Tag Archives: past

The Diary (#3)

A2_1_28_02040-1024x645Gertruida scans the next few pages.

“He goes on and on to describe the way he felt tremendously tired after his experience, and how the Bushman family cared for him, He also mentions a strange excitement – a type of yearning to relive that incident. By this time he seems to have worked out a basic way of communicating -not only through gestures and facial expressions, but  even to the point that the four of them started sharing words. It seems as if the logical thing happened: you point at a bow or a tree, repeat the correct word or term over and over, until it gets repeated by the listener. He gives a list of words here with their meanings. I won’t even try to pronounce them.

“Oh yes…and here he goes on…”

****

I lost track of time. How long have I been here? I tried to understand their way of thinking about time, but they don’t seem to have any inkling of the concept. They’ll refer to ‘tomorrow’ or next week in the same way. Similarly, the past seems to be the past – whether it’s yesterday or the last time it rained. Also, counting isn’t something they really do, except: one, two, many. Anything more than two, is ‘many’.

At first I thought them to be dumb, but the more I observe them, the more I understand the way the do things. The most important moment in their lives, is here and now. They don’t dwell on the past, neither do they care about tomorrow. The present is their only reality.

Of course I don’t understand them properly – their language is far too complicated. But every night, the old man tells them things. I think it’s stories, but some of his talks certainly refer to me. The other two then listen with rapt attention, occasionally staring at me in wonder (of shock, or awe…I’m not quite sure which).

***

They draped me in the karos again last night. I’m so tired now, I can hardly concentrate – but, being afraid I’d forget the details, I’m forcing myself to pen down what had happened.

The initial sequence of my dream-journey (for the lack of a better word) was  similar to the first experience I had. This time, however, my impression was that I travelled to some time in the future. Or maybe it was a nightmare, I don’t know. While I was elevated above the Earth, I saw what I can only describe as a sequence of devastation. I saw smoke, people fleeing, dwellings burnt. There were armies of people at war with others. More terrifying, I saw the desert growing larger and larger, destroying life in the process. Rivers dried up. I heard strange sounds, huge booming sounds, that shook the Earth.

“What is this?” I asked, terror-stricken.

“The end,” I heard my own voice answering. “Mankind is destroying itself. In this future there is no future.”

“But…” I tried to make sense out of it all.

“Don’t interrupt. Look.” I answered myself.

And I did. Then it dawned on me that the fighting was not because people hated each other. I saw a man with strange eyes – almost Mongolian in appearance – at the back of the fighting columns. This man  was providing food to several armies of men. He stood next to a huge ship, directing the off-loading of all kinds of weaponry – most of which I’ve never seen before.

“Who is that?” I asked.

“He comes from the East,” my voice said. “He will take everything and leave nothing. He is clever and will make people destroy themselves completely before building his many houses on the plains. When he has taken what he needs, he will leave only the desert behind. Nobody will be able to stop him.”

I looked, and the scene unfolded as my voice had described. I felt tremendously sad and overwhelmed.

“Why…?”

“That’s why you are here. To observe. To learn. You have work to do.”

And then, suddenly, I was transported back to the fire.

***

Time… How long is it after my second trip? I must have slept for days – it definitely feels like it. I’m weaker than ever, but the broth the woman makes certainly helps. I am slowly recovering and feeling stronger.

I tried to talk with them about my journeys, but the visions were so complicated, I can hardly convey the basic outlines of what I had experienced. The old man has taken to sit with me fo long periods of time, drawing pictures in the sand. This morning he made me gasp.

kubu-islandFirst, he drew – rather accurately – the outline of Kubu.  He pointed at it, then at us. Next he drew the same outline, looked at me with tremendous sadness in  his eyes, and slowly erased the picture by wiping the sand smooth with his withered hand. Lastly, he drew the picture again, pointed at me, and walked away, leaving the picture to haunt me.. 

I didn’t understand. Not then. Only later.

***

“I still think he was delusional.” Vetfaan downs his beer, smacking his lips before continuing. “I mean, this story is too far-fetched to be real. Meeting stray Bushmen, travelling into the future and the past, and now strange drawings in the sand. Of course he didn’t understand. He wasn’t thinking straight at all. Poor bugger…”

“Ah, Vetfaan. Ye of small faith…” Gertruida turns the page before placing the book on the counter. “I think his descriptions are far too detailed to be mere figments of imagination. This man had an exceptional experience, and we shouldn’t discard his visions out of hand. Remember, this was 1965, fifty years ago. How could he have known about what’s happening in Africa today? That description of the man at the ship sent shivers down my spine.

“No, there’s something here. Spook, I tell you, did indeed travel to other times. Or had a prophetic vision. Or something. Maybe he skipped through other dimensions.

“Be that as it may, I think this story is far from finished. We’ll just have to read the rest.”

Little do the group at the bar know how well Gertruida summed up the situation. Boggel serves another round when she picks up the book again…

And days pass like this
Me, growing desperate
And you, you answering
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Everytime I ask you
That when, how and where
You always reply me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Advertisements

Wire-trapping the Past

Credit: bergsiggamefarm.co.za

Credit: bergsiggamefarm.co.za

Whenever the talk in Boggel’s Place turns to sheep farming (which is rather often), somebody will inevitably say something about wild dogs – those painted animals with the vicious hunting instincts. That they are a threat and capable of wreaking havoc, is above questioning, yet it is Vetfaan who usually gets up quietly to go and smoke his pipe outside. He knows not all vermin need to be shot on sight. No matter what their usual habits are and how much damage they have done in the past, he’d never forget the incident on his farm…

It happened towards the end of the 70’s, when he was a young lad on his father’s farm, but he can still recall those eyes when he found a wild dog caught in a wire snare out in the veld. Snares – as illegal as they were (and still are) – were used by some workers to trap small antelopes and rabbits. Of course Vetfaan’s father took a dim view of such practices, but this didn’t stop the trapping.

One day, while patrolling the fence around the farm, Vetfaan heard shrill yapping, a piercing cacophony of sound, emanating from a koppie just north of the fence. This was noman’s land, an arid wasteland where even the sparse Kalahari bushes didn’t attempt to grow, so Vetfaan climbed through the fence to investigate.

The wild dog had his foot caught in a wire snare and the animal must have endured torture for a considerable period of time. The animal was gaunt and in obvious distress. The howls of pain decreased to a whimper and Vetfaan approached as the animal cowered down on the ground. As usual on these patrols, Vetfaan was armed with his .22 rifle – in case he came across a mamba or some other danger.

There was only one way to address the situation. A few yards away from the animal, Vetfaan stopped to load the rifle. Putting the wild dog out of its misery was not only the humane thing to do, it would also prevent further stock losses on their farm. Vetfaan knew this. The wild dog, it seemed, also understood the inevitability of its demise. It lowered the once-proud head onto it’s trapped foot and waited. The wailing ceased.

In that eerie silence, the sound of the bolt ramming the bullet into the breech seemed unnaturally loud. Still, the animal didn’t react, except to close his eyes. Vetfaan lifted the gun. Took aim. Took up the slack on the trigger.

And couldn’t fire.

It just seemed so wrong: the animal was helpless, rendered incapable of escaping by the trap set by some heartless hand. Vetfaan was suddenly struck by the two wrongs: the trap – and the vermin caught in it. The wild dog, after all, was not on his father’s ground and had most probably done what it had been designed to do: hunting for prey. On the other hand, the trap was highly illegal and a coward’s way of hunting. If he killed the beast….would that be right?

He sat down on the red Kalahari sand and looked at the animal more intently. It was, indeed, a young male. Although gaunt and obviously fatigued, there was no denying that he used to be a magnificent animal. A live, healthy, magnificent wild dog. The animal opened his eyes to look at Vetfaan. He saw the silent plea: get it over with, will you?

Vetfaan shouldered the gun, took careful aim, and pulled the trigger. Despite the small calibre of the rifle, the boom of the shot seemed to echo over the veld forever.

For a while they remained as they were: wild beast and human frozen as silent statues under the blazing sun of the Northern Cape.

Then the animal moved it’s foot. Vetfaan could then see that only one toe of the one front foot was caught in the snare. The animal gave Vetfaan a last look – a lingering stare – before limping off. The bullet had gone true: snapping off the restraining wire that had kept the animal captive for so long.

Of course Vetfaan never told his dad.

It must have been a year later that he once again patrolled that fence. Acting on instinct he climbed through the fence at that spot to revisit the place where he had freed the wild dog. The shot-off wire was still there, rusting away in the veld.

That night he slept at the half-way spot like he usually did. The perimeter of the large farm was so long that his father had built a small stone hut at the place, especially for the cold winter nights when sleeping outdoors would have been very foolish indeed. The hut had a bed, a fireplace and a few candles – it was a simple shelter to rest in before setting out on the next leg of the patrol. Vetfaan ate his meagre meal, sat next to the fire for a while and turned in to sleep.

That night he heard the soft padding of feet around the hut. He wasn’t particularly worries as the door was shut and the embers still glowed reassuringly in the small hearth. That is, until he hear the soft growl…

Kalahari lions are unpredictable animals. In the vast open spaces of the Kalahari desert, their pale-gold fur serves as excellent camouflage, but that is maybe the only positive factor in their fight for survival. Stalking is extremely difficult and prey is scarce. These cats have learned to survive by eating almost anything they come across: from defying the quills of a porcupine, feeding on decaying carcasses and catching birds – to cannibalism. If it has meat, the lion will eat it.

Even humans.

Vetfaan stoked up the fire, checked the door and wondered how many puny .22 bullets would be needed to stop a lion. It became a long night of listening to the growling outside and the thumping of his heart.

Some time before dawn, the sounds outside ceased. Was the lion standing still? Or did it lie down in front of the door, scenting the fear of the human inside? Would it wait there until Vetfaan was forced to leave? The silence stretched out in an unbearable nightmare of possibilities…

Then, suddenly, there were sounds of a…scuffle? Running feet and indistinguishable sounds. Growls, Heavy breathing and more grunts.

And then…complete silence.

Once the sun started rising in the east, Vetfaan slid the bolt back to ease the door open to a crack. Nothing. No lion.

spoorThe only evidence of the night’s activity was the myriad of lion tracks all around the hut. Imprinted in the sand there was no mistaking the large paw marks of an adult lion.That, and the strange tracks of a wild dog, with one foot missing a toe.

***

Vetfaan once said that people are too quick to judge, especially when they insist on analyzing the past. The activists  now baying for the removal of Cecil John Rhodes’ statue, his name from universities and even his remains from the Matopos, seem to think that they can rewrite the history of the continent. The current fashion is to blame people long dead for the hardships of today; while completely ignoring the fact that we are what we are because we refuse to face the simple fact that we have inherited the world the way it is. We can’t change history. But we can learn from it.

And, like that wild dog, it is sometimes excitingly worthwhile to remember that very few people were just good or just bad. The Rhodes Trust with the Rhodes scholarships have benefitted more than 7000 students from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica & Commonwealth Caribbean, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan and Southern Africa. Notable world figures gained from these scholarships, including heads of state like: Bob Hawke, Wasim Sajjad, Bill Clinton, Dom Mintoff, John Turner and Tony Abbott.

In Vetfaan’s mind. shooting that helpless wild dog because of its perceived history would have been wrong. Sadly, he also reckons the activists  won’t stop. They’ve trapped Cecil John Rhodes in a wire trap. They’ve snared Jan van Riebeeck. Who’s next? Paul Kruger? Queen Victoria? Any historical figure with an European surname?

His message is simple: live and let live…but please get on with life…

Lucienne

_mg_2302 (1)I woke up that Sunday to be a stranger in my own house. The floor had been swept, the stale bread was feeding some desperate doves outside and every pencil and scrap of paper placed neatly on the desk.  Even the previous night’s empty wine bottles had disappeared somewhere…I had no clue what happened to them. And of course, the cursor had lost its threatening behaviour..

***

It all started on the windy Saturday – barely twenty-four hours before – with a knock on the door (the doorbell never worked, anyway). That’s the first time – as far as I know – I met Lucienne. She was gorgeous.

“You advertised, Sir,” she said, “and I’d like to apply.”

I stared at her. Young – twenty-something. Close-cropped hair and with no need for make-up, she might as well have stepped out of a fairytale. Cinderella, maybe, complete with the faded jeans and checked shirt. Much the way Mary used to dress – not for elegance, but for comfort. Blond, blue eyes, a body to die for. Radiant smile, freckles. Pixie-like ears and a pert, pointed nose. The picture of health, femininity. Vibrant, alive.

“Er…yes…,” I managed.

“Well, I’m here. I’m Lucienne.” As if I should have known.

My advert in the local little rag simply stated, Housekeeper needed. Apply at No 7, Forrest Drive, during office hours. Lodging available. And now she was there, the only response to my plea.

“Oh.”

“I clean, cook, wash and iron. I’ll need the spare room on the first floor for lodging. I don’t eat much and don’t drink at all. Hate smoking. And when I’ve finished working, I’ll be around somewhere, doing my own thing.”

Her direct approach was so surprising, so self-assured, that I simply nodded. She seemed to know exactly what the house was all about. A woman who did her homework as well as my housework?  

“Move aside,” she said, and stepping into the lounge. She stopped, stared, and let out a low whistle.

“The place is a mess. I hate it when it looks like this.” Sighing, she flopped down on my favourite chair. I could not help noticing the well-formed calves.

She was right, of course. After my successful bid at the auction (‘You bought a bargain, Mister. We expected a lot of interest, but only you showed up. Well, there you are. Sometimes it happens this way.’); I moved in and unpacked my clothes. The rest was already there: the ancient furniture a testimony to the craftsmanship of a time long past.

The dining room housed the massive mahogany table with twelve matching chairs. A sideboard of solid oak and a three-shelved dinner wagon were filled with antique silver cutlery and bone China.  The scene set the tone for the rest of the old house. Brass beds, relief decorations for the walls and the cast-iron ceilings, parquet flooring, and numerous Edwardian and George Rex cupboards, chests, ornamental hearths and much, much more. This was a house that must have seen several generations weave their ways through life and now carried the evidence of many decade’s worth of collecting, hoarding and storing.

The library is my favourite. Mahogany shelves lined the walls, straining under matching leather-bound volumes of books by Poe, Rider Haggard, Shakespeare, Byron and Kipling.  All the classics were there – from Greek mythology to Africana. A surprisingly large section of the shelves housed a more modern collection of the works of Sagan, Hancock, Grigsby, Gribbon and Reese. Whoever stayed here last, must have had a taste for science fiction. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Maybe I should have.

Despite my curiosity, nobody could tell much about the previous occupants. A small, bald man with a pointed nose, the shop assistant said. The newspaper boy said no, he was a burly man with budging biceps and a pirate-like face. Ah yes, declared Mister Vorster at the bookstore, the thin chap with the reading glasses suspended by a piece of string around his sinewy neck. It made no sense. It was obvious they had never met the man.

The one cupboard in the bedroom did contain clothes. Victorian dresses and some frilly stuff, some with whale bones in the sides. Female attire of long ago. Sexy, if you like vintage stuff. I left that just the way I found it – my few jeans and T-shirts barely filled a shelf in the other huge Rex standalone.

“You write?”

The question caught me off-guard. Yes, of course I write and in my sober moments I sometimes think of myself as an author. The occasional story I produce get published in one of those glossy magazines nobody reads, but looks good on the strategically placed coffee table in  game lodge or ambassador’s  residence. People page through those during bored minutes of waiting for whatever must happen next, to glance at the pictures of old cars or dilapidated wind pumps or elephants with raised trunks and impossibly-long tusks.

“Yes. I’m working on a book.”

That’s true as well. The Book has been nagging at my creative mind for years now, which is the other reason why I resigned at Cluster & Constellation, the advertising agency where I had churned out jingles for a living. Surely, I reckoned, my writing demanded something more of a challenge than thinking out lines like: We put the style back in your lifestyle, or Whoop up your golden years at Shady Pines. The Book will be the Ultimate Love Story about love and life and overcoming impossible odds. Writing allows one such fantasies – and do we not all harbour these even in our saddest realties?

And, of course, I had promised Mary I’d write; that I’d follow the dream we once shared. This story would have been pointless if I didn’t mention that.

She surveyed the mess in the livingroom, where papers, notebooks and pencils cluttered almost every available surface.

“You’re not very neat.” The statement had an accusing tone.

“I’m sorry.” Staring at the fine lines of the curves under the shirt made me speak without thinking.

“I’ll just have to get started, then.” She got up. I gawped at the perfectly formed derriere as it retreated towards the kitchen.

I sat down at the keyboard. Here, at least, I feel safe. Writing is my haven – I can escape the memories of the attack and invent a more pleasing reality for my mind. I never write – or talk – about the past. The three masked men, the gun, the blindfold. I shouted, they thrust a rag into my mouth. Then I heard them arguing about Mary.

Mary is – was – my wife-to-be. An artist. She painted. She was very good and her pieces sold at surprising prices. She believed in beauty and joy, and her work left you smiling. She was that sort of person.

They found a coat hanger and tied my hands and feet, rendering me helpless. Then I heard them rape her.

And then they shot her.

And I sold the small-holding and all her paintings because I didn’t want to see her joy on the canvasses and remember her smile. I wanted to forget about her. Her smile. Her eyes. Her screams…

But I couldn’t, of course…

The blinking cursor stared back at me, daring me to depress a key – any key. My fingers refused, simply because I should not have been thinking about Mary. It happens every time when I allow my mind to call up the memories I have tried so desperately to bury under sentences and paragraphs I create. In my word-world I can prevent rape and murder. I can write about love and beauty and couples sipping cocktails at sunset. In my world families stay in comfortable houses behind picket fences where the Labrador slobbers a welcome whenever the hero returns from yet another adventure. Oh, and the crooks and the thieves and the rapists always get what’s coming to them. Happy endings. Smiling faces.

It’s just become so hard to keep my word-world alive. It has to survive despite the fact that my real-life reality is so obscenely terrible.

***

“Do you mind if I make the bed?”

The question catches me off-guard. The bed. The one where Mary died. The forensics removed the blankets and sheets for evidence (Exhibits D, 1 to 3, they called it at the trial). I moved it here but can never sleep on it again.

“No, I don’t use that room at all. I sleep down here, in the library. On the couch.” I pointed. “Sleeping bag.”

“I’ll make the bed, then.” Said with finality.

I want to protest, but she stares me down. Her eyes tell me to shut up, she wants to get on with the job. I sigh and slouch over to the kitchen. Coffee. I must have coffee, my staple diet since the attack. As I push open the door, my jaw drops.

The place is spotless. The mugs gleam down from their shelf, the sink shines happily, the floor is spotless. The percolator on the stove emits the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee. A mug, the sugar and a small milk jar wait patiently next to the stove.

I’m on my third mug (still haven’t written anything), when Lucienne tells me she’s done for the day. Thank you, I’ll be in my room if you need anything. Just like that. I can’t think of anything to say.

Oh, she says while standing in the doorway, I opened the Pinotage. To let it breathe, she says. It allows the wine to show off its bouquet, she says.

I continue my fight with the empty screen and the accusing cursor until it all becomes too much and I allow myself a small glass of wine. Pinotage. How many bottles of the stuff did Mary and me guzzle down, smiling into each other’s eyes? And now, for the first time since the funeral, I close my eyes to recall her laughter, her joy de vivre, her uninhibited love-making. I get a bigger glass. I have to drown out the pictures that come flooding into my mind. No! I shall not remember! No!

But I do.

And I open the next bottle.

It is dark outside. Curiously, I notice there is no light under the door to the spare room. Did she go to bed this early? Then I look at my watch to realise it is past midnight already.

Finish the glass, you fool. You’re not going to write anything tonight. Go to bed. Sleep it off. Try again tomorrow.

***

That’s how it happened, I swear. And then…

Sometime during the night, I heard the rustle of silk as she sat down on the couch next to me. Soft silk…of a time long gone by.

“I’m an artist too,” she said. “I restore things. That’s why I love this house – I fix things here.”

I can’t say why it happened. Or even how. But I remember her hands. Gentle, warm fingers.  Her warm breath in my neck as she tells me the past is past, but never gone. Then her arms circled my body, hugging me close.

She sighed, resting her head on my chest. Be happy, she said, become the man who dreamed stories of beauty and love again. That is your destiny, you cannot escape it. We shared the silence then; a long and comfortable quiet; while her fingers explored my face, my chest…and more. And when the release came, my mind exploded in a  display of a million colours. Images of Mary filled my thoughts – laughing Mary, happy Mary, joyful Mary.

And sleep rolled over me like a foggy mist.

I remember nothing after that.

And now, the next morning, I stumble bleary-eyed to the kitchen, where the percolator has just started perking. Coffee. The mug and the sugar and the milk stand ready.

After the second mug, I knock on Lucienne’s door to thank her for the coffee. Or so I tell myself.

I’m almost not surprised to see the bed made, the room as neat as can be. Like nobody has been there for a long, long time.  Just a note on the pillow.

I am Lucienne. I’ll be around, but my work here is done for now. Sell the house. It’ll take time, so finish the book. In September a sad man will make an offer, which you must accept so I can continue working here. Please leave my clothes undisturbed – I’ll need them again in the future.

L

 The cursor blinks at me. Invitingly, not accusingly.

And at last I’ll start writing. A love story – a story of a house, or maybe a heart, occupied by beauty. And, as all lovers know, a story like this knows no time, neither does it have an ending.

I’ll write.

I’ll tell the story of Mary. And Lucienne.  Both…because there is a dimension to Love that refuses to acknowledge the boundaries mere mortals live by.

Did he…or not? A plea to the Media in relation to the Pistorius case

oscarThe media will have a field day. I’m sure there are bookies out there taking bets. And, all over the world, people are guessing what really happened on that Valentine morning; when the wrapped gifts waited for the surprised smiles and subtle hints of love.

Instead, the neighbours heard shouts…and shots.

And Reeva Steenkamp lay dead behind a door. A hero became a villain. A model became a corpse.

No matter how the media depicts it; or how we judge the situation; it remains a tragedy. Two families have to live with unspeakable sorrow – even guilt. Should they have seen it coming? Said anything? Done anything? How could they have helped to prevent this awful reality of death, court cases and public outcry?

The sad fact is that justice will take it’s course. The prosecution, in typical South African style (Think: Marikana, Fochville, Fidentia and even the Nkandla case), will face serious questions. The defence will be brilliant. There’ll be red faces in court and hushed whispers afterwards. The tabloids will have a field day and the authorities will wish society had a short memory.

The fact is: a man killed a woman – one that he professed to love. It sounds so much like the Dewani case, it’s scary. Both men claim they’re innocent. In both their cases, the lady in question died a violent death.

But…

The one man owns up to the fact that he pulled the trigger, and the other pleads mental instability. There’s a lot to hear in those facts.

So: on behalf of the people of Rolbos, Oudoom asks for silence. Stop the gossip and the guessing and the unfounded opinions. Only one man knows what happened that terrible night. If he fired those shots in anger, he must face the wrath of the law. If he made a horrible mistake – then, too, justice must be served. In both cases, we must remember and have sympathy for the pain and the anguish inflicted on two unsuspecting families.

We must, too, urge the media to focus an equal amount of attention on the farm murders and White genocide in our country. Black on Black violence is still at atrocious levels. We want similar headlines and photos for murdered and maimed young ladies after they have been raped. Please highlight the inability of the government to help youths find a job. Tell us about the way the president is squandering millions on his household, while people are freezing to death on the Cape Flats. Make us aware of the deficiencies in the hospitals and schools around the country. Inform us about the defence force and their role in the Congo – and why it is important for our young men to have to die there.  Be truthful about our economy and the dismal future we have to prepare for. We want to know why the railways fell into disrepair and why the national airline is in such a mess. And while we’re about it, let us know what – exactly – is happening to our electricity supply and why maintenance of strategic assets has fallen by the wayside.

Nobody thinks the Oscar/Reeva case is excusable. Fact is: it happened, and there’s nothing we can do or say that’ll change that. Let justice be done and let us close that chapter.

The media, however, should address the future for a change and stop digging in the past. They should guide the nation towards a better tomorrow, and not make us wander around – aimlessly – in the sordid details of yesterday. While history provides the foundation for the future, it is up to every individual to reach out towards the day when we all strive towards a country where life is precious, and we all have an equal chance to make people proud to be South Africans.

How to do this?

Not easy. It’ll require stern editors and visionary journalists.

Sadly, people want to read about the mistakes other people made and the sensation surrounding these individual tragedies. We love pointing fingers and whispering behind our hands. We have not progressed to the level of showing compassion to those that have wronged; but we are experts in ignoring the obvious catastrophe we are heading for.

Is it so difficult? When will we learn that news is only news when it is aimed at improving lives and not of value when it silences the sirens of warning we must all heed? Every ‘Oscar’ headline steals away a front page aiming to improve the lives of those of us who are struggling to survive in the New South Africa.

Let us sympathise with the families concerned with the Oscar Pistorius case. Whatever the outcome, it won’t bring Reeva back. But let us not lose focus: sensationalism has a place and we must live with it – but what is sauce for the goose, is also sauce for the gander. Let us then break the silence about our farm murders, the economy and the state of our country as well.

Societies do not survive because they blame the past. They build a future because it’s the only option. Let us face reality, allow justice to be done, and focus on helping each other past the hurdles of our current situation. If we stop wallowing in scandal, we might just bask in the promise of a better tomorrow.

Like the homeless young man in the video, South Africa has the potential to wow the world once again. We did it in 1994. It is time to revive that spirit and start telling the world we aren’t wallowers in the past. We believe we can create a better life for everybody who lives here. We can forgive; we can move on; we can feel each other’s pain…and we can stop casting stones. Instead, we can build a castle…

There’s only one requirement: making everybody believe it is possible.

May the media rise to the challenge.

Can we now stop apologising for the past? Please?

The Most Honourable Minister Xingwana

“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.