“I thought England would choose to remain in the European Union,” Servaas says as hy sips his beer. It’s been a quiet morning in Boggel’s Place; Vetfaan is tinkering with the tractor’s engine again and Gertruida must still return from Upington, where she went to get more wool. The blanket she’s crocheting is coming on nicely indeed; it’s going to be another long, cold winter.
“Ag, I don’t know, Servaas. Whether they’re in or out doesn’t bother me. But you know the English – they’re a proud nation. Or at least…they were. There was a time they ruled the world and now they’re just a small island. Who cares?”
“Money cares, that’s what. The City of London is an economic hub, Boggel. They pull a lot of strings and expect a lot of people to jump when they do. This isn’t good news for the financial world – and we’re not going to escape the effects of this vote.”
They fall silent as the lorry from Kalahari Vervoer stops in front of Sammy’s Shop. When Gertruida gets out on the passenger side, Servaas brightens.
“She’s bummed a lift back! Vetfaan will be pleased; he was supposed to fetch her tomorrow. And…I’d love to hear what her opinion is.”
Within minutes, Gertruida has to listen to a barrage of questions.
“Okay, okay, you guys. Let me tell you a story. ”
Once upon a time – long ago – Zebra had a bright idea.
“Look, we are always scared of Lion and Leopard. Why, as soon as I lower my head to eat some grass, I have to look up again to check out the vicinity. And when I want to drink water, I can only manage the tiniest mouthful before I have to do the same.
“Now you, Giraffe and Kudu, you have the same problem. So do you, Springbuck and Klipspringer. Even big, strong, Buffalo suffers the same fate.The threat, my friends, is universal – we all are in danger of being the main dish on the supper table of our enemies every day.
“Now, here’s what I suggest: let’s group together and become one big, happy herd. Some could be on the lookout while the others eat and drink in peace. We’ll share feeding, drinking and lookout duties amongst us rather than having to do it all by ourselves. Huh? What do you say?”
The other animals thought about Zebra’s suggestion and couldn’t decide.
“Well, then we’ll vote on this.That’s the only way we’d know whether it’s a good idea or not.” Little Duiker, the most agile of them all, didn’t like such long meetings. There were places to go, things to do.
The animals voted. Yes, the majority said, it’s better if they herd together.
Zebra’s plan worked well for a while. The animals shared lookout duties and they felt safe. Then, something strange happened. Due to a drought in the Baboon Territory, the baboons started looking for a better place to live. When they heard about the Big Herd, they headed that way in big numbers.
“We want what you have,” Baboon told Zebra. “It’s only fair. We are all animals, aren’t we? Go on, share your good fortune with us.”
“But you’re not an antelope, Mister Baboon. You guys don’t eat like us; you dig up the soil to get to scorpions and things that live underground. We only eat bits of grass here and there, allowing the veld to recover again. But…once you’re finished eating, the veld won’t be the same until after it rains once more.
“No, Mister Baboon, I’m sorry but we can’t allow you here.”
“Gee, how selfish!” Gentle Eland shook his head. “How can you be like that? Poor Baboon has nowhere to go; you can’t refuse to give him some shelter and food? No, I think Baboon deserves some compassion. He should stay.”
Now, by that time, the herd had become extremely large. Antelopes of all shapes and sizes grazed alongside each other and the news of Baboon’s plight soon became a topic of serious discussion. Most of the animals seemed to be in favour of allowing Baboon to stay, but Zebra put his hoof down.
“Then I’ll leave. I’ll take my chances. You guys want Baboon to stay? Why, go ahead and be my guest. I shall find my own piece of veld to graze. Goodbye and good riddance!”
The other animals thought Zebra was being stupid and welcomed Baboon with bright smiles.
“Shame, we feel sorry for you,” they told Baboon. “Come, we’ve gathered some berries for you.”
Now, it didn’t take too long for them to realise that Zebra was right. Baboon’s destructive way of feeding soon had the veld bare of grass. Worse, Baboon even started telling them that the veld was his, and they had no right to tell him where to feed. When the animals grumbled about this, Baboon threatened to fill up the watering hole with stones.
“He’ll never do that,” Kudu said. “Did we not help when he was starving? No, he’s just bluffing.”
But Baboon wasn’t bluffing. When the animals went for a drink the next day, they found a great heap of stones where the water once was. The Big Herd was disappointed, angry and disillusioned all at once.
“It’s your fault,” Kudu told Eland.
“But…I thought Buffalo was supposed to guard the hole?”
“No, it was Klipspringer’s turn…or was it Duiker?”
The herd had become too big. While Zebra was there, he kept an orderly roster of guard duties; but when he left, nobody stepped up to do that. In the ensuing argument, Kudu butted Eland with his giant horns. Eland stomped on Klipspringer. And Duiker, the most agile of them all, simply ran off to search for Zebra.
“You see, the idea of a communal unity seemed like a great idea in the beginning. But the animals ignored one important aspect: they were all different. They ate different sorts of plants. Every specie had it’s own habits. And they all liked the company of their own type. Antelopes come in different sizes, shapes and colours. Zebra has stripes for camouflage, Kudu has horns to fight with and Buffalo is big and strong. Herding them together was a mistake – while they felt safer, they had to give up who and what they were.
“Then, when Baboon showed up, he not only ruined their peaceful co-existence, he also made them aware of their differences.
“A big herd, Servaas, can’t last forever. At some point they have to split up to retain their identities and ways of life. Today you’ll find small herds scattered here and there, because that is the way to deal with outside threats. A smaller herd needs less water and grass, escapes danger with greater ease and can travel farther with less problems.
“It is true for animals. It is true for the UK. It will be true for the European Union…and eventually, after the veld has been destroyed, for South Africa.”