25 January 2012

The Story of Hunadi by Mokoka Klaas Mashishi (Book Excerpt)

Chapter Two

When it was time for Mme Mmakgati’s twins, Hunadi and Sello, and Andries Kruis’s son, Reti, to go to school, Andries Kruis applied to the Native Affairs Department for permission to open a school on his farm for the children of farmworkers. The application was rejected. In the meantime, Hunadi tried hard to master the guitar lessons that Andries Kruis gave them, thinking that was in preparation for their admission to the school in Suiderberg Oos. A few years later, a primary school for farmworkers’ children was opened on Tertuis De Doring’s farm, Nuwe Jerusalem. The three children leaped over the couch, wrestled, and pushed each other after Andries Kruis told them that they were going to start school. Mme Mmakgati and Mmanoko Kgati shooed them out of the house. “I’m going to attend school in Suiderberg Oos,” Reti told Hunadi and Sello outside. “And you’ll go to De Doring’s Farm School. No black children attend school in Suiderberg Oos Primary School.”

“But why?” Hunadi asked.

“I don’t know,” Reti said. “That’s what my father told me.”

Hunadi went back into the house and approached Andries Kruis. “Ntate Madalana, is it true that Sello and I won’t be going to Reti’s school?” she asked.

Andries Kruis took some time before answering. “Yes.”

“But why, Ntate Madalana?”

“It’s what the government wants.” He put his hand on Hunadi’s head and shook it gently.

“Ntate Madalana,” Hunadi persisted. “Won’t you ask the government to allow Reti and Sello and me to attend the same school, please, Ntate Madalana?” Hunadi lifted her head to gaze into Andries Kruis’ eyes, but he had already turned his face upward, as if peering at the ceiling. She could hear the deep slow sigh that came from his lips, followed by a soft, short whistle. Then she saw his face look down again.

“Okay, I’ll do that, but Hunadi, so many other people want to talk to the government, it’s going to take a long time.”

Hunadi saw Andries Kruis’ craggy face come closer. Two sturdy hands held her shoulders and shook them vigorously. A strong smell of tobacco smoke flooded her nostrils.

“Do you know what I’m going to do?”

Puzzled, Hunadi shook her head.

“I’m going to give you and Sello and Reti a tickey each. You all go to O’Reilly’s and get yourselves some sweets.” And the three ran yelling through the main gate on their way to O’Reilly’s General Dealer.

“Mme, Ntate Madalana said he’d talk to the government so that Sello, Reti and I can go to the same school,” Hunadi told her mother in the evening.

“I see,” Mme Mmakgati said. “Listen. There’s someone else who controls the government and tells it what to do, and that is God.” Hunadi nestled closer to her mother. She held her forearm with both hands firmly. Mme Mmakgati placed one hand over the two little hands holding her. “If you pray everyday,” Mme Mmakgati continued, “and you stop climbing trees, riding horses with Sello and Reti and whistling like them, and you do all your chores, then God will see that you’re a good girl, and then he’ll tell the government to change its mind.”

That night, Hunadi went to bed determined to do all the things her mother asked her to do.

Hunadi and Sello walked to their farm school while every morning a school bus came to transport Reti to the Europeans Only school in Suiderberg Oos. Because their schools opened on different days, Mme Mmakgati was able to accompany them to the gate on the first day of school - first Reti and then Hunadi and Sello - always chanting their praise poems.

Hunadi and Sello’s classroom, which accommodated all the children of the Nuwe Jerusalem farm school, was a disused barn at the back of which were stacks of empty forty-four gallon oil drums. Three teachers taught at the school - the principal, Ma’am Theledi, and her two assistants, Ma’am Zukwana and Ma’am Chauke. In the morning, it was the five senior classes and from midday the three lower classes.

When she was in Std. 5, Hunadi asked the principal if she could bring her slow-witted cousin, Lenyora, to class. Lenyora’s mother was raped and stabbed to death in Pretoria when he was a year old. “He won’t be disruptive,” Hunadi told Ma’am Theledi. “I’ll always give him work to do.” Ma’am Theledi relented only after Hunadi had shown her that Lenyora could write and read the vowels. “How did you get him to do that?” she asked Hunadi.

“He loves to listen to stories and to tell them,” Hunadi said. “But he knows we first have to play school before we tell stories.”

Ma’am Theledi’s puzzled face came closer. “What do you mean you play school?”
“Everyday I write the vowels with a stick on the ground and I ask him to put stones along the outlines. I then ask him to do the same – draw his own letters and then put stones on them, and then we say them aloud. He enjoys playing like that,” Hunadi told Ma’am Theledi. She said it took time, but, as Ma’am Theledi had seen, Lenyora could read and write the vowels. Ma’am Theledi then asked Hunadi whether she would be prepared to assist some of the smaller children in Sub A. “But I’ve never taught,” Hunadi protested.

“You’ll do just what you do with Lenyora,” Ma’am Theledi replied. After observing Hunadi tell stories and then playing school with a group of Sub A pupils, Ma’am Theledi informed her that she would ask the school supervisor at Suiderberg if Hunadi could be appointed as a temporary teacher the following year.

The lower primary schoolchildren at the farm school were already assembled outside. Hunadi and the other teachers stood with their backs to the wall. Hunadi looked at the lower primary group of children standing in the midday haze. They stood in pairs, their eyes squinting at their teachers. Because of the heat, prayers were to be conducted in the barn – except for Hunadi’s group. Ma’am Theledi gave the signal and the children marched into the classroom. Hunadi smiled at them. She watched them as they marched in formation and, with round faces, dimpled faces, lean vaselined faces they stamped with unshod dusty feet on the sun-soaked soil as they disappeared into the oil-smelling, rat-infested barn. Hunadi and her group went to squat under the Morula tree near the windmill.

When school was over, Hunadi put her books and Lenyora’s slate in a sackcloth bag and she, Sello, and Lenyora began their long walk back home. “It’s so hot,” she said. “Let’s hurry home. I need to rest in the shade a bit before I start doing my chores. And then there’s the homework Ma’am Theledi gave us.”

“The map of Africa,” Sello said. “I’ll do that in the wink of an eye. Then, if Reti’s there, we’ll all start with our guitar practice.”

Hunadi was sceptical. “I want to spend some time on my home work. Remember, we have to show the main mountains and rivers.” She was delighted that they’d find Reti waiting for them at their home. He had told them his school would end early that day. Their principal had informed them that the farmers were going to hold a meeting in the school hall.

Because the water in the river had become a mere trickle, Hunadi, Sello, and Lenyora did not pass through the small gate leading to the dirt road. They did not need to go over the bridge. Instead they headed straight towards the river, through the fence, and walked until they reached the riverbank, then down and then up on the other side. Now they were on Reti’s father’s farm. After walking for some time, they came to The Place of the Rocks, where a flat rock juts out and is lodged into the earth on one side and lapped by the waters of the Kedi River on the other, but only when the river is full. During a drought, other rocks appear in the riverbed, forming a rugged, uneven wall from one side of the river to the other and trapping the trickle of water to form a small pool.

On the previous afternoon, Reti and Sello had disturbed a solitary phuti drinking from the pool. They came back in the late afternoon and set a few traps. The traps were among the underbrush on the other side of the pool. “I’m sure today we’ve caught something,” Sello said to Hunadi. Reti and Sello had decided that, should they catch the phuti, they’d throw a surprise party for her.

Sello’s words reminded her of the day they had to slaughter a fowl. She had perched herself as closely as possible and clasped the legs of the chicken. She looked at the gaping beak, glazed eyes, and protruding tongue. She thought the fowl was about to bring up. Her cousin, Lenyora, stood far off, terrified. She watched Sello’s pursed lips and steely eyes as he placed the sharp knife on the chicken’s quivering neck. Blood squirted. She felt spots of wetness on her face. She saw Sello turn and look at her, eyes glinting. She wiped the wetness from her face, but the heavy lingering smell of blood brought a rush of salty saliva in her mouth. Instantly, the inside of her stomach wriggled and writhed – she needed to puke. She stood up, ran to a spot behind the goat pen, and retched. From that day, she decided never to join Sello and Reti whenever they were going to slaughter.

“Sello, I hope you’re not going to slaughter it here,” Hunadi said. “I wish I had remembered. I wouldn’t have come with you this way.” She felt bilious. Suddenly, she saw Reti standing near the underbrush. “There’s Reti!” she said hoarsely. The thought of the imminent slaughter brought a gush of saliva in her mouth.

“Reti,” Sello called. “Have we caught anything?” Hunadi turned her head and sent a blob of saliva to her side.

“Nothing,” Reti answered, throwing his sun-tanned arms into the air.

“Let me go and check,” Sello said and gave his sack of books to Hunadi.

“I hope you’re not going to be long. I feel sick,” she said. She unbuttoned the top part of her khaki shirt, sat down under a tree, and fanned herself with an exercise book. She watched Sello tiptoe over the stones towards Reti. Lenyora followed him but something in the pool attracted his attention. He stopped, sat on his haunches, and peered into the water. “Aus Hunadi, come and see,” Lenyora said.

“I don’t want to be in the sun. Come and sit in the shade with me,” Hunadi replied.

Lenyora started swinging his hands in the air. “Please come, aus Hunadi. Come and see these things.”

When Hunadi got to where Lenyora was squatting, she took off her canvass shoes, put them before her, and placed one knee on each shoe to protect her knees from the rugged stones. “Oh, this is what you’ve been looking at - tadpoles.”

“What are tadpoles?”

“Children of frogs.” Hunadi turned to her side to see whether the trap-setters had finished. She felt weak and was about to send Lenyora to tell Sello and Reti to hurry when she realized that Lenyora had gone to join them. She thought she was going to vomit into the pool.

“Sello,” she heard Reti say, “there’s a whirlwind coming this way.”

“It’ll miss us,” Sello replied. But when Hunadi lifted her eyes, she saw the swelling tapering mound of red dust heading straight towards them. “We must leave,” she whispered to herself. Reti, Sello and Lenyora had just joined her.

She couldn’t raise her head. In the water, she saw faces – hers and Reti’s and Sello’s and Lenyora’s. The faces floated gently. They touched, and then drifted apart, faded in the shimmering water, reappeared, wafted in tandem very briefly, and blended. A gush of wind brushed over the water and rippled its surface, scattering the floating faces. She heard Reti say, “I told you the whirlwind will catch us.” But Reti’s voice came from far away. Now she was drooling and her head hung limply and her shoulders hunched forward. She heard Reti ask if there was anything wrong with her. She couldn’t open her mouth, and her body sagged. She felt hands hold her firmly under the shoulders and pull her away.

“What’s wrong?” Sello asked.

“I feel giddy,” she whispered just as the whirlwind flung dust and bits of dry grass into her face. She could see that Reti was bending over her as if to protect her from the whirlwind. The red hot grit burnt her eyelids, and she spat and coughed and hissed. The dust was choking her throat and blocking her nostrils. Slowly, she recovered. Then she overheard the voices.

“Aus Hunadi’s dying.” Lenyora’s words sent a gush of fear through her body.

“She’s ill,” she heard Reti say. “I think it’s the heat.”

“I’ll go and get help.” That was Sello. “Reti, you keep fanning her.”
Reti knelt beside her, and, stooping, he began to fan her. And immediately, his eyes caught, under her partially unbuttoned khaki shirt, the half-exposed breasts that gently rose and fell as if she was in deep sleep. He stopped fanning her. He noticed the lips, velvety purple, the dimples, and the strong, even teeth. Fear swirled in him, and, flustered, he looked around – there was nothing. He remembered what it was he was supposed to be doing. So he started working with the exercise book to blow more air into her face. Her eyes opened. The fear returned and swelled in his chest, but he did not know why.

“Why am I lying here?” She whispered. Had she tried to raise her head, she’d have touched Reti’s freckled face. With Lenyora’s words still ringing in her head, she whispered again, “Why am I lying here?”

Reti told her what happened. “Don’t worry,” he reassured her. “Let’s wait. Sello and Lenyora have gone to get help.” Later, they picked up voices. And then they saw them - Mme Mmakgati, Sello, Lenyora, and, right at the back, Andries Kruis. Together, they walked to Andries Kruis’ van, which was parked where the footpath ended and the dirt road began. They got in, Andries Kruis, Mme Mmakgati, and Hunadi in the cab, the rest behind, and they drove to Dr. Koekemoer’s surgery in Suiderberg Oos.

In the morning, on the day when Reti’s school broke up early, Andries Kruis donned his safari suit and a broad-brimmed hat and drove to Suiderberg Oos primary school. All the farmers were given notice of a meeting to be held there to discuss the spate of stock-thefts that plagued that part of the Eastern Transvaal. He was aware that, for some time now, a gang of thieves had been stealthily slaughtering cattle in and around Suiderberg Oos - two here and three there - and carting away the carcasses. So far, this had not happened on his farm. The only evidence the thieves left behind was large smudges of blood where they had dismembered their loot. A number of detectives were assigned the task of apprehending the criminals, but so far no one had been caught. The police investigations were made difficult by the fact that the thefts took place erratically. What confused Andries Kruis and the other farmers was that sometimes it would be quiet for months before the thieves struck again. The other farmers threatened to invade the village of Mangenaneng because, according to them, no one but the Natives engaged in stock theft.

In the school hall, he sat in the front row, near the door, so as to make a quick exit when the meeting was over. Many of his farmworkers came from Mangenaneng or had relatives there, so he worried about their safety. To avoid looking at the other farmers behind him or on his side, Andries Kruis studied the faces of the dignitaries. On the stage sat Boet Van Bosch, the honourable member of parliament in a blue suit; Kobus Venster, the native commissioner, also in a blue suit; General Hattie, the commissioner of police, and next to him, Major Koppies Stromp (both in police uniform); Dr. Fanie Koekemoer, chairman of the local executive committee of the Nationalist Party, also in a blue suit; Dominee Pels, in a black suit in spite of the heat, and a man who, at this stage, was not known to Andries Kruis. The man, who was in a grey suit and had a twisted nose, kept whispering to the Dominee. Must have injured his nose in a rugby match, Andries Kruis thought. Behind him, he could hear laughter from the farmers who were all male and wore their khaki or grey safari suits and broad-brimmed hats. The smell of pipe tobacco laced the school hall, and occasionally, the aroma of grilled meat wafted through the door – the women were preparing food outside. He didn’t feel like eating. The meeting had killed his appetite.

Soon, the meeting started. The Dominee said a short prayer and then handed over to the native commissioner, Kobus Venster, who introduced the member of Parliament, the commissioner of police and the major. The native commissioner, a lanky man with a slight stoop and hollow cheeks, explained why the government was opposed to the farmers’ invasion of the village of Mangenaneng. He said that the farmers needed to show the Natives that Europeans were a civilized people who believed in the rule of law. He went on to talk about Chief Jack Mangenane, whom he described as a good and obedient boy who had always done what the government wanted him to do. Unlike his uncle, who the government was ultimately forced to depose, the present chief had ceded the grazing lands to the north of his village to the government. “Just like that,” he said. “Didn’t even ask for a farthing.”
Then he paused, waiting for some response from the farmers.

“But why is the kaffir chief not handing over the stock thieves?” someone shouted from the back of the hall.

The native commissioner put his right palm on the left side of his chest. “Believe me. I know Chief Jack as much as I know my two year old son. If he knew who the culprits were, he would have long told me. But the thieves will definitely be caught and as to how that will be done, I’ll leave that to the honourable Member of Parliament to tell you.” He raised his arm towards Boet Van Bosch. “The honourable member for Suiderberg, please.”


“Die kaffir op sy plek!” someone shouted from the back of the hall.

The MP stood up and stared above the heads of the audience. “Well, I first want to respond to the remark made by someone at the back. Yes,” he said. “We want to put the Native in his place because there is no place for the Native in the land of the white man.”

“Hear! Hear!” the hall roared.

The MP continued. “It is the intention of your government to relocate all the natives living in the towns. They’re all going to be put in the reserves, native locations, and hostels.”

More boisterous applause.

The MP went on to say that the government would follow the same hostel system that for years had been practised on the gold mines: “All Natives living in white areas of this country will be housed in single-sex hostels and native locations so as to supply labour to the farms, the mines, and industry. In this way, we will solve the native problem once and for all. There will be no stock theft; there will be no increase in the Native population; and there will be enough land and enough labour to satisfy the needs of the white man.”

As the minister spoke, Andries Kruis thought about the families of his farmworkers. He put his arms between his knees and pressed hard. He pushed his head back and raised his shoulders, but when he saw that the Dominee was staring at him, he relaxed his shoulders, looked away, and filled his pipe.

“They’re stealing our cattle now, Mr. MP!” a voice shouted. “What are you doing about that?”

The MP raised his hand. “After receiving the letter from the native commissioner, I had a meeting with the minister of Native Affairs and the minister of Justice. I cannot reveal everything that we discussed in that meeting, but there are two important things that I can tell you. The first is that the people of Mangenaneng will be re-settled in a place called Maakeskraal, fifty miles away from here.”

Andries Kruis lit his pipe and, to ease the tension in him, he occupied himself by looking around the hall. Because of the whistling, shouting, and throwing of hats into the air, no one seemed to take notice of him - except the Dominee, who kept his eyes fixed on him.

“Let me say this,” the MP shouted.

The whistling and shouting stopped.

“I can’t tell you when it will happen. What I can say is that it will certainly happen.”

The MP told the farmers that the native commissioner was going to hold a meeting with the people of Mangenaneng that afternoon. “As a first step, they have to start culling their cattle. The natives should never ever think that they can be stock farmers,” he shouted above the applause and went on. “As far as the problem of stock theft is concerned,” he signalled the man with the twisted nose to stand up. “This man is called Lieutenant Sarel Berkstroom by his colleagues in the police force. But the natives in Marabastad call him The Terror of the Black Man.”

Shouting and whistling.

Smiling, he put his hand on Lieutenant Berkstroom’s shoulder. “When I telephoned the commissioner of police, I asked him not only to pick the best detective around, but also to give me a policeman who understands the criminal workings of the native mind. They can’t fool him because he even knows their language.” He shook Lieutenant Berkstroom’s hand. “I have looked at his record. I have spoken with him, and, I’m sure in a few weeks time, you’ll be writing to tell me that stock theft in Suiderberg Oos is a thing of the past.” The MP then asked Lieutenant Berkstroom to sit down. Lieutenant Berkstroom flashed a smile at the people in the hall and then lifted his chin as if his collar was choking him.

There was a loud applause in which Andries Kruis joined. This time the Dominee smiled at him and nodded.

The MP then told the farmers that Lieutenant Berkstroom would be given extraordinary powers and that he would report to Major Koppies Stromp, who would make sure that he got all the support he needed. The rest of his speech covered the different acts that had gone through parliament to put the government’s policy of apartheid into practice. In ending his speech, he announced that, because of the drought, the government had arranged with the Land Bank to roll over loans to farmers.

The farmers shouted, whistled, and stamped on the floor.

When the noise subsided, he continued, “We will also have a national day of prayer to ask God to end the drought.” The MP then thanked the farmers amid loud applause. They all stood up and sang, “Die Stem.” The Dominee closed the meeting with a short prayer. After saying, “Amen,” he quickly got off the stage and pursued Andries Kruis. “Mr. Kruis!” he called. “Mr. Kruis!”

He caught up with Andries Kruis near the gate. “Mr. Kruis, a moment, please.” The Dominee extended his hand to Andries Kruis. “I want to introduce you to Lieutenant Berkstroom before you disappear. I want him to know as many farmers as possible so that he mustn’t be hampered when he carries out his investigations.” The Dominee led Andries Kruis to Lieutenant Berkstroom, who was still on the stage. “Lieutenant Berkstroom, meet Mr. Kruis. Lieutenant, you think you know Sepedi. Wait until you hear Mr. Kruis. Speaks like a native,” he said.

The Dominee’s remark revived in the lieutenant painful memories of his own drunkard of a father – a man whose wont it was whenever he spoke to his black subordinates at work or at home, to spike his instructions with a string of swear words. He picked up the swear words from him, and they formed the bulk of his Sepedi vocabulary. “But, Dominee, you also speak Sepedi very well,” Andries Kruis said. “Pleased to meet you, Lieutenant.”

“Pleased to meet you too,” Lieutenant Berkstroom said and shook Andries Kruis’ extended hand.

“I have to rush back to the farm. Goodbye, Lieutenant,” Andries Kruis said and waved lightly at the two men. “Goodbye.” He turned and left.

“Goodbye, Mr. Kruis,” the Dominee said. “Later,” he told Lieutenant Berkstroom, “I’ll tell you more about Mr. Kruis. But now we have to look for Dr. Koekemoer. He’s one person who knows a lot about what’s going on in this place.” After finding Dr. Koekemoer, Dominee Pels introduced Lieutenant Berkstroom to the doctor and suggested that they all go and sit in his Chevrolet, which was parked under an oak tree outside the main gate. “What we want to tell you is highly confidential, but it might help you in your investigations. It concerns the man I introduced to you a minute ago. I mean Andries Kruis.” He touched the hinges of his spectacles with the tips of his fingers. “We’ll join the others in the tent later.”

“What about him?” Lieutenant Berkstroom asked.

In the car, he first apologized to Lieutenant Berkstroom that he was going to have to hurry because Professor Swart from the university, who had come specially to edit a compilation of his sermons, had already arrived. “I must join him soon in my study. My wife does the typing,” he said, “and she gets upset if we keep her waiting.” Dominee Pels then told Lieutenant Berkstroom that he had only been a few years in Suiderberg Oos and that some of the information he had about Andries Kruis was told to him by Dr. Koekemoer. He then asked Dr. Koekemoer to tell Lieutenant Berkstroom about how Andries Kruis had insisted that his son be brought up by a native family. The doctor told Berkstroom how he and the previous Dominee had tried to persuade Andries Kruis not to do so. Not only did Andries Kruis refuse but he became completely irrational and aggressive. “What hurt me and humiliated me is that he assaulted me in the presence of a native woman, and I was prevented by Dominee Teens from laying a charge.” Dominee Pels then took over. He was not one to badmouth any of his colleagues, but he had no doubt that what happened to Andries Kruis’ son could have been avoided had the previous Dominee stepped in immediately and decisively.

All the time the Dominee was talking, Dr. Koekemoer kept looking at his watch. “I’m sure the native commissioner will be looking for me. Let us get back into the yard,” Dr. Koekemoer suggested.

“Just a moment, Dr. Koekemoer,” the Dominee said. “There’s one important thing I need to tell the Lieutenant. We need to put an eye on Mr. Kruis’ farm.” Again, the Dominee adjusted his spectacles. “You see, Lieutenant, Mr. Kruis doesn’t know what’s happening on his own farm, and, even if the stock thieves were operating from his land, he wouldn’t know. Do you know that there is a private road joining Mangenaneng village and this dorpie? That road cuts right across Andries Kruis’ farm. Any hour of the day you’ll meet natives roaming up and down that road.”

“I’ll definitely get my two native detectives to keep an eye on the farm,” Lieutenant Berkstroom said.

“As far as the boy is concerned - I mean Andries Kruis’ son – Dr. Koekemoer and I have made it our life’s mission to keep him away from his father. That is the only way the boy can be saved,” the Dominee said. “I’ve organized a bursary for him. Next year, he’ll be going to the Agricultural College in Pretoria. Once he’s there, the college chaplain, who’s a friend of mine, will work on him. I’ve also asked the Chaplain to find ways of preventing the boy from visiting the farm until we are satisfied that we have changed him into a proper Afrikaner boy.”

Dr. Koekemoer again suggested that they look for the native commissioner. They all got out of the car.

Maybe I should get Lieutenant Berkstroom and the native commissioner to come closer together, the Dominee thought.

“Lieutenant,” the Dominee said, “That’s what I call a good man. The native commissioner, he is a good man, and, Lieutenant…” His voice changed to a whisper. “He’s someone you should get very close to. He’s the nephew of the wife of the present minister of agriculture.” He also told Lieutenant Berkstroom that the commissioner had a number of natives who informed him about what was happening in the native areas. (However, the Dominee omitted telling Lieutenant Berkstroom that the native commissioner, Dr. Koekemoer, and he were members of the Afrikaner Broederbond.) “There he is,” the Dominee said as soon as he saw the native commissioner near one of the tents in the yard. The Dominee introduced Lieutenant Berkstroom to the native commissioner.

“Mr. Native Commissioner, I was telling the lieutenant here,” the Dominee whispered, pointing at Lieutenant Berkstroom, “that you have a number of natives that tell you whatever is happening around here. I thought they could also help the lieutenant in his investigations.”

“Of course,” the commissioner whispered back. He looked at Lieutenant Berkstroom. “Incidentally, I also had the same idea. I was going to phone you, Lieutenant, and arrange a meeting. There’s one very good boy that I’ll send to your office. You see, all the natives here are afraid of him. He grew up in Alexandra and only came here after his uncle was banished.”

“I’d like to talk to him,” Lieutenant Berkstroom said. “Please send him to the Suiderberg Oos Police Station.” Lieutenant Berkstroom took out a black pocket notebook and a fountain pen. “What’s his name, Commissioner?”

“David,” the native commissioner said.

The commissioner stooped to shake hands. “I’m sorry. I’ve a packed schedule. In a few minutes, Dr. Koekemoer and I will be meeting Mr. Plumshire. After that, I must drive to Mangenaneng and address the natives there.”

“By the way, how are things going with your company?” The Dominee asked both the native commissioner and Dr. Koekemoer.

“Everything depends on the relocation of the people of Mangenaneng. Once that’s done, we can start approaching the banks - with your help, of course,” the native commissioner said.

“Well, let us not detain you,” the Dominee said. The native commissioner and Dr. Koekemoer went to their cars. The Dominee led Lieutenant Berkstroom to the tent closest to the gate and told him that he needed to leave immediately. “My wife and Professor Swart are waiting for me.”

“It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Dominee,” Lieutenant Berkstroom said.

I need to know him better, the Dominee thought as they shook hands. “Lieutenant, what about you and the missus joining us for supper, say tomorrow evening?”

Berkstroom blew hard through his nostrils. “I’m divorced, Dominee.”

“In that case, you’ll come alone.” They parted.

The native commissioner and Dr. Koekemoer drove to the building housing the firm of Plumshire and Associates along De La Rey Street.

He had met Timothy Plumshire in court one day, and they had tea together. It was on this occasion that Attorney Plumshire told the native commissioner that he had been sent to South Africa by a wealthy aunt in England to try and locate the place where her elder brother had died during the Anglo Boer War. She wanted just a handful of soil from the place where her brother had lost his life so that she could keep it as a memorial because his remains had never been recovered. Timothy Plumshire told the native commissioner that his search brought him to the slopes of Duiwelskoppie, and immediately when he saw that mountain, he thought of the many people in England who would like to see these kinds of places - places where their own kith and kin had seen action. So, when he received the telegram that his aunt had died, he decided to stay in Suiderberg and pursue his plans. First, having qualified as a lawyer in England, he didn’t take long to satisfy the requirements to enter the side bar. What he needed, Timothy Plumshire told the native commissioner, were South Africans who were interested in joining him in a company that would build a lodge on the slopes of the mountain and create a game park nearby. He would be able to get friends in England to organize tourists. Commissioner Kobus Venster suggested that they invite Dr. Koekemoer, who was a member of the Local Executive Committee of the Nationalist party. The threesome then began to have meetings in the boardroom of the firm of Timothy Plumshire and Associates to discuss the formation of the company. Having had painting lessons from his mother when he was a child, Timothy Plumshire decided that a painting of what he was envisaging would help his friends visualize what he had in mind. He bought an easel, oils, brushes, and a canvas and began painting what the north-facing aspect of the mountain would look like after the lodge had been built. The painting was now finished and Timothy Plumshire invited his two friends to come and view an artist’s impression of his plans.

The native commissioner and Dr. Koekemoer joined Timothy Plumshire in his boardroom, and they had a working lunch. As always, during these meetings, Commissioner Kobus Venster saw himself in a chauffeur-driven black Cadillac. He saw himself spending his holidays in plush hotels on the coast. And what was more exciting to him was when he saw himself sitting on a high-backed chair and giving instructions to those who worked for him because he would no longer be Commissioner Venster. He would be one of the directors and owners of the new company.

“Remember what I said,” Timothy Plumshire told the Native Commissioner and Dr. Koekemoer during the meeting. “My aunt’s friends in England will be more than happy to finance the entire project.” The chubby, beardless face smiled at the two men. “If you encounter any problems with the banks here with respect to the procurement loans-”

“Not with the Dominee interceding on our behalf,” the native commissioner said.

After the meeting, the native commissioner went to the off sales section of the Voortrekker Hotel and bought a case of Commando brandy, a gift for Kgoši Jack Mangenane. He thought he could feel the heat even in the air he breathed. He decided to go to his flat to change into a khaki safari suit and a khaki helmet. The blue suit, tie, and starched collar had made him drip pints of sweat that made his shirt stick to his back. All this time, he thought about the meeting he was going to have with the villagers of Mangenaneng. The themes of my speech are the importance of maintaining law and order, he thought; the need to supply the police with information on the stock thieves; the advisability of cattle culling; the need to observe the government regulation forbidding the people of Mangenaneng from grazing their cattle in the new government experimental farm; and most importantly, the government’s fervent desire to have a peaceful and orderly relocation of the people of Mangenaneng to Maakeskraal. Then, he thought of the company. I must emphasise to the people that they must not go up the mountain. He remembered that he and his partners did not want the graves and artefacts on the mountain vandalized. Very soon, he thought, I’ll be quitting this stupid job when my company is up and running.

When he arrived at the Royal Palace at Mangenaneng, some of the villagers had already gathered at the kgotla. He had a good look at them before he and his entourage stepped into the lapa of the royal house. The villagers sat in the shade of the trees - along the stone wall, on logs of wood, on small portable wooden benches, and on the ground. Some wore khaki trousers and khaki shirts patched with cloths of different colours; others were dressed in overalls, which, once blue, khaki, or brown, were now bleached from over washing. They protected the soles of their feet by wearing broken army boots or canvas shoes the colour of earth. They hardly looked at him. They hailed greetings at each other, lifting their hats, waving their walking sticks or just raising their hands. There were bearded men with jutting cheek bones, bald-headed men, old men with rheumy eyes and broad shouldered middle-aged men with calloused hands. The Commissioner knew them - not individually. He had worked in many villages, and, as far as he was concerned, all villagers were the same. The afternoon sun was pitiless and the native commissioner was glad he had changed his clothes.

Minutes later, a man stood outside the palace gate and started chanting the praise poem of the Ba-Mangenane a Ramoraba a Molepa. Very soon, the native commissioner thought, you’ll all be removed from this place. Followed by sergeants Mthi and Ndou, the commissioner went into the courtyard to join kgoši Jack Mangenane. Inside the palace courtyard, the women started ululating. All rose. Kgoši Jack Mangenane, in a grey flannel suit, stepped out of the palace gate, a swish in his right hand, a leopard skin cape over his shoulders and a leopard skin band around his head. Tall and slender, he walked unsteadily. His right hand was always raised. The commissioner could smell fumes of brandy floating away from his mouth. He hated always having to walk next to him. Close behind them, followed Kgoši Mangenane’s big-bellied younger brother, David Mangenane, in a cream, Palm Beach suit, brown and white Florsheim shoes, a maroon floral shirt and a cream tie. Sweat gleamed along the folds at the back of his head and, now and then, he mopped the sweat with a white handkerchief. The commissioner liked David Mangenane. Very dependable, he thought, and very respectful. Then, he thought of how, in his enthusiasm to silence the commissioner’s enemies, he’d sometimes burn people’s homes. “I must ask him to stop doing that. The Johannesburg Herald is already poking its dirty nose,” he said to himself. Two black policemen flanked David Mangenane – sergeant Ndou to his right carried a brown leather briefcase while sergeant Mthi to his left carried a blue vacuum flask. They were followed by the palace guards - twenty young men in khaki shirts, khaki trousers, khaki helmets, and brown, polished boots. All carried brown, shining police batons – a gift from the native commissioner. I need to tell David to organise more palace guards when the tribe is in Maakeskraal, he thought. Then the village elders came, fourteen of them – men older than both Kgoši Mangenane and the native commissioner - who dressed like some of the men sitting in the shade.

After everyone was seated, Kgoši Jack Mangenane opened the kgotla and then thanked the native commissioner for taking time to visit the people of Mangenaneng. His voice slurred as he spoke. He told the kgotla that the native commissioner had very important information that he wished to share with the villagers. He then asked the native commissioner to address the meeting.

The native commissioner turned to sergeant Ndou, who immediately opened the briefcase and took out a khaki folder, which he handed to him. The native commissioner rose from his seat and strutted forward, followed by sergeant Ndou, Sergeant Mthi, and David Mangenane. He stood midway between the villagers and kgoši Jack Mangenane. He waved the khaki file in the air. “Dumelang!” he shouted. Switching to Afrikaans, he outlined the main points of his speech whilst sergeant Mthi interpreted for him. He stressed the need for cattle culling; the need for the people of Mangenaneng to prevent their livestock from crossing into the government experimental farm; and the desire of the government that law and order be maintained – even during the coming relocation. “And, if anyone has any information about the stock thieves,” he said, raising his voice and stooping, “pass on such information to David here.” He pointed at David Mangenane. He went on to say that failure to do so might end up with such a person landing in jail. As for the law-abiding people of Mangenaneng, the government wants to remove them from this small piece of land to a land that is wide enough to accommodate them, their cattle, their children, and their children’s children. He reminded the people, “Don’t ever go up Duiwelskoppie – what you people call the Mountain of the Ancestors.”

A small group sitting towards the front applauded.

The commissioner raised his voice. “Who doesn’t want a school for his children?” he stuttered, “or a clinic? Eh? I know that you are a proud people. You are not like other people who are cunning and double-faced. You want to run your own affairs in your own territory. Moving to Maakeskraal will give you that opportunity. I thank you.”

Applause again from the small group sitting in front.

Hands shot up from the back.

David Mangenane spoke. “I want to thank the commissioner for having come all the way from Suiderberg to help the people of Mangenaneng.” He scowled at the group of men with raised hands. “The Commissioner has made us promises. Personally, I trust him. This is not the time for doubting Thomases. This is the time for the people of Mangenaneng to unite and to develop. If we don’t grab this opportunity, if we don’t move to Maakeskraal, if we don’t allow the government to build us the schools and clinics it has promised, another tribe will overtake us, and we will only have ourselves to blame.”

This time, the clapping of hands from the group sitting in the front was drowned out by heckling and shouting from a bigger group of villagers sitting at the back. A man dressed in khaki overalls, Freddie Leope, stepped forward, shaking his head and waving his hands. “Matlametlo!” he shouted repeatedly, “I have something to say, please.” Ultimately, the shouting subsided.

David Mangenane said something to his elder brother. Kgoši Jack Mangenane raised his swish. “The commissioner has a number of other meetings to attend,” he said. “He has to leave immediately.” The slurring was worse now.

“It’s true. I have to leave. But because I’m so concerned about the people of Mangenaneng, I will field a few questions,” the commissioner said. He surmised that if he were to look down on Freddie Leope’s shiny baldhead, he would see his own reflection.

Freddie Leope started to speak. He first greeted Kgoši Jack Mangenane and the village elders, then the native commissioner and the villagers. “Mr. Commissioner,” Freddie Leope said, “A few of us went to Maakeskraal to see what kind of place it is.”

A number of villagers murmured in assent.

“Nobody can ever survive there. There’s no arable land – only sand, stone, and prickly pear.”

The native commissioner shook his head. “Do you people know what the big baas in Pretoria calls me?” He gave the khaki file cover to sergeant Ndou. “He calls me a Kaffirboetie - because I always fight for you people. Maakeskraal is one of the richest pieces of land I have seen. You don’t know how many farmers wanted to buy that land, but I fought against it. I’m sure you went to the wrong place. You must have gone to the wrong place.” He asked for water. Sergeant Mthi gave him water from the flask. Holding the cup of water in one hand, he raised the other to indicate to his murmuring audience that he had not finished speaking. “Do not be deceived by my white skin. At heart, I’m a Bantu. I’m a Mangenane. I’m one of you, and as long as I live, I’ll fight for you people – so help me God.” He started drinking.

More hands shot up. “Matlametlo,” David Mangenane shouted. “Next week there’ll be another kgotla. Since the commissioner has to attend another meeting, I suggest we ask Kgoši Jack Mangenane to close the kgotla.”

“Please,” Freddie Leope kept standing, his right hand raised. “I just wanted to -” A buzz was beginning to swell and it muffled his voice. He turned and, with both hands raised, he shouted above the protest. “Matlametlo, please. Please listen,” he said. “I just wanted to make a request to the commissioner before he leaves. I want to say to him that the government should close down the experimental farm and give us back our grazing lands – our cattle are dying, and also we need to send people up the Mountain of the Ancestors to make offerings if the drought is to be broken.”

“People, please listen. It is the government that says people must no longer go up Duiwelskoppie - what you people call the Mountain of the Ancestors, really, I can’t discuss that. As for the experimental farm, you shouldn’t worry. There’ll be a lot of grazing land for your cattle in Maakeskraal.” There was a touch of anger in the commissioner’s voice.

“Mr. Commissioner, your government promised the people of Moduping that it would build schools and clinics when they were relocated to Tshamahantsi. That was many years ago. Up to now, not a single school or clinic has been built there. How do you expect us to trust your government?”

The buzz turned into a roar of clapping and shouting. David Mangenane beckoned the palace guards. “The kgotla is closed,” he shouted. Kgoši Mangenane stood up haltingly and, together with the elders and the native commissioner, he staggered back into the palace yard followed by David Mangenane, sergeants Mthi and Ndou, and the palace guards. The praise singer’s chants could not be heard because of the din.

“I’m very sorry, baas,” Kgoši Jack Mangenane said to the native commissioner as soon as they were in the lapa.

“Don’t worry, brother. Don’t worry,” David Mangenane said. “I’ll deal with him. He thinks he’s clever.” He turned to the Native Commissioner. “Baas, I’ll fix him up. I know there are a few communists among them.”

“Now listen to me very carefully, David,” the native commissioner said sternly. “No more torching of huts. An article about that appeared in the Johannesburg Herald, and I don’t want those people coming here. Is that clear?”

“Yes, baas.”

“And no one should ever go up that mountain.”

“Yes, baas,” David Mangenane said. “Baas,” he looked down and brushed his head lightly. “About that other thing, baas - the license for the shop at Maakeskraal, baas.”

The Native Commissioner grimaced. “I told you I’ll organize the licence for you. Has a white man ever promised you something and not done it?”

“No, baas,” David Mangenane said.

“Before I forget,” the Commissioner said, “I want you to go to the police station at Suiderberg Oos and ask for Baas Berkstroom. Don’t forget his name. Baas Berkstroom. Go today. Go now. Understand?”

“Yes, baas,” David Mangenane said. “Your car is ready, baas,” The native commissioner knew this to mean that a live sheep was in the boot. He remembered that when Kgoši Jack Mangenane first gave him a gift, it was the carcass of a sheep. He gave the carcass to sergeant Mthi and sergeant Ndou. “In future,” he told Kgoši Jack Mangenane when they next met, “in future, I’d prefer a live sheep. You know you people and us don’t slaughter in the same way.” Since that day, whenever his black Ford left Kgoši Mangenane’s palace, they made sure that a live sheep was put in the boot. And every time he visited the palace of Kgoši Jack Mangenane, a case of brandy was deposited on the table in Kgoši Jack Mangenane’s main hut.

The native commissioner, Sergeant Mthi and Sergeant Ndou bade everyone good-bye. “David, my boy,” the native commissioner whispered to David Mangenane. “Continue with the good work. Don’t worry about the licence.”

“Yes, baas. Thank you, baas,” David Mangenane said.

On his way to his car, the commissioner stopped and looked at the Mountain of the Ancestors. “That is the mountain that holds the key to the new Kobus Venster. Director Venster – not Commissioner Venster,” he said to himself.

Later that afternoon, when David Mangenane asked for Lieutenant Berkstroom at the Suiderberg Oos Police Station charge office, Sean Taljaard, the white sergeant behind the desk barked, “Big tummy, just tell me what your problem is!”

“I’m David Mangenane-”

“I didn’t ask who you are!” The sergeant turned and looked at the black constable who was arranging a pile of papers, “Piet, tell this boy to say what he wants or fuck off!”
“Baas, the native commissioner said I should come here and ask for Baas Berkstroom,” David Mangenane said.

The white sergeant raised his eyebrows. “The native commissioner?”

“Yes, baas.”

David Mangenane smiled inside when he saw the flush that came over the sergeant’s face. “Walk along the passage - the first door on your left.”

The sergeant turned to Constable Piet Bonang, “Do you know him, Piet?”

“Yes, baas,” Constable Piet Bonang said. “He’s the brother of the chief of Mangenaneng, baas.”

“Is that why he’s so cocky?” the white sergeant said. “As far as I’m concerned, a kaffir is always a kaffir – whether he’s a chief’s brother or not.”

David Mangenane found things different in Lieutenant Berkstroom’s office. “This place needs men like you. From your face, I can see that you’re an intelligent man,” Lieutenant Berkstroom told him. And then he told him what he really wanted him for. He wanted him to collect information for him - anything suspicious; anything illegal; anyone who says anything bad about the government or about the white people. “But now I want you to find out about the stock thieves. If you suspect anyone, don’t do anything. Just come here and tell me.”

“Yes, baas.”

“And I want you to keep an eye on what is happening on baas Kruis’ farm.”

“Yes, baas.”

“You know the farm I’m talking about?”

“Yes, baas.”

“And don’t tell anyone about this,” Lieutenant Berkstroom said. “It would be better if you got one of the farmworkers there to spy for you.”

“I’ll do that, baas.”

When, after some time, David Mangenane and Lieutenant Berkstroom walked through the charge office, David Mangenane was happy to hear what Lieutenant Berkstroom said to Sergeant Sean Taljaard. “Sergeant,” Lieutenant Berkstroom said, “Whenever this boy comes here, allow him to go straight to my office.”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Sergeant Sean Taljaard said.

“If I’m not in, let him wait outside.”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

David Mangenane then went back to Mangenaneng.

This is an excerpt of The Story of Hunadi (Eloquent Books, August, 2009), written by Mokoka Klaas Mashishi.

Copyright © Mokoka Klaas Mashishi 2009.

Mokoka Klaas Mashishi was born in Kwa Tladi, which is to the north of Pretoria, in 1939. In 1959, when he was a student at the then University College of Fort Hare, he joined the Pan African Congress (PAC). He was arrested in 1963 and was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment on Robben Island. When released in 1971, He was banned for two years. He worked as a costing clerk for a bus company. Then he joined the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED), first as a tutor, and then as assistant director. Later, He worked at the University of the Witwatersrand as a principal tutor. He is now retired and live in Protea North, Soweto.


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