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“Did he not know that you were … I suppose the term used now is ‘lesbian’?” Read an excerpt from The Lion & The Thespian

The Lion and The ThespianMargaretha van Hulsteyn (also known as Scrappy) is the daughter of respected Pretoria attorney Sir Willem van Hulsteyn, and she’s an aspiring actress. While studying in London after the Great War, Scrappy changes her name to Marda Vanne and enters into a relationship with one of the foremost actresses of her day, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies.

However, on a visit to her parents in the Union of South Africa, Marda meets Hans Strydom, an attorney and uncompromising radical politician with the soubriquet ‘The Lion of the North’. Their meeting changes the course of her life, at least temporarily… Strydom went on to become a principal progenitor of the harshest discriminatory legislation which endured for decades until his nephew, President FW de Klerk, in a volte-face, dismantled the laws of apartheid.

A work of biographical fiction, The Lion & The Thespian is based on the true story of the marriage of Hans Strydom, prime minister of South Africa from 1954 to 1958, to the actress Marda Vanne.

Veteran author David Bloomberg (former executive mayor of Cape Town, and founder of Metropolitan Life), following extensive reading and research, has adhered faithfully to the chronology of the lives of the main protagonists, their personalities and the historical facts with which they were associated. Creative license has allowed Bloomberg to recreate appropriate scenes and dialogue, complemented by reported sources and recorded speeches.

In this edited extract, Margaretha van Hulsteyn (also known as ‘Scrappy’) – an Afrikaans actress who had spent many years on the London stage – has a frank discussion about her own sexuality with fellow actress and eventual life-partner, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies:

Already one of the most acclaimed actresses on the English stage, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies was inundated with offers of work and success followed success. Although Scrappy did not achieve the same level of stardom as her companion, Bernie Lewis had little difficulty in keeping her in work and she became an accomplished West End actress.

Settled in to a happy life of domesticity, the two were inclined to use their rare nights at home together to get to know each other a little better, explore their relationship a little further.

“Gwen, you have never identified – at least to me – the man who kept us apart all this time.”

“Oh, my darling, we no longer have any secrets. His name is Cecil Lewis, a war hero, much decorated – and married. I suppose I should feel very guilty about this romance, an adulterous relationship but, to be honest, I don’t.”

“What was he like?”

“Handsome and manly, courteous in the extreme, intellectual and a patron of the arts. For some reason, he was obsessed with me as an actress … came to any number of performances of every play I was in and afterwards spoke to me at length about the play, my role and interpretation. He was very profound and I always found his analysis interesting and gratifying. And, my darling, he was extremely virile.”

“Did he not know that you were … I suppose the term used now is ‘lesbian’?”

“Of course he knew. And I reminded him regularly, but his response was always to emphasise that homosexual experience did not exclude those whose preference lay elsewhere and that it was quite common for people to stray from their first gender of choice. He was convinced that I would be sexually unfulfilled and incomplete as an actress if I did not have what he called a ‘straight ding dong’! As far as his pleasure was concerned, he was equally straightforward, seeing no spiritual benefit for himself, merely gratifying himself with a married man’s dalliance.”

“Seems Cecil was very pragmatic about the relationship.”

“Oh yes. He alerted me when our affair was starting to dwindle – hinted that he was beginning to lose interest, that it was terminal. He probably thought that he had achieved his purpose and had ‘made me a better actress’. I had told him all about you and he liked what he heard and was reassured that you were going to take over where he had left off. Happy that you would sort of be taking his place. He wrote the most beautiful letter to me. His last letter stated that the burden of guilt had been lifted and he thanked me in the most poetic terms for the wonderful experience; he hoped that I had benefitted intellectually from the relationship and he wished us both the best of British luck for the future!”

“Did you reply?”

“Yes. I thanked him for the inspirational support he had given me during the period of our intimacy.”

While homosexuality in England in the early twentieth century was recognised and spoken of freely – despite the fact that it was a punishable offence – female sexuality was a subculture that was hardly mentioned in polite circles and the word ‘lesbian’ was not in common usage. The theatre, however, was regarded as a breeding ground for deviant behaviour.

Actresses particularly were at pains to ensure that insofar as theatregoers were concerned, they conformed to what generally was regarded as normality and that their life outside the theatre should be kept private and not come under public scrutiny. Prejudice was such that any woman who chose to be single and worked towards economic and social independence was regarded as tainted. From an early age, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies recognised and accepted her sexuality, but believed that it would not advance her professional career and consequently chose to exercise discretion and presented to the public a much-feminised personality and lifestyle. In her private life, where many of her friends were theatre colleagues, there was no concealing her identity but in public her selection of roles, her dress, manner and behaviour did much to disguise her true sexuality. When interviewed by a curious press she managed to present herself as the epitome of femininity and domestication. As far as Scrappy was concerned, Gwen, when pressed, referred to her simply as a ‘girlfriend’, at the time a perfectly run-of-the-mill reference to an innocent friendship.

Scrappy, on the other hand, was much less discreet. Although six years younger, she was more well informed on the controversies of the day, especially since she had read the work of English doctor and writer Havelock Ellis, whose Sexual Inversion had concluded that homosexuality was a congenital condition rather than a disease. But, keen on intellectualising these matters, she had also learned that the Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, had dismissed Ellis’s theory, claiming that sexual deviation was indeed curable. Scrappy eventually dismissed all these theories and lived by what she regarded as fact – that all forms of sexuality were accepted and tolerated by those in the theatre. While on appropriate occasions she would dress conventionally, sometimes even glamorously, her preference was for a more masculine style and her hairstyle was often fashioned accordingly.

“So, my darling Scrappy, what goes on between us is our business and has naught to do with anyone else. I love you deeply for who you are and any frolic that accompanies our love is a by-product to be enjoyed. My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.”

Book details

"I was sure nothing could match the satisfaction of watching Madiba walk out of prison" - read an excerpt from Rehana Rossouw's New Times

 

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of What Will People Say? Rehana Rossouw takes us into a world seemingly filled with promise yet bedevilled by shadows from the past. In this astonishing tour de force Rossouw illuminates the tensions inherent in these new times.

Ali Adams is a political reporter in Parliament. As Nelson Mandela begins his second year as president, she discovers that his party is veering off the path to freedom and drafting a new economic policy that makes no provision for the poor. She follows the scent of corruption wafting into the new democracy’s politics and uncovers a major scandal. She compiles stories that should be heard when the Truth Commission gets underway, reliving the recent brutal past. Her friend Lizo works in the Presidency, controls access to Madiba’s ear. Another friend, Munier, is beating at the gates of Parliament, demanding attention for the plague stalking the land.

Aaliyah Adams lives with her devout Muslim family in Bo-Kaap. Her mother is buried in religion after losing her husband. Her best friend is getting married, piling up the pressure to get settled and pregnant. There is little tolerance for alternative lifestyles in the close-knit community. The Rugby World Cup starts and tourists pour up the slopes above the city, discovering a hidden gem their dollars can afford.

Ali/Aaliya is trapped with her family and friends in a tangle of razor-wire politics and culture, can she break free?

Told with Rehana’s trademark verve and exquisite attention to language you will weep with Aaliya, triumph with Ali, and fall in love with the assemblage that makes up this ravishing new novel.

Rehana Rossouw was born and rooted in Cape Town, but is currently in self-imposed exile in Johannesburg. She has been a journalist for three decades and has also taught journalism and creative writing. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Wits University.

Chapter Three

People don’t greet at The New Times, the white people in particular. They drop their heads and stare at the floor like the answer to the meaning of life is carved there when they hear my hello. What’s that about? How do you start a conversation with people who don’t greet? At The Democrat a morning greeting would be followed with a full account of everything that happened since the last sighting. Colleagues told each other what they made for supper, how long they struggled to get their children to bed, what they thought of what they watched on TV, what position had been taken in the marital bed, how many minutes they kept it up, what was discussed afterwards, should the bathroom be tiled this year or can it wait until after the driveway is paved?

The first of my greetings returned come from Luvuyo, Johnson and Thandiswa when I reach my desk at the back of the newsroom. Roger the white intern throws a casual howzit in my direction when he arrives but doesn’t stop to hear how I am. I teach him how to greet – molo for one person, molweni for many. Ask unjani? Wait for an answer. Most of the time the answer is ndiyaphila, everything’s fine. Roger seems interested in learning.

I retreat to the balcony with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a copy of the morning paper. The smoke soothes my nerves, the predictable political coverage in the paper boosts my confidence and the coffee warms my vocal chords. I head for my desk, flip open my contact book and hit the phone.

I call the national police spokesman; I’ve given up waiting for answers from the Western Cape. Mandla doesn’t sound too surprised that I’m asking about progress on the investigation into the Minister of Welfare’s corruption. He insists that I put my questions in writing and fax them to Pretoria, refuses to commit to when he’ll answer them. I know it’s a waste of time but I phone the Western Cape police spokesman again. Loftus won’t confirm or deny anything. The Welfare Minister’s secretary promises, for the third time, to tell him that I called and ask that he calls back. I phone Coen at the party’s headquarters and shake his cage again but nothing falls out, not a single word I can use.

My next call is to Andile Chiliza at the Air Force. He delivers on the promise he made at the farewell party. ‘Second Lieutenant Khanyiswa Patekile is available for an interview at fourteen hundred hours tomorrow.’ Only six months in the job and the military speak rolls off his tongue like a second language. ‘That’s a confirmation Ali; the story is yours exclusively. Bring a photographer; we want to pose her next to a Mirage fighter jet.’

Johnson introduces me to Bongani Khumalo, the office manager with a wide path parting his tight curls, his bright white shirt wrapped in a bottle-green cardigan with wooden buttons. He says ‘you’re welcome’ every time I thank him for the arrangements he makes to get me a new press card, business cards and transport. I book a pool car for two o’clock for the Steel Workers Union’s press conference and one for tomorrow to get to the Air Force base. ‘You’re welcome,’ Bongani says as I back out of his office with profuse thanks.

I pass Joy’s desk several times on my way to the printer and the fax machine. She’s glued to the phone, her face hidden behind a shield of oily hair. I drop a note on her desk as I leave for the press conference, telling her where I’m going. She doesn’t look up.

There are ten rows of chairs set out in the hall at Community House in Salt River, where the Steel Workers Union has offices. I get through ten pages of Chomsky while I wait for everyone else to show up, swept away by his description of how the US media ‘lost the war’ waged by their government in Vietnam. Lizo’s right, there’s a lot more I need to learn about the power of the media’s punch. I was sure nothing could match the satisfaction of watching Madiba walk out of prison. But journalism practised at a much higher level in America brought an end to a war waged by the mightiest army on earth.

The press conference starts forty minutes late with three reporters in attendance. Five union officials seat themselves at the table facing us, behind them a red banner with the union’s logo and the words ‘ORGANISE OR STARVE’ in bold black letters. It was put up minutes earlier, by two of the men in red union T-shirts at the table. There’s no photographer present to record their effort.

Steel Workers Union secretary John Carelse’s square face is scaffolded by a strong chin. His red T-shirt stretches across his wide chest, he is the perfect poster partner for Rosie the Riveter. Spit bubbles on his lower lip as he spews his rage towards the assembled journalists, slow enough so we can record his every word.

‘The capitalists refuse to pay equal wages to workers, regardless of race or gender, up to this day – a full year after we won our liberation. They made record profits last year when the world flocked to South Africa to do business with it again. We made that possible; our members sacrificed their livelihoods and their lives to destroy apartheid. But now, while our politicians enjoy equality down the road in Parliament, it is nowhere to be seen on the factory floor.’

I look up from my notebook when Carelse stops, gropes for a handkerchief in his jeans pocket and wipes foam off his mouth. I start taking notes again when he launches into his next round of fury but soon stop and raise my head. I’ve heard this several times before; it’s his favourite theme.

‘The huge salary gap between CEOs and workers is the result of capitalist greed. Capitalism claims that apartheid denied blacks a decent education, houses, healthcare, water and electricity. Our analysis reaches a different conclusion; they worked hand in hand with the apartheid regime so they could be provided with a cheap source of labour. Now that we have a democracy, what’s their excuse for blocking equity on the shop floor? The reason is clear my friends, and there is only one: capitalist greed.’

I raise my hand, I need to get a question in before Carelse starts on what always comes next, a short history of the exploitation of workers in South Africa since the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, followed by a long recitation of their brave struggle. His forceful delivery draws militant roars at mass rallies, but we’re not here to be recruited. All I came to hear is what he is going to do about this mess.

New Times

Book details

"We remembered blundering, in fog, into a nudist colony" - Terry Bell shares anecdotes from A hat, a kayak and dreams of Dar

Published in the Sunday Times

It was a book that was supposed to have been written as we travelled half a century ago. But all the notes and everything else we owned was lost, stolen in Madrid. That followed several months of great difficulty being stranded in Equatorial Guinea, being robbed at gunpoint in what was then Zaire and finally arriving in Ndola on Zambia’s Copperbelt, in what our contemporaries described as “an emaciated condition”.

It was a tumultuous time politically in the region and there was no thought of going back to a book I had tentatively dubbed: Paddle Dammit! This after the need for my partner and wife, Barbara, and I to paddle frantically to avoid collisions with ships coming upstream on the Rhone as we careered downstream.

Two years in Zambia were followed by time in Botswana and New Zealand, where a decade after we had paddled down the Thames in London, bound for Dar es Salaam, we were presented with an album of postcards sent by Barbara to her parents throughout our travels. With them came 11 tapes made on a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder during the latter part of our journeying.
 

There were no machines we could play them on and so they were stored with the postcard album – and we forgot about them. But we often talked about what we had done, the humorous moments and the difficulties. We were encouraged to write up the journey of both a hat and a kayak called Amandla.

I didn’t want to rely on fallible memory and thought that to write such a personal memoir would be self-indulgent. Authors John and Erica Platter disagreed and, encouraged, we took the postcards out of the album and discovered, on the backs, a diary of our journeying. All but one of the tapes were also transcribed onto CDs.

I realised we had an accurate record of where we had been, what we had done and when. Even what we had eaten. To write it up would be a break from the generally worrying areas of economics, politics and labour that I concentrate on; a lighter moment about a more hopeful time when everything seemed possible.

“How on earth do you cook, travelling in a kayak?” asked John Platter. Barbara set to, drawing up a selection of the recipes used for one-pot camping cuisine. We remembered the incidents of blundering, in fog, into a nudist colony; of the terror of our first experience with 250 ton barges; of the roar of the mistral wind and the calm, lovely canals.

It was therapeutic. And it underlined for us how liberating it had been and how hopeful the world had seemed as we blundered our way from swinging ’60s London through the waterways of France into the Mediterranean.

We learned much, lessons that still seem pertinent today. . .

Book details

"Comrades, I want to address aspects about Jacob Zuma" - an excerpt from Ronnie Kasrils's A Simple Man

A Simple ManRonnie Kasrils’s insights into Jacob Zuma in A Simple Man, both shocking and revelatory, are vividly illuminated through this story, from their shared history in the underground to Kasrils’s time as minister of intelligence and his views on South Africa now. Our understanding of Zuma the struggle hero, now perceived as having sold his soul to the devil, becomes clearer through this narrative.

This fast-paced, thriller-style memoir outlines the tumultuous years that saw Mbeki’s overthrow and replacement by Zuma, Nkandlagate, the growing militarisation of the police and the Marikana Massacre, the outrageous appointment of flunkies to high office, the ‘state capture’ report and his relationship with the Guptas. We relive the Schabir Shaik corruption trial, Kasrils’s relationship with Fezeka Kuzwayo (Khwezi), Zuma’s rape trial accuser, the email and spy tapes saga, conspiracy and betrayal.

‘Yes, comrade President, I think Russia will stand by Iran,’ I was mouthing, though my thoughts were mesmerised by the swinging pendulum. The fifteen-minute chime. The clock needed oiling. A big gulp of the amber fluid. Aziz was rattling on. Mbeki was thoughtful. The man was oblivious to the passing of time … nine interminable minutes more and his presidency would be over.

‘Uncle Ronnie, Jacob Zuma has raped me,’ was the call I received on my mobile phone. The woman added, ‘This is Fezeka.’ My body geared to the shock as though someone was pointing a gun at me: blood ran cold, neck hairs prickled, throat turned dry, mind strove to focus.

While Kasrils explains the enigmatic contradictions of Jacob Zuma, he also explains that corruption and the abuse of power does not begin with Zuma. His story points to the compromised negotiations of the 1990s, which he refers to as a ‘Faustian Pact’. This is a story told from the inside, and after reading it, you will understand not only the many machinations of power, but also how one man’s struggle for the truth can have such an impact on the political outcomes of the nation.

Ronnie Kasrils is author of the best-selling memoir Armed and Dangerous, which has been translated into German, Russian and Spanish and the Alan Paton Award-winning The Unlikely Secret Agent, which has been translated into French. A commander in Umkhonto weSizwe from its inception in 1961 until 1990, he served in government from 1994 to his resignation as minister for intelligence in 2008. He describes himself as a social activist and lives in Johannesburg.

The following extract was published by The Daily Maverick on nine November:

We had gathered at Party headquarters in downtown Johannesburg for a regular executive committee meeting but since insufficient members had turned up the gathering was postponed. While we chatted over coffee, I suggested that instead of dispersing, we discuss the situation that had arisen over Mbeki’s recent dismissal of Zuma as the country’s deputy president on 14 June 2005.

The disgraced Zuma, who had never disagreed with Mbeki’s policies, raised the spectre of a conspiracy against him hatched by “counter-revolutionaries”, and his supporters seized that idea with alacrity. Those in the SACP and Cosatu opposed Mbeki on ideological grounds, and although some had personal reasons too, I did not lump them into the same group as those I characterise as crony capitalists. The fact that the SACP supported Zuma spoke volumes about the extent to which he had succeeded in exploiting their antagonisms to Mbeki and their belief that he was a suitable man for the left and for the country. The situation was ugly and fraught with unforeseen consequences.

I studied the group of battle-hardened comrades with whom I had worked for several years to change South Africa and the world. Foremost among them were the Party general secretary, the feisty Blade Nzimande; the chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, a weather-beaten former mineworkers’ leader who did not mince his words; and the gently spoken poet and ideologue, Jeremy Cronin, whom I had once trained in London for underground work. As I was not just a comrade, the old “ANC Khumalo” and MK veteran, but an Mbeki appointee and the intelligence minister at that, I could feel sure that despite obvious respect they showed me, there was an element of doubt about my motives.

“Comrades, let’s be perfectly open with one another,” I requested. “I’m going to open my chest, and although this discussion should be confidential, if what I say gets to Zuma, I couldn’t care less.”

I had eyeballed the secretary of the Young Communist League (YCL), Buti Manamela, an up-and-coming youth leader who was pro-Zuma, and wondered just how far he would be swallowed by personal ambition. The Cosatu president, the heavily bearded Willie Madisha, shuffled perceptibly and looked down. I guessed he was unhappy with the growing adulation of Zuma and was in the process of falling out with Blade, who had a tight grip on the party.

“Comrades,” I continued, “I want to address aspects about Jacob Zuma, such as tribalism; the question of morality; the fact that he is no working-class hero; and the issue of conspiracy and security.”

Blade nodded with puckered mouth, beckoning me to proceed. Outside, the city hummed under a bright winter sky. Through our upper-floor windows we had a commanding view of downtown Johannesburg’s skyline: skyscrapers, mining houses and financial centres long past their glory days. The capitalist values that once had their fountainhead in the City of Gold had taken flight to the new capital of Mammon – the gleaming towers of Sandton City on Johannesburg’s northern edge. I wondered whether we communists could adjust to the times.

Continue reading here.

Book details

Fiksie Vrydag: Jacques de Viljee se kortverhaal, My laaste aand (in Kaapstad)


Foto’s: Jacques de Viljee, Instagram

Jacques de Viljee is ’n skrywer van Kaapstad. Sy werk is al in New Contrast en op LitNet en Klyntji.com gepubliseer.

My laaste aand (in Kaapstad)
Jacques de Viljee

“Dis tog vanselfsprekend: Kill your darlings, my kind.”

“Maar wat bly oor?”

#

 
[11:41, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: En die verlange na die ruik, proe, hoor, voel?

[11:49, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: Jy kan deurkom.

[11:49, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: Dis net ek.

[11:49, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: Naak en eerlik.

[12:11, 8/28/2018] Christine van Vreden: Ek wil omhels. Ek wil vergeet. Ek wil glo.

Daar het net nou te veel twyfel opgeduik. Ek kry dit net nie weggebêre nie.

Ek wil, ek wil

Dus vertrou ek dat ’n tydjie alleen my net weer sal laat besef dat my idees/ persepsie nie altyd so konkreet hoef te wees nie. Dat mens bly mens.

Maak dit sin?

#

Net die skoon word vermoor
Net die sag kry seer
Net die jonk glo
Soos wat net die jonk van hart kan glo

“O Jirre ek moet gaan -” Stamp ’n stoel om, mense wat oor mekaar praat, harde musiek wat krapperig oor die luidsprekers speel, sigaretrook en wierook, vuil kussings en oorvol glase.

“Hierso: Why some aspects of punk spoke to Afrikaans-speaking musicians and not to Anglophone musicians is a theme that further research should investigate more carefully.

What do you think, P?” “Ja, youth culture specialist.” “What do I think? Dude, to be honest I think it’s that brattiness that’s so inherent to punk rock -” “Brattiness?” “What do you call it, a vloermoer? That conscious dissociation with the order, the system, whatever. To break down everything around you, even if you let the walls fall in on yourself. I think that’s why the Afrikaners -” “Afrikaans speakers.” “Vink, fokkit.” “Whatever, man, why they chose punk rock as a medium, rather than something more sophisticated like jazz, which they probably saw as another form of Anglo-imperialism, cultural snobbery or something, you know.”

“Ja, seker.”

“And then youth culture. Like counterculture it just needs confusion and alienation to erupt.” “Maar is hulle nie confused nie? I’m on my way to thirty and I’m confused as fuck!” “Maar jy moet onthou, Ludwig, keep in mind that they’re growing up in this time, they’re used to this continuous and constant change.” “But it’s … exponential …” “They’re okay with that. Only what happens in the moment matters. What happens to the moment doesn’t.” “Expendable present.”

“The best, babez! We dyed our hair purple and watched the first Harry Potter movie!” “That. Is incredible!” “I know, right!” “We’re just fucked, man. Confused. And that’s why the alternative scene or whatever you wanna call it, realness, is being shaped by these geniuses in their late twenniez and thirdiez.” “That’s fuckin’ us!” “That is fuckin’ us, dude! Why do you think I enjoy my job so much? These are the people I work with every day!” “It’s a bless!” “Such a bless, bro.”

Hulle lag. Vat slukke wyn. Ludwig haal sy tabaksakkie uit sy baadjie en sit dit voor hom op die tafel neer.

“Exactly! So I’m making this note in Kitcheners about writing a poem or something about Amelie and Janine meeting at an exhibition in Maboneng, because, I mean, it starts with Janine going up to Amelie and being, like, ‘Stan Smiths are the most comfortable shoes on Earth, am I right, babe? -” “Ja, and we spoke about a psychoman! We both had one! She had this guy they camped with in the Tankwa Karoo and afterwards he called her a desert slut!”

“Haha, what the fuck!”

“And I was chatting to this guy on Tinder and I told him I like cello music.” “Yeh.” “And he stops talking to me. Calls me a cello slut.” “What the fuuuucccckkkkk!!!” “And so, as I write the note this guy comes over to us, and he asks for a lighter. And next moment he has two lighters and a match lighting up his cigarette, shakes his head and smiles this gigantic smile. And the ice is broken. Such a …” “Try streaming happiness, you know what I mean?” “Highly Recommended dude, ons moet dit dan doen. Ons het ’n vyf jaar voorsprong.”

Die deurklokkie lui. Iemand se foon lui, dronk huiweroomblik, dan: “Ek sal dit kry.” “Ruann, dude! Lekker. Ons is by Ryno en Amelie se flat, luister musiek, drink joints en rook wyn. Ja … Um, ja, Ludwig, Phumlani, Jacques, Janine, Vink, Sibusiso … Okay cool, nee, geniet Siblings, dude, laat maar weet as jou planne verander.”

“Wie’s dit, Ami?” “Dis Jesus by die interkom.” “Al weer.” “Patrick Stickles, mahn!” “I feel like that about Kendrick Lamar.” “I know, right! Master historian.” “I only talk for myself. Fuck your association.” “Doesn’t tweet. Like Camus.” “Vink!” “King Kunta.” “Ja, die heeltyd. Daar’s hierdie nuwe ding wat hulle uitgedink het, wel jy het seker al daarvan gehoor, waar jy al jou mediese data in ’n masjien kan upload, en hulle basies ’n kloon van jou kan maak wat nooit sal siek raak nie, so nooit kan doodgaan nie. En jou consciousness …” “Jammer dat ek jou in die rede val. Dis weird. Ek was altyd vreesbevange vir die dood, aande wakkergelê. Nou’s dit die idee van onsterflikheid wat my nie kan uitlos nie.” “Ek voel dieselfde, man.” “Ons het vergeet dat doodgaan deel van lewendig wees is.” “Ja ja ja,”

Ludwig staan verwilderd op, klim op sy stoel, wat onder hom wankel. “Almal almal almal! ’n Heildronk. A toast. Here’s …” Lig sy glas. “To dying!”

Almal saam, “To dying!”

“Fok ja, kom hier, Ludwig.” Ryno sluk die laaste van sy wyn af. “Daar’s nog bottels in die kombuis.” “Feminism’s failure to acknowledge that beauty is a value in itself, that even if a woman manages to achieve it for a particular moment, she has contributed something to the culture.” “Presies! Jacques, ek –” “Dude, daar’s nog kots op jou baadjie.” “Thanks. Fok.” “Ja, wanneer die wêreld in 2029 in rook en vlamme opgaan.” “Social media, right, we’re all sitting in the same room trying to talk over each other.” “What I wanna know is: Are we cool enough for you, Phumlani? I mean …” “Maar dis wat dit is: Kanye en Drake. Hulle tap in hierdie self-obsessie, want dis so tekenend van ons tyd.” “Volgens my: Tame Impala wat op daai selfde obsessie intap, die gevoel van vervreemding daarteenoor.” “En Maandagaand Stellenbosch!” “Yes! Dit gaan lóóp!” “Dit gaan hárd loop!”

“Fok Buzzfeed! Popkultuur popkultuur popkultuur popkultuur! Ek kan nie.” Die girts van ’n lighter maak ’n vlam. “Aaah! Smoking joints like cigarettes al weer!” “Dude, sit Swanesang op. Die grafsteen van ons jeug, noudat ons op die onderwerp is.” “Nee, Lugsteuring, iets harder!” “Jy’t nie My Chemical Romance op vinyl nie?” “Bra. Jy’t ’n moerse wanpersepsie van my musieksmaak.”

“Krisjan het. Moet ek dit gaan haal?” “As jy nugter genoeg is om die naald te lig.” “Kom, sit.” “Ek sit bietjie op my voete.”

“Ja. Ek en Christine is besig om op te breek.”

“Nee, Jacques.”

“Daar’s net hierdie magteloosheid. Dis eintlik erger, jy weet. Al wat oorbly is woorde om te herstel. En ek weet nie of ek woorde diep genoeg het nie.” Hy trek aan sy sigaret.

“As daar iemand is wat het dan is dit jy, my lief.”

“God. Ek kan net hoop en bid.”

“Weird vraag. Onregverdige vraag. Help dit jou nie? Is sy nie die persoon wat die storie van jou pyn aandryf nie?”

“Vink. Dink jy nie dit is waar die raaisel net joune is nie? Dis soos om te vra waaraan dink jy as jy masturbeer? Dis jou weergalmende heelal, jou orgasme op papier.”

“Vreemd. Ja. Wanneer laas? Ek dink … in ’n treinkompartement op pad Bloemfontein toe. Myne ook…”

“En die boek?”

“Goed. Die einde is in sig. Ek oefen vir onderhoude as ek hoog en alleen is.”

“Goed so…”

“And how is the current political sphere any different to imperialistic missionaries?” “It’s the new entertainment industry.” “Western capitalism in sheep’s clothing.” “And memes are just cultural inside jokes.” “Thanks, Vink.” “It’s true, though.”

“Okay. Ons moet gaan. Come, Sibz.” “Cool, cheers, man. Is julle Uber hier?” “Ons stap sommer. Dis tien minute.”

“Veilig wees.”

“Bye, Vinklief. Bye, Sibz.”
 
 
“En hoe voel dit om nie meer ’n werk te hê nie?”

“So bevrydend, joh.”

“En môre vlieg jy?”

“Môre vlieg ek.”

“Vriend, ek gaan jou mis.”

“Ek ook, alles; almal; elke aand.”

“Desnieteenstaande. Feite bly feite.”

“Yoh, P, did you see the newest Jean Kleynhans?” “No?” “A white guy and a black girl sitting in bed, Do liberal black girls enjoy social justice more than sex? at the top, the girl busy on her phone, starting a tweet with tfw, and the guy is busy masturbating, moaning JA! JA!, about to come.” “Jesus.” “Going all political and shit, huh?”

“Politics is porn.”

“Ja.”

“Ryno, is jy reg om ʼn pa te wees?”

“Waarvan de fok praat jy, bra?!”

“Net ’n vraag.”

“Ek groei weer my baard, so seker ja, ek weet nie. Dis ’n vreemde vraag, vriend.”

“Ek moet ook gaan, dude, baie dankie.” “So nou is dit net ons en die volksverraaier.” “Julle weet dat ek kan Afrikaans verstaan.” “I’m referring to Ludwig, Phumlani.”

“Ag fokof, man!”
 
 
Die plaat het ophou speel. Phumlani is huis toe en Amelie het gaan slaap.

“Al weer net ek en jy, Ludwig.”

“Janee.” Dowwe geklop, gedagtes wat leeg weergalm.

“So jou laaste aand in Kaapstad, nè?”

“My laaste aand in Kaapstad.”

“Die aand voor die groot verkiesing…”

“En ek gaan nie eers fokken stem nie.”

“No Allegiance to the Queen.”

“No allegiance to the queen.”

“Dis Ruann wat gebel het, nè? Waar het hy gesê is hy?”

“In Siblings saam met Darius-hulle.”

“Ah, okay, die skate crew.”

“Yes. Die Enlightened Youths.”

#

 
[12:15, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: Ja.

[12:15, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: Maar ek gaan myself nooit kan vergewe nie

[12:15, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: die seer wat ek gemaak het

[12:21, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: dat my dade jou verhoed om by my te wees

[12:21, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: my verstand kan homself nie begryp nie

[12:23, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: is hierdie apartwees nie genoeg nie?

[12:23, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: hoe lank moet ons onsself gysel?

#

 
(Hey Ludwig, nou net by die flat gekom. Te moeg om uit te gaan. )

(Dink nou net. Wil net weer sê. Gaan vind wat jy soek. Gaan geniet wat jy vind. My goed kan enige dag verander. Moenie daaran vasklou nie. Ek gaan die fisiese jy mis. Ek het jou oneindig lief. Maar ek gun jou als. Daar is so baie wat wag!)

(Hoop julle klomp kuier lekker! Ek sien jou moreoggend. Liefde e)

#

 
’n Maand by die see. Grys druppels teen die vensters. Die reuk van groen heuwels en ’n dynserigheid oor die see. Afgeskilferde rotse, soutsmaak branders. My kinderdae, het jy geweet? Rooi oë en geel vingers. Die stilte van die see, druisende geraas oor die sand. God en liefde en verlange en dood en skuld en pyn en vrees en afsondering. Altyd musiek wat my weer na die mens toe terugtrek.

#

 
Ma en Pa

Vanaand is my laaste aand in Kaapstad. Môre vlieg ek Suid-Korea toe. Ek het deur Wikus (Wynand se vriend) daar werk gekry om Engels te gee.

Daar is seker twee goed wat ek behoort te verduidelik.

Eerstens, hoekom ek gaan: Ek dink, basies, voel ek net al vir lank asof ek nie meer hier is nie. Ek word surround deur mense met probleme en drome soveel anders as myne. Alles wat ek doen is op die internet. Al my werk, ek lees net op die internet. Dit is waar ek flieks kyk en musiek luister. En ja, ons het al hieroor gepraat, en ja, dis seker hoekom ek boeke begin koop het en al my vinyls. Om te voel asof ek hier is. Maar die mense hier … Niemand voel tuis nie en ek kort ’n tuiste.

En dit beantwoord seker tweedens hoekom ek nie vir julle gesê het ek gaan nie. Hoe sê ek dit met ’n straight face? Julle was nog altyd hier en ek was altyd die een wat gesê het Nee, ons moet vir ewig bly.

As hierdie seermaak hoop ek julle kan soortvan verstaan. Ek gaan vir minstens twee jaar nie terugkom nie, maar julle is welkom om enige tyd te kom kuier. En ek sal e-mail en ons kan Skype en ek is nog steeds op ons Whatsapp group.

Ek sal safe wees. Ek sal laat weet hoe dit gaan.

Groete Liefde

Ludwig
 
 

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#

 
Ek bel. Dit lui. En lui. En lui.
 
 


Erkennings:

Die liriekaanhaling in die tweede gedeelte van die kortverhaal kom uit “Oop vir misinterpretasie” deur Fokofpolisiekar.

Die kortverhaal bevat ’n uittreksel vanuit die volgende bron:

Maria Suriano & Clara Lewis (2015) Afrikaners is Plesierig! Voëlvry Music, Anti-apartheid Identities and Rockey Street Nightclubs in Yeoville (Johannesburg), 1980s–90s, African Studies, 74:3, 404-428, DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2015.1004850, asook ’n aanhaling van Camille Paglia.

The reluctant president: an extract from Mandla Langa's Dare Not Linger

Published in the Sunday Times

Nelson Mandela never finished the sequel to Long Walk to Freedom. Using his draft, notes and a wealth of archival material, Mandla Langa has completed the chronicle of Mandela’s presidential years. This is an edited extract from Dare Not Linger.

The reluctant president

‘My installation as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa was imposed on me much against my advice’
- Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela spent the night of the inauguration at the State Guest House in Pretoria, which would be his temporary home for the next three months while FW de Klerk was moving out of Libertas, the presidential residence — Mandela later renamed it Mahlamba Ndlopfu (“The New Dawn” in Xitsonga, meaning literally “the washing of the elephants” due to the fact that elephants bathe in the morning).

At about 10am on May 11, the day after the inauguration, Mandela arrived at the back entrance of the west wing of the Union Buildings, accompanied by a security detail of the as-yet unintegrated units of the South African Police and MK. Two formidable women — Barbara Masekela and Jessie Duarte — who were at the heart of Mandela’s administration as ANC president, stepped along as smartly as they could, laden with paraphernalia for setting up office.

Forever in the shade, the temperature in the corridors was one or two degrees lower than outside, forcing a somewhat conservative dress code upon the staff and officials. Previously, when Mandela had met with De Klerk, the corridors had always smelled of coffee brewing somewhere. This morning there was no such smell and, except for the few people Mandela met at the entrance to the building, the place seemed deserted and forlorn, devoid of human warmth.

How Mandela charmed apartheid personnel

Executive Deputy President De Klerk had taken the whole of his private office with him, leaving only the functional and administrative staff.

But conviviality and sartorial elegance were the last things on the minds of Mandela’s staff, whose main business on May 11 was the finalisation of the cabinet of the Government of National Unity and the swearing-in of ministers. It was a small team, composed of hand-picked professionals, which had to deliver an urgent mandate.

As Duarte observed, Mandela was not passive in the selection of staff. When he sought to enlist Professor Jakes Gerwel as a possible director-general and cabinet secretary, she remembered that Mandela “wanted to know everything there was to know about Jakes. He asked Trevor [Manuel] … before he actually sat down with Jakes and said, ‘If we win, would you come to my office?’

“He also spoke to quite a number of activists [about] who this Gerwel chap was; who … would go into government with him.”

A competent cadre in the president’s office was needed to make up for the gap left by the withdrawal of the 60 people on De Klerk’s staff. At Thabo Mbeki’s prompting, a team headed by Department of Foreign Affairs official Dr Chris Streeter took on the role, with Streeter becoming Mandela’s “chief of staff” until the director-general was appointed.

Mandela was quick to dispel the illusion that he would be getting rid of the old personnel. He made a point of shaking hands with each member of staff. Fanie Pretorius, then-chief director in the office of the president, remembers the occasion: “He started from the left and he shook hands with every staff member, and about a quarter along the line he came to a lady who always had a stern face, though she was a friendly person. When he took her hand, he said in Afrikaans, ‘Is jy kwaad vir my?’ [‘Are you cross with me?’], and everybody laughed and the ice was broken.

He continued and gave the message to all the staff. There was nothing more and everybody was relieved. He was Nelson Mandela at that moment, with the warmth and the acceptance. Everybody would have eaten out of his hand — there was no negative feeling from anybody after that in the staff, at least that we were aware of.”

Mandela’s personal warmth towards people from all walks of life, from gardeners, cleaners, clerks and typists to those in the most senior roles, did not go unnoticed. Those who came across him in the course of their work described him as generous, self-effacing and easy-going; a man who knew “how to be an ordinary person”, with a sincerity demonstrated by his “greeting everybody in the same way whether there is a camera on him or not”; “there is never the feeling that he is up there and you’re down there”.

Mandela was respectful but not in awe of the world in which he found himself. Like all confident people who take their capability for granted, he was unhesitant about the road he needed to take to strengthen South Africa’s democracy.

Throughout his political life, he had never shirked responsibility, no matter how dangerous, as evidenced by his role as the volunteer-in-chief in the 1952 Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws — inspired by the sentiment contained in his favourite poem, Invictus, “the menace of the years” had found him “unafraid”.

One term only — that’s the deal

Imprisoned for more than a quarter of a century, Mandela had become the world’s most recognisable symbol against all forms of injustice. He was initially reluctant to become president, perhaps feeling that he had accomplished what he’d set out to do with his stewardship of the heady period from release to the elections.

“My installation as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa,” he writes, “was imposed on me much against my advice.

“As the date of the general elections approached, three senior ANC leaders informed me that they had consulted widely within the organisation, and that the unanimous decision was that I should stand as president if we won the election.

“I urged the three senior leaders that I would prefer to serve without holding any position in the organisation or government. One of them, however, put me flat on the carpet.

“He reminded me that I had always advocated the crucial importance of collective leadership, and that as long as we scrupulously observed that principle, we could never go wrong. He bluntly asked whether I was now rejecting what I had consistently preached down the years. Although that principle was never intended to exclude a strong defence of what one firmly believed in, I decided to accept their proposal.

“I, however, made it clear that I would serve for one term only.

“Although my statement seemed to have caught them unawares — they replied that I should leave the matter to the organisation — I did not want any uncertainty on this question. Shortly after I had become president, I publicly announced that I would serve one term only and would not seek re-election.

“At meetings of the ANC,” Mandela continues, “I often stressed that I did not want weak comrades or puppets who would swallow anything I said, simply because I was president of the organisation. I called for a healthy relationship in which we could address issues, not as master and servants, but as equals in which each comrade would express his or her views freely and frankly, and without fear of victimisation or marginalisation.”

The ANC — or, more precisely, President Mandela — needed to think clearly and plan well. Without this capability, it would be difficult to synthesise the old, security-oriented, bureaucratised civil service, a carry-over from the insular legacy of apartheid, and the new, somewhat inexperienced personnel, some of whom had recently graduated from overseas academies where they had received crash courses in administration and the rudiments of running a modern economy.

While De Klerk had a functioning administrative office staffed by people who had worked with him for years, Mandela and his deputy, Mbeki, had to start from scratch.

Gerwel was the first senior appointment, bringing gravitas to the presidential staff.

He also brought his extensive political background as a leader of the United Democratic Front and his engagement with the ANC in exile.

As vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, a position from which he was about to retire, he had led the transformation of an apartheid university into an intellectual home of the left. Mandela’s endorsement of Professor Gerwel shows the high esteem in which he held him. It’s even more remarkable that Gerwel came from the black consciousness tradition and wasn’t a card-carrying member of the ANC.

At the time he appointed Gerwel, Mandela had formed a reasonable idea about how he wanted his office to look. Like all obsessively orderly people — at one point he wanted to make his own bed in a hotel — he couldn’t function without a solid base.

Having Gerwel at the helm served this purpose. He respected Gerwel and would take his advice. Masekela later commented on this aspect of Mandela’s character.

“I think it requires a certain amount of humility and self-interest to want the best advice and to take it. He was a little too much admiring of educated people, I would say. He really was seriously impressed by degrees, and so on, and if you expressed some scepticism about someone like that it would be very difficult to convince him.”

Joel Netshitenzhe was a member of the ANC’s national executive committee and national working committee with a strong background in communications and strategic analysis. Deceptively casual and with an aversion to formal dress, Netshitenzhe — working with media liaison officer Parks Mankahlana, who’d come from the youth league — operated a brief that went beyond writing Mandela’s speeches: he was also the unofficial link to the various ANC and government constituencies.

Trusted by the media, mainly because he exuded confidence and candour — and was known to have the ear of the president — he worked hard to simplify the more complex policy positions in various forums.

But Mandela needed more than the cold, crisp analyses of his advisers; he also drew on the counsel of others in the ANC.

Having started a practice of marking Mondays as “ANC day” in his diary, he would spend that day at the ANC head office with the top officials and others, also attending NWC meetings. He had no set timetable, however, when consulting other ANC leaders close to him, like Walter Sisulu.

“Me, in particular,” Sisulu said, uncomplainingly, in a 1994 interview, “he likes to ring. He wakes me up, one o’clock, two o’clock, doesn’t matter, he’ll wake me up. I realise after he has woken me up, this thing is not so important — well, we discuss it, but it didn’t really require that he wake me up at that time.”

Mandela’s involvement in cabinet, however, changed over time.

Early in his tenure, he was more hands-on, keeping himself informed on almost all aspects of policy in order to maintain the coherence of the ANC in the GNU, a measure demanded by the intricate process of transformation.

100 days of meetings

Manuel remembers how, on the eve of cabinet meetings, Mandela convened ANC ministers and their deputies in an ANC cabinet caucus at his Genadendal residence in Cape Town. This he did, Manuel says, “so that we could caucus positions that we wanted to take and be mutually supportive. It afforded comrades [an environment] to have a discussion that was quite free”.

In his first 100 days in government, Mandela held meetings to guide the ministers or get their support for positions he held. He maintained a continuous interest in matters concerning peace, violence and stability.

As Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma observed, “I think for me he was more engaged at the beginning, but maybe it was because I engaged him more at the beginning because I myself was not experienced.”

Although Mandela had intended to announce the appointments only after the inauguration, his hand was forced by the media, which had got wind of the debate around the position of the deputy president, with the announcement of the cabinet being made on May 6 1994. It was an incomplete list and some of the names and their corresponding portfolios would be changed.

Setting up the cabinet was not uncontentious, with De Klerk piqued at inadequate consultation in the allocation of some portfolios. However, Mandela’s personal touch was unmistakable. Some of the processes, appearing haphazard at their genesis, ended up bearing fruit. A few of the cogs in the wheel of the machine geared to advance Mandela’s dream were blithely unaware of their importance and how their own lives would change

Dare Not Linger

Book details