The news about the events in Daveyton has shocked Rolbos to the core. They’re unanymous in expressing their absolute disgust at the officers involved – and offer their deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of the poor man. Gertruida – for the first time since she arrived in Rolbos – wept openly.
“It’s almost prophetic,” Oudoom says, “a warning. The problem is much bigger than the policemen they’ve arrested.”
“What are you talking about, Dominee?” Servaas is in a dark mood and has no desire for small ltalk.
“Society. I’m talking about our society. Where we’ve come from and where we’re going. We’ve become unstable a long time ago, if you remember the history we lived through. Consider it for a second:
“First the English came. They started a chain of events by wanting to grab our diamonds and gold, way back in the middle 1800’s. This dragged us through the Anglo-Boer wars, killing thousand of men, women and children. And, I’ll remind you, the casualties included all races in the country. They knew we were bound to the country by love and by roots – yet they drove on, regardless of the lives lost.
“Then we became a colonial state. We got dragged into world wars. We mounted a rebellion against joining the wars, resulting in people being executed. Again, our men were forced into battles, again we paid with blood for being bound to a cause we didn’t believe in, especially WW l.
“And then we had the Nationalist government. Oh, they were clever! They fed the nation certain choice bits of propaganda. They selected the information they allowed citizens to digest. Young white men were conscripted to the army or forced to spend time in jail. Other parts of society had no choice but to adhere to the laws of the day. White and Black were affected and got dragged into a devilish concoction of laws, lies and deceit. We might as well have been tied to that police van they showed on the news. Even the Church played a part. You could say those clergymen were behind the wheel…
“Finally, here we are. Society is unbalanced. We’ve come from a blood-spattered past and we haven’t recovered from it. Now take our policemen: they are exposed to the most horrible crimes, murders and rapes on a daily basis. Last year, it was revealed that more than 100,000 policemen and women suffered from depression, more than 2700 had post-traumatic stress disorder and 84 attempted suicide. They get dragged to death by what they have to see and do on a daily basis. We expect them to act normally, even though they live through worse things than we see on TV? How can they be normal? And don’t forget: the top brass in the police haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory over the past few years, either.
“We, of course, aren’t just spectators. We are the society they serve. We’re part of this. Blame the politics, the economy, the churches, the past, whatever – it doesn’t really change what has happened in the country. Point is: we’re tied to what is happening around us.”
“So, Dominee,” Servaas cups his face in his hands, “we are facing the same fate that poor taxi driver had to live through?”
“Two things could have saved him: the van could have stopped, or he had to be untied. Now, we are being dragged along by socio-political events, and that van isn’t going to stop on it’s own accord. Our only chance of survival depends on getting off the chains that bind us to the van.”
“And how do we do that, Oudoom?” Gertruida raises an eyebrow as she orders a next round.
“The chains that bind? Now let’s see…” Oudoom counts off the points on his fingers. “First, we must let go of the past. Lot’s of wrong things there, sure, but it doesn’t help – it binds. Second, we need responsible government. Third, we must start listening to each other. Fourth, we must bring back kindness and respect. Fifth, discipline must be brought back: in schools, in our homes, at work. Punctuality would be a good place to start. Sixth, we must create an atmosphere of caring and kindness. And seventh, we must stop shying away from religion. Bring it back into our schools. Establish it in government and businesses. Let people respect their faith once more.”
“Is there such a place on earth, Dominee? You’re crazy.”
“There’s only one South Africa, Servaas. We have a unique blend and mix of people here. The van isn’t going to stop just because we sit around and mope about it. We can help each other loosen the knots, or we’ll perish. It’s as simple as that.”
“So it’s up to each individual? The government won’t do it?”
“The government, Servaas, is the van…”