every sinful thought, every sinful action, life on earth would have been impossible. We all may live in hope, because of Passover. It is given to everybody, but it’ll cost you. Not everybody is humble enough to accept it; the proud ones refuse to reach out – and continue hating, continue seeking revenge and justification.”

“Are you telling me I’ve been missing the message of Passover all these years, Gertruida?” A new sorrow has found it’s way to the wrinkled face as the eyebrows shoot up in surprise.

“Passover. Forgiveness. Redemption. And all those rest on Love. They’re all the same, my friend. There’s only one trick: reach out and make it your own.”

Tonight, Servaas will go home with a smile. The empty space inside his mind has been filled. By being passed over, he has been passed up, in a manner of speaking. Up: like in nearer to the wisdom of the Throne, not like in forgotten. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is quite an exhilarating freedom, something quite new to him.

Anyway, like Gertruida says; make sure you’re passed over and passed up before you pass on.

Daily Prompt: Déjà vu

Prompt: Have you ever truly felt déjà vu, the sensation that you’ve already had the experience you’re currently having? 

Sersant Dreyer sits down heavily, orders a beer and shakes his head. “The damnest thing just happened to me, guys. I was apging through The Upington Post, and there was a photograph of my parent’s house! I couldn’t believe it. But of course, it wasn’t their home, it was something that simply looked similar.”

“It’s almost like déjà vu, then. You thought you knew something you didn’t. Like being in a place, and feeling it is all so familiar – as if you’ve been there before.” Gertruida pats his back. “We all have that, sometimes. It’s just the brain recognising patterns to make you feel you’re in a familiar place. It’s a comforting function, mostly; but it can also warn you of danger in some circumstances – because you experienced something similar before.”

“So the mind plays tricks, does it? Assembles new facts into old boxes to fool you into believing you know what’s going on?” Dreyer nods, saying it makes sense.

At the other end of the bar, Vetfaan stares at his empty glass. Straightening, he looks over to catch Gertruida’s eye.

“But there are more explanations, Gertruida. What about parallel time and other realities? Fanny said something about that: she said it is possible to exist on different planes: have many lives, running parallel to each other, each with a different outcome. She said this,” he spreads his arms wide, “isn’t the only reality. !Ka told her it is possible to move from one plane to the next, either with trance-dances, or some herbs they find in the desert. She said that is why we recognise things we shouldn’t; simply because we have, indeed, experienced those by one of our parallel selves.”

“Now, listen…” Servaas’ voice is laden with disapproval, “that is totally unbiblical. There is one earth. You have one life. Don’t come here with some airy-fairy science fiction. I won’t tolerate that.”

“!Ka has his own ideas about this, Servaas. I’m not going to get in an argument with you, but the Bushmen have travelled to other levels of consciousness for centuries. Many of their strange paintings show animals emerging from rocks or men disappearing into a dream-world. It’s as eerie as it is weird. I don’t understand it, of course.”

“Okay, boys, no fighting. Boggel will chuck us out.” Gertruida holds up a white handkerchief as a sign of peace. ” But there are things we don’t understand. You meet somebody, and you instantly like that person, even before anything is spoken. The opposite happens too, of course. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about it, called Blink. He says the brain is a giant store of knowledge and an incredible processor of facts. And, he maintains, we understand only a bit about those functions. Maybe the brain can operate on levels we have no clue about.”

“Well, then. What about Molecular Memory?” It’s Boggel’s turn to upset Servaas even further. “Humans often act like salmon – we go back to our roots, because we resonate there. Something tells us; this is where you come from, you belong here. I once heard that molecules can ‘remember’ their origin, which explains why Karoo-people want to live there – or us, in the Kalahari. Remember, your DNA tells the body a lot of things. Why can’t it store some sort of memory as well?”

By now Servaas is red in the face and breathing hard. “You guys are trying to upset me, and you’re managing quite well. I’ve known all along you’d find this New-Age stuff fascinating. I should have stayed at home today. Would have been much better that way.”

“Never mind, Servaas! Settle down. In a parallel universe, you are at home, feeling quite secure. You’d be looking out of your window with a feeling of déjà vu, thinking about the nonsense we’re talking in here…”

Vetfaan doesn’t get a chance to finish his sentence. Servaas has stormed out without saying goodbye.

Gertruida says she knew that would happen.

That’s what déjà vu is all about, she says.


Viva Graca, Viva!

Graca Machel (AFP)

Graca Machel (AFP)

“I quite agree with Graca Machel,” Gertruida says as she puts down the newspaper. “People – worldwide – see us as a violent nation.  Time had that horrible statement about Oscar being a gunman, and we all felt it was a bit much. But here Graca says: South Africa is an angry nation… We are on the precipice of something very dangerous with the potential of not being able to stop the fall. The level of anger and aggression is rising. This is an expression of deeper trouble from the past that has not been addressed. We have to be more cautious about how we deal with a society that is bleeding and breathing pain, 

“I believe she’s right. The amount of bloodshed in our country is unacceptable. It’s not just the farm murders – that’s bad enough already – but the country is losing it’s grip on reality. We’ve a president with enough children to fill a classroom. He still has to explain his role in the Arms Scandal. He’s getting rid of the voices of opponents in his own party. I don’t think he is a good example for other politicians.”

“It’s not just that, Gertruida.” Vetfaan reaches for a new beer. “It’s the way the criminal elements rules the country. I hear you mustn’t stop if a police car flags you down. The chances are that you’d be robbed or raped. They say you have to drive to the nearest public spot, like a petrol station, before stopping. Sure, some policemen are honest, hard-working guys; but others find creative ways of filling their pockets. Maybe that’s why Oscar didn’t phone the police: most burglaries are inside jobs and it is an open question whether you’ll get a prompt and honest response. We stopped trusting the people who must protect us.

“And Mrs Machel hit the nail on the head when she said society is getting more and more violent; causing the police to act in kind. It’s a vicious circle.”

“Well, there’s no such thing as peaceful protest any more either. People seem to think the only way their voices can be heard, is by destruction. Burning buses, trains and buildings are apparently the only ways to get the government’s attention. If service delivery is poor, you ransack the municipal offices. That’s on local level. What’ll happen if these protests become a unified, national movement?” Boggel takes a reflective sip, thinking on the chaos that will follow such events. “But maybe that’s what the government wants. Maybe they think these protests are the way to divert attention from the bigger picture. They can’t govern fairly, and there are deep feelings of distrust amongst large segments of society. Soo…create chaos and make people worry about their own safety, rather than allowing government to get involved in a debate they can’t win.”

Gertruida nods. “It’s an old trick. The Nationalists did the same with the Right Wing in the seventies and eighties. They used the Right Wing to scare people into submission. Remember Mafeking? Even after all these years, we don’t know everything…but sure as nuts, that was an orchestrated event. And don’t forget the lies about the famous Third Force in the nineties. Destabilise and rule. It worked in other parts of Africa, why not use it here as well?”

“It’s sad, isn’t it? In the old days, the Nationalists had a lot to say about the Black Danger and the Communists. Now our parliament has a new way of using the exact same tactics. Only the danger is now multicoloured and the Whites are everybody’s favourite scapegoat. It’s us, they say, who are at the root of all the problems in the country. Shoot the farmer, kill the Boer, indeed.”

“It’s going to get worse.” Servaas rests his chin on his folded arms. “We better know that. I can’t see the government getting a grip on this mess. Look at the cock-up in the Congo. What the hell were our soldiers doing there, anyway? And where was their support?

“It’s a sign, guys. Our rulers don’t plan. They do. And if it doesn’t work out, they appoint a commission of enquiry to point fingers at some poor sod who didn’t take the initial decision. More than likely, it’ll be swept under the carpet, like everything else.”

The group at the bar falls silent. Rome is burning. Nobody can stop those flames… Maybe, just maybe, the plaintive voice of Graca Machel will reach beyond the borders of our devastated country.

Daily Prompt: The Idyllic Society of Rolbos

download (29)“People often wonder about us,” Gertruida says thoughtfully, as she puts down her beer. “They can’t seem to understand how it is possible for us to live in peace with each other.”

“Well, we don’t have television, for starters. We have to actually talk to each other. I think people find that scary.” Boggel is on his crate, enjoying the talk at the counter. “That little box killed a lot of things.”

“Romance, too,” Precilla adds. “Couples in the cities don’t cuddle up and say sweet nothings to each other any more. And the movies they show! The checkout girl in Upington told me the other day – blood and gore and vampires.  Nobody can do some old-fashioned necking while the man in the picture runs about with blood spurting from his chest.”

“And we have Oudoom, remember? I know we poke fun at him sometimes, but his heart is in the right place. He cares for his little flock.” Vetfaan sighs as her remembers how the old man took time to visit him on the farm after Fanny’s letter arrived. They prayed together, and although it didn’t change the situation, he felt much better afterwards.

“Well, lets not forget our gracious host, you guys. Without Boggel, Rolbos would have been rather boring.” Servaas is in a surprisingly good mood. “I think every town should have a bar like this. We can sort out all our problems here, that’s why we  don’t need some local authority or council to do it for us. You can actually say we’re drinking for free – the money we would have spent on a municipality, simply gets recycled to Boggel’s Place.

“Yes, many many people frown on the use of alcohol.” Kleinpiet raises a glass. “I still say it is the best social lubricant ever.”


Rolbos is rather unique in many ways – and yet it could have been a town near you. The personalities of the patrons in Boggel’s Place overlap with people you know. In this town, you’ll hear kind words, even though life can be harsh in the Kalahari. You’ll find respect, despite differences. And you’ll find that a smile is the best way to end a dispute.

Why do other towns not do this?

The answer is simple.

We’ve forgotten how to listen to each other. And if we don’t listen, we don’t understand. That’s the origin of conflict. It’s the art of good old-fashioned communication that’s gone astray – we’ve become so involved with our TV sets, the electronic media and the cellphones, that we forget a simple rule: we all need to love and be loved.

Such a pity…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense – The Futility of Hope

We all dream about the future. We hope. We love. We nurture and adore. But sadly, the future is but a passing phase – only temporary – like everything else.

Hope's dawn is beauty personified. It calls out a promise. It spells out a brighter day

Hope’s dawn is beauty personified. It calls out a promise. It spells out a brighter day.

But...the pot of gold...which side to go?

But…the pot of gold…which side to go?

So..pack the bag, set off. If you don't try, you'll never know.

So..pack the bag, set off. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

The oasis of hope awaits the intrepid traveller, yet the landscape of reality is part of the picture.

The oasis of hope awaits the intrepid traveller, yet the landscape of reality is part of the picture.

The once-proud acquisition will age with the dream.

The once-proud acquisition will age with the dream.

And the building that housed the hopes will decay...

The building that housed the hopes will decay…

And so the sun will set on every dream, every hope, every love, the day dying in  a blaze of colour.

And so the sun will set on every dream, every hope, every love, the day dying in a blaze of colour.

And yet, despite the knowledge that everything must pass, we're up at dawn again, hoping that today, indeed, will be different.

But…, despite the knowledge that everything must pass, we’re up at dawn again; hoping that today, indeed, will be different.

Human Rights – You’re Joking, Right?

“They went about it the wrong way.” Servaas is in his black suit again, the heavy frown changing his eyes to slits. “There’s no such thing as Human Rights. It’s nothing to celebrate, anyway.”

For once, Gertruida looks up in surprise.

“Really Servaas? Where does this come from?”

“Here.” He thumps his chest. “It comes from in here. Human rights are the ultimate oxymoron. It says you have certain rights, and others must respect that. It’s wrong.”

“Come on, Servaas, of course we have rights. Education, protection, medical care…” Vetfaan’s list peters out when Servaas interrupts him.

“Exactly. That’s my point. Now you go tour the country, Vetfaan, and see what the government did with those rights. Schooling is in shambles. The hospitals are understaffed, under equipped, and badly run – in fact, most governmental hospitals do not have the facilities to function properly. As for protection….we have had a slew of senior police officers and commissioners who embarrassed the country.” Servaas sits back, eyeing the ceiling. “And then you get to BEE – do you think white people have the same rights as blacks? Pull the other one, my friend.”

“So, what do you suggest, Servaas. You must have something in mind?”

“We must stop this harping on about rights, and rather look at Human Requirements. What is expected of you rather than what you can expect of society. The requirement to be responsible, versus the demand to have rights. It’s a complete shift in understanding John Doe’s position in society.”

“Ah…I get it!” Gertruida’s face lights up. “You’re saying you can only have rights – or earn the right to have rights – by respecting your fellow man?”

“Exactly. Look what’ll happen: with enough respect going around, you’ll have no more raping, no murders, no crime, no corruption. Those things exist because some people imagine it is their right to take what is not theirs. They embrace their rights and deny others theirs. Why? They have no respect, and therefore no responsibility.” He lets out one of his famous, long, drawn-out sighs. “It’s a social disease. It started long before Apartheid and won’t stop until we – everyone of us – start rethinking what it means to have human rights. And that won’t happen soon. The template for future generations is wrong.”

“But that sounds rather drastic. It implies that people who disrespected others, should be denied their rights – or at least, the human rights as we understand them now.”

“Exactly. That is the punishment needed. Now, if you get caught – and only 6% of criminals get convicted – you have the right to a fair trial. That, I agree with. A fair trial means no dockets going missing, no technical points to throw cases out, no medical parole for healthy friends of the government, no fancy dodging of the law. Once you have been found guilty, you forfeit your rights. It’s harsh, but that is something criminals will respect. They thrive because they can depend on their rights to protect them.”

“Servaas, that is rather radical, you must admit. No responsible government will ever pass such laws. They’ll be rejected by every free country in the world, because it will pave the way for dictatorship.”

“Ha! You see? That’s where the picture gets warped.” Servaas smiles for the first time. “A society whose prime aim is kindness and respect to others, will elect a kind leader – somebody fighting for their rights. It’s as easy as that. In the meantime, we have the right to be raped, murdered, lied to and be served by corrupt officials.” ”

“Well,” Boggel opens a new round, “it won’t happen in our lifetimes. I think I must declare my right to have a beer. It’s a holiday, after all.”

“And that,” Servaas is serious again, “may be the only right left in the country…”

A Party for the Lonely

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“Ag, Vetfaan, living alone isn’t such a bad thing. Look at me: I’ve been alone ever since I’ve moved here, and I’m still okay, see?” Sersant Dreyer puts a comforting arm around Vetfaan’s shoulders – a rare display of sympathy from the otherwise stern-faced policeman. “Here, let me buy you a drink.”

“It’s not the loneliness, man, it’s the loss. We had such a good time on the farm, and now that little space in my head is empty. It was only for a few days, I know, but it meant so much. For the first time in my life I felt fulfilled and happy. Complete, you understand? Now there’s…nothing.”

“That’s the way it goes, my friend. Nothing lasts forever.” Dreyer stares out of the window at the dust on the road to Grootdrink. “The lorry’s on its way. With the long weekend ahead, I was just getting worried about Boggel’s beer supplies but I can relax now.

“Yeah, maybe if I get drunk enough, it’ll help. Lots of beer, bottles full of Cactus…bring it on, man! It’s been years since we had a proper old-fashioned booze-up. Geez, Dreyer, you’re a genius!”

“Now, now, Vetfaan. Getting drunk doesn’t solve anything. You must face your emotions, man. Get it off your chest. Speak your mind.”Gertruida has read lots of books on counselling and is acknowledged as the local expert on loss. When one of Shirley-the-Basset’s puppies went missing, she had a highly successful session in Boggel’s Place (she called it Mass-Basset-Therapy).  Afterwards they all said it was natural for puppies to get lost, one should expect that. Then Boggel heard the whimpering behind one of the beer crates, where the little tyke was exploring his new world. Gertruida’s therapy-group went into a downward spiral because they realised they didn’t search well enough, making them a bunch of failures. Again, Gertruida worked her magic. This time her success was even more obvious: her patients all tried to hide puppies where the others won’t find them.

“Gertruida, it’s all okay to get us to feeling better about the puppies. That’s small fry. This thing is a bit more complicated.  And remember: I’m a grown man. We don’t talk about these things. Cowboys don’t cry.”

“No man. When I found out my bottle was empty – just the other night – I cried a little.” Dreyer smiles triumphantly. “I thought it was justified. And you know what? I felt great afterwards…but maybe it’s because I remembered where I stashed my emergency supply.”

“Look, I know what you guys are trying to do. I really appreciate it, I do. But all the talking in the world isn’t going to bring Fanny back. It’s over. That’s the only way to think about it, and I have to get myself into such a state that I can wrap my head around it. Boggel! Bring me another, will you?”

“I have just the song for you, Vetfaan. Let’s listen….”

Of course it doesn’t help.

But then, the Cactus doesn’t last the weekend, either…

And fortunately, the puppies didn’t get lost again.