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Intrigued by the Stellenbosch mafia's complicity in the Steinhoff scandal? James-Brent Styan reveals all in this extract of his latest book...

Stellenbosch is situated about 50 km from Cape Town on the banks of the Eerste River. After the Mother City, the Eikestad (City of Oaks) is the oldest town in South Africa, and its economy revolves mainly around tourism, a world-renowned university and the wine industry. Nowadays, Stellenbosch is also one of the hotbeds of technological innovation in South Africa, and is probably Africa’s top tech hub – a Silicon Valley for Africa, with many young Afrikaners going on to make their fortunes abroad using the ground-breaking technology they develop in Stellenbosch.

A report by the market research group New World Wealth shows that in 2017 there were 43 600 high net worth individuals in South Africa. These are people whose total wealth exceeds $1 million. The report further states that the Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch areas are the fastest-growing regions for the super-rich in South Africa, with a 20% increase in the number of dollar millionaires over the past decade. (Incidentally, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, including Umhlanga, are the three places with the most superrich individuals in South Africa, but many more people live in those cities than in the Boland.)

Stellenbosch is perhaps more famous for its old money than for its new.

This is where Afrikaner businesspeople have, over the decades, conceived giants such as Naspers, and where Rembrandt and Reunert grew into international empires. Many big names in the business world call this town home, including GT Ferreira, Jannie Mouton, Wendy Appelbaum and Koos Bekker.

The success of the people in Stellenbosch and the surrounding areas is often a target for criticism, especially from politicians and internet trolls. Long before the term “white monopoly capital” became popular, the wealthy elite of the Eikestad was given the unflattering nickname of the “Stellenbosch mafia”.

Julius Malema

The leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema, particularly enjoys chastising the “Stellenbosch mafia”. During the national election campaign in March 2014, he went on the warpath against the influence they allegedly exert. Malema addressed a crowd of 2 500 EFF supporters at Mandela Park, in Khayelitsha, and warned them not to underestimate the so-called Stellenbosch mafia.

“They control the judiciary, the economy, the land, the chain stores, the mines and the banks,” Malema said. “If the Stellenbosch boys don’t want you to be anything, you will never become something in life.”

When Malema was still a member of the ANC Youth League in 2014, he got into trouble with SARS and decided to target the businessman Johann Rupert, chairperson of the Swiss luxury goods group Richemont and the South African investment group Remgro, by saying that Rupert “controls SARS”. With this, Malema alleged that Rupert was at the root of his tax problems. “Rupert said the ANC Youth League is like an irritating mosquito in a room and it needs a Doom,” Malema complained.

In 2016, Rupert responded to the allegations when he was honoured at the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Awards for his life- long contribution to the business world. Rupert said that Malema had made him relevant again. “I haven’t been given an award until Mr Malema arrived and he pointed out that I was running the ANC, the DA and SARS,” he quipped.

But in the same breath he cautioned Malema to stop telling lies about him. He also pointed out that he does not live in Stellenbosch: “I don’t know how I can be part of the Stellenbosch mafia. We live in Somerset West.”

Good company

Years before, when Rupert joined the Rembrandt Group, the company founded by his father, Anton Rupert, he decided not to make his home in Stellenbosch. Johann and Gaynor Rupert moved into the estate Paarl Vallei in Somerset West, not far from the Ruperts’ corporate head office in the historic and beautiful old Cape Dutch manor house Groot Paardevlei.

Today, one of Rupert’s old Stellenbosch University friends, GT Ferreira, is one of the richest businesspeople in Stellenbosch. Ferreira owes his success to the banking groups FirstRand and Rand Merchant Bank, established in 1977 by himself and two partners, Laurie Dippenaar and Paul Harris, with a mere R10 000 in capital.

A Cape asset manager relays a story about Ferreira’s penchant for luxury cars: “A few years ago, GT wanted a very unique car that was unavailable in South Africa; I think it was a Maybach. The problem was that the manufacturer said they could only help him if there were at least six buyers for the car in South Africa. GT called all his pals in Stellenbosch, guys who could afford such a car, but nobody would bite. The upshot of it all was that GT purchased all six cars. Later he gave five of them to his friends. But GT got his car.”

Ferreira did not want to comment on this anecdote. His wine farm, Tokara, is located just outside Stellenbosch on the Helshoogte Pass towards Franschhoek.

Another well-known and popular member of the Stellenbosch billionaires’ club is Jannie Mouton, founder of the financial services group PSG. After Mouton was fired in 1995 by Senekal, Mouton and Kitshoff, the brokerage firm he had helped to establish 13 years earlier, he established PSG.9 Mouton lived in the exclusive Koloniesland complex for a long time, but then bought the farm Klein Gustrouw in the Jonkershoek Valley.

Directly opposite Mouton’s place is the farm formerly known as Bengale, although today there are three farms that share this address. When one looks at the Steinhoff Group’s prospectus for the 2015 listing in Germany, it is salient that three of Steinhoff’s top executives specify this farm as their home address. Danie van der Merwe, Frikkie Nel and Markus Jooste jointly purchased the property in 2003 through a company known as Uhambo Property Investment.

“The purchase price for the three farms was R25,6 million,” said Netwerk24 business journalist Nellie Brand-Jonker, who investigated the story in conjunction with her colleague Nadine Theron.

The Jooste family relocated from Pretoria in 2011 and moved onto the farm. There is a rumour that this is where Jooste is hiding today. Nel, who was the group’s financial director for many years, confirmed to Netwerk24 that the three of them had renamed the farm Jonkersdrift.

“Van der Merwe and I still live on the farm and I unfortunately do not know where Jooste lives now. I communicate with Jooste via SMS regarding the farm’s administration,” said Nel.

Nel still works for Steinhoff as a director of certain subsidiaries. Since December 2017, Van der Merwe has been acting as the CEO of Steinhoff.13 “I have not talked to him since the crisis (in December 2017),” Van der Merwe told Netwerk24.

Van der Merwe did not want to comment for this book.

Maties and horses

With Jooste’s and Mouton’s Stellenbosch farms directly opposite each other, the two of them started making wine at Klein Gustrouw. In his memoir And then they fired me Mouton elaborates on his friendship with Jooste: “Despite our age difference we are friends, we cultivate wine together and trust each other in much more than business deals.”

Another old Stellenbosch friend who became an important business partner of Jooste’s is Rian du Plessis, later the CEO of the horse racing group Phumelela. He was friends with Jooste at university, and the two of them lived in Wilgenhof. According to various sources, Du Plessis and Jooste also worked at SARS in the 1980s after completing their studies. Du Plessis continues to act on behalf of Jooste’s personal trust in certain legal proceedings, and the two former Maties are major role-players in the world of horse racing.

“Markus was like a dynamite stick in the horse racing industry,” says someone who was close to Jooste for many years and still stands by him. According to this person, Jooste became involved in the horse racing industry “for his own pleasure”: “There can be no doubt. Markus put much more into horse racing than he ever got out. For every 100 he put in, he probably got out one.

For him it was just a source of pure joy and pleasure. He created work for thousands in the industry: jockeys, breeders, trainers. Markus brought horse racing in South Africa out of the dark ages into the 21st century.”

Chris van Niekerk, who later became chairperson of Cape Thoroughbred Sales (CTS), was another ally of Jooste’s in the world of horse racing. Van Niekerk stood by his friend for many years, and it seems as if he still supports him.

But Advocate Brett Maselle, also a horse owner, is critical of Jooste’s influence on the industry. He says Jooste had too much power and it disturbed the balance in the industry: “Money buys influence and he had a lot of money.”

The Durban July

One of the greatest wins in Jooste’s horse racing career was the 2016 victory of his racehorse The Conglomerate in the Durban July. It was the 120th running of the Durban July and Jooste’s horse wasn’t given much of a chance. Yet The Conglomerate, with the renowned jockey Pierre Strydom in the saddle, did not disappoint and won at Greyville.

It was the first win in the July for Jooste’s trainer, Capetonian Joey Ramsden, as well as Strydom’s fourth July victory. “It has been a couple of weeks to remember, culminating in The Conglomerate putting his best hoof forward and winning a smashing race,” Ramsden wrote in his personal blog in 2016.

Jooste was not in Durban to experience his horse’s moment of glory. He was in the USA on a business trip. Only his wife, Ingrid, their two daughters and his son-in-law, Stefan Potgieter, were there.

“July Day was special. For once the spotlight was on Mrs Jooste. The celebrations afterwards were even more fun. It was a great weekend’s racing,” Ramsden wrote.

According to tradition, Ramsden sent a cheeky “please call me” message to Jooste to tell him the news about the victory in the July (with its R4,25 million prize money).

Ingrid Jooste accepted the trophy from the guest of honour on the day, then president Jacob Zuma.

“In his typically charismatic style, winning trainer Joey Ramsden performed an elaborate bow and almost kissed the floor in front of a smiling Zuma,” writes the racing magazine Sporting Post.

Another highlight in Jooste’s horse racing career was the historic victory by his horse Variety Club in the epic Hong Kong Mile. Nobody gave Variety Club a chance and no foreign horse had ever won the Hong Kong race.

In total, Jooste recorded more than 1 000 winners in his career as a race horse owner.

Wiese and the cliques

Christo Wiese is also often described as a member of the Stellenbosch mafia, even though he has lived in the Cape Town suburb of Clifton for 42 years, just a few metres from the popular Fourth Beach.

Wiese would occasionally elaborate on the number of groups or cliques in Stellenbosch.

“There were the academics, the professors and the doctors, and they were a group on their own; then there was the Rembrandt bunch; they triumphed where business was concerned, and then there are also the wealthy wine farmers, although there is no longer such a thing as wealthy wine farmers, only wine farmers,” he teased.

He continued: “So you have all these groupings; it is a very difficult town to define as a single community. And yes, I’m friendly with the guys like GT (Ferreira).”

Wiese’s splendid farm Lourensford is in Somerset West, but for many years he also owned the historic farm Lanzerac in the Jonkershoek Valley (just a kilometre or two from Jonkersdrift). And it was this farm that marked the beginning of Wiese’s association with Steinhoff. In an interview in May 2018, he explained: “In 2011, I wanted to sell Lanzerac and Jooste comes to me and says they are a consortium that will buy it.

At the same time, he wants me to consider exchanging my PSG shares for Steinhoff shares, just like GT Ferreira and the other guys did. I said yes, I will look at it and in the end I did it. Then I was a fairly large shareholder in Steinhoff, probably around R1 billion. Thereafter they invited me to join the board, in 2013. And I became chairperson in 2016, a year before the smash.”

How friendships help

There are definitely several groupings with their own loyalties in Stellenbosch. One commentator says it is unfair to call them a “mafia”, because there are so many competing interests. The fact that the bonds of friendship between Stellenbosch businesspeople are often a great advantage can hardly be doubted. It is a network of people who do a lot of business together. The fact that they sometimes outmanoeuvre each other is also true.

Perhaps the picture is better sketched by means of an example. (Please note that all of the examples highlighted here are completely legal.) In 2008 Wiese exchanged the shares he owned in the Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika, better known as KWV, for the PSG shares referred to above. By 2011 Wiese owned close to 15,5 million PSG shares (a stake of about 9,2%). By that time Jooste had 20 million PSG shares (about 11,8%).

Shortly after the Lanzerac deal, Wiese and Jooste exchanged their PSG shares for Steinhoff shares. As a result, Steinhoff acquired a 20% stake in PSG.

By 2015, Steinhoff ’s stake in PSG had increased further. Jannie Mouton still served with Wiese and Jooste on Steinhoff ’s board that year.

In June 2015 two PSG directors, Jaap du Toit and Thys du Toit, exchanged their PSG stake for Steinhoff shares. The total value of the deal was about R1,8 billion. This also increased Steinhoff ’s stake in PSG.

A few months later, in December 2015, Steinhoff listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The share transaction had two interesting features. The first one is well explained by asset manager Magda Wierzycka, of the Sygnia Group.

She describes this move by the two directors, shortly before the Steinhoff listing in Germany, as a “cynical move by shareholders in PSG to, in a sleight of hand, swap their shareholding in PSG shares in South Africa for a suddenly- Frankfurt-listed Steinhoff, thereby externalising their wealth without the need for foreign exchange control approvals”.

The second story about the PSG directors’ share exchange is that Mouton did not know about the plans of his two board members. “Mouton was angry about it. Angry and disappointed. It was the first time that members of the PSG inner circle sold PSG shares,” says Doringdraad, the pseudonym of a well-known analyst who has long kept an eye on the PSG Group. In May 2016, Mouton resigned from the Steinhoff board and sold all his Steinhoff shares.

Social capital

The well-known political and economic analyst JP Landman says that if you have good contacts, you have a greater chance of achieving success in South Africa. He refers to this as “social capital”: “All the research indicates that social capital is vital to succeed, whether you are in Stellenbosch or in the Free State or in other parts of the country. Social capital is just the relationships, the trust or simply the people who talk to each other.”

Landman says he doubts whether it’s accurate to refer to the Stellenbosch elite as a “mafia” or a “club”: “I don’t know if it is really a club, we know of big fights between people who are evidently included in the group. I don’t think the guys spend Christmas Eve together. So, it’s actually a fictional thing, the notion of a club. What is actually important is to have and to build networks.” He says the Steinhoff saga would definitely have caused tensions between people who trusted each other.

Is there a new generation of super-rich on the way? Landman offers his view: “As the saying about billionaires goes, one third is entrepreneurs who build new businesses; one third works for large companies where they are well paid; and one third is the ‘lucky sperm club’ who inherit wealth. In all three categories, people can perform outstanding work and create value. So, yes, new players will emerge as the old generation moves on. The process will continue within, but also beyond Stellenbosch.”

The alleged affair

It was not only Jooste’s so-called business tricks that were exposed in December 2017. His alleged extramarital affair with a 34-yearold blonde polo player named Berdine Odendaal also made the news. On 13 December 2017, HuffPost South Africa reported that Odendaal drives around in a silver Bentley and a white Ferrari and owns ten multimillion-rand properties in the pristine Val de Vie polo estate near Paarl. She lives in a luxury apartment in Bantry Bay, near Clifton. Stefan Potgieter, Jooste’s son-in-law, apparently manages the apartment on behalf of a group called Coy’s Properties.

One Malcolm King, a friend of Jooste’s, owns Coy’s Properties. The Bantry Bay apartment was bought for R21,5 million in 2012, Huff- Post South Africa reported.
Odendaal did not want to talk to the media in December 2017, and in May 2018 she also declined the opportunity to comment. After the Steinhoff scandal broke, Odendaal disappeared from the public eye for months. In March 2018, she appeared in public again at Val de Vie for the Veuve Clicquot Polo Championship.

Two senior Steinhoff managers say Steinhoff chauffeurs regularly drove Odendaal around. “Many people in the group knew about the affair.”

Wiese says he was not aware of the relationship: “If it is true that he has a secret lover, I would never have trusted him.” He says that in his time as chairperson of the Pepkor Group he fired three senior executives because they cheated on their wives: “If a man can lie to his wife, he will lie to me too. Whitey sometimes had the same issue at Shoprite. He always said he could forgive a footprint, but not a footpath.”

Anger in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch residents are angry about the reputational damage done to their town as a result of the Steinhoff scandal. Johann Rupert, chairperson of Richemont and one of the wealthiest people in South Africa, was born and raised in Stellenbosch. Rupert tweeted the following on 11 December 2017, a few days after the scandal broke: “Although I left Stellenbosch in 1975, it really irritates me that none of the so-called ‘Stellenbosch mafia’ who is causing so much damage to the town’s reputation was born or raised in Stellenbosch. All of them are ‘immigrants’.”
Rupert’s comment upset other Stellenbosch residents who were not born in the town.

“It is quite wrong to paint everyone who lives and contributes here with the same brush as Jooste and his men,” one well-known resident said.

Book details

"The blood of the woman on the stoep of my father's shop was redder than stoep polish." Read an extract from Harry Kalmer's A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg, shortlisted for the 2018 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Published in the Sunday Times

“My name is Alice and I am as old as the mountains.”

Richard Ho’s grandmother spoke into Cherie Sadie’s camera.

“As old as the mine dumps. As old as Mandela. We were born in the same year. So I am not exactly sure what I imagine and what I remember. Is there a difference? Not much, if you ask me.

“Sometimes when I am in bed, I think I hear the whistle of a steam locomotive. But there haven’t been steam trains in Johannesburg for years. So the train I hear is probably only my memory. Or my imagination.

“At night in Chinatown you could hear the trains shunting at the municipal market and in the Braamfontein Yard. Steam trains. Toot-toot. Clickety-clack. But my first memory is of another place.

“My father owned a shop next to a mine. It was during a strike. There was a Boer woman. Afterwards we heard that her husband was a scab. She was on the stoep of my father’s cash store when a piece of coal hit her in the eye. Nobody knew who threw it. I’m telling you, she screamed. She dropped to her knees and cried like a baby. I remember it like it was yesterday. She was wearing a white apron and one of those kappies that the poor aunties wore in those days. Blood spurted from her eye like a fountain.

“I seldom speak Afrikaans these days. But the pretty words come back all the time. Words like ‘fontein’ and ‘lokomotief’. Not words you hear a lot any more, if you hear what I’m saying.

“Anyway, I’m losing track of my thoughts. The blood of the woman on the stoep of my father’s shop was redder than stoep polish. My parents tried to stop the bleeding with a towel. Older Brother who died last year at ninety-five … or was it the year before last? Anyway, Dad sent Older Brother to call the soldiers. They came with a tank or lorry or something like that and took the poor white woman away. I don’t know who the woman was and I never saw her again. But I clearly remember her eye spouting blood like a fountain. That’s the first thing I remember.”

Book details

Read an extract from Francois Smith's The Camp Whore, shortlisted for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Published in the Sunday Times

Rock. Above me and around me. I am in a cave, I know that now. On the rockface eland are leaping over me, and between them are little black men with knobkerries in their hands. I also know what that is.

On Bosrand there was a cave with Bushman paintings. Yes, Bosrand. Now things are coming back to me. Pa had shown us. Pa. Ma. Neels. Me.

There was also a face in front of me. I remember now. And the shock. He sat on his haunches next to me, and I saw the grains of sand on his pants and on his hand. Then I saw that the hand was black. I closed my eyes. Shut them. Later on, I again tried to work out where I was but all I could see were these mud clouds and the only thing that existed was this terrible fear.

It’s also him talking now, that face.

It’s like rocks tumbling down a mountain from up high. It is a sound that I know. I understand what he is saying. Kgotso, Mofumahat-sana, he says. That is how they greet one. The good ones, that is their greeting. But he just wants me to believe that he is one of the good ones, what he really wants is a white woman to do with as he pleases.

I can see him clearly now. He sits with his knees pulled up and holds a knobkerrie between his legs. His head is turned away, but I know he is watching from the corner of his eye. Metsi. That is what I need to say. Water. I want water. He must give me water, that is all I want, and then I can die. He must just kill me quickly so that I cannot see or feel what he is doing.

He puts the knobkerrie down and stands up. I’m scared half to death. But all he does is dip his hand into a calabash next to me – I’ve only just noticed it – and brings his hand to my mouth. Cupped.

I stick out my tongue and can at least taste the water. He lets it drip. I try to swallow, but my tongue won’t move. Luckily, more comes, and then more. The water is bitter, tasting of leaves, something like aloe or sage. My whole face is wet, and so are my chin and throat.

There is something wrapped around my head, I can feel that now. Why am I lying here under a blanket? Am I naked? What has the herdsman done to me? What is he going to do to me?

O mang? That is what I should say. Who are you? But the words refuse to come out. I can’t speak. Like Ma, when she tried to pray but couldn’t find the words and stretched her hands out towards me. Lord, watch over us, and let your light shine upon us.

My lips crack when I try to open my mouth. Only prayer will prevent darkness from descending on the land. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, sayeth the Lord. There is a priest sticking his hands up in the air, straight as an arrow up at the clouds and he looks down at me, and I look away from his terrible face, away from his eyes glaring at me like a glowing furnace, seeing only evil and wretchedness. Where is that herdsman who is always sitting here, next to me, where is he? His name is Tiisetso. He doesn’t call me nooi. But then he looks away and says ke sôno. It’s a great pity, he says. He says I must sleep again so that I can become strong again. He says I was hurt badly at Balla Bosiu. With his knobkerrie he pounds the ground between his feet.

Balla Bosiu. The camp. The place where they weep at night, that is what they call it. That I do remember. The camp. That is where I have come from. I know that now. But if I close my eyes and think, then all that comes to mind is the feel of a sheep’s hoof in my hand, how hard the bone is under the skin, and the prickly wool, and the kick that jerks my arm right up my shoulder. Then I see someone pull back the head and swiftly draw a blade across the throat and cut, cut, cut as the blood bubbles and the windpipe bursts, and I cannot look away even though I want to and the man who is slaughtering looks at me, his nose is thin and skew and his lips are dry and the same colour as his skin, not red, and he says something to me, but I cannot hear what he is saying.

Instead, I keep my eyes open. But how did I get here? This man must tell me. What is he going to do with me? If only I could ask. What is he going to do with me?

Book details

Irma Venter's Sondag has been translated into English as Blue Sunday

Human & Rousseau is excited to announce that after the great success and popular appeal of her previous five crime novels (Skoenlapper, Skrapnel, Sondebok, Skarlaken and Sirkus) Irma Venter’s last novel, Sirkus, is being translated into English as Circus and will hit bookshelves late-August. Her latest crime novel Sondag is also appearing as Blue Sunday in September.

With her S-series, Irma has drawn the attention of the South African reading public and Deon Meyer has been quoted as calling her work “world class”. As with her S series, the titles in her English series will also follow a pattern, each named after a well-known song (“Circus” by Britney Spears and “Blue Sunday” by The Doors) so you can have a backtrack whilst curling up with your book.

About Blue Sunday:

Sunday. Christmas Eve. There is a break-in at the Stable Estates in Pretoria East. Businessman Lafras van Zyl is left for dead and his family has disappeared without a trace.

After six weeks there are still no clues, and Captain AJ Williams has been summoned to solve the case.

Alex Derksen and Ranna Abramson are on the trail of Martina Buitendag (17), who went missing in Yeoville.

Two crimes. Countless secrets. More questions than answers.

About the author:

Irma Venter is a journalist at a media company in Johannesburg. She has received several accolades, including the Siemens Africa Profile Award for Science and Technology writing in 2012. She received the ATKV award for a suspense novel, for her debut, Skoenlapper. Her subsequent best-selling novels are Skrapnel, Sondebok, Skarlaken and Sirkus.

"Djulle moet wys raak dat hulle force allie tyd hulle valse Afrikaans byrie skool." Lees ’n uittreksel van Jeremy Vearey se Jeremy vannie Elsies

Van laaitie tot politieke kryger, bandiet tot generaal-majoor, ondergrondse operateur tot presidensiële lyfwag…

Van sy kleintyd in Elsiesrivier neem Jeremy Vearey se lewe talle onvoorspelbare wendings.

Sy eiesoortige vertelling sluit die ouere manne van sy jeug in, die ooms by die damstafel, kerkjeugkampe en die Kommuniste-manifes, skoolhou en ondergrondse werk vir MK, en sy aanhouding op Robbeneiland. As Mandela se lyfwag help hy ’n opstand in die Karoo ontlont, voor hy deel word van die nuwe SAPD, waar hy saam met die gewese vyand terrorisme en Kaapse bendes takel.

En onder alles loop ’n donker stroom.

Hier volg ‘n uittreksel van Jeremy se merkwaardige verhaal:

In Junie 1976 het ek begin kwaad word vir die wêreld, maar dit het min met die politieke onstuimigheid van daardie maand te doen gehad. Was dit die ontnugterende sameloop van te veel grond wat te vinnig onder my dertienjarige voete geskuif het? Daar was die skielike trek na ouma Galant se nuwe, eiesoortige huis in ’n eenvormige Uitsig waar die betekenis van die pleknaam niks met ’n vallei van hemel en aarde in gemeen gehad het nie. Miskien was die skielike aanslag van geraas en straatlewe op die Kaapse Vlakte net te veel. Om my onsekerheid te hanteer het ek begin optree op die enigste manier wat die straat my geleer het. Ek het begin baklei.

*

Ek was terug in Elsies, nog net so onvoorspelbaar soos altyd en slaggereed om enige vyand op die strate van Bishop Lavis, Elsiesrivier, Tiervlei en Uitsig te trotseer. My tweede vyand was die steilhaarleier van ’n bende Holy Trinity Laerskool-leerlinge wie byna elke middag wanneer ek en Merle van skool af huis toe loop, my op die Bishop Lavis-Elsiesrivier-brug in Haltweg geteister het. Ek kon seker die sypaadjie aan die teenoorgestelde kant van die pad gebruik maar het ek verkies om direk deur die klomp Holy Trinityleerlinge te stap. Hierdie uitdaging het gewoonlik gepaardgegaan met vuishoue en skoppe van alle kante terwyl ek vergeefs terugveg en vloekend wegloop onder hulle gespot en gelag.

Dis nou tot ek eendag met ’n passer en vulpen my weg deur hulle gesteek het. Die volgende dag het van hulle ouers by die skoolhoof meneer Majoos gekla maar hierdie keer was daar ’n les saam met die gewone ses-van-die-bestes. Die trant van sy les was oor hoe die braafste ding wat ’n man kan doen, is om ’n geveg te vermy tot hy ’n ander manier vind om die konflik sonder geweld op te los.

Maar toe kom 16 Junie 1976, en ek leer eerstehands hoe onvanpas daardie les is as jou teenstander nie ook daarin glo nie.

Dit was my oudste neef Louis wie my aan die politiek van 16 Junie voorgestel het. Louis het nooit gewerk nie maar elke dag sy suiwer daggaslowboat gerook. Hy was ’n beginselvaste man wie gereeld ons jonger newe vermaan het om nooit eendag bottelkop of witpyp soos skollies te rook nie want hulle bemors die dagga deur dit met sigarette en buttons te meng.

Eendag in Junie 1976 toe Elsiesrivier en Tiervlei se strate woes aan die brand is onder verlate busse en afleweringstrokke met gebreekte vensters, terwyl polisie se Land Rovers en Ford-vangwaens tevergeefs die onskuldiges probeer vastrek, kom Louis met sakke vol brood by oupa Vearey se djaart in Tiervlei aan. Nadat hy dit aan al die anties en die bure uitgedeel het, kom staan hy om die ghellieblik by ons en rook sy Rizla Blackie-daggaslowboat.

Ná ’n lang, diep trek deur dungeperste lippe hou hy dit eers binne vir omtrent ’n minuut. Toe eers blaas hy dit beheers en egalig uit en verklaar in ’n piepstem, terwyl die daggawolke saam met die woorde uit sy mond seil: “Ôs hette Duens-broodlorrie by Tiekie-stage vedala. Djulle moet gesienit hoe al die voovensters tot daa by die driver se knieë sametime stukkend spat. Vêrre gryp die driver saam met ôs die brood en ôs brand saam die lorrie in sy moer.”

“Vi hoekom?” vra Ricky.

Louis trek nog ’n diep skyf van sy slowboat en antwoord: “Sien djy, djulle sal eendag wys raak dat daai Duens-lorrie behoot aanie Boere ennit gaan oo hulle wat ôs wil force om hulle Afrikaans te praat.”

“Ma ôs praat dan oek Afrikaans! Dêrrie en Ma oek allie pad,” stry ek.

“Issie dieselfde Afrikaans vannie Boere nie. Ôs Afrikaans is original. Djulle moet wys raak dat hulle force allie tyd hulle valse Afrikaans byrie skool,” verduidelik Louis.

Ma het ook ’n soortgelyke trant gevolg in haar pogings om Junie 1976 te verduidelik, met dié verskil dat sy gemeen het Afrikaans is deur die Boere van ons gesteel en in ’n vreemde apartheidstaal verander om ons te forseer om die wêreld deur hulle woorde te verstaan en aanvaar. Sy het ons manier van Afrikaans en Engels praat as ’n vorm van rebellie teen hierdie apartheidsafrikaans beskou. Dis met dié dat ek en ’n groep standerdvyfleerlinge eendag in Julie 1976 geweier het om ná tweede pouse na ons klasse terug te keer.

Nie eens die skoolhoof se pleidooie, bangmaakstories van die mees gevreesde onderwysers oor lyfstraf of dreigemente van polisieoptrede kon ons daai dag stuit nie en die skool het stert tussen die bene verdaag.

Maar die volgende dag, toe bring die skoolhoof hulle geheime wapen. Niemand anders nie as ons ou sub B-onderwyseres miss Biscombe nie. Nog voor die oggendklok kon lui, het sy ons op die skoolterrein toegespreek en verduidelik dat sy dit eens met ons is oor apartheidsopvoeding maar dat dit in die lang termyn oor meer as net die gebeure in Soweto gaan. Ons klasboikot was onvolhoubaar en sou niks in die langtermynvryheidsstryd bereik nie. En só is Junie 1976 se politieke rebellie van die standerdvyfklas by Greenlands Primêr summier gestuit. Miskien is dit ironies dat dit wel meneer Majoos se les was – om ’n geveg te vermy tot ’n vreedsame oplossing gevind kan word – wat ons hier op ’n slinkse wyse gepootjie het.

Boekbesonderhede

Read an excerpt from Lesego Rampolokeng's Bird-Monk Seding, shortlisted for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Published in the Sunday Times

Lesego Rampolokeng is a poet, word performer, and the author of 12 books, including two plays and three novels. He has collaborated with visual artists, playwrights, film-makers, theatre and opera producers, and musicians. His no-holds-barred style, radical political aesthetic and instantly recognisable voice have brought him a unique place in South African literature.

The gathered, sweating, angry-to-trembling Afrikaners in the dusty street want it to have been an attempt at rape. An assault on their grasping at white nationhood. The hands are on the guns. The trucks roar, eager to grab whoever it was. Old woman speaking, the one who lives in the house opposite, with her Parkinson’s-diseased geriatric husband who can only hobble a quarter step at a time from the door to the gate, and her divorced, middle-aged, bulimic daughter. She speaks fast, her squeaky vice trying to rise above the deep-throat growls of the trucks and their old-republic-clad occupants. She prattles fast about how i am a good person, i live in that little house behind the trees, i help out… and it is to not have them turn their murder-intent and fire attention on me… Yes, they gathered in, wanting it to have been an attempt at despoiling this white woman.

And the victim… she struts, the attention bringing a little colour, in vain, to her face. She is walking off her soles, bouncing, glad. She looks like crumpled khaki, like brown paper wrapper out in the elements too long. Like she has been through storms, wind, dust then drain-water drenched and cast out in the driving sun. Pink blotched some kind of symmetry across the face. Deep lined, the visage. Trenches cutting in and across. Thin to the bone, you can see the bones sticking out on both shoulders, desperately holding her shirt up. She bathes in the harsh light of her victimhood. For a change because always when she walks past, the boers look at her. Surreptitiously, the grimaces forming, and steal their glances away, never staring.

Ashamed.

She is no boeremeisie to hold up in pride of the Van Riebeeck and oom Paul Kruger old tradition. She hustles all – black, white – for money in the street. The pale skin peeling off her face. She collects and sells scrap metal across the freeway and…you need not be told but you can see the drug-hunger. The craze behind the skinless eyes.

This day her two children, 6 and 8, ran screaming down the dirt-street and cries filled the air. I ran out. And heard through the trees bordering our properties my AWB neighbour furiously saying, loud-voiced – i later learned it was into her telephone – ‘kom gou…kom gou’ and blabbering incoherently, other things. By the time i got to the gate there were three trucks and a couple of cars gathered in the street, guns on show. A police car arrives, and the police are bored, one yawning. It is Monday morning.

They don’t believe this rape story. The AWB neighbour, predatory, like the smell of blood was in the air and the wounded close by, was wafting and floating around, holding centre-court.

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