A Tale of Two Countries

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Have you ever noticed that though we are so different, the races in this country have vast similarities? For instance we have all used aromat on the braai. We all call the clothing we swim in a costume. And we all relate to our elders in much the same way. Case in point was sometime in the year of our Lord 2009. It was the year before the World Cup in South Africa, and everyone was acting a bit crazier than usual, when I decided to move to the infamous coastal neighbourhood of Brooklyn on the West Coast. I had also been working for a soulless American airline at night so though I could now finally move out of my parents home, I worked on Eastern Standard Time. It was after such a shift that I returned to my complex at 2am to find my fellow employee and all round ruffian Richard Makangala. He was with accomplice Zukani, who I first met at a party and who was surprised to see white people smoked weed. After I invited him to smoke with me, his eyes went a dark scarlet, and he confessed that after years of living in ekasi, he had never smoked dope in his life. Amazing.  Anyway, they were milling around in the C block on the third floor in which seems to be the only way to speak isiXhosa: loudly. They were inebriated to a degree of carelessness and were knocking on random peoples doors asking for booze and chicken. I tried to save my poor neighbours from this scourge of the township, by suggesting we go to Long st. I had a quiet beer at Marvels in mind before the nanny state closed up and drove us off the street before the tourist bus came round the next morning. But alas, the good Lord had other plans for my morning. It was raining very hard, and after parking in Orphan st, we realised Marvel was full and the large West African bouncers were asking R100 for entrance. After a near xenophobic encounter we decided to walk in the rain to a joint named Sugar Rays on the bottom of Long st. You descend into a figurative and literal black pit which on the downside had dozens of gyrating mean faced drunk black folk with no place to hide my 6.5ft pale self, but on the upside they sold quarts at the bar. Without hesitation or entrance fee we entered the dark void.

Richard and Zuks immediatly took to the dance floor, whilst I pursued the more white move of getting drunk first before dancing. After 3 or 4 quarts we decided to exit the bar with quarts stuffed away in our jackets. After me and Zuks had to pull Richie off the dance floor, we stuffed quarts into our pockets. Richard in drunken confidence stuffed his own and Zuks quarts in his jacket, and after dodging past all the people on the metal stairway, he dropped one of them in front of the bouncer. We took off drinking as we ran. We were mindlessly happy, drinking in the rain and throwing new catchwords around like “ayoba” which neither of us knew the meaning of, and singing that awesome song “abantwana” and doing the dance that goes with it. After passing the African Music Store and within reach of the dryness of my vehicle, a CCID officer half-heartedly told us to stop drinking in the street. We laughed at him and walked on. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the CCID (Central City Improvement District or Criminal Cops In Disguise) they are basically unemployable people who are paid to be carguards by Mrs Zille but however by law cannot arrest you. However the sly mrs Zille had thought of that and given them direct radio contact with the REAL police. Giving the dispossed the ability to summon the Police at anytime makes for interesting power trips.  After walking only a few steps on from this nescessary waste of tax payers money, we were surrounded by what must have been 8 large CCID guys who cornered us against the wall. I laughed at them and tried to walk off. They continued to push me, and in my semi-drunk state I lunged forward at them as you would to an unruly dog. They all took a step back as if they were one man, which visibly impressed my comrades. “Yoo tink yoo ah kleva?” the man who seemed to be the leader (and the shortest) asked me in an unquestioning manner. “Yoo, tawl wun. Yoo tink yoo ah kleva” I lit a cigarette and informed him that he had citizens rights to arrest. He informed me that the police were already on their way, which thank God wasnt true. Richard (who was by far the most drunk I’ve ever seen him, and he once passed out on my speaker) turned a squint eye at me and slurred “haw Adrian man, thula!” He then began to converse with the men in a very somber way. I could hear the isiXhosa they were speaking wasnt the language you heard on the streets of the cities. This was a language that evoked thoughts of Nongqawuse, Hintsa and Sandile. That old world where its tooth and claw. Where boys cover themselves in white clay to become men through Ulwaluko. Where abakwetha become amadoda. The old language of the amaXhosa that is not so much respectful to elders, but seems to soothe their feelings about these young hooligans, and reminds them that they too once were young and stupid. As I listened to this rhythmic language I went back a couple of months in memory to Ramfest in 2009. Me, Scotty and Mel drove, and it was my first big mission with my new car. The car was packed and Mel was unwillingly rolling joints in the back seat using her dress as a milling pad. Once we navigated past the tunnel and the Rawsonville turnoff we were on the road to Nekkies, where we would spend the weekend. But alas, before we arrived two coloured police officers jumped out from behind a rock and pulled us over. They asked if we had any drugs on us. I answered no. I was confident that they would find nothing as the joints were in my pants at the bottom of everything, and smugly stood to the side waiting for them to waive us on. This however did not occur. A single plainclothed man, who was the only white guy around came walking up with a hyperactive border collie. He immediatly found the cigarette packet full of joints and dutifully brought it back to his master. The police officer asked who was the owner of the car, and I said it was me. We walked around the corner where he put his dog back into the van. I played it cool, but immediatly started to reason with the cop in Afrikaans. This seems to have impressed him (it would turn out later that 2 southern suburb guys had assaulted one of the cops) and he turned to me and said in a hoarse voice “mannetjie, ek is al 17 jaar in die diens. 13 van daai jare is ek al betrokke met dwelms. Ek kan sien jy is n gawe knaap. Moenie hiermee deurmekaar word nie” I then thanked the “oom” and the “konstawels”, but not before I was told that they were confiscating the ENTIRE packet of cigarettes (it was a bible) as “bewysstuk”. and let me off with a warning. I guess Nelson Mandela was right. If you talk to a man in a language he understands, you speak to his head. If you speak to him in his language you speak to his heart.

Anyways, back to Long st on a rainy night. I saw now that Zuks and Richie had divided the CCID  up, and were trying to persuade them to let us go. They in turn wanted money. We sorted it out, taking our beers and not giving them money about 15 minutes later.

On the way back I asked Richie what he had said. With a slurred tongue he told me that he was just reminding them that we were not boys, but men.

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