Tag Archives: wedding

Gertruida’s Unwedding. (#1)

4535793911_204x219Whenever you walk in to Boggel’s Place to find an icy silence, it’s best to make a sharp U-turn, take the steps down to Voortrekker Weg and go and sit on the old bench in front of the church. At least you’ll be able to enjoy a different type of quiet there and feel the sun warming up the day after a cold Kalahari night.

Today is one of those days.

Gertruida started it all by saying something about the president. Now – no matter from which side of the window you’re looking through, the view remains dismal; almost like the veld in winter. Moreover, after months and months of trying to be optimistic, the group in the bar finally gave up and chose to remain silent rather than rehashing all those previous conversations.

Realising her mistake, Gertruida sulks in her corner while the rest refuse to look in her direction. This is, as we all know, a typical Afrikaner way of going about difficult situations: if something really scratches the paint off your tractor, you either joke about it or remain silent.

Vetfaan arrives late after fixing the carburettor on his Massey Fergusson again this morning. He, too, is in a foul mood because the tractor still won’t start. He pushes open the door to Boggel’s Place, hoping to find his friends chatting happily about the weekend’s rugby. Instead, he is met with the stony silence following Gertruida’s remark. This doesn’t help to lift his mood.

Maybe that’s the way this Monday would have ended, too, if a run-down pickup didn’t rattle down Voortrekker Weg at that moment. Vetfaan does the obligatory U-turn to stare at the dilapidated vehicle as it trundles to a stop next to the church. He watches as a grizzled old man gets out, scratches at his unkempt grey hair and kicks the front wheel. Preferring to take a chance with the visitor, Vetfaan walks over.

“Trouble?”

“Ja, man. I’m fed up with this old thing.” He almost misses his next kick at the front wheel, recovers his balance and smiles apologetically. “I’m Herman Grove. Came all the way from Kimberley to see a lady called Gertruida. You wouldn’t know her, would you?”

“Of course I do. Why…what…?” Vetfaan doesn’t want to pry, but his curiosity gets the better of him.

“It seems she might be related to me, see? Apparently we’re married.”

This is enough to make Vetfaan smile.  Gertruida? Married to this old geezer? Now that’s something to get Boggel’s Place buzzing again. Taking Herman by the arm, he leads the new arrival to Boggel’s Place.

“Ladi-i-e-es and gentlemen! Please welcome Mister Herman Grove, the esteemed husband of our dear Gertruida! Boggel…a round on the house, please!”

You get the same reaction in the bar when South Africa loses to Japan. Disbelief, shock, horror and a tinge of cynical suspicion that this isn’t happening. What? Gertruida married? And she never breathed a word…?

“I-I-It’s not like that. Or at least, I d-don’t know.” Herman stammers. “I-I just had to find out, that’s all.”

“Harrumph! This isn’t funny, you guys!” Gertruida, sure that somebody wants to make fun of her, glares at the group. “Of all things…”

“Y-you’re Gertruida?”

“No, you prankster, I’m Joan of Arc. Pleased to meet you, I’m sure.” Even Boggel blanches at the tone of her voice.

“I-I’m sorry. But that’s what Home Affairs said when I wanted to renew my ID.  On their records they have it that we’re married. I don’t recall ever being married, you see? A few years ago I had an accident and developed a touch of amnesia – but it was a temporary thing and I thought I recovered completely. Now, Home Affairs are adamant that they’re right, so I suppose I could have forgotten. I-I’m so terribly sorry.”

For the first time in her life, Gertruida simply stands there, gaping, not knowing what to say.

“Married?”

“Yes, that’s what they told me. But I can’t remember, you see? It’s so confusing.”

Gertruida takes a deep breath, another long, good look at Herman, shakes her head and finally finds something sensible to say.

“Give me your ID, let me see.”

The new ID card with Herman’s name and details gets handed over. She stares at it for a long time.

“You’re much older than I am,” she says eventually.

“Yes…”

“But you have the same date of birth?”

And so they start to unravel the mystery. It soon transpires that they share a birthday, but that they were born a decade apart. Somehow old Herman never noticed that his ID number is wrong on the card.

“But that’s only the number, Gertruida? What about the wedding – did you forget that, too?” Vetfaan can’t stop smiling.

“They’ve bungled up the whole thing, man! Can’t you see? They gave this man the wrong ID number, and even managed to connect his number with mine, somehow.  According to them, he’s ten years younger and married – wrong on both accounts.”

“S-s-so we’re not betrothed? You sure?”

Oudoom, who has been following the conversation, starts sniggering. “I love this! If it’s of any help, I can unmarry you, Gertruida. How about it?”

It takes about an hour to sort things out. Gertruida phones Bertus Cronje, an old colleague from her days in National Intelligence, who gets hold of a senior official at Home Affairs. Yes, they’ve made a mistake. Yes, they’re sorry. They’ll send the correct ID card.

“And this nonsense of being married?” Gertruida’s relief is obvious, but she want’s to be sure.

“That…er…is more difficult.” The official tries to sound sympathetic. “We’ll have to check the records to see why this has happened, and that might take time. I’m sure we’ll set the record straight soon enough, though – but in the meantime the marriage seems to be official. However, as soon as we find out how this happened, a divorce could be arranged quite easily.”

“But. I’m. Not. Married. To. This. Man!” Despite her best efforts, Gertruida can’t keep her voice even.

“I understand your frustration, Madam. But I have to follow the correct channels. Please be patient.”

Gertruida slams down the phone and wipes an angry tear from her cheek.

“Don’t worry, dear, we’ll sort this out. T-together.”

Gertruida looks up into Herman’s kind eyes, Then she bursts out in tears.

(To be continued)

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Fanny’s Surprise (# 29)

Vetfaan catches up with Fanny on the steps outside Oudoom’s house.

“Fanny…?” It’s a plea, not a question.

“I’m sorry, Fanie. I shouldn’t have…” She’s still crying and having difficulty to string her words together. “Henry , that night, seemed so genuine. And I was so surprised at his attitude. I mean, he showed that DVD that Gertruida sent him….”

They sit down on the steps. It’s still early in the day and the sun has not yet baked everything to an untouchable warmth, while the soft breeze is just enough to make them feel comfortable in the shade of the veranda.

“Fanny…” Vetfaan doesn’t know exactly how to continue, “I don’t know much about London, or Japan, or Life. We don’t get an instruction manual when we leave school, telling us how to make Life work. In fact, anything can happen and it usually does.” How does one do these things? He feels angry, protective, worried and upset all at once – but he also realises that saying the wrong thing right now can have catastrophic effects. He decides to stick to stuff he knows more about.  “Look at my farm, man. I don’t even know if the borehole will give water tomorrow. If I start worrying about it, I’ll waste my time – best to face the problems if and when they arrive.”

He gets a puzzled frown from Fanny. “What are you talking about, Fanie? Boreholes? And that after I’ve said what I said in there?”

“I’m working through it, Fanny.” His eyes light up as a thought bubbles to the surface. “Look, some time ago, that tractor of mine just wouldn’t start. I tried everything, and eventually found a blocked fuel filter. Well, there was nothing I could do about it – I had to replace it. So I went to Upington to buy the damn thing and came back. It didn’t fit. My old tractor uses spare parts they don’t make any more.

“You know what I did? I took the old filter and washed it out. Put the flow through from the wrong side. The funny thing is – it’s still working.”

“What…?”

“Ag Fanny, I always fumble with words when you’re around. Maybe I’m trying to tell you blockages aren’t always fatal. Or that one may want to replace things in too much of a hurry. Or maybe – you shouldn’t replace something that still can be made to work. I don’t know, really…just don’t want to see you upset, that’s all.”

“But Henry…?”

Vetfaan takes a deep breath. “He’s dead, Fanny. He saved your life. I feel upset about London, but at the same time I’m thankful for what he did. But you know what? The important thing is that you spoke about it. You told me. I may not like the idea of you and Henry together, but I would rather know about it than burden you with keeping a horrible secret for the rest of your life.

“Oudoom has a saying: The truth will hurt at first, then it sets you free. And now, Fanny, you are free of the lie you might have had to live with for the rest of your life. And for that, I am thankful.”

Tear-streaked cheeks turn to him. “You mean that, Fanie…?

Vetfaan nods.

“Then…” Hope flames up in her eyes.

Vetfaan gets up, holding out a hand to help her get to her feet.

“Yes, we have unfinished business.”

***

“Here? Now? Like this?” Oudoom can’t help smiling. “You sure?”

“Well, you’re here. We’re here.  Servaas and Mevrou can be witnesses. And we’re in a hurry…”

Mevrou will later say it was one of the most beautiful ceremonies Oudoom has ever performed. The rings posed a problem – until Mevrou dug out her grandparent’s rings from her box of precious memorabilia. Not surprisingly (there being no such thing as a coincidence) they fitted perfectly. And no, she didn’t want them back, thank you – it was a their wedding gift from Mevrou and Oudoom.

When at last Oudoom says, “You may kiss the bride”, even Servaas had to dig in his pocket for a handkerchief.

***

News of the wedding spreads like wildfire through town. It happened so unexpectedly that even Gertruida gasps when Servaas swaggers in to tell them about it. Still, in typical Rolbos tradition, the townsfolk need no excuse for a good party – and what better reason for festivities than a wedding? Not any old wedding – Vetfaan and Fanny!

Sammie rocks up with a baby’s crib – who knows where he got that? And Kleinpiet and Precilla pushes open the door to the bar with a new Primus stove under an arm. Sersant Dreyer – still in uniform – tells them he’ll look for a present when he’s in Upington again; while Gertruida hands over a book on baby care. Platnees, not to be outdone, brings the traditional squawking chicken.

But it’s Servaas who steals the show. Despite his arthritis, he gets on to the counter top.

“Friends,” he uses his elder-voice; the one filled with gravity, “marriages should be like this.” He pauses, swallowing hard. “Look what we have here: man, woman. Different religions joined in faith in a holy moment. Two countries uniting. And then there’s us…” He falters, but soldiers on. “Look at us. We’re a bunch of misfits, living at the edge of civilisation. We don’t like busy streets and restless crowds. And amongst us, share the hope that the world will one day be a better place. Fanny makes me think she’s going to help us reach that goal.

“You know what I realised today? It’s simple. True love will always find a way. Churches, opinions, backgrounds, even language – none of these count. When love opens the door to allow two people into that wonderful inner sanctuary, outsiders can not shut it. That’s the test of true love.

“Love, they say, is a many splendoured thing.  It forgives all, embraces all and blesses all. It straightens the road and calms the storm. And…” He sniffs loudly, “…and it makes an old man realise how precious his own moments of love were. How the loss of Siena made me hide behind a mask of religious self-righteousness, so I can deny other peoples’ happiness. I was selfish. I’m…so…sorry.” He struggles to regain control, blows his nose and gathers his thoughts. “But we’re not here for me. It’s Fanny and Vetfaan’s day…”

“I’d like to propose a toast on the newly-weds. Let us drink to love and life. To humility and kindness. To friendship in hard times and ecstasy in the good ones. And most of all: let us celebrate the Love that surpasses all else. May we never forget this simple four-letter word that says it all.

“To Love! And to our new, married couple.”

Nobody sees Sammie sneaking out after the toast. When he returns, he walks to the counter, and holds up a flat box, wrapped in brown paper.

“You know I never say much.” The small man with the engaging smile seems surprised that they all stopped talking when he addressed them. “But today is a happy one, and I feel your joy.

“Now, Oom Servaas, I know how much today meant to you. I heard the disgruntled Servaas talking yesterday, and now I heard a changed person talking today. And when I listened to you, I just knew I had to do something – so that’s what I’m doing now. Please, Oom Servaas, this is for you…”

A surprised Servaas steps forward to accept the gift. He wipes the recent tears from his cheeks, sniffs again, and takes the package from Sammie.

Well, Servaas had a few tears during his speech – the morning had been an emotional one for him. Now, as he opens the flat lid of the box, he can’t help himself any more. Emotion does that sometimes: we try to hide our feelings behind a fixed smile, or a nonchalant attitude; but sometimes the moment is so overwhelming, that we have to abandon all attempts to seem unconcerned or untouched.

In front of the little crowd, Servaas’ bushy eyebrows shoot upwards, away from each other. His face crinkles up in a million creases and the skin on his chin form new dimples as the tears start flowing again. He cries silently, inaudibly, as he hugs his new present; a gift of such magnitude and meaning like he’s never received before. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but the symbolism behind the gesture is profound.

No, he’s never had one before. Never.

And now, for the first time in his life, he has one.

A suit by Armani, beautifully tailored.

And all in white.

Three Letters

21 December 2002

My Dearest Lucinda

It’s been three months now, to the day. I have tried to forget that evening, but I cannot. The champagne, the evening, the dance – they all live in my memory and they haunt me night and day.

It is difficult to explain what you did to me; even more difficult to understand the impact you had on my family. Mama, as you know, is the ultimate socialite. She builds networks like you cannot believe. Once she knew you were a Verdana, there was no stopping her. She mentions you and your father in almost every conversation since.

Papa is more – how shall I put it – reserved? He knows what a liaison with the Verdana name would mean. After all, your father is a respected and successful businessman; while Papa’s ties with the Mafia are the subject of much speculation. I mention this only to tell you I understand – completely –the fact that you have not returned a single phone call or responded to the many e-mails I have sent you.

This is why I now take the more conventional route to write to you. Old fashioned, I know, but still I pray you will have the courage to not only read this letter, but to respond to it as well.

Papa will be hosting his annual New Year’s part again; as he does every year. It is a glamorous affair with many influential people attending. No expense is spared and he is even flying in ABBA – I think you know the group.

I will have the chauffeur pick you up at 5pm on the 31st. Pack an overnight bag, will you? I shall not take ‘no’ for an answer.

Fondest regards,

Giovanni.

 

25 February 2003

Dear Giovanni

Thank you for the roses that arrived today. They are truly magnificent. Where did you find them – at the end of our winter, no less! I’m sure they cost a fortune to fly in. You really have been spoiling me lately with flowers; not to mention the diamond necklace and the Breitling.

I’m quite overwhelmed by you attentions, I must tell you that. No man has been this kind to me – except Marco, of course. If I think of you, I’m so reminded of my father’s chivalry and kindness.

The weekend in Monaco sounds fabulous. Are you really sending a helicopter to fetch me? It sounds a bit over the top, doesn’t it? But – I prefer to drive with my Fiat – I’ll meet up with you there.

Papa, like you can understand, frowns on our relationship. I told him you have nothing to do with your fathers doings, but he doesn’t listen. Consequently, I think it’s best we keep our weekend in Monaco a secret. Whatever Papa says, the Hôtel Port Palace sounds divine and I cannot wait to see you there.

With fondest memories,

Yours,

Lucinda

15 May  2003

Hi Lucinda,

I’m sure you saw the news today. Papa’s arrest was all over the papers, so I guess you simply couldn’t miss it. Of course, the charges are ridiculous and nobody believes them, but still it casts a shadow over our wedding.

I have to be honest here. With Papa in jail, I have to assume – shall we say – the duties of his office. He has far-ranging business ventures and somebody must take care of it. Our financial future depends on it, I’m afraid. However, with your father’s fortune in reserve, I’m sure we’ll be able to continue our lives quite comfortably.

Well, Saturday is the big day. Everything is arranged. As per tradition, I shall not see you beforehand and I cannot wait to see you coming down the aisle on your father’s arm. I’ve made sure all the arrangements are in place – there are quite a few of them: caterers, musicians, priest, everything.

You’ll love the wedding ring. I had it made by Cartier, and they assured me it is unique – not only in appearance, but also in cost. (As if they thought they could surprise me!)

My friends are waiting for me. We have a bit of a bachelor’s at the casino and they want to celebrate the cessation of my loneliness.

Oh, and I expect my father to be able to attend the wedding, after all. He has friends in high places, you know? And tell old Marco not to fret so much. His digging into my father’s past has done a lot of damage. He’ll have to stop, if we are to have any chance of happiness in the future.

And now, my love, I have to go. I count the hours until Saturday.

Yours forever,

Giovanni.

***

Lucinda glances around in Boggel’s Place. This is so far removed from the absolute luxury she experienced in Monaco. There, the floors were marble, the trimmings in the bathroom gold, and the Dom Pérignon – a ’69. Now she looks at the stained counter where Boggel slides over a fresh beer to Vetfaan, and she has to smile. A wry smile, to be sure; but still a smile with a certain amount of gratitude for the way things turned out.

Three letters she can’t forget. Three. She remembers them so clearly.

Boggel gets on his crate to touch fingers with her. His eyes light up when she reaches over to give him a hug.

“You’re a good man, Boggel. You remind me of Papa – an old-fashioned guy with old-fashioned values. I want you to know that.”

And Boggel – how can he ever know about those three letters? Will he understand if he did?

When the priest asked her if she took Giovanni as her husband, right there in front of everybody, while old Marco wiped away a tear – she could not say them. Not the the three most important letters in a woman’s life.

She changed them into five.

I do, became: I can’t.

One day, she’ll be brave enough to tell him. If there is one man worthy of those three letters, it is the man behind the counter.

She owes him that, at least…

And, with Christmas approaching …

Crime and Forgiveness (Part 4)

“I don’t want a traditional wedding.” Precilla drops the bombshell after the third Cactus. “I know Oudoom will be upset, but the ceremony puts me off. I mean – why have a ceremony at all? And it’s not as if signing a register puts a seal on anything.”

Kleinpiet gapes at her. She can be quite strange if she wants to.

“Look, if one wants to be analytical: more than two-thirds of people who solemnly promise to be partners till death, eventually end up with a lawyer writing a letter to the spouse. That’s incredibly sad. So, my point is – getting married in church doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage. That’s why people all over the world draw up fancy contracts before they get married – in case it doesn’t work out. Now who, in their right minds, stands in front of a pulpit to swear about undying love – while there is a prenup in the drawer at home, in case somebody is lying? It doesn’t make sense.”

Kleinpiet takes a huge gulp of Cactus before saying anything. He’s already phoned Skelmsarel Swanepoel about a prenuptial agreement, and was waiting for the opportunity to arise to discuss it with Precilla. After all, his farm is worth a considerable amount of money – and she doesn’t have much to her name.

“Soo…what did you have in mind, Sweetie?”

“I thought we’d exchange vows in the desert – out there on your farm. Just the two of us. We can say what we feel in our hearts, promise whatever we feel is right, and declare ourselves to be married.”

“That’s not quite legal,” Gertruida says. “There’s got to be an officiating minister or magistrate – and witnesses. And it’s got to be recorded in Pretoria. Simply telling everybody you’re married doesn’t count. Even the President has to go though an elaborate ceremony every time he takes fancy to a new maiden. It’s the law.”

“That’s the point, Gertruida. People have made marriages cheap – worthless. And why? Because we’ve bogged weddings down in red tape. The more legislation you need to enforce something, the bigger the chance of failure. Every law leaves loopholes; and every loophole will find somebody and supply them with an excuse. No – I suppose its okay to legislate what marriage means, but you can’t legislate happiness. That’s something only you can decide: to be happy – or not. And if you really, really love somebody, you’ll aim for happiness.”

“This is so romantic, isn’t it, Boggle?” Lucinda pats Boggel’s hump. “To think you love somebody so much that you don’t need a ceremony to put on a show. In fact – you don’t need a show. You only need two people who love each other dearly.”

“Somebody will have to tell Oudoom. He’s been brushing up on the wedding ceremony – it’s been years since he married anybody. He can recite the funeral-thing without even glancing at the book; but he says he forgotten the marriage-story.” Vetfaan smiles wryly. “I often wonder how much value one can attach to a recited set of words. I mean – even at funerals – Oudoom just says the words. Bla-bla-fishpaste and let’s remember the dearly loved departed.  It’s just a silly set of words to tell everybody the Church recognises somebody isn’t going to tithe any more. For what? You’re right, Lucinda. It’s all a show.”

“Well, God knows if you love somebody. Or if you’re dead. I’m sure He doesn’t need a recitation to convince Him you’re married or stopped breathing. But … we need those ceremonies to make things official. You’re married. You’re dead. That sort of thing.” Judge signals for another beer. “Society needs these ceremonies to mark important events. In fact, without them, we’d be an extremely disorganised bunch of people. So, as far as I’m concerned, such ceremonies are more for the benefit of what we call civilised living, than anything else. We need State and Church to partner in these events, otherwise we’d have chaos.”

Precilla isn’t convinced. “Then what about people who have no state or church? There are millions living in deserts, forests, ice-bound countries and far-off places who live isolated lives. Life goes on without all the stuff we insist on. Babies get born and old people get buried and couples come together – without a priest or a magistrate in sight. You’re saying somebody can’t be dead if you don’t have papers to prove it. I’m saying it doesn’t matter what the documents say.”

 

***

On that Saturday, at dawn, Kleinpiet and Precilla walk to the crest of the low hill behind his cottage. He’s dressed in his everyday-clothes – the way she’ll see him every day as he works on the farm, or visits Boggel’s Place. She’s wearing her customary jeans and blouse, but she did compromise with some flowers in her hair.

They keep it simple. Kneeling in the soft sand – still cool from the night’s chill – each asks the same question. Do you promise? Three words, in an open-ended question. And, when both answered Yes, they kiss and watch the sun rise over the veld.

Kleinpiet is amazed at the emotion that wells up inside him. Sure, a church service with all the friends would have been great; and yes, it would have been wonderful to hear a blessing from Oudoom … but this – this – is so much more, so very sacred, so special. Closing his eyes, he feels a unity he’s never experienced before – Precilla, the veld, peace – it all seems to seep into his being to become one within his mind.

She doesn’t want the moment to end. She wants Kleinpiet at her side; just like this; forever. This is exactly what she wanted: a silent vow to spend the rest of her life in harmony with the man she loves.

The sound of a straining motor disturbs their reverie. Then, like a creature rising from the deep, the lorry from Kalahari Vervoer appears from below the hill, grinding and gnashing over the uneven surface towards them.

“What the….” But before Kleinpiet can figure it out, the lorry stops and Lucinda hops out. She rushes to the back, where she opens the huge doors.

They’re all there. Oudoom and Servaas and Gertruida and old Marco and Vetfaan and Sammie and Judge and even Vrede. Beaming broadly, Desmond Kruiper and his family follows – bringing little Nelson with them.

And there, in the early morning sun and surrounded by happy faces, Precilla and Kleinpiet fill in the register Oudoom has brought along. The townsfolk carry wood and coolboxes from the lorry to start the fire for the braai, while Boggel makes sure everybody has a glass of ice-cold Cactus in hand.

“We thought we’d have a quiet little ceremony…” Kleinpiet smiles his protest, but he knows it’s hopeless. Their wedding isn’t just an occasion for the two of them –  it’s something for the entire town.

Precilla holds a finger in front of her lips. “No, Kleinpiet, it’s exactly right. We get married and they celebrate – it’s a massive compliment.”

And so they discover that marriage isn’t just an exchange of words between two people – it’s a statement to society; a declaration of joy and beauty – one that should be celebrated in style.

And that, they did.

Later, much later, Precilla whispers: “I don’t have to go home.”

And Kleinpiet says the three words that mean everything: “You are home.”

The Virtual Republic of Rolbos

“A republic is a form of government where the people appoint suitable officials to bear the responsibility of taking care of their needs.” Gertruida is lecturing again. “The word comes from the Latin: res publica, meaning  ‘the public affair’.  Therefore, I suggest that South Africa is not a republic any more, but a monarchy.”

“Huh?” Kleinpiet is completely lost. He simply asked what the word meant, but her explanation is confusing him completely. “We have a king?”

“Think about it, Kleinpiet. The president is getting married. Again. And nobody says anything about it. We accept the fact that the leader of our country has many wives, lots of children – and dances around in animal skins. The papers are full of articles complaining about the senseless killing of rhinos, but not a single journalist will say anything about the leopard skins that adorn our illustrious leader.

“To answer your question: yes, we have a king. A president will hold himself accountable to the people. Kings don’t have to do that.”

“Who is going to pay for that wedding? I mean, we just can’ keep on building palaces for new wives every year. And you know how expensive private schools are these days. I mean, the man is certainly not naïve enough to send his kids to a government school.” Kleinpiet can’t understand that we are living in an advanced society (as he calls it), where the president is saddled with the responsibility of governing a country – and with six wives…

“The French President is having a hard time, as well.”  Boggel tries to change the subject.

“Well, so is Obama, if you ask me.”  Gertruida listened to her radio this afternoon.

“And they have trouble in  Holland, too,” is Kleinpiet’s contribution.

“That is all happening many kilometers away from us,” Servaas reflects, “while here, we have a President marrying a harem and the state having to look after his more than twenty children. His next wife is, I think, his sixth.”

“But how is that possible? We are supposed to be civilized; a nation to be an example to others. But our police commissioner is facing a jail term, a minister of education is sacked and they are forcing people to pay toll on some roads to make up for mistakes in the past.” Precilla is quite agitated. “Our submarines are not functional, the air force does not have enough qualified pilots and the Youth League is in shambles. If you ask me, I’d say we’re part of a banana republic.”

“True.” Vetfaan takes a long sip from his glass. “In our own country, even our language is shunned. But if you want to hear Afrikaans, you can to tune in to HOSA radio, broadcast from Europe. How strange is that?”

“The only solution,” Gertruida adopts her lecture-voice, “ is to call out a Republic. Like Stellaland or Goshen in the past. We can simply say we don’t agree with this farce, and start our own state. Oudoom can be our roving ambassador and Platnees be our spokesman. Nobody can argue against a cleric and a previously disadvantaged person, after all?  It won’t cost us a cent to do that. And, more importantly, we’ll spend our taxes on things that are important to us. In fact, the only salary we’d have to pay, is Sersant Dreyer’s.  For the rest, we can go on just the way we are.”

Servaas smiles. “You mean to say that every cent of our tax money will be spent here – and not on the President’s wedding or his children? And we won’t have to fund soccer, the Gautrain and Robben Island’s ferry?”

“No. Our taxes will be spent wisely. We’ll be a sovereign state, independent of all the stuff that goes on outside. No corruption, no drugs or AIDS programmes and no army where everybody is on AWOL.” Servaas has a far-away look in his eyes. “It’ll be like the old days…”

“Hey, man, the old days were just as bad. You forget about the Info scandal and the Smit murders. And there were atom bombs, train massacres, Vlakplaas and BOSS, remember? The old days were as bad as the new days. I think it’s time to start over.”

“Without Helderberg and the Weapons Transactions?”

“Exactly, Precilla. The previous government and the current one are mirror images of each other. Tweak it here, poke it there, and you have the same picture. We need to get away from it all.” Kleinpiet is designing a new coat of arms with his foam on the counter top. “If they can have a Democratic Republic of the Congo, we can have a Virtual Republic of Rolbos.  At least we’ll be real.”

“We’ll need a constitution,” Gertruida says. “A republic should have one.”

“Only one clause to the constitution, Gerty, maybe two.” Boggel is quite excited. “The only requirement is Kindness.  With that, we guarantee everything. Without it, we become like Europe, America and Africa.  So, we’ll have a one-sentence constitution. No frills, no fuss. Easy. Plus, of course, a guarantee for animal rights. No shooting of rhinos allowed. One clause for humans, the same one for animals.  Kindness to all – I like that.”

“Okay.” Even Gertruida is smiling now. “We can use Precilla’s computer to post it on two sites only – the Rolbos Facebook site. And on WordPress, of course. Everybody that wants to become part of the Virtual Republic, simply has to join the Rolbos site. It’s as easy as that…”

And so, with Freedom Day approaching on the 27th (remember the long queues on that wonderful day in 1994, when we all thought things were going to get better? Silly us…), the patrons in Boggel’s Place are hammering out the details of the newest – and possibly the only – Virtual Republic in the world. So far, Kleinpiets suggestion for a coat of arms is the most popular. It is a beer mug supported on the back of a gemsbok, bearing the words ‘Kindness to all…’.

Servaas suggested they put out an advertisement in the Upington Post as well, but Gertruida said they don’t want Rolbos to become overcrowded. As small, happy republic – she said – is better than a big, unhappy one.

Boggel isn’t taking any chances. He’s carried in an extra table – in case the Virtual Republic draws in more customers.

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