Roots of Outrage
Roots of Outrage
JOHN GORDON DAVIS
ROOTS OF OUTRAGE
1 London Bridge Street
London SE1 9GF
First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers 1994
Copyright © John Gordon Davis 1994
Cover photograph © Shutterstock.com
John Gordon Davis asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
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Source ISBN: 9780007574391
Ebook Edition © DECEMBER 2014 ISBN: 9780008119294
‘John Gordon Davis has hit the jackpot again. Highly recommended … this epic volume cries out to be filmed.’
‘Captures perfectly the emotions, hopes and fears of a very explosive yet exciting time. It is a story so well told you can smell and feel Africa on every page.’
‘A sweeping history, politically questioning and charged with passion.’
‘Great holiday reading. This is a huge saga of history, politics, romance and adventure set against the turbulent background of South Africa.’
Eastern Province Herald
‘North and South and Gone With the Wind wrapped into one. A great read.’
This book is dedicated to my wife, Rosemary
The story of South Africa is real. The characters, with obvious exceptions, are fictitious.
Southern Africa at the Time of the Great Trek
South Africa at the time of the Boer War, 1899
(Modern names of provinces/countries are underlined)
The gallows stood ready, silhouetted. These hard, rolling hills of the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony were soaked in the blood of the Kaffir Wars, and today more blood was to be spilt at the execution of the five ringleader Boers of the Slagter’s Nek rebellion – at the very place where they had taken the oath to drive the British into the sea.
The hangman, who had journeyed up from the coast, had brought only enough rope to hang one man at a time, so the magistrate had acquired more, but unbeknownst to everybody it was rotten. Now five nooses dangled, and gathered around were the relatives of the condemned, the other rebels who had been sentenced to imprisonment and the Dutch farmers from miles around who had been ordered to attend to witness how seriously the British took rebellion. And now, from the direction of the military post, came the beat of drums, and the wagon bearing the condemned.
The drummers slow-marched. Slowly they advanced up the rise to the gallows. The condemned men climbed down off the wagon and mounted the scaffold. One after the other, the hangman tied their ankles, slipped the nooses over their necks. When all was ready, the Reverend Harold led the assembly in prayer. The magistrate ordered the drums to roll: softly, then louder and louder. The plank was kicked away, the men plunged into their death-fall, there came the dreadful wrench on their necks, and four of the ropes snapped.
The condemned men lay writhing in the dust, choking, as pandemonium broke out all around them: the shrieks of joy that the hand of God had intervened, people rushing to the struggling men, wrenching loose the nooses, the priest in the midst of them gabbling his prayers. Then the magistrate bellowed above the uproar: ‘Bring more ropes!
The uproar redoubled, the priest in the forefront – ‘God Himself has intervened!’ The magistrate had to shout at the top of his voice that it was not within his power to grant pardons.
By the time the horseman came galloping back with more ropes order had been restored. The condemned were clustered under the gallows in the arms of their wives and friends, surrounded by a ring of soldiers. While the hangman rigged new nooses the priest led the emotional people in prayer again. Then the condemned men sought permission to sing a hymn. This was granted, and the tearful cadence rose up. Then one of the condemned asked permission to say a few last words, and in a shaking voice he urged his brethren to heed his unhappy fate. They mounted the scaffold again. The magistrate ordered another roll of drums. The platform was kicked away.
This time the ropes held: the men hung, their eyes bulging and their tongues sticking out, excrement dripping down their kicking legs, and a howl of anguish went up from the people.
King Henry the Navigator called it the Cape of Good Hope, for he was sure it was the sea-route to China, but despite its mercantile importance this southern tip of Africa lay unoccupied until, in 1652, the Dutch East India Company established a small revictualling station for its ships there, called Cape Town. The Company had no intention of colonising the interior, but within a hundred and fifty years Dutch farmers had, in defiance of Company edicts, wandered six hundred miles along the rugged coastal hinterland with their cattle, building mud and thatch homesteads, then wandering on after a while. They were called Trekboers, and a new language evolved, a bastard Dutch called Afrikaans.
Theirs was a good life, called the Lekker Lewe, of limitless land, adequate slave labour and security, for they met no Caffres – as black men were then called – the hinterland being empty but for small bands of nomadic Bushmen who were soon driven out. But finally they came to the big river called the Fish, and beyond were many warlike Caffres, the Xhosa, and they were also cattle men.
The Company forbade the Trekboers to cross the Fish River, to have any contact with the Xhosa. But there was always cattle thievery, followed by raids to recover the cattle (and probably a few more besides), and by the time the British occupied the Cape in 1806 to protect her Far Eastern trade against Napoleon there had already been three bloody, full-scale ‘Kaffir’ Wars.
The British were mighty unwelcome amongst the rough and ready Boers. And with the Redcoats the Age of Enlightenment arrived at the wild and woolly colony, in the form of the London Missionary Society and British justice. The missionaries blamed the frontiersmen for the Kaffir Wars, and the British magistrates busied themselves with cases of mistreatment of slaves and servants, which was deeply resented. A handful of Boers plotted a rebellion after one of their number was shot dead resisting arrest, and their leader stole across the Fish River to make a treasonous pact with the dreaded Xhosa: Join forces with me, together we’ll drive the British into the sea and then divide the land between us. The wily Xhosa chief declined. The rebellion was quickly put down by the redcoats, but the British took treason seriously and their ringleaders were sentenced to death. Their ghastly public execution at Slagter’s Nek followed.
It is bitterly remembered to this day. And history was to repeat itself.
At about the same time, far away on the lush coast of south-east Africa, there arose a warrior king called Shaka, who welded together the nation of the Zulus, the ‘People of Heaven’. The Zulus made war on neighbouring tribes, who fled and made war on their neighbours, all killing and plundering for food. This period was called the Mfecane, which means the ‘crushing’. It was a time of chaos, the veld blackened with burnings and littered with skeletons. One of Shaka’s generals, Mzilikazi, rebelled and led his people up onto the highlands, making mayhem more terrible, and established a new nation called the Matabele, which means the ‘destroyers’. The dislocations pressed upon the Xhosa, who had no place to go but across the Fish River into white man’s land; the cross-border thieving, raids and counter-raids got worse.
The government decided to settle thousands of British immigrants on farms along the Fish, to form a buffer zone, and forts were built; but the thieving continued and in the next decade there were two more full-scale wars. The missionaries blamed the frontiersmen and raised a furore in London, so the imperial government hesitated to act decisively against the Xhosa. And then the missionaries forced the repeal of the Vagrancy Laws, so now blacks roved the frontier at will, thieving. And then the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed: all slaves throughout the British Empire would be emancipated at midnight 31st December 1834. This would wreak great hardship on the Cape’s frontier. On Christmas Day 1834, six days before the slaves were to be freed, the Sixth Kaffir War broke out. It was the bloodiest of all.
As the frontiersmen celebrated Christmas, there was a massive eruption of Xhosa warriors across the Fish, burning, killing, plundering. They swarmed over thousands of square miles before they were driven back across the Fish by British troops and frontier commandos. It was the costliest war in the frontier’s bloody history; eight hundred farms destroyed, hundreds of thousands of cattle stolen. It took six months to drive them further back across a distant river, for the British commander intended to create a militarised cordon sanitaire to keep the races apart. There was rejoicing on the frontier, for it looked as if a new order was being ushered in at last.
But it was not to be. The missionaries blamed the frontiersmen for the war, and so the imperial government ordered that the newly annexed buffer zone be abandoned. It seemed towering folly: the thievery and wars would continue. There was outrage on the frontier. And then the news came that the British government had reneged on its promise to compensate slave-owners fairly: the sum of three million pounds that had been allocated for the purpose was reduced to one million, and would only be given to those who journeyed to London to claim it.
The sense of outrage redoubled on the frontier, amongst Boer and Briton alike, for who would leave his farm unprotected from marauding Xhosa for a year to make an expensive journey to London?
And so the Great Trek began. And Ernest Mahoney, from New York, enters our story.
The Great Trek was not a sudden, stormy mobilization of an angry people, as romantic chroniclers like Ernest Mahoney have suggested, it was the slow culmination of bitter debate that had been going on since the terrible Slagter’s Nek hangings: the thievery, the repeal of the Vagrancy Laws, the ‘ungodly’ attitude of the British towards master-and-servant relationships, the injustice of the missionaries, the Abolition of Slavery Act which defrauded them, the terror and devastation of Kaffir Wars, the British government’s refusal to fight them decisively. The Great Trek was a gradual consensus of people who had been bitterly tried, God-fearing folk who knew little other than the Bible and the gun, who had finally had enough of their incompetent, duplicitous government. In part it was the old trek spirit of their forefathers coming back, the quest for pastures new and the Lekker Lewe, but more important was the resentful determination to set their world to rights. One after another the hardy Boers packed up their wagons, rounded up their herds and set off. Out of the mauve hills of the frontier they rolled northwards, up into the highveld of Trans-Orangia, to find their Promised Land.
It was in Piet Retief that the people found their Moses. It was he who published the Voortrekker Manifesto:
… We despair of saving this country from the threat posed by vagrants ... nor do we see any prospect of peace for our children … Be it known that we are resolved, wherever we go, that we will uphold the just principle of liberty; but whilst no one shall be in a state of slavery, it is our determination to maintain such regulations as may suppress crime and preserve proper relations between master and servant … We shall not molest any people, nor deprive them of the smallest property; but, if attacked, we shall consider ourselves fully justified in defending our persons and effects to the utmost …
It was a profession of faith, an enunciation of constitutional principles for a democratic Boer republic. Much of the turbulent story of South Africa is a betrayal of that manifesto.
Enter Ernest Mahoney of New York, sent thither by the Harker-Mahoney Shipping Company to investigate trading opportunities in this opening-up of the African hinterland. A hundred and twenty years later, when Ernest’s great grandson, Luke Mahoney, read his forebear’s journals of that epic time, he could visualise the meeting of shareholders in New York, the rotund old chairman, Ernest’s grandfather, saying:
‘The Mahoneys were amongst the first to transplant the principles of our magnificent American Revolution across the oceans ... Amongst the first to seize the unspoilt virtue of our frontier heritage and reject the wiliness of the Old World, “its useless memories and vain feuds”, amongst the first to shun the tawdry lures of Europe and export our American Enlightenment by the adventurous prows of the Harker-Mahoney clippers to replace wars and so-called diplomatic treaties with the benign embrace of commerce … the first to join with those Massachusetts poets in their cry:
Preserve your principles, their force unfold
Let nations prove them and let kings behold.
EQUALITY, your first firm-ground stand;
Then FREE ELECTIONS; then your FEDERAL BAND.
‘We were amongst the first to see that political happiness would eventuate throughout the world from the simple principle of free oceans, free trade, and the free dissemination of American inventiveness by Yankee vessels, and that, in return, the world would unfold its treasures … The Mahoneys were amongst the first to turn America’s eyes to the Pacific, and to Africa, to probe dark regions of alien religions which would, through our worthy commerce, fall to the influence of our Enlightenment … And we all know what the result is: Harker-Mahoney has, without firing a shot except in self-defence, an empire upon which the sun never sets … And now there is a new frontier for Harker-Mahoney to add to their empire, brethren shareholders! It is the hinterland of southern Africa!
‘“The hinterland”? you ask. We have traded profitably with the Cape of Good Hope for years, but how do we penetrate the hinterland? Ah … It is being penetrated for us by the Dutch Boers, just as our west is being opened up by our pioneer wagons! Whole new lands that will one day stretch to the Nile, vast new untapped markets for our goods, vast new resources, lands bigger than the whole of China …’
And so now here is nervous Ernest Mahoney, twenty-two years old, lanky, wan – a graduate of a Presbyterian seminary but feeling unable to take holy orders because of lusts of the flesh – disembarking with a big bagful of silver dollars, buying two horses, hiring a Dutch guide (paying twice what he should and thinking it cheap), setting off timidly into the wilderness to spread the American Enlightenment through worthy commerce. Ernest riding up into the highveld, overtaking Boer wagon trains, eventually coming upon the high mountain called Thaba Nchu, the foregathering place. The hundreds of wagons outspanned, the thousands of Boers waiting for their leader, Hendrik Potgieter, who had trekked on to the north to explore, for Piet Retief to come up from the south. There is Ernest fearfully riding on north with his guide to look for Hendrik Potgieter’s wagon train, following his tracks; the veld is littered with evidence of the Mfecane, whitened skeletons, burnt huts. Ernest eventually finds Potgieter and his people feverishly preparing for an imminent attack by Mzilikazi, lashing their wagons into a circle, stuffing thorn branches into the gaps. And so Ernest, four weeks in Africa, never having fired a shot in anger, who just wants to get the hell out of this land, finds himself plunged into one of South Africa’s most famous battles. And he meets Sarie Smit, the feisty Boer girl assigned to him as a loader because she speaks English.
The Battle of Vegkop. The veld black as ink with five thousand of Mzilikazi’s warriors loping across the veld chanting Zhee Zhee, encircling the wagons, sharpening their assegais, humming, humming for hours until Potgieter tied a red rag to a stockwhip and waved it above the wagons as a challenge. Then their terrifying battle charge, thousands of glistening warriors hurling themselves at the laager, stabbing, slashing, hurling, the wagons shaking under their tumult midst the cacophony of the trekkers’ muzzle-loaders, the smoke and stink of gunpowder. And there is Ernest, sick-in-his-guts terrified, blasting straight into the savage faces through the thorn branches, thrusting the spent gun at Sarie and grabbing the reloaded one she thrust back – bang – grab – bang – grab – bang – There is sweaty Sarie Smit and her mother pouring the powder down the hot muzzles, ramming in the lead with a wad of cotton on top, thrusting the gun in Ernest’s trembling, outstretched hand – bang grab bang … For hours the cacophonous battle rages, and the bloody black bodies are piled high around the laager before Mzilikazi’s warriors withdraw, round up all the voortrekkers’ thousands of cattle and drive them off northwards. Potgieter sends horsemen galloping back to Thaba Nchu to call for oxen, and Ernest volunteers to ride with them. It is regarded as a courageous offer, for more Matabele impis may be waiting, but Ernest just wants to get the hell out of there. And when, eight days later, he arrived at Thaba Nchu, he would have kept going, heading south to the faraway sea to take the first ship back to America, except that no way was he going to ride alone through this fearsome country.
Piet Retief had arrived at Thaba Nchu, where he had been elected Governor of the ‘United Laagers’, and he sent oxen up to Vegkop to haul Potgieter’s wagons back. But the United Laagers were disunited at the outset, a characteristic of the Boers throughout their history. Retief wanted to establish the republic in the east, with a land grant from the Zulu king, while Potgieter wanted to recover his cattle stolen by Mzilikazi, drive him from the land and establish the republic in the north. So there is vengeful Potgieter setting out northwards to deal with Mzilikazi, there is Piet Retief setting out eastwards to the land of the fearsome Zulus. And with Retief’s wagons rolls that of Sarie Smit’s family. And Ernest rides with them. And his fate is sealed.
‘I at last know the meaning of love,’ Ernest breathlessly confides to his journal. There is Ernest having the first real live sexual affair of his life, waiting excitedly each night outside the glow of the laagers’ campfires for Sarie to come creeping out. There is Ernest earnestly proposing marriage in the moonlight (after praying to the Lord for guidance), ‘begging her to return with me to the comfort and security of America once my duties are completed – but alas, she insists her loyalties are to her volk …’ There is Ernest travelling on his delicious illicit honeymoon across the highveld until Retief’s convoy of wagons stands on the lip of the towering Drakensberg, looking down on vast, misty, mauve Zululand far below. Ernest looks down at the daunting descent, at the long shadows cast by the mountain, and he is filled with foreboding: ‘Woe unto the land whose borders lie in shadow’ he records.
Ernest’s sense of duty to Harker-Mahoney compelled him to ride down with Retief’s advance party to parley with King Dingaan for a grant of land. The foreboding stayed with him as they picked their way down into rolling, wooded Zulu country. After many days they arrived at Dingaan’s royal kraal of Mgundgundlovu, ‘the place of the Elephant’.
‘A mighty circular village,’ Ernest records, ‘fenced with high poles, in sidé of which are many concentric rows of beehive-shaped huts all dominated by the Great Place, the huge hut of the king, surrounded by those of his many wives… Beyond is the Hill of Executions where vultures circle, feeding on the bodies of people slaughtered daily. I am filled with trepidation as we wait outside for the king to receive us …’
Ernest’s fear was well founded: King Dingaan was afraid of these Amaboela, these white men who rode swift ‘hornless cattle’ and used strange weapons with devastating effect; men who – his spies told him – had recently routed Mzilikazi, and who now wanted to settle on his borders. When Dingaan finally received these people midst great pomp and praise-singing he spent three days impressing them with his might, by military displays and frightening dancing by his magnificent regiments, the earth shaking under the synchronised stamping of their feet, their battle cries rising up to the skies. But finally he announced he would consider the request for a land grant favourably if Retief recovered cattle that had been stolen by a distant tribe.
Retief and his men were in high spirits as they set out to fulfil the bargain, but Ernest was a very worried young man: he was fearful of the Zulus, ‘deeply suspicious at how simply a grant of land the size of England was arranged. The whole thing reeks of blood …’ When Retief set off he sent two horsemen back to the Drakensberg with the tidings and Ernest seized the opportunity to ride with them, to persuade Sarie to leave this frightening land and go back to America with him.
The voortrekkers’ joy was unbounded when the horsemen toiled up the last crest of the Drakensberg with the news, but the most joyful was Sarie Smit, who had big news for Ernest: ‘I am pregnant …’
Love-sick Ernest was overjoyed. But Sarie refused to go with him to America: her place was with her volk. And so, because his heart and honour ruled his head, Ernest Mahoney went back down the Drakensberg Mountains. And the roots of the Mahoney clan in Africa were set down.
Retief recaptured the stolen cattle and returned to Dingaan’s royal kraal to claim his grant of land. Dingaan made his mark on the deed Retief proffered, then leapt up and shouted: ‘Kill the wizards!’ Warriors fell on Retief and his men from all sides, dragged them up to the Hill of Executions and clubbed them to death. Then, plumes dancing, assegais flashing, the impis set out across the land to slay the voortrekkers encamped at the foot of the Drakensberg. Hundreds were slain in the terrible massacre that followed, hundreds of wagons burned, twenty-five thousand head of cattle driven off. Ernest and Sarie survived because they were encamped miles from the main killing grounds but the whole of her family was butchered. The surviving voortrekkers were in a dreadful plight as they awaited the next onslaught and desperately hoped for reinforcements to arrive from the highveld. ‘Is there a curse on this land that lies in shadows?’ Ernest chronicled.
At last, the prestigious Boer Andries Pretorius descended the Drakensberg and rallied the beleaguered trekkers. He mounted a commando of five hundred men and set off to do battle with Dingaan. En route a Holy Covenant was taken that if God gave them victory they would forever hold the anniversary of the battle-day hallowed, that they would build a church in thanksgiving and forever live according to His laws.
Pretorius chose his battleground on the banks of the Blood River, where two sides of his laager were protected by the confluences. In the ensuing battle five hundred Boers defeated twelve thousand magnificent Zulu warriors, killing three thousand of them as they hurled themselves against the laager. Not one Boer life was lost. And thus was the conviction born amongst these simple, God-fearing folk that God had entered into a covenant with them, as He had with Moses and his Israelites, and that henceforth everything they did would be with His blessing. Thus was a theocracy born. It was to survive a hundred and fifty years.
Ernest took part in the Battle of Blood River. That night he wrote in his chronicle:
… while I am as thankful to the Lord as any, it can only be said that it was not a battle in the normal sense, but a mass execution of a magnificent army heroically taking on superior weapons. No army of white men, I believe, would have been so valiant, so disciplined, as these Zulus today … The Boers are convinced that the Lord has accepted their Covenant. But as a trained theologian, albeit a poor example, I am by no means sure: it was surely the musket that won the day – as it is winning in America against the Indians, for why should the Lord make a bargain with one tribe at such tremendous and heartless expense of another? And while I admire these Boers, and applaud their piety, it worries me that they are fond of referring to Genesis where it says that God made the sons of Ham black, to be hewers of wood and drawers of water …
And so the Boers set up their republic of New Holland, electing their volksraad, building their church. Ernest married his beloved Sarie (‘Such happiness as I have never imagined possible …’ his chronicle records). They built a hut as storage for Harker-Mahoney and began to trade in ivory and hides with what few vessels braved the sandbars. Sarie was pregnant again when the British came sailing up the coast to put an end to this impertinent new republic.
The Boers are outraged. They left their farms in the Cape Colony and trekked into the savage unknown because of Britain’s unjust maladministration, they braved the dreaded Mzilikazi, overcame the steep Drakensberg Mountains, suffered the bloody treachery of Dingaan, braved his fearsome Zulus at Blood River, and now that they have at last got their republican freedom along come the lordly British to take it all away. Personally, I understand the British view-point: the Boers are Her Majesty’s subjects who have established an illegal regime and, I hear, have seized Zulu children to work as ‘apprentices’ in a thinly disguised form of slavery … But my Sarie does not understand: she rode over to the beach as the British disembarked and, astride her horse, pointed at her swollen belly and informed the commanding officer and his admiring men that her forthcoming son was not only an American citizen but a Boer to boot and that they would have to trample over her dead body, and numerous of their own, if they imagined that the young Queen Victoria was going to deprive her unborn child of its republican birthright. ‘I would rather walk barefoot over the Drakensberg again than submit to British rule!’ cried she …
The Boers furiously laid siege to them at the lagoon, but reinforcements arrived overland and the Boers were defeated. And Sarie Mahoney kept her pledge.
So the Boers abandoned their new homesteads, trekked back over the Drakensberg and established their republics on the highveld, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal Republic. The British government was unwilling to spend money on military campaigns and administration so, after a few skirmishes and considerable bluster, it formally recognised the legal independence of these two republics, in 1852 and 1854.
And so the Great Trek was over, twelve years after it began. The Boers at last had their republican freedom, without the accursed British laying down the law, without missionaries meddling and blaming them for the savagery of Africa, without vagrants roaming unpunished. There was no more egalitarian nonsense: a black man knew his place again. It was the Lekker Lewe once more, limitless land again, proper labour again, and security at last. Mzilikazi had fled across the Limpopo, and the distant Zulus were the British government’s problem now, like the infernal Xhosa.
And a problem they were: in the following decades the British had to fight three more Kaffir Wars and re-annex the land across the Fish right up to the border of the new colony of Natal. And the British had plenty of trouble with the Zulus too. Dingaan’s grandson, Cetshwayo, began to weld his people back together, and there was cattle-thieving, and warlike noises again. Then, on the eastern frontier, came the Great Cattle Killing, and there was chaos.
It was a desperate act by the Xhosa to rid themselves of the British: it was national self-immolation. A Xhosa girl had a vision that if the Xhosa nation slaughtered all their cattle and destroyed all their crops, all would return a hundred-fold on 18th February 1857 all the ancestors would return from the dead, soldiers from Russia would arrive, and together they would drive the British into the sea. So the destruction began. The grazing lands became littered with rotting carcasses, the clouds of smoke barrelled upwards. The colonial government sent officials across the Fish to dissuade the Xhosa, but there was only black euphoria that paradise was at hand. On 17th February the last beasts were slain, the last maize burned, and the people waited for the glorious morrow.
The great day dawned silently, for there was no lowing of cattle or bleating of goats to be heard. The people searched the horizon for the hordes of ancestors driving great herds of cattle. As the sun approached its zenith excitement was intense, but the sun began to descend and no hordes appeared, no Russian ships were sighted. Then sunset came, and panic swept the land, weeping and wailing. The promised day was gone, the country was devastated, and tomorrow the starvation would begin.
The months that followed were horrific. Out there beyond the Fish the stench of decomposing flesh fouled the air, blackened maize fields turned to dust; eighty thousand Xhosa died of starvation, their unburied corpses rotting amongst the carcasses of their animals. And across the river staggered the wretched starving people, begging the colonists for food. Harker-Mahoney had opened a branch on the eastern frontier; the manager wrote to Ernest in the Transvaal:
… once fed, they plead to stay but we have to deny them, and they stagger on towards the Cape. I have heard reports of cannibalism, and starving children abandoned by their parents. My neighbour, McPherson, has found a Xhosa baby left by his mother in a fork of a tree …
What could he do with a starving abandoned baby but take it in? He named the boy Felix. Several years later, visiting American preachers converted Mr McPherson and his family to Mormonism, so they decided to emigrate to America, where the religion had taken strong root. So Felix became the first Xhosa to emigrate to America. Many years later his great granddaughter was to return to South Africa to set it to rights.
But the crisis of the Great Cattle Killing had little impact on the Boer republics in the north – that was Britain’s problem now.
It was a rough-and-ready but pleasant life up there; the republics were bankrupt and inefficient, but it was the Lekker Lewe again. Farming was the only real economy. In the pleasant village of Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal republic, Ernest had established a trading depot for Harker-Mahoney, exporting cattle, hides and ivory, and importing American products. Life in southern Africa muddled along in comparative peace after Britain gave up on the bankrupt Boer republics. And then diamonds were discovered, and then gold. Fortune hunters from around the world descended, and the Boer War came about.
Gold – that was the reason the mighty British Empire waged war on the tiny Transvaal Republic. The whole balance of power in the region had changed, Britain was in danger of losing her paramountcy in southern Africa to these undeserving Boers, and Britain needed gold to maintain her position as the leading banker in an industrially expanding world. Further, she intended to extend her colonial power from Cape Town to Cairo, and this tinpot Boer republic stood in her way. The only solution was to make it part of the empire. First Britain tried economic strangulation, encirclement to cut the Boers off from the sea so that they would be forced to rejoin the Cape Colony. When that failed Britain promoted a rebellion by the foreigners on the gold reefs, demanding the vote. When that was crushed Britain mobilised her imperial army on the excuse that British subjects were being treated ‘like helots’.
It was a vicious, scorched-earth war the British waged: Boer farms were put to the torch, their crops and homesteads sent up in smoke, their livestock shot or driven off, their women and children herded off to concentration camps where twenty-eight thousand of them died of malnutrition and disease. For three years the war raged, 1899 to 1902. Only devastating attrition drove the Boers to discuss peace. The British offered the Boers financial aid and self-government in a few years in a union with the Cape and Natal colonies; but the most significant concession concerned the status of black people: the question of whether blacks would be given the vote in the new South Africa would be decided only after self-government had been granted.
The bitter-enders wanted to fight on: not to do so meant that almost a century of suffering had been in vain – Slagter’s Nek, the Kaffir Wars, the Great Trek, the battles of Vegkop, Blood River, this terrible war, their whole hard-won independence … But the British pressure was now overwhelming, the countryside was exsanguinated, their very livelihoods destroyed, their women and children dying. Was it not better to lose the war but win the peace? They would get their self-government, albeit in a union with Cape and Natal colonies – and the dreaded question of the voting rights of natives would be decided by them, not by the British. And would not the Boers come to dominate the union government – would they not then have beaten the British at their own bloody game?
The debate was angry, but finally the bitter-enders threw in their hand so as not to split the volk further. And the commandos rode back to what was left of their farms, to try to rebuild their devastated lives.
Ernest and Sarie Mahoney died before the Boer War, but their son William, and his son Hector, both fought on the side of the British.
‘What was it all for … ?’ William Mahoney demanded in his journal shortly before his death.‘The British thought it was going to be a “tea-time” war – instead it taught them “an imperial lesson”, in the words of Rudyard Kipling.’
Writers from around the world were there: not only Rudyard Kipling, the immortal poet of Empire, but also Winston Churchill, Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, Banjo Patterson, who became Australia’s poet laureate; and John Buchan. The American and European press fiercely condemned the British as monsters who laid waste, starved women and children; the Boers they described as heroes. The greatest were General de Wet, General Smuts, General de la Rey, General Louis Botha, all of them fighting courageous running battles.
It was the longest, costliest, bloodiest, most humiliating war she fought in almost a hundred years. Over 450,000 British troops took almost three years to defeat a mere 87,000 combatant Boers who were reduced finally to a few thousand commandos. 22,000 British soldiers lost their lives, over 400,000 horses were killed, 15,000 innocent natives, over 27,000 Boer women and children died in the concentration camps. And most survivors were left destitute. The hideous scars will last a very long time: a nation of embittered paupers has been created.
And after the British soldiers sailed home, Sir Alfred Milner, supreme ruler of all the South African colonies, determined to crush the Boer spirit, culture and language, to turn the two old republics into real British colonies. He Anglicised the civil service and decreed that all education be in English. Boer children who used their mother tongue had to wear the label around their necks: ‘I am a Donkey: I spoke Dutch today.’
… and the Boer bitterness grew: not only had he been conquered for his gold, not only had he been brutally vandalised, not only had he lost loved ones in the dreadful concentration camps, but now his very culture was being humiliated. He now belonged to a volk of poor-whites: impoverished by the British scorched-earth policy, many were driven to the towns. There, poorly educated, unable to speak the language of his oppressor, regarded as a country bumpkin, he had to sell his labour in competition with the ubiquitous black man. And so, to his old fear of the black man as a warrior, as the Black Peril, was now added the fear of being swamped by him economically.
But Britain’s greatest injustice was to the black people. In order to woo the Boers into surrender, the peace treaty had agreed that the thorny question of the black man’s vote would be shelved until after responsible government – knowing that there was no likelihood of the Boers granting the franchise to the ‘kaffirs’. And, predictably, they did not. In short, the British purchased peace at the expense of the black man, and opened the door to legalised racial prejudice.
I have no doubt that this dereliction of British duty will plague South Africa for years to come … I hear that the natives are deeply hurt that they have been treated so badly. An organization has been formed, called the ‘African National Congress’, to work for their political rights and a fairer distribution of land …
And so the Boers lost the war but won the peace. When the first elections were held and the new Union of South Africa came into being in 1910, the Boer War hero, General Louis Botha, was the first prime minister, and he was a segregationist. His successor was General Jan Smuts, also a Boer War hero, also a segregationist, but Britain was rewarded for her duplicity by having a South African government who believed its best interests lay in being a member of the Empire. But vast numbers of Afrikaners believed they were being sacrificed in favour of English-speakers, and the Black Peril remained. The National Party was formed to pursue Afrikaner interests vigorously. Then along came World War I, and rebellion.
William Mahoney’s grandson George did not join Harker-Mahoney – he had the gift of the gab rather than the commercial instinct, and he became a lawyer and, in due course, a member of parliament. He kept up the tradition of the family journals, even when he was fighting in World War I. His journal continues:
Many Afrikaners hated to fight on the side of the hated British against the Germans who had been their allies in the Boer War a scant twelve years ago. A group of army generals tried to mount a coup d’état to recover the independence of their old republics. The battles were fast and furious, Afrikaner fighting Afrikaner. They lasted three months before General Smuts crushed the rebellion. And the scars of the Boer War were split wide open.
In 1918 a secret society called the Broederbond was formed to promote the domination by Afrikaners in all walks of life. When World War II came, and South Africa again went into battle on the side of the hated British against the Germans, Afrikaner nationalists who called themselves the Ossewa Brandwag hatched a plot with Hitler to assassinate General Smuts, mount a coup d’état and harness South Africa’s goldfields to the Third Reich. The plot was foiled but many Afrikaners had to be interned in concentration camps, including three future prime ministers.
And then the war ended in 1945, and the same old troubles resumed that had plagued the land since the Kaffir Wars and the Great Trek: the ‘native problem’, the ‘Black Peril’. The poor-white Afrikaner was still struggling, the English-speakers still dominated the land economically. And then came the fateful elections in 1948 …
General Smuts, the hero of the Boer War, was an old man, worn out by fifty years of bloody fighting for and against his Afrikaner volk. And although he was a segregationist, he was a paternalistic one who believed the problem had to be solved ‘by future generations.’ His weary policies were no emotional match for the strident National Party whose policy was immutable segregation as ordained in the Bible, and as envisioned in the Covenant taken by their forefathers at the Battle of Blood River: the immutable segregation of blacks from whites, territorially and politically. It was a strong, self-righteous policy of ‘South Africa for the White Man’ – which meant, more specifically, ‘South Africa for the Afrikaner’.
It was called Apartheid
And so Apartheid entered political science, and the dictionary. It means ‘apartness’, and it is pronounced ‘apart-hate’. Although it was not the intention to generate hate, that is what happened, and numerous attempts to change the name – to ‘Separate Development’, ‘Plural Democracy’, ‘Self Determination’ – failed to eradicate the original connotation. Nor did the claims by the political architects that it was designed with the laudable motive that one race should not interfere with another’s cultural and political needs hold water.
As George Mahoney thundered in parliament: ‘The roots of this mad science, Mr Speaker, lie not in pious guff the Prime Minister gives us about apartheid being God’s will and a “mighty act of creation”; the roots of apartheid lie in racial prejudice and in the trekboers’ insatiable quest for the Lekker Lewe – the Good Life of Land, Labour and Security …’
Exclamations of Onsin (nonsense) rang out from the government benches, cheers from the opposition benches. Sitting in the stranger’s gallery of the august oak-panelled chamber, young Luke Mahoney looked down on his father with pride. George Mahoney was a stocky, handsome, square-faced man with bristling moustache and eyebrows.
‘The Lekker Lewe, Mr Speaker!’ he continued. ‘That’s why the voortrekkers trekked away from the insecurity of the Kaffir Wars in 1836, trekked away from the British administration’s new regulations about master and servant. And the establishment of the Boer republics achieved this Lekker Lewe, Mr Speaker, until the Boer War –’
Cries of Onsin, and groans.
‘But then came Union, Mr Speaker, and the Boers were on top again and they immediately resumed their pursuit of the Good Life: the land they now had – indeed the whole of South Africa! The security they now had, so it only remained to secure the labour – cheap labour for the farmers, for the industrialists, for those mines! And it is this unsavoury matter of cheap labour that has motivated the government ever since. The motive of filthy lucre, not high-falutin’ notions of God’s will –’
‘Oh yes, Mr Speaker, it is scandalous! Let’s first look at the Group Areas Act. This wicked legislation divides South Africa up into white zones and black zones – giving eighty-seven per cent of the land to the whites, and thirteen to the blacks! Can this be God’s will – that a mere four million whites, twenty per cent of the total population, receive eighty-seven per cent of God’s land? No, it is cynically, scandalously unjust! Now, from that unjust, sick starting point let’s review the rest of this rotten apartheid structure.
‘This Group Areas Act has resulted, predictably, in massive overcrowding of black land. This has resulted in blacks drifting onto white farms as squatters, where they are often tolerated in exchange for seasonal labour. But this uncontrolled squatting is anathema to this orderly minded government, so last year it passed the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act! And this, too, it claimed as God’s will. In terms of this act, “surplus” blacks – surplus to the farmers’ labour requirements, that is – are forcibly removed back to their black zones. But who are these “surplus” people? Are they the healthy young men and women who can turn in a good day’s work for the white farmer? No, they are the dependants – the old, the infirm and the children – who are deported. And what is the result? The creation of squalid villages of old people and children who cannot work, cannot contribute to the overall economy, who are therefore helpless. This is a sick economic base, Mr Speaker, doomed to the creation of poverty and despair. And it is on this sick economic base that this government is bent on effecting the biggest social engineering exercise devised by man – and the result is absolutely predictable: failure, Mr Speaker – this policy is doomed!’ George’s face was getting flushed. His finger shot up. ‘It will result in degradation of the earth upon which these impoverished, overcrowded people try to scratch their living. And it will lead to hate – this government is creating hate against itself while trying to dress itself up in the shining raiments of God’s will. And,’ he shook his glowering face, ‘mark my words, this hate will one day rise up against this government and strike it down.’
Groans from the government benches. As the Speaker restored order, George Mahoney continued relentlessly: ‘And the same failure, and disaster, will arise from apartheid laws applicable in the towns, Mr Speaker! The philosophy in this unchristian country has always been that the towns are the white man’s creation and that the blacks have no right to be there, except in so far as they serve the interests of the white man! And so we have the Native Urban Areas Act, which removes blacks from the towns into “locations” outside town. But there is insufficient housing in these locations, Mr Speaker, so shanties develop – and it is this government’s policy to keep housing in short supply, deliberately, in order to create a feeling of impermanence. And so people are dumped on the bare veld with only communal water points and told to build their own houses. What cynical callousness! What materials are these poor people supposed to use? There are none! So they have to build out of cardboard and sacks and flattened tin! And the result is slums, shanty-towns. And slums are not only unhealthy, they breed crime and discontent!’
He frowned around the chamber in wonder. ‘Is this the way a sensible, Christian government treats its citizens, Mr Speaker? Is it sensible for a government to treat its subjects like scum! Is that likely to breed peace? Prosperity? A contented, cooperative people? Or is it likely to breed hate for those who forced this misery and poverty upon the people!’ He glowered, then his finger shot up again and he cried: ‘This government, Mr Speaker, is brainlessly creating an immense social crisis for itself and using the will of God to justify it!’
Groans from the government benches. George Mahoney shook his head angrily, then continued witheringly: ‘And another disastrous result of this inhumane policy, Mr Speaker, is the hostel system which requires blacks who have lived in the location for less than ten years to live as bachelors in squalid hostels without their wives and families, who must remain back in the homeland. Deprived of their family bonds, these overcrowded hostel-dwellers have become a social problem – men without their women, Mr Speaker, become restless, discontented, form gangs, prowl. Fight. Rape. Steal. These squalid hostels are hotbeds of trouble and crime! And because of the tribal nature of the African, these hostels become divided into Xhosa hostels and Zulu hostels, which leads to inter-tribal fighting. And these hostels become hotbeds of political discontent. It is crazy politics for any government to deliberately turn the labour force into political malcontents, ripe for rebellion! Not only is it cruel, it is insane!’ He raised a finger and cried: ‘This government is self-destructing!’
Jeers and groans from the government benches. The Speaker, seated on his carved throne, nodded wearily at George Mahoney.
‘And hand-in-hand with this crazy policy is the government’s inhuman policy of pass laws, to control the flow of labour for their precious Lekker Lewe. What other country in the world says that its citizens may not go out to look for work unless they have permission from an official? But that is the cruel lot of the poor black South African citizen – before he can look for work he must get a permit, a pass, which he probably cannot read. And these passes are only valid for fourteen days – if he has not found work in fourteen days the poor man must go back to his homeland empty handed. And if he does not go he is thrown in jail! Jail?! For the offence of looking for work in his own country to feed himself and his family! What staggering cruelty, to deny a man a proper chance of earning a livelihood. And then say it’s God’s will.’ He shook his head. ‘It’s a massive waste of the taxpayers’ money, because the police, who should be catching crooks, spend vast amounts of time and energy catching unfortunate peasants who haven’t got a valid pass! And the courts, which should be dispensing justice, are clogged up with these pass offenders! And the jails are overflowing!’ He stabbed the air with his finger. ‘It’s madness, Mr Speaker. And the further result of this monumental stupidity is massive black resentment. Even if the pass laws were humanely enforced they would lead to massive resentment, but as they are enforced by our totally Afrikaans police force – the entrance qualifications for which are low in order to provide employment for poor whites –’
Angry cries from the government benches.
George Mahoney shouted:’ – enforced by our Afrikaner police force, the pass laws have become instruments of racial persecution, bringing justice into disrepute, turning millions of innocent black men who only want a job into potential subversives! Mr Speaker, these black people will one day rise up against this stupid, cruel injustice and bring this government to its knees!’
Cries of Never! Nonsense! The Speaker sighed and nodded. George Mahoney shook his head disparagingly, then continued: ‘And what does the unfortunate black man encounter when he’s got his precious pass? Job reservation! Apartheid in employment to protect the white worker from black competition – particularly the poor unskilled Afrikaner! Job reservation – no, Sambo, you can’t be a bricklayer because that job is reserved as white man’s work! No, Sambo, you can’t do an apprenticeship to become a mechanic, or a plumber, or an electrician, because that job is reserved for white men. No, Sambo, you can only dig ditches or be a garden boy or work on the mines because we want to enjoy our Lekker Lewe at your expense!’
A government backbencher shouted: ‘What work did the black man have before the white man came – he Was only a cattle-herder and his wives hoed the fields –’
‘The Honourable Member,’ George Mahoney cried, ‘is quite right for once. But the white man came some centuries ago, and in those days the white man was also only a cattle-herder, Mr Speaker. But then civilization changed the economy, although the Honourable Member hasn’t noticed as he is still only a cattle-herder at heart. But we white men have resisted this change by imposing job reservation, and though the Honourable Member can’t grasp the folly of it being a cattle-man, it will result in an unhealthy economy and eventual rebellion which will, sure as God made little green apples, destroy not only the honourable member but the Lekker Lewe he so recklessly, mindlessly, brainlessly cherishes!’
George Mahoney smiled sadly at the boos and derisive laughter, spread his hands and appealed theatrically to the heavens for help. Up in the stranger’s gallery, young Luke Mahoney was grinning with pride. His father continued: ‘Alas, Mr Speaker, half of the government benches are occupied by brainless, blind, silly asses!’
Midst outcries the Speaker thundered: ‘The Honourable Member for Transkei will withdraw that remark!’
George Mahoney held up his palms. ‘Mr Speaker is quite right, of course. And I do withdraw it: Half of the government benches are not brainless, blind, silly asses!’
Anger and laughter. Mr Speaker banged his gavel. George Mahoney went on happily: ‘And now look at this wondrous God’s will in the field of education in this wondrous Malice in Blunderland of ours.’ He frowned. ‘If this government knew anything about economics it would realize that a well-educated populace is the essential requisite of a nation’s prosperity nowadays. Repeat nowadays, Mr Speaker – not the age of the oxwagon, the voorlaaier and the Great Trek in which the government is still living. I’m speaking of the real world, the world of telephone, radio, the atom bomb and, would you believe, this new thing called television – which the government does not allow us to have lest it corrupt our tiny minds. The new world of the Cold War, in which communist Russia is exploiting the anger of the underdog and promoting world revolution! That is the dangerous world we live in and this real, dangerous world is best met by a prosperous people. Which means a labour force which is properly educated, fairly treated, and fairly paid!’ He frowned around the government benches in wonder. ‘But what does this government do? Does it educate its populace properly?’ He held up a finger. ‘Ah yes – it educates its white populace very well! But what does it give to its black populace? Only such education necessary to equip them for their role as “hewers of wood and drawers of water”!’
‘Quite right too,’ shouted a member of the government benches.
George Mahoney punched his finger at the floor and cried: ‘This government intends to keep the blacks as perpetual serfs, to serve the Lekker Lewe! To supply labour for menial tasks, as they think befits the Sons of Ham! What unchristian arrogance! And what utter folly to imagine that they, a minority of Afrikaners, can keep a majority of blacks suppressed forever, and insult their intelligence –’
‘What intelligence?’ a government frontbencher shouted.
‘You see, Mr Speaker – that’s how the Honourable Member thinks. And it will lead to this country’s downfall, for not only will they create an ill-educated populace which cannot contribute properly to a modern economy, but sure as God made little green apples these black students will one day rise up in rebellion –’
‘And we’ll be ready for them! Who’s paying for their education – the white taxpayer!’
George Mahoney’s bushy eyebrows shot up. ‘Ready for them? With your kragdadigheid – your batons and guns! Is that the way a sensible government runs its country? No, it is a crazy way, to have to rely on force! It is moonshine madness to spend the taxpayers’ money in such a way that the country is angry, resentful, bitter, rebellious!’
He glowered, then went on with withering scorn: ‘As it is moonshine madness to antagonise the populace by cruel social engineering which attempts to stop human relationships between the races! Punishes people who fall in love across the colour bar! The Population Registration Act classifies each one of us into card-carrying racial groupings and thereafter determines who may do what to whom for the rest of our lives! The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act forbids people of different races to marry – and if they were already married before that date they either have to divorce or the white spouse has to be reclassified as non-white and thereafter live in a non-white area!’ He spread his hands in appeal. ‘What kind of a law is it that says you must divorce? Is it a Christian law? No – it is the law of the devil! And even the children can receive different racial classifications depending on their appearance – and families have had to split up and live in different areas! I ask you, Mr Speaker – is it a Christian law that forces a family to split up?’ He punched his palm. ‘No, it is a diabolical law! And the Immorality Act punishes people of different pigmentation who have sexual intercourse! Throws them in jail! Drags them before the courts for public humiliations, brings scandal upon their families, ruins their careers! It has driven people to suicide. What kind of country makes sexual intercourse between consenting adults a crime? It is grotesque.’
‘Immorality is against the word of God!’
‘Then so is all sexual intercourse unless the parties are married! Okay – if that is the will of God, I challenge this government to make all sexual intercourse outside wedlock a crime! I defy them! Come on! Make a total laughing stock of yourselves!’
The Speaker pounded his gavel. ‘I warn you, Mr Mahoney, that personal insults will not be tolerated.’
‘“Personal insults”?’ George Mahoney echoed, astonished. ‘But these laws are personal insults, Mr Speaker, and just as insulting, just as humiliating, just as unchristian, just as stupidly cruel, are the laws governing public places! Petty apartheid. The Separate Amenities Act is the most conspicuous form of insult, made in public for all the world to see! The petty apartheid, designed by petty minds and strictly enforced by petty policemen, the notices that insist on separate amenities like public lavatories, benches, playgrounds, beaches, railway coaches, entrances to public buildings, separate libraries, cinemas, bars, hotels, eating establishments, buses – even separate elevators, for God’s sake, Mr Speaker!’
‘The Honourable Member for Transkei will kindly not blaspheme!’
‘If that is blasphemy, I repent. But the legislation is a tremendous blasphemy itself. How unchristian it is to say to our fellow citizens: You are not good enough to sit next to me on a train or bus or a barstool or in a restaurant or to swim in the same surf or read in the same library –
‘They have their own amenities, a government backbencher shouted, ‘separate but equal!’
‘“Equal”?’ George echoed. ‘Then whites are much more equal than non-whites in this mad-hatter country of ours, Mr Speaker! Because any fool with one eye can tell you that not only are all the non-white amenities inferior to the whites’, but there are much fewer of them! Yet’ there are many more non-whites than whites! This is equal? The honourable member should look up the word “equal” in the dictionary, if he has one. He could look up the word “Christian” at the same time and really have a confusing day.’
He shook his head. ‘Why, Mr Speaker, does this government insist on insulting the majority of the populace in this manner? Why does this government insist on courting hatred? On courting rebellion? On courting its own destruction?’ He looked around, his bushy eyebrows raised. ‘Is it because the government is so stupid that it believes that political chaos will ensue if a non-white sits next to me on a bus, or barstool, or enjoys the same surf, or buys his ice-cream at the same kiosk, or his postage stamp at the same post office window? Is it credible that this government is so stupid, when you bear in mind that there are certain things that even this government has failed to segregate – roads for example. Sidewalks. Pedestrian crossings. Traffic lights. Shop windows. Shops – it is still legal for a black lady to walk into Woolworths, stand beside me and buy the same socks I do – though she better not try subversive stuff like that if she buys a postage stamp, no sir!’
He nodded theatrically, and dropped his voice to a growl. ‘Yes, of course it is credible, and this government probably hopes to segregate the sidewalks, roads, and Woolworths too when their Clever Chaps Department can dream up the tricky legislation.’ He beamed sadly at the prime minister; then replaced his scowl and thundered: ‘But that stupidity is only half of the appalling unchristian reason! The other half is even more awful, and it will be the downfall of this whole country. And that reason is racial prejudice, Mr Speaker!’ He glowered around. ‘Indeed racial hatred. Belief in racial superiority! It is the government’s belief that they are the master race and that it is wrong for a non-white person to sit beside them in a bus, or swim in the same surf! It is a belief in Baaskap, in Bosshood – I am the boss, and you inferior mortals are not as human as I, not worthy to be near me except as my servant, my garden boy, my child’s nursemaid, my farm labourer, the man who shovels rocks on the mines!’ He jabbed his finger again. ‘That is the rotten basis of this petty apartheid – apart from the towering political and economic injustices of grand apartheid – and that rotten base will rot the whole country, for our racial prejudice is breeding racial hatred in return – the Afrikaner has sown the seeds of his own destruction!’
Mutters and groans from the government benches. George Mahoney cried: ‘Oh yes, Mr Speaker – we’ve already had the massive Defiance Campaign in 1952 when hundreds of thousands embarked on Gandhian civil disobedience to throw the administration into confusion – for months we had thousands of protesters defying apartheid and curfews and pass-laws so as to invite arrest – over eight thousand people were convicted and thirty-two people lost their lives in confrontations with police, including six whites, including a nun, Sister Aiden –’
‘And who killed her?’ demanded a backbencher. ‘The very same blacks she was trying to help – brutally murdered her, cut out her liver for medicine. Savagery killed her, not apartheid –’
‘That type of savagery,’ George Mahoney cried, ‘is what apartheid will provoke, again and again – confrontation and mob violence!’ He glared around the chamber. ‘What a tragedy! And what a waste. Of energy and money! The vast body of law that this mad science has built has required tremendously hard work by the police, by the courts, by the legislator, who should have his well-paid mind on beneficial projects, not destructive ones. It’s all a profligate waste of money which could be spent on black betterment schemes, making them better citizens – instead of making them our enemies! And not only is it a stupid waste, not only is it dangerous, it brings the whole nation into international disrepute!’ He paused, glowering at the government benches, then ended: ‘For these compelling reasons, Mr Speaker, I move a vote of no confidence in this government.’
Luke Mahoney wanted to burst into applause.
Out there in the tribal lands there had been troubles for years arising out of the Bantu Authorities Act, which resulted in indirect Pretoria rule through subservient chiefs; but in the black urban areas resistance to apartheid had waned after the failure of the Defiance Campaign. And so the ANC and Indian Congress issued a ‘Call to a Congress of the People’ to be convened on 26 June 1955, at Kliptown, near Johannesburg. Volunteers across the land canvassed opinions and collected grievances at furtive meetings, and on the appointed day three thousand delegates of all races from scores of organizations converged on the football stadium at dusty, wintry, joyless Kliptown.
Amongst them was a beautiful young Indian schoolgirl, called Patti Gandhi, who had journeyed up from the faraway Transkei by bus on her own initiative to listen to her heroes, in particular to hear a young man called Nelson Mandela who hailed from the same part of the land as she.
In the centre of the football pitch on a platform with microphones stood the convenors; about them the sea of delegates. The proposed Freedom Charter was read out, each clause followed by a rousing speech from the platform. That night Patti Gandhi read it aloud to herself, over and over, until she knew it by heart.
WE THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA DECLARE FOR OUR COUNTRY AND THE WORLD TO KNOW:
That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;
That our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality and that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood …
That only a democratic state can secure all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief.
And therefore we, the people of South Africa, black and white together – equals, countrymen and brothers – adopt this Freedom Charter:
THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN!
Every man and woman shall have the right to vote …
ALL NATIONAL GROUPS SHALL HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS!
… all apartheid laws and practices shall be set aside.
THE PEOPLE SHALL SHARE IN THE COUNTRY’S WEALTH!
… the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people.
All other industry and trade shall be controlled …
THE LAND SHALL BE SHARED AMONG THOSE WHO WORK IT!
… and all the land re-divided … to banish famine and land-hunger … All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose …
ALL SHALL BE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW …
No one shall be imprisoned, deported or restricted without a fair trial …
ALL SHALL ENJOY EQUAL HUMAN RIGHTS!
… all shall be free to travel from countryside to town … and from South Africa abroad; pass laws, permits and all other laws … shall be abolished.
THERE SHALL BE WORK AND SECURITY! THE DOORS OF LEARNING … SHALL BE OPENED! THERE SHALL BE HOUSES, SECURITY AND COMFORT! THERE SHALL BE PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP …
Let all who love their people and their country now say, as we say here:
THOSE FREEDOMS WE WILL FIGHT FOR, SIDE BY SIDE, THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES, UNTIL WE HAVE WON OUR LIBERTY!
The Freedom Charter was adopted by popular acclaim, though a group called the Africanists rejected it because of its multi-racialism: they wanted Africa for the Africans, and they broke away from the ANC to form the Pan Africanist Congress. The next day the people reconvened. That day the South African police struck, with a crack of thunder.
Suddenly the stadium was surrounded, and into the mass went the police. They photographed every individual, and they seized thousands of documents, looking for evidence of treason. Hundreds were arrested. Thus began the infamous Treason Trial.
It was held in the cavernous Johannesburg Drill Hall, remodelled to provide a massive dock to hold 156 accused, sitting in tiers. One of them was the young Xhosa lawyer called Nelson Mandela. The trial was to last for five years, the longest trial in history.
In those days the wind of change was starting to blow in Africa. In Kenya the Mau Mau rebellion was raging; in Ghana the Great Redeemer, Kwame Nkrumah, was demanding independence from Britain, proclaiming himself leader of the Pan African movement; in Nigeria and Tanganyika independence was being loudly demanded; in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland a policy of ‘Partnership’ was being attempted but black politicians were demanding immediate majority rule. The Cold War was raging and Russia was providing arms and training, inspiration and indoctrination to the black nationalists. The Western colonial powers, exsanguinated by two world wars, alarmed by the Cold War, had lost their will to govern, appeasement was becoming the order of the day, and the white settlers were afraid, and angry. But in South Africa the government said it had the answer to this Swart Gevaar, this Black Peril: they were building a model state which would keep the races apart, each to develop in its own way, enforced by kragdadigheid, strength-to-do, and South Africa would be the bastion against communism.
In those days the Mahoneys lived in a big old Victorian house near the centre of Umtata, capital of the Transkei. The garden occupied half a suburban block and Mrs Mahoney hired black convicts, called Tame Bandits, from the prison to keep it neat. George Mahoney had his law office in Main Street, which was wide enough to turn a wagon drawn by sixteen oxen, and there were hitching posts for horses. There were always many Xhosa in their red blankets in Main Street, smoking their long pipes, looking in the Victorian shop windows. The big old Victorian courthouse was set in large lawns, where crowds of Xhosa would sit, waiting for court to begin. On the benches outside George Mahoney’s office there were always dozens of Xhosa, waiting to consult the white lawyer who always won cases.
‘But there’s no money in being a small-town attorney, son,’ George told Luke. ‘None of my clients has much money. You’re going to be an advocate, son, in the big city, get amongst the big stuff.’
‘But he doesn’t want to be a lawyer,’ Mrs Mahoney said, ‘he’s talking about being a journalist.’
‘That’s this week. Next week it’ll be law again. I tell you, this son of ours is going to be a bloody good lawyer.’
‘But I don’t think it’s right for a boy of fourteen to be spending his afternoons and holidays in a stuffy law office.’
‘If I was a farmer my boy of fourteen would be ploughing the land. If I was a shopkeeper he would be helping behind the counter. There is no finer training for a law student than to sit in my office and watch how it’s done. Life in the raw! Crime, divorce, debt-collecting, he’ll have seen it all by the time he leaves school. The boy’s a natural.’
‘Well, I’m sorry but I really don’t think it’s right to spend so much time in court, hearing all those sordid details –’
‘The world is sordid and the best place to learn about it is the courtroom – the forum of human drama, learning to sift the wheat from the chaff, strong points from weak points –’
Beyond the courthouse was the Bhungha, an imposing white building which used to be the Native Representative Council until apartheid put an end to that; and opposite was the school for whites. Umtata had a population of only three thousand whites, but the school taught almost one thousand because most of the pupil’s were the children of the traders who lived way out in the rolling hills that stretched from the Kei River in the west to the Umzimvubu in the east, from the Indian Ocean in the south to the Drakensberg in the north, a territory almost the size of Scotland, of which George Mahoney was the parliamentary representative. On the other side of town, down near the winding Umtata River with its weeping willows, was the poorer part of town, where most of the Afrikaners lived, mostly artisans and railway workers, with chickens and maybe a cow in the backyard. Beyond them, on the very edge of town, lived the Coloureds, the half-castes, and this is also where Patti Gandhi lived.
Legally speaking, the Gandhi family should not have lived in a Coloured area, but in an Asian area, but as there were no other Indians in town the mentors of the Group Areas Act had not yet got around to zoning a separate residential area for them. Mr Gandhi was not allowed to trade in Main Street, which was a white area, but his store two streets back, where he had his small clothing factory, was also tolerated. It was in a grey area which the scientists in Pretoria would have to clean up one day, but until then the police did not know what to do with them.
For the same reason Patti Gandhi’s attendance at the white convent, St Mary’s College, had to be tolerated although she wasn’t even a Christian: the Coloured school was quite inadequate, and of course the government high school, which Luke Mahoney attended, was out of the question. It was George Mahoney who persuaded the police commandant to turn a blind eye, ‘until such time as this bloody government builds an Asian school just for her!’
‘She should be sent to school in Natal, where all the Indians are,’ Colonel Visser said uncomfortably.
‘For God’s sake, Colonel, you can’t tear a family apart! The girl’s in her formative years, the Gandhis are a very law-abiding family and it’s a great expense to send your child away to school!’
‘Old Gandhi’s got more money than you and me put together, sir, and I don’t know how law-abiding he is – look at that swank house he’s built illegally in the Coloured area.’
‘The man’s got to live somewhere and as the government hasn’t yet told him where that is, he’s perfectly entitled to build a decent house on the land he’s owned for decades. And that, you can take it from me,’ he said with more conviction than was warranted, ‘is the law.’ He appealed: ‘If the servants of God are prepared to help her, so should you.’
‘Okay,’ the colonel sighed, ‘I saw nothing. But –’ he held up a warning finger – ‘no sport, hey. No swimming, no hockey, no socializing, none of that nonsense. And one complaint and she’s on the bus to Natal.’
‘On my head be it!’ George Mahoney beamed. ‘She’ll cause no trouble. She’s exceptionally intelligent …’
And she was exceptionally good-looking. As a little girl she was angelic, as a nymph of twelve she was beautiful, as a fifteen-year-old she was gorgeous. She was tall and smooth of movement, with long black shiny hair that reached to her waist, long golden legs under her demure gym-skirt, a face to make one stare, big almond eyes and a smile, when she gave it, to melt the heart. And she caused plenty of trouble in the loins of the boys of Umtata High School. But they seldom saw her: her father drove her to and from school so she would be seen as little as possible in her convent uniform lest a complaint be raised. If the boys wanted to see her they had to go to the Gandhi Store, where she worked after school: but how many excuses could a lad find for buying in a ‘kaffir store’? She often worked in her father’s garment factory, but what excuse could a schoolboy find for visiting that? And when she was seen that beautiful smile was seldom given: she was an aloof, haughty girl.
‘She hasn’t got much to smile about, has she?’ Luke’s sister Jill said. ‘No friends.’
‘Aren’t your friends at the convent nice to her?’ Mrs Mahoney asked.
‘I mean after school.’
‘Well, she should be grateful she’s getting a decent education – and these people prefer their own company anyway.’
‘But there are no other Indians for her to be friends with. Can I invite her home one day to have a swim?’
Ooh, yes please, Luke prayed. Patti Gandhi in a swimsuit …
‘Definitely not. I’m not having Indians in our pool!’
Only one Indian … Mahoney prayed.
‘Mother, she’s perfectly clean, you know!’ Jill cried.
‘The subject,’ Mrs Mahoney said, ‘is closed.’
‘Well,’ Jill sulked, ‘can I at least invite her to my birthday party?’
Mrs Mahoney sighed. ‘No darling – she’ll be like a fish out of water. Who’ll dance with her?’
Me – me – me … Mahoney prayed.
‘I’m all for giving the girl a good education, but socializing with her is something entirely different. And what good will it do her? She can’t keep the friendships up afterwards – it’s even unkind to her …’
Jill turned in appeal to her father: ‘Daddy?’
George Mahoney sighed. ‘I think your mother’s right, my dear – if for different reasons. I promised Colonel Visser there’d be no socializing. I’ve got no objection to the girl coming to your party – and, by the way it’s not illegal – not yet – but that is socializing, and it’ll get back to your friends’ parents, and somebody may kick up a fuss, and it’ll get to the police and, well, I’ll have broken the bargain, won’t I, and Patti Gandhi could well be told to leave the convent. It could cause trouble, without her being in any way to blame …’
But Patti Gandhi was to blame for the trouble. It happened in Luke’s second-last year at high school. That was the year the government translocated the people of Sophiatown, the black spot in white residential Johannesburg, to Soweto, the sprawling black township on the outskirts of the golden city. The year of the heartbreak of Sophiatown, the destruction of a whole teeming city within a city, a whole way of life, to replace it with a white middle-class suburb to be called Triomf, meaning Triumph. For months the government had been warning the people of Sophiatown that the day was approaching when vehicles would come to move them; it was the day the lorries and bulldozers arrived that Patti Gandhi, fifteen years old, walked into the public library in Umtata, took a book off the shelf and sat down to read.
‘Excuse me,’ the librarian, nice Mrs van Jaarsveld, whispered, ‘but this library is for whites only.’
Ten minutes later Mrs van Jaarsveld felt obliged to fulfil her threat to call the police. An hour later Patti Gandhi was released by a fed-up Colonel Visser into the custody of her father with a stern warning not to try any funny business like that again. By nightfall it was the talk of the town.
‘Oh, hell!’ George Mahoney groaned.
The next day was Saturday, when the boarders at the girls’ hostel and the boys’ hostel were allowed into town. The big topic of conversation was what that Indian girl, Patti Gandhi, had done. At mid-morning she walked into the Rex Café, where the boarders were all tucking into their ice-creams and milk-shakes and, midst the ensuing sudden silence, sat down at an empty table, held out her money and asked the Coloured waitress for a Coca-Cola. The waitress called the owner. The owner called the police. ‘What,’ the Afrikaner constable demanded, ‘are you doing here, hey?’
‘I am endeavouring,’ Patti Gandhi said, ‘to quench my thirst.’
‘Well, jus’ you ender- whatchacallit along with me, hey …’
This time Colonel Visser was really angry. ‘Is this how you treat my kindness?’ He telephoned her father to come. ‘This is her last warning! Next time it’s straight into Juvenile Court! I hope you give her a bladdy good hiding, hey!’
‘I will, sir, thank you, sir,’ Mr Gandhi said.
He did not give her the hiding ‘which you deserve’ – ‘Don’t you realize we have no rights to even be here under the Group Areas Act?’
‘That’s exactly what I realize. And nor do the people of Sophiatown have any rights!’
‘Sophiatown!’ the old man shouted. ‘I’m sick of hearing about Sophiatown! Just thank your lucky stars you’re not in Sophiatown but in Umtata where people are kind to us!’
‘Kind?’ She rolled her flashing eyes. ‘God help us when they get unkind!’
‘Here we can survive, because of nice people like Mr Mahoney and Colonel Visser whose hand you bite –’
‘“Bite!” Reading a book is a bite? Asking for a Coca-Cola!’ She bared her teeth. ‘Just wait till I do bite …’
‘Don’t you threaten me!’ Mr Gandhi wanted to slap her face but checked himself. ‘Don’t you threaten our existence! We’ve survived and that is an achievement! Your grandfather came here as a coolie to cut cane for a rupee a day, and now look at us! Look at this house! Look at our factories!’
‘And look at my great-uncle! He ended up liberating India from the British!’
‘And I suppose you want to liberate South Africa with your library books and Coca-Colas!’
‘Yes!’ Patti hollered. ‘Yes, yes, yes!’
Quivering with rage, her father sent her to bed for the rest of the day. But as soon as he had gone back to the factory she climbed out of the window, and cycled to her father’s store. She unlocked the back door and went to the hardware counter. With bolt-cutters she sliced off two metres of chain. She selected two stout padlocks and a pair of pliers. Then she rode across town to the municipal swimming pool.
Saturday was a big day at the municipal pool. In the afternoons most of the girls from the high school and convent came to meet their boyfriends. The fenced lawns around the pool were choked with young bodies when Patti Gandhi arrived. She parked her bicycle with the others, then set off to approach the area from the back.
She crept up the storm-water culvert that led up the side of the big fence, then into the shrubbery beyond. She crept up to the hedge that lined the mesh-wire fence. With the pliers she cut a hole.
Nobody noticed Patti Gandhi wriggling through, nobody noticed her until she strolled across the lawn, her lovely young body golden, her breasts bulging and her hips slowly swinging, her soft thighs stroking each other, her long black hair down to her waist, her seldom-seen smile all over her beautiful face: then every head was turning. Patti Gandhi sauntered across the lawn, carrying a little hold-all, her towel trailing languidly, making for the high-diving board. She climbed up it, two hundred pairs of astonished eyes upon her. She had reached the top and sauntered out to the end of the board when the pool manager, Frikkie van Schalkwyk, came bustling out of his office.
‘Hey!’ he shouted furiously. ‘Hey! Get out of here, man!’
Patti gave him a wave and her magnificent smile, dropped her hands to her knees, stuck out her beautiful backside at him and shook it. And a gasp went up from the white boys and girls, then laughter, then scattered clapping that gathered momentum. Patti Gandhi stood on the tip of the diving board, grinning and waving and blowing kisses, and Frikkie van Schalkwyk, of the Umtata Municipality Recreation Department, gave a roar of outrage and charged.
Frikkie ran up the steps onto the lawns, puffed around the top end of the pool, leaping over the gleeful white bodies, heading for the high-dive on the other side. He scrambled furiously up it, huffing his municipal outrage, and as he reached the top Patti blew him a splendid kiss, and she dived.
Patti Gandhi dived in a beautiful beaming swallow, just as Frikkie burst onto the board to roars of derision. She disappeared under the water in a streaming of long black hair. Frikkie blundered to the end, furiously shouting at the water, torn between diving in after her and retracing his outraged steps to confront her on the other side with the long arm of the law. Patti broke surface in the centre of the big pool, tossed back her long hair like a whiplash and beamed up at Frikkie: ‘Come in! The water’s lovely!’
And Frikkie hurled himself in after her. He landed in a mighty belly-flop to roars of delight and ‘Go, Frikkie, Go!’ and ‘Faster, Frikkie, Faster!’ from the gleeful teenagers. Frikkie van Schalkwyk thrashed with all his might across the pool to apprehend the delinquent Patti Gandhi, and Patti Gandhi laughed and reached the ladder on the other side just as Frikkie was reaching the middle.
She scrambled lightly up it, her. golden body glinting, and she skipped joyfully to the head of the pool to draw Frikkie that way and cried: ‘This way, Frikkie –’
Frikkie changed direction and thrashed towards her, and Patti skipped back the other way and shouted: ‘Over here, now, Frikkie, over here –’
But Frikkie van Schalkwyk, custodian of the Municipality of Umtata Bye-Laws (Recreational Facilities) (Swimming Pool) as amended, was no fool, hey. Not for him to thrash this way and that to the tune of a cheeky bladdy Coolie, hey: he heaved himself up the ladder in a furious gush, and stomped off to summon the police, to laughter and cries of ‘Spoil-sport.’ Patti Gandhi sauntered back to the high diving-board, grinning, and began to climb again.
Luke Mahoney was near the foot of the ladder. He watched Patti climb, looking up at her legs, and the beauty of what he saw, her lovely rounded bottom, her golden thighs, the sheer female magnificence of her, was to stay with him for the rest of his life.
Patti reached the top, unzipped her little hold-all, and pulled out the chain. She wrapped it once around her waist, and padlocked it into position. She wrapped the other end around the ladder, and padlocked that. She picked up both sets of keys and slipped them into the panties of her bikini. Then she lay down decorously to sunbathe while she waited for the police.
‘Where’re the keys?’ the sergeant demanded.
‘Up my pussy,’ Patti smiled.
It took an hour to get Patti Gandhi down because the police had to retreat to find bolt-cutters. She was sorely tempted to push the policeman off the high-dive into the water, uniform and all, but she resisted it: No violence, great-uncle Mahatma Gandhi had said, Passive resistance only … But passive resistance meant she had to be carried down the ladder over the shoulder of the sergeant (who enjoyed clutching her lovely thigh), had to be carried bodily out of the swimming pool grounds.
She made a very dramatic spectacle, her beautiful buttocks up in the air, her long black hair hanging down the policeman’s rear, sweeping the ground, being carried away by the long arm of the law to face justice. There was no more laughter: a silence that was almost awe had descended on two hundred white teenagers, almost shame. Patti Gandhi had made her point. Her great-uncle would have been proud of her.
Luke Mahoney pulled on his clothes, jumped on his bicycle and rode flat out up the hill to the golf club to find his father, his face suffused with anger, his heart bursting with guilt, and pity. ‘I’ll finish my game,’ George said, on the tenth green, ‘it won’t do her any harm to spend a few hours in the cells before I get her out. It may save her from many, many more in the future. That girl is headed for big trouble …’
‘She’s in very big trouble now!’ Colonel Visser said furiously. ‘Christ, man, Mr Mahoney, I’ve turned a blind eye to the convent, and I’ve given her two chances in two days! Christ, girl, what have you got – a death wish?!’
‘On the contrary, sir,’ Patti said quietly, ‘I have a life wish.’
‘A life wish …’ Colonel Visser groaned. ‘Christ, young lady, I’ve tried to give you a decent life, and to do that I risked my life – my career. Got, man, if my superiors in Pretoria knew that I knew about that convent business, I would face disciplinary proceedings, hey!’ He held a finger out at her nose. I risked my career for you, because your father here has never given us any trouble! But you! You’re a disgrace to your family and your race! …’
‘Oh my goodness gracious me, sir,’ Mr Gandhi said, ‘I apologise for my daughter, sir …’
‘Apologise to the magistrate on Monday!’ Colonel Visser shouted at Patti, ‘apologise for all the trouble you’ve put us to! And the trouble you’ve caused Mr Mahoney! Apologise for the shame you’ve caused your father, who’s never put a foot wrong in his life here!’ He wagged a finger: ‘Take my advice and throw yourself on the mercy of the court, young lady, and apologize. And maybe that will save you from reform school!’
Patti looked at the good colonel with big beautiful almond eyes: Reform school?’
‘Yes! Because you’re a born troublemaker if ever I saw one –’
‘Trouble?’ Patti said with big eyes. ‘I’m causing trouble?’
‘Yes! Breaking the law deliberately! Christ, man, can’t you see what trouble, what … chaos people like you could cause in this town – in this country! Christ, man, we live surrounded by millions of kaffirs! Can you imagine the trouble if millions of kaffirs came into this town and tried to swim in our swimming pool! Or went to the library and demanded books?! Or went to the Rex Café, hey, man?! Got, man, there would be chaos, hey! And that’s why these laws are necessary! Yes, necessary! There must be order, hey! And you, young lady –’ he jabbed his finger at her – ‘are trying to destroy this order with your bladdy silly nonsense!’
He turned to George Mahoney: ‘No, sir, I can’t withdraw the charges this time! Okay, I’ll give her bail, but it’s Juvenile Court on Monday! And then she’s on that bus to Natal to the other Indians if she wants any further education, hey! No more convent, thank you very much! Not only does she bite the hand that helps her, she commits malicious damage to property, cutting a hole in the Municipality’s fence!’
Patti leapt to her feet. ‘“Malicious Damage to Property”?’ she cried. She pointed north furiously: ‘At this moment, as we speak, the bulldozers of the South African government are smashing down the whole of Sophiatown!’
Sophiatown. A teeming black city within the golden city of Johannesburg, a sprawling mass of run-down houses and shacks, grubby shops and fly-blown markets, bleak churches and mosques, bazaars and shebeens and brothels and sweatshops and junkyards and outdoor lavatories, a slum city of rutted lanes that turned to mud in the rains and swirling dust in the hot dry winds of the highveld winter, a sprawling slum of blacks and Coloureds and Indians and Chinese and poor-whites, mangy dogs and scrawny chickens, riddled with gangs of tearaways and petty criminals, a city of thieving and robbery and knifing and murder and fighting and trickery and protection rackets and disposal of stolen property, drug-dealing and the illegal brewing of the fire-water called skokiaan: Sophiatown was an eyesore, insanitary, an offence to the exquisite sensibilities of the new social science called Apartheid.
‘But only because it’s in the wrong place in terms of this dreadful Group Areas Act!’ George Mahoney thundered in parliament. ‘If Sophiatown were safely out of sight beyond the mine-dumps it would not matter a jot to this government that it is an insanitary place, Sophiatown could then rot in Hell for all this government cares!’
‘Is the Honourable Member for Transkei aware that Sophiatown is also a den of iniquity where so-called liberal young whites, such as university students, think it’s funny to go dancing to black music, dancing amongst blacks, dancing with blacks even, and drinking illegally in their shebeens, and smoking dagga and even contravening the Immorality Act with black prostitutes, hey!’
‘Good gracious me!’ George Mahoney cried. ‘What will these students think of next!’
Yes, Sophiatown was also fun. A fun place to go slumming, if you had the nerve. To risk your skin and risk the cops. A place of jazz bands, zoot suits, rock and roll, gambling dens, American cars, snazzy girls and with-it wide-boys, beauty competitions and prize-fighting, Miss Sophiatown and Mr Wonderful, striptease, six-guns and flick-knives and Hollywood heroes, Porgy and Bess, James Cagney and Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte and Humphrey Bogart, hard drinking and dangerous living. Chicago, Africa-style. Live hard, die young and leave a good-looking corpse: that was the hip attitude and tempo that was captured in Drum, the glossy magazine written and published in Johannesburg that had made Sophiatown glamorously infamous.
‘Does the Honourable Member for Transkei – wherever that is – honestly think that it is proper, that it is right, that it is Christian, that white people go and degrade themselves in a place like that? What I cannot understand is the Honourable Member’s objection to implementing God’s will by the orderly eradication of sin, and social upliftment! And they had plenty of warning!’
‘“Social upliftment”?!’ George Mahoney roared. ‘How about social impoverishment?! How about social destitution! How about … government profiteering! Yes, profiteering, Mr Speaker! Despicable, money-grubbing, corrupt, mendacious profiteering by this government at the expense of the poor for the benefit of the rich! Why do I make this serious allegation? Because this government has compulsorily bought up Sophiatown, plot by plot, at its present slum value, and then, having evicted the poor unfortunate black owner who did not want to sell, it has sent in its big yellow bulldozers to raze his hovel to the ground. Then, waving the magic wand of the Group Areas Act, it has declared the area a white suburb, put in tarred roads, sewers and electricity, and sold the self-same plots for a fortune. For ten-fold! For twenty-fold! ‘He glowered around, then appealed: ‘Is this not despicable? What kind of government is it who takes advantage of its poorest citizens by first legislating that they must sell cheap, and then legislating that the new owner, this government, will sell expensive!’ He spread his hands to the heavens and cried: ‘Good God, Mr Speaker, I tell you that this government is the government of Ali Baba!’
Uproar. Outrage. Honourable Members wanting to leap over their benches and get their hands on the Honourable Member for Transkei.
Social upliftment? A whole society, a whole way of life, a whole livelihood was broken up and the pieces dumped out there in the bare veld beyond the horizon where it wouldn’t be seen. The convoys of government lorries arriving in Sophiatown, the hordes of policemen, the civil servants with their clipboards, the loudspeakers blaring instructions, the bulldozers rumbling, waiting. The army on standby. The poor people filing down the lanes to their designated vehicles, carrying their pitiful possessions, loading them on, climbing up; the waving goodbye, the weeping, the stoicism. ‘Hurry up, please hurry along there, please!’ Those who refused to cooperate were carried. ‘Come along, please, no nonsense now!’ The convoys rumbling out, the bulldozers rumbling in, the crunch of walls coming down, the dust rising up. The long convoys with their police escorts wound through Johannesburg, piled high with people and their belongings, out towards the sprawling black city of Soweto – bureau-speak for South Western Townships – past the vast rows of identical little joyless cottages, the spread-eagled squatter shacks, and on into the veld beyond. And awaiting them were row upon row of numbered wooden pegs in the ground, and government officials with their lists, allocating the little plots. The goods and chattels were dumped on the bare ground, and the vehicles turned back to Sophiatown for the next load of human despair.
‘Social upliftment?’ George Mahoney roared. ‘How about social cruelty?! Dumped in the bare veld, their goods and chattels exposed to the elements! And for this piece of dirt these poor people must now start paying rent! Dumped without a brick or a plank to start building even a shack! Dumped without toilets, with only one communal water-tap every so many hundred yards! Dumped without light, without fuel, miles from their employment, miles from shops, miles from the bus or train station. Dumped heartlessly, callously – and the Honourable Member has the towering brutality to call it social upliftment!’
He clutched his head: ‘Mr Speaker, the destruction of Sophiatown is not social upliftment, it is a stinking, reeking indictment of this government! And it shows this government is not only cynical and cruel, it is brainless … !’
‘It is stupid, Mr Speaker, to generate hatred amongst the people – especially as they are the majority! And it is stupid to bulldoze down one slum only to create another in the bare veld! But Sophiatown is only half the awful story – only a fraction of it! The rest of the story is even more tragic. Because the horror-show of Sophiatown is only the beginning of this government’s crazy plans of Grand Apartheid! As we speak the mad scientists in Pretoria are poring over maps and plotting more diabolical translocations of blackspots, more bulldozer jobs, more convoys, marking out more chunks of bare veld beyond the horizon upon which to dump its black population, to make more despair, more slums, more vice, more degradation, more bitterness, more hatred, more trouble for the white man in the future. Sophiatown is only the beginning! For as long as this government is in power we are going to see the heartbreak of Sophiatown repeated, from the northern Transvaal down to the Cape, from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic we are going to see the heartlessness of Sophiatown repeated, whilst this government relentlessly, suicidally, systematically turns the vast majority of its citizens into its enemies, guaranteeing that they will one day rise up and destroy the white man who thrust such injustice upon them!’ He stabbed at the heavens. ‘This government is busily, stupidly, blindly, self-destructing!’
Boos and laughter from the government benches.
‘Self-destruction by the government, Mr Speaker,’ George Mahoney shouted, ‘would be fine with me! The sooner the better! But the tragedy of it is that in so doing they will destroy the whole country too …’
Beyond the poor-white houses of Umtata, beyond the Coloureds’ area, where the grand house of Mr Gandhi stood out like a sore thumb, was the black Anglican Mission school, St John’s College, or St John’s Porridge as it was called, for African porridge is made of ‘kaffir corn’, which is brown. By law the two schools were forbidden to have anything to do with each other; but twice a year they did play a cricket match, illegally, for that had been a tradition pre-dating apartheid.
The St John’s Porridge team was not much good, except for one boy called Justin Nkomo. He had no style whatsoever, but what he could do was hit a ball. Any ball: fast, slow, off-spin, leg-spin, googlies, full tosses. Justin stood there in his tattered khaki shorts, holding his bat like a club, as the best high-school bowlers came thundering up to the wicket, and Justin swiped and the ball went sailing up into the wide blue yonder. He always hit the ball in the meat of the bat; he never edged it or blocked it – he smote it. The only way to get him out was to catch him on the boundary. St John’s Porridge put Justin Nkomo in as opening bat, and he stayed there while the rest of his team were dismissed. ‘Get Nkomo!’ was the message the high school team received from their cricket coach. ‘He’s your kitchen boy, Mahoney, can’t you sabotage him somehow?’
It was in Luke’s final year at school, the year after Patti Gandhi disappeared in the bus bound for Natal, the year Luke became head prefect and was nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship, that Justin Nkomo became the Mahoney’s kitchen boy, in the sense that he exchanged a few hours’ household work every night for free board and lodging in the servants’ quarters. It was a fashionable act of charity to thus sponsor a St John’s College boy, but it was of questionable legality because under apartheid only bona fide full-time servants were allowed to reside on white property. Colonel Visser turned another blind eye, however, ‘as long as there’re no complaints, hey.’
Mrs Mahoney said to her son: ‘But, please, no cricket with this boy behind the garage wall; he’s here to work and study and I won’t have any familiarity.’
But there was cricket behind the garage wall and that was definitely illegal: bona fide kitchen boys don’t play cricket. Luke and Hendrik Visser, the police commandant’s son, and David Downes, the district surgeon’s son, had rigged some nets behind the garage and, when his mother wasn’t home, Luke would call Justin out of the kitchen to bat. They would hurl ball after ball down, but they could never knock those stumps over. Once David brought a real American baseball-bat along, to see what Justin would do with it, and he did the same. They tried to teach him a bit of style, to make him hold his bat straight, step forward to long balls, back for short balls, and though he tried, to be polite, within a minute he was back to his slugging style. They asked him how he did it and he replied it was ‘just easy’.
The other thing Justin Nkomo found easy was studying. His English was stilted when he first came to work for the Mahoneys – ‘Please scrutinise my endeavours, Nkosaan’ – but he soon became idiomatic. In the evenings, after he’d helped the cook, he was allowed to study at the kitchen table, for there was no electric light in the servants’ quarters, and he sometimes sent a message to Luke via the houseboy to come to the kitchen to help him. Luke found it easy to help him because; although they were both in their matriculation year, Justin’s curriculum was inferior. ‘Nkosi, what did Shakespeare mean when Macduff tells Macbeth that he “was from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d”?’
Luke said, ‘Well, you remember that the three witches have told Macbeth that no man of woman born can kill him? Well, Macbeth and Macduff are now fighting, and Macbeth is confident that Macduff cannot kill him, because of the witches’ prophecy, right?’
‘But now Macduff announces that he was not born of a woman in the normal way – so he can kill Macbeth. Because he was born by a Caesarean operation.’
The next night Justin said: ‘Our English teacher says you’re right.’ He added: ‘Shaka once had a hundred pregnant women slit open so he could examine the foetuses.’
‘Shaka did?’ Shaka, the Zulu warrior-king of the century, was one of Luke’s military heroes and he was interested in any new information about him. ‘Why?’
‘Because he was a stupid butcher.’
‘He was also a military genius.’
‘Then why didn’t he get guns? There were traders in those days who would have sold him guns. All Zulus are stupid.’
‘But the Xhosa didn’t get guns either, and they had more opportunity to get them than the Zulus – they fought nine Kaffir Wars against the white man.’
‘And you still didn’t beat us, Nkosi – we committed suicide in the Great Cattle Killing. But only four hundred Boers beat the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River.’
‘And why did the Xhosa commit national suicide – wasn’t that stupid?’
Justin Nkomo looked at the young master. ‘No, Nkosaan, because the girl prophet told them it was the right thing to do.’
‘But it was nonsense.’
‘Yes, because she was a false prophet.’
‘So if she hadn’t been a false prophet all the dead warriors of nine wars would have risen from the grave and the white man’s bullets would have turned to water?’
‘Yes,’ Justin Nkomo said.
‘And the Russians would have come?’
‘Yes.’ He added, ‘And one day the Russians will come. Like they have come to help the Mau Mau in Kenya.’
Mahoney was taken aback by this. He had heard such wisdom from his father, but coming from the kitchen-boy it was bad news. ‘Who says?’
‘My history teacher. Haven’t you heard of communism? The South African Communist Party? And the ANC, the African National Congress?’
‘Of course. But what do you know about them?’ They were talking a mixture of English and Xhosa now.
‘Communism,’ Justin said, ‘is good. Soon the whole world will he communist. Soon there will be a revolution all over the world. Like is happening now in Kenya with the Mau Mau, where your aunt comes from.’
‘Your history teacher says this?’
‘Yes. And then we will all be rich like you. Everybody equal.’
‘How am I rich?’
‘You have a bicycle,’ Justin Nkomo said.
‘And when we have communism will they give you a bicycle?’
‘And who will own the land?’
‘The people. Land is not owned, Nkosaan. Land is like the sun. And water. It belongs to the people. Only capitalism says land can belong to rich people who buy it.’
It was the tradition of the Mahoney household that dinner was devoted to intellectual discussions. Any subject was entertained provided it was supported by intelligent argument. If not, it was thrown out (‘Like in the courtroom.’). That night Luke mentioned this conversation at dinner. Aunt Sheila McAdam from Kenya was staying, making her annual visit to South Africa.
His mother said: ‘Typical. Nice boy, goes to a mission school, but believes in witchcraft. And gets his head stuffed full of communist nonsense.’
‘Unfortunately it’s not nonsense,’ George Mahoney said. ‘Apartheid will drive the blacks into the arms of the communists.’
‘Like’s happened in Kenya,’ Jill pronounced gravely.
‘Not quite – ’ Luke began.
‘No, we’ve got no apartheid in Kenya,’ Aunt Sheila said. ‘The Mau Mau rebellion was fostered by Russia, through Jomo Kenyatta who was befriended by the communists when he was in England.’
‘But the whites stole the blacks’ land?’ Jill persisted.
‘No, the Kenyan government bought the land from the Kikuyu, including land which the Kikuyu had never even occupied and to which they had no right. The Kikuyu were left with plenty of land, in guaranteed reserves. The land issue was an excuse dreamed up by Russia and Jomo Kenyatta to make the Kikuyu rebel and start taking those frightful oaths to kill the white settlers, so that the communists can take over – and then spread revolution down the whole of Africa, so Russia can take over.’
‘What was so frightful about the oaths?’ Jill demanded. ‘Drinking blood and all that?’
‘And the rest,’ Aunt Sheila said. She was a weathered, robust English matron, married to Uncle Fred, who managed the East African end of Harker-Mahoney.
‘Please,’ Mrs Mahoney said, ‘not during meals.’ She was the opposite of Aunt Sheila: an English rose.
‘Cutting up people and eating them?’ Jill said hopefully.
‘Please,’ Mrs Mahoney said.
‘Why did they make the oaths horrid?’ Jill demanded.
George Mahoney said to his daughter: ‘I’ve got a book you can read, Jill, called Something of Value by Robert Ruark …’
‘You know how superstitious the blacks are,’ Aunt Sheila said. ‘They utterly believe. The missionaries come and convert them to Christianity, teach ’em readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic, put ’em in pants and – bingo – they imagine they’ve done the trick of turning the black man into a civilized man.’ She shook her head. ‘No such thing. He may – reluctantly – come to accept the white man’s God – usually because of an uneasy feeling that the white man’s magic is pretty strong medicine – but he still also believes in Ngai, his own god, who lives up there on Mount Kenya, and in his ancestors who walk along behind him giving him a hard time, and in all the evil spirits, and in all the spells and curses a witch or wizard can place on him.’ She spread her hands. ‘Of course you do encounter some real Christian converts who have staunchly refused to take the oaths and suffered terribly for it – had their wives and children butchered in front of their eyes, and so on. But for most of them the whole raft of superstitions are still as real to them as the trees and the rocks and Mount Kenya.’
‘But what’s the oath?’ Jill demanded.
George Mahoney looked at his wife. ‘She’s old enough to learn about the darker side of the Africa she lives in.’
‘Well,’ Sheila said. She got onto her hobby horse. ‘Well, it’s that superstitiousness that the Mau Mau oath plays on. The oaths were dreamed up by Jomo Kenyatta and his Russian friends – our future president. Anyway, the Mau Mau oath has its strength in the fact that it desecrates all the Kikuyu believes in, all his taboos. It’s as if you, a Christian, broke all your principles and taboos by taking an oath to the Forces of Darkness. So the person who takes the oath becomes an outcast from his people, which means that the only brotherhood he belongs to which can protect him is the Mau Mau – the Devil. And they believe that the oath will kill him – and his family – if he breaks it, or disobeys orders. And of course the Mau Mau will kill him. So, we are fighting completely degenerate, desperate blood-soaked savages.’
George said: ‘And the Mau Mau work on a secret-cell system, don’t they?’
‘Yes. Devised by the Russians. The oath-administrators initiate the members of a cell — for example, the labour force on a particular shamba. He charges ninety shillings per person – and if they refuse to take the oath they’re hideously killed, as an example to the rest. The administrator keeps thirty shillings, and the rest goes to Mau Mau funds. The oath administrator gets rich and has every incentive to keep initiating people, so it’s spread across the colony until now over a million Kikuyu have taken the oath. They started with initiating a few bandits in the forests, then it spread to the shambas, the farms, and then into the towns. Now it’s spreading into Tanganyika. The Russians’ plan is that it will spread right the way down through South Africa to Gape Town, right across the continent.’
‘Do they make human sacrifices when they do the oath?’ Jill demanded.
‘Please …’ Mrs Mahoney said.
‘Much worse than that,’ Aunt Sheila murmured.
Much worse than that, Luke knew: he had read the book. The purpose was to shock, to horrify, to degrade, to defy all taboos. So the oath had to be disgusting. Each oath administrator was instructed to dream up more horrifying oaths with which to terrify the people, to pass on his new ideas to the other administrators. Human sacrifice was always one ingredient. And animal sacrifice. Blood and body-parts mixed in the ground into a kind of soup. Brains of the persons sacrificed mixed in. Woman’s menstrual blood. Urine. Semen. Human shit. Maggots. Putrefied human flesh exhumed from graves. Pus from running sores. Eyeballs gouged out, intestines cut open. Drinking the vile brew while you repeat the oath. Public intercourse with sheep and adolescent girls. And all the time the dancing and the drums and the bloodcurdling mumbo-jumbo, all at dead of night in the spooky forest, all the oath-takers in a trance. All with the purpose of irrevocably committing the oath-taker to killing Europeans, burning their crops, killing their cattle, stealing their firearms, killing to order even if the victim is your own father or brother – and always to mutilate, cut off the heads, extract the eyeballs and drink the liquid. ‘If I am ordered to bring my brother’s head and I disobey, this oath will kill me. If I am ordered to bring the finger or ear of my mother and I disobey, this oath will kill me. If I am ordered to bring the head, hair or fingernail of a European and I disobey, this oath will kill me. If I rise against the Mau Mau, this oath will kill me. If I betray the whereabouts of arms or ammunition or the hiding place of my brothers, this oath will kill me. When the reed-buck horn is blown, if I leave the European farm before killing the owner, may this oath kill me. If I worship any leader but Jomo Kenyatta, may this oath kill me …’
The Mau Mau had completely shattered the average African’s spiritual equilibrium, absolute sin had created a new barbarism, a fanatic who massacred whole villages, decapitating and mutilating, cutting babies in half in front of their mothers, hanging people, slitting pregnant women open, hacking heads off with pangas, cutting the ears off people so they can be easily identified later. And now cannibalism had been introduced. The victim’s head chopped open, the brains dried in the sun, the heart cut out and dried, steaks cut for food when the Mau Mau gang was on the move. In each gang there was an executioner who acted as butcher. The Batuni Oath, by breaking every tribal taboo, ostracised the oath-taker from all hope, in this world and the next. The result was a terrorist organization composed not of humans fighting for a cause, but of primitive beasts.
‘Your cook-boy tried to kill you, didn’t he, Aunt Sheila?’ Jill said proudly.
‘No, darling.’ Aunt Sheila smiled. ‘It was my houseboy. Old Moses, my cook, he’s loyal, and he’s a devout Christian. Not that that’s any guarantee these days,’ she added. ‘The Mau Mau modus operandi is to kill Moses’s family if he refuses to kill me. So, I’m well armed at all times. If this was Kenya, we’d all be sitting with our pistols on the table. And your servants would be locked in the stockade at this hour.’
‘So you have to serve your own dinner?’ Jill demanded, perturbed.
‘No, Moses and the new houseboy sleep in the kitchen, but the rest are locked in the stockade, which has a high fence around it, and a deep wide trench with sharpened bamboo stakes. We muster them at six o’clock, roll call, then shepherd them in.’
‘Don’t they mind?’ Jill demanded.
‘No. The stockade is to protect them from the Mau Mau. They have their huts and families inside. And their own armed guards. And of course our homestead is also surrounded by a security fence now. With two high towers where our Masai guards sit all night with searchlights and machine guns. With rope ladders, so the Masai can pull it up after them. The searchlights can reach the labour stockade and the new cattle pens where we have to lock up our animals at night now, or the Mau Mau cut the udders off, and hamstring them, slash their hind legs. Terrible.’
‘Oh!’ Jill was wide-eyed.
Mrs Mahoney said: ‘Your Masai are reliable?’
‘Oh yes, they’re the traditional enemies of the Kikuyu, they hate the Mau Mau. In one operation, the police and army sent the Masai into the forest to ambush a huge band of Mau Mau they were flushing out. The Masai attacked in full regalia and killed them all, the army just watched. The Masai went home very happy – because, of course, the government had put a stop to tribal warfare long ago.’
‘Divide and rule,’ George Mahoney murmured. ‘Works every time in Africa.’
‘Tell us about when you were attacked, Aunt Sheila.’ Jill pleaded.
Mrs Mahoney raised her eyebrows, but George said, ‘She’s old enough.’
‘Well,’ Sheila said, ‘it was before we’d put up the security fence and the watchtowers. Fred and I were having dinner. The houseboy – our last houseboy – brings in the soup. Fred tells him to taste it, in case it’s poisoned. The houseboy starts trembling and tries to run to the kitchen. Same moment the door to the kitchen opens and in burst three Mau Mau with pangas. The dogs fly at them and Fred opens up with his pistol and kills the first two dead, but the third comes at me with his panga. I shoot him in the chest but he keeps coming and one of the dogs gets him in the … er, groin. Fred shoots him dead, then charges to the kitchen and there’s the cookboy with his skull split open, and there’s the houseboy standing with a panga and he swipes at Fred’s collarbone. I burst into the kitchen and shoot the houseboy in the heart. Lucky shot.’ She closed her eyes and sighed. ‘Oh, what a mess. Blood and brains and bodies everywhere …’
‘Please …’ Mrs Mahoney said. ‘That’s enough.’
‘What happened to Uncle Fred?’ Jill was wide-eyed.
‘Well, I loaded him into the Land-Rover and rushed him to hospital in Nyeri. He was okay. Tough old bugger, Fred. But when he came out a few days later, with his arm stuck out in plaster like a Heil Hitler salute, the swines struck again. We were still erecting our security fence and watchtowers – our labour had just knocked off for the night. Fred and I were sitting having our well-earned sundowners. Suddenly – bang bang bang – windows smashing, and the bastards are attacking with firearms this time, from all sides. And Fred and I dive for cover and grab the rifles and start blasting out the windows, bullets flying everywhere, and there’s poor old Fred firing with one arm, the other stuck out, and these two great brutes come charging through the front door and luckily I mowed them down with the new Sten gun the police had given me.’
‘Wow!’ Jill whispered.
‘Anyway,’ Sheila ended, ‘after that we finished the fence and watchtowers quick-smart. And bought new dogs. The Mau Mau mutilated all our other dogs. Stuck them on spikes. Alive. Now we’ve got four new ones – Dobermans. Trained. Accept food from nobody but me. Only let out at night. And,’ she added, ‘now we’ve got the Masai guards. We’re pretty safe. But the swines still come down out of the forests to maim our cattle.’
‘And how’s Fred now?’ Mr Mahoney said.
Sheila smiled wearily. She took a sip of wine and her glass trembled. ‘Tough as nails, my Fred. I haven’t seen him for three weeks. He’s up in Aberdere Forests – in freezing mist, ten thousand feet above sea level. On patrol, looking for Mau Mau hideouts. Comes back after weeks, wild and woolly and reeking and exhausted, gets roaring drunk, then off he goes to join another patrol.’
Jill demanded: ‘What does he do when he finds Mau Mau hideouts in the forest?’
Sheila looked at George Mahoney. He said: ‘This is her Africa.’
Sheila sighed. ‘To cut a long story short, they spend days, weeks, tracking down their hideouts. Then they ambush. And kill them.’
‘How? Machine guns and hand grenades and all that?’
‘Yes.’ Sheila turned to George. ‘And? Do you think the same could happen in South Africa?’
‘Guaranteed,’ George sighed. ‘This government will drive the blacks to bloody revolution. And be ruthless in trying to stamp it out. So it’s going to be a much worse bloodbath than Kenya. But that’ll be some time coming, the government has got an iron grip at the moment.’ He added: ‘The tragedy is that the bloody excesses of the Mau Mau create the impression that the South African government is right. The man on the street looks at Kenya and says, hell, the blacks are savages, so the South Africans are right.’
Sheila said: ‘And who’ll start it? This African National Congress? What do you make of them?’
George nodded pensively. ‘I like them,’ he said. ‘They’ve been around a long time, since 1912 you know, ever since the British gave them a raw deal at the end of the Boer War. They’re reasonable people. Indeed, they even supported the Smuts and Hertzog governments for a while, because they thought the Natives Land Act may give them a fair deal. Then they seemed to give up. Then apartheid seemed to revitalise them. Now they’ve issued their Freedom Charter, but they’re nonviolent. For the moment – this government will probably drive them to violence soon. But right now they’re the very opposite of the Mau Mau. The people to worry about are the PAC, the Pan-Africanist Congress, under Robert Sobukwe, who split away from the ANC over the multi-racialism of the Freedom Charter – they’re the people who want. “Africa for the Africans”. The only problem with the ANC is they’re clearly socialists. The “commanding heights of industry” must be nationalised, they say. That would be disastrous. And that, unfortunately, is the influence of the communists in their ranks. The South African Communist Party has been banned since 1950 and gone underground, and it’s no secret their policy is to ride to power on the back of the ANC. And their orders come direct from Moscow. So the ANC is in danger of becoming a communist organization unless their leadership is careful.’
‘And, how good is that leadership?’
‘Pretty good,’ George nodded. ‘I like this guy Nelson Mandela – he’s head of the ANC Youth League, a potentially powerful branch of the movement. He’s very intelligent, and he’s a lawyer. My firm has had some dealings with his firm in Johannesburg. Sensible chap, he’s a Xhosa, comes from this neck of the woods –’ he waved a finger over his shoulder – ‘I believe he’s of “royal blood” in that he’s heir to the chieftancy of the clan. And he’s recently married a very nice lass from these parts who’s a fully qualified social worker. The leadership impresses me as reasonable, totally unlike the sort of people you’re dealing with in the Mau Mau.’ He added: ‘Nelson Mandela’s law partner is the acting president of the ANC, a chap called Oliver Tambo, also a Xhosa. Or a Pondo, they’re the sort of poor country cousins of the Xhosa –’
Mrs Mahoney said to Sheila, ‘The Pondos are the ones who wear the blue blankets, whereas the Xhosa wear the red blankets –’
‘Except, of course,’ George Mahoney smiled, ‘neither Mandela nor Tambo wear blankets now, they wear pin-striped suits!’
Everybody laughed; then Mrs Mahoney said to Sheila: ‘And is the Mau Mau crisis affecting Harker-Mahoney?’
Sheila sighed. ‘Terrible labour shortage. The Kikuyu who haven’t taken the oath have fled back to the reserves in terror. HM Shipping is still going strong. And most of the stores, because Kenya is swarming with the British Army and Air Force now, fighting the Mau Mau. But our coffee plantations are virtually at a standstill. No labour.’
‘And how’s business in West Africa?’ George said.
‘Well, I’m not au fait with HM’s offices in Ghana and Nigeria. But Fred says things are looking shaky there too, with independence.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘Kwame Nkrumah, the Great Redeemer.’
‘Why?’ Mrs Mahoney groaned. ‘Why is the British government hell-bent on giving these people independence, willy-nilly?’
Sheila said: ‘The Tories have lost their nerve … the government’s full of pinkoes.’
‘They must know they’re not ready to govern themselves yet.’
‘I wonder if they do know,’ Sheila said. ‘They meet a few smart ones, like Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah, and think the whole of Africa is composed of charming black Englishmen. They don’t realize that the rest have only recently dropped out of the trees. Independence will be the biggest failure since the Groundnut Scheme.’
Luke glanced at his father and the old man gave him a conspiratorial wink. ‘What’s the Groundnut Scheme?’ Jill demanded.
Sheila began to speak but George Mahoney said, ‘Luke, explain to your sister.’
‘Well,’ Luke said, ‘after the war there was a food shortage. So the British government started a massive project planting peanuts, because they’re very nourishing, and it was called the Groundnut Scheme. They sent out all the seeds and fertilizer and tractors and stuff and hired thousands of blacks. But they made a terrible botch of it because nobody knew about peanuts, and in places they even ploughed cement into the soil instead of fertilizer because they couldn’t read. But the biggest problem was that they couldn’t persuade the blacks to stay on the job because they didn’t understand what money was. They didn’t understand that their wages could buy things, because there were no shops out there in the bush. So the whole scheme collapsed. Cost millions of pounds.’
Jill said, ‘Is that why that book about the Mau Mau is called Something of Value? Things in the shops?’
George Mahoney smiled. ‘Luke? You’ve read the book.’
Luke said: ‘What the book says is that if you take away a man’s tribal customs, his values, you must expect trouble unless you give him something of value in return. Your values. But if he cannot accept your values, because he is uneducated, then he is lost. Neither one thing nor the other. And that causes trouble. And that is what is happening in Africa.’ He looked at his father for confirmation.
‘Right,’ George said to his daughter. ‘The white man came along and said to the blacks: “You must not worship your gods, you must worship my God.” Then, “Now that you worship my God you cannot have more than one wife.” And, “Now that you worship my God you must stop selling your daughters into marriage.” And, “Now that you worship my God you must stop fighting, you must turn the other cheek, you must stop carrying your spears and shields, even though these are symbols of your manhood.” And, “Now that you worship my God you must be industrious, you must stop making your wives do all the work, and you must stop drinking so much beer, and of course you must stop following your traditional laws and obey the white man’s laws, and if you do not we will put you in jail.” Et cetera. And, after a while – decades in the case of Kenya, a hundred and fifty years in the case of South Africa – the black man eventually says: “Very well, now that I have given up my values I want all the advantages attached to your values – I want a good job and lots of money.” And the white man says, “I’m afraid you’re uneducated so the only job you can get is as a labourer, working for me.” And so this uprooted man has received nothing of value. His politicians say: “Then we want the power that is attached to your values, we want to be the government.” But the white man says, “Sorry, you’ll ruin the country.” So the black politician says: “We must rise up and drive the white man into the sea and then we’ll get something of value, because we’ll all be rich with a white man’s house and a car and a bicycle and a radio.”’
‘“And the nice Russians,”’ Aunt Sheila said, ‘“will help us get rid of the white man.” And the simple black man believes it all.’
Jill sighed, wagging her golden pigtails. ‘So if we can’t give him something of value it’s better to leave him in his tribe.’
George smiled. ‘That’s the African dilemma, isn’t it, my darling? But we didn’t leave him alone – we’re here, and we can’t undo that fact. The question is what do we do from here, to give him something of value?’
‘Not apartheid,’ Luke said.
‘So you want to give them all the vote?’ Aunt Sheila asked.
‘No,’ Luke said. ‘Because they’re still too uneducated. But we should give the civilized ones the vote. “Equal rights for all civilized men”, like in Rhodesia. Gradualism, that’s the answer.’
‘And what constitutes “civilized”?’ his mother asked.
‘Education,’ Luke said. ‘Maybe, second year of high school: Or a certain amount of money in the bank. If a man’s smart enough to make money, he’s smart enough to vote. That’s what they’ve done in Rhodesia.’
‘And Rhodesia will have plenty of trouble too,’ Sheila promised.
‘But meanwhile,’ Mrs Mahoney asked, ‘what about all the ones who haven’t got education or money but who’re demanding the vote and a white man’s job, house, car and bicycle? They won’t be satisfied with your gradualism, Luke, they’ll want the vote now. If you give the vote to some, they’ll all want it.’
‘Well,’ Luke said, ‘we’ll just have to be strict. Strict but fair. But to be fair we must abolish apartheid.’
George Mahoney nodded judicially. Jill said: ‘I agree. Apartheid,’ she pronounced, quoting her father, ‘stinks.’
Mrs Mahoney said: ‘Choose a more ladylike word, Jill. Why do you say that? Isn’t separateness the natural order of things, dear? We are separate, separated by civilization. The government is only legalizing the status quo.’
‘It’s doing a hell of a lot more than that!’ George said. ‘It’s setting the status quo in stone, to hold them separate and down there for ever. It’s damned unnatural to try to keep people apart – and it’s asking for trouble. Let people find their own level.’
‘Well, I think it’s perfectly natural for a civilized people to want their standards protected by the law. And thereby prevent trouble.’ She turned to Sheila. ‘George and I don’t see eye to eye on this little detail. Not that I’m a National Party lady, mark you – I’d vote for the United Party, if I dared, but George is an Independent and he’d divorce me – I’m never quite convinced those ballots are secret!’ She grinned at her husband. ‘I’d never vote for those horrid Afrikaners – I exaggerate of course – some of them are very nice – but I must say, darling, our Minister of Bantu Affairs, Hendrik Verwoerd, strikes me as a sincere man who believes he’s doing his best for the blacks in the long run.’
‘Hendrik Verwoerd,’ George Mahoney sighed, ‘is not a malicious man. And he’s probably sincere when he talks about apartheid as “a mighty act of creation” and “the will of God” – he believes he’s got the blueprint for successful co-existence between the races. And he has appointed the Tomlinson Commission to look into the viability of the black homelands becoming independent –’
‘Independent?’ Sheila asked, surprised.
‘Yes,’ Mrs Mahoney said. ‘Apartheid is evolving, my dear, to a higher moral plane –’
‘Yes,’ George said wearily to Sheila, ‘apartheid is evolving under Verwoerd, he does now talk in Parliament about giving the black homelands their independence, about dividing South Africa up into a number of black independent states and one white state, which will all live together side by side in a “constellation of southern African states”, bound loosely together in a kind of common market – Verwoerd doubtless does believe his own rhetoric when he says the blacks will be eternally grateful to us. It’s a pretty vision but it won’t work, because the homelands are barely capable of supporting the blacks now, in thirty years’ time they’ll be hopelessly inadequate, because the black population will have trebled. How’re all those people going to earn a living? They’re cattle-men, not factory workers –’
Mrs Mahoney interrupted mildly: ‘But he says industrialists will be encouraged with tax incentives to open up factories on the homelands’ borders to provide employment –’
‘Which is bullshit,’ George Mahoney said. (Jill snickered into her hands.) ‘I’m sorry, my dear, but it is nonsense. Because, sure, some industrialists will take advantage and open factories on the borders, but not nearly enough. The Tomlinson Commission –’ he jabbed his finger – ‘showed that the homelands could only support fifty-one per cent of the black populace as farmers. What happens to the other forty-nine per cent? Find jobs in the new factories? It’ll never happen. It’s a Utopian dream of Verwoerd’s.’ He turned to his wife. ‘And the hard fact remains that the black homelands are only thirteen per cent of South Africa’s surface.’ He shook his head at Sheila. ‘Oh, there’s nothing wrong in giving these so-called black homelands self-government – provided, as Luke says – ’ he touched his son’s head – ‘it’s supervised and done gradually, because the poor old black man has no experience of democracy – but the towering sin of Dr Verwoerd’s new-look apartheid is that it says to the poor black man: Thou shalt live and vote in thy inadequate homeland. Thou shalt only come out of it to work in if I need you and give you a Pass. Thou shalt live in impermanence in locations and squatter shacks. Thou shalt not have thy women and children living with you. Thou shalt have no political or social rights in my nice white South Africa where thou workest. Thou shalt return to your black homeland when I’ve had enough of your cheap labour. Thou shalt, thou shalt thou SHALT …’
George glared around the table, then said wearily to his wife: ‘Oh, Verwoerd’s vision is a fine one, on paper. But the arithmetic proves it’s a recipe for black pain, and poverty, and conflict. Rebellion.’ He sighed. ‘I tell him at every opportunity in Parliament.’
Mrs Mahoney shifted and said: ‘Darling, I’m all for the underdog. But I don’t consider that saying a black can’t be my next-door neighbour and keep his cattle in his backyard is exactly making him an underdog – he’s got his own territory, his own customs, and I have mine. I respect him but I do not want him as my neighbour.’
Luke said: ‘Mother, you’ve got five of them as neighbours already, in your backyard.’
‘Servants are entirely different. And talking about that, I don’t mind in the least you helping Justin with his homework, dear, but I won’t have him starting political discussions in my kitchen about the Russians coming, please?’
Jill said: ‘Well, Miss Rousseau says the Russians are already here.’
‘And she’s right,’ George said.
‘Who’s Miss Rousseau?’ Aunt Sheila asked.
‘Our new history teacher,’ Jill said, ‘and she’s brilliant.’ She added with a giggle: ‘And Luke’s in love with her!’
‘I am not!’ Luke glared. ‘I only said all the guys think … have got a crush on her!’
‘Except you?’ his father grinned.
That was another thing Luke and Justin had in common: their enthusiasm for girls. That year both of them had their first sexual experience. Justin had been through the Abakweta ceremony, living alone in a grass hut for six weeks, daubed in white clay and wearing a grass skirt and mask before emerging on the appointed day to be circumcised in cold blood with a spear: he was now a man, eligible to buy a wife when he could afford the cattle to pay lobola, the bridal price. Justin had lain with women. ‘Is it nice?’ Mahoney asked, agog. ‘Ooooh,’ Justin said.
Luke had been circumcised as an infant but his customs forbade him to lie with a woman yet; Luke’s earliest memories seemed to be of having a persistent erection he was incapable of doing anything about, and he was desperately determined to do something about it in his final year at school. Oooh is what Luke felt climbing the stairs behind the girls in their short gym skirts – if you contrived to be at the bottom of the stairs as they were approaching the top you could see right up to their bloomers. Oooh is what he felt sitting in class waiting for the girls to reveal a bit more thigh (‘beef’ it was called). Oooh is what he felt when he was allowed to grope his girlfriend of the moment but never allowed to take his cock out for a bit of reciprocity. Ooooooh is what he felt as Miss Rousseau unfolded the dramas of history with her creamy smiles, her breasts thrusting against her sporty blouse as she stretched to jot her ‘lampposts’ on the blackboard, her skirt riding a little higher up her lovely legs – for Miss Rousseau was also the girls’ gym mistress and came to school in short athletic skirts.
Luke wasn’t in love with Miss Rousseau as his sister teased – not yet – he was only madly in lust with her. All the boys were, and the girls idolised her: ‘She’s such fun!’ And she didn’t have a boyfriend! Oh, she had all the young men in town after her but there seemed to be none with brains enough to hold Miss Rousseau’s interest. ‘She says she’s very hard to please,’ Jill reported with the breathless smugness of one privy to royal confidences – ‘and she says we must all be when we grow up. None of these men are capable of having an interesting discussion, she says, she expects a real man to hold meaningful conversations, not just play sport, she says. She wants her mind wooed, she says …’
Her mind wooed … Miss Rousseau was very sporty and played a dashing game of hockey (you could often see right up to her bloomers as she dashed) and she loved watching rugby. Luke wasn’t really a rugger-bugger but he played so hard that year to impress Miss Rousseau that he made it to the first team. And on Fridays after school when he and Justin fetched his parents’ horses for the weekend from the country stables he rode the long way round into town in order to pass the girls’ hostel (that veritable cornucopia of beef bums and tits) because Miss Rousseau sat on the verandah marking books in the afternoons – in the desperate hopes of impressing her with a meaningful conversation about horses. But no such luck; she gave him a cheery wave, that’s all. He read in bed late into the night (with a hard-on) surrounded by history books, trying to dredge up obscure points to discuss with the wonderful Miss Rousseau, to have meaningful conversations about with the divine Miss Rousseau. (It wasn’t easy concentrating on all that heavy-duty history with all those hard-ons.) But it didn’t work. When he did manage to put one of his obscure points to her there was no discussion because Miss Rousseau knew all the answers and all he ended up saying was, ‘I see, Miss Rousseau. Thank you, Miss Rousseau.’ And there was no privacy for a meaningful conversation because he could only catch her in the school corridors. And she wasn’t interested in fuckin’ horses. So how the hell could a real man get to discuss anything? And then, one night, he thought of those family journals his great great grandfather Ernest had started, and all the obscure points therein.
But of course! What historian wouldn’t be interested in those rare journals? Their obscure detail was a goldmine for meaningful conversations. Burning the midnight oil, he feverishly dredged up a stockpile of obscure points before he made his move to grab the divine Miss Rousseau’s interest. And it worked.
‘What an interesting detail, Luke – I’ll have to look it up in Theal.’
‘I’ve checked Theal, Miss Rousseau, and he doesn’t say anything about it. Nor does Walker, Miss Rousseau.’
‘Where did you get your hands on Theal? He’s not in this town’s library.’
‘My father’s got the whole set of Theal histories, Miss Rousseau.’
‘I see. How lucky you are, even I don’t have the whole set. But where exactly did you get this detail, Luke – your great grandfather’s diary, you say?’
‘My great great grandfather’s journals, Miss Rousseau.’ (Stop saying Miss Rousseau every sentence!) ‘He was on the Great Trek and fought at Blood River. His son, and his grandson, fought in the Boer War, and they kept the journals going. My father kept them up, starting with World War I.’ He shrugged airily. ‘And, of course, I’ll keep them up, Miss Rousseau.’
‘Fascinating …’ Miss Rousseau said.
He blurted: ‘You can look at them any time you like, Miss Rousseau,’(Oh you tit …)
‘Oh wow – will you ask your father’s permission?’
It had worked! With or without his father’s permission she would see them!
‘Well, all right, seeing she’s a teacher,’ his father said, ‘but don’t encourage it, son, they’re very personal records.’
‘My father says he’s delighted you’re interested, Miss Rousseau,’ he said the next day when he delivered the first volume.
And was Miss Rousseau interested? ‘Fascinated’s the word, Luke! I sat up in bed all night!’ (Ooh, Miss Rousseau sitting up in bed – while he sat up in his bed with a hard-on dredging up more obscure detail to woo her mind with meaningful conversation – ) ‘What priceless glimpses of living history you’ve given me!’ (He’d given her!) ‘These belong in the archives. You must keep them up yourself, Luke.’
‘I will, when I’ve done something to write about, Miss Rousseau.’ (Cut out the Miss Rousseau!)
‘Start now! You’ve seen the introduction of apartheid, which is the culmination of the Kaffir Wars and the Great Trek and the Boer War! Seen it through the eyes of a very intelligent young man of the times – your youthful evaluations will make fascinating historical material one day. I can’t wait to read the next volume.’
A very intelligent young man of the times! Young man … ? And she couldn’t wait? He couldn’t wait. He hurried home from school, on air, locked himself in his bedroom and jerked off over the heavenly Miss Rousseau. The next day he delivered the next volume, reeking of aftershave and toothpaste. ‘This one’s written in an old cash ledger that Ernest Mahoney’s grandfather gave him for accounts, Miss Rousseau. It starts when Ernest accompanies Retief to visit Dingaan.’
‘Does Sarie wait faithfully for Ernest?’ Miss Rousseau demanded.
‘Not only that, she … They have to … well, they get married, Miss Rousseau.’
‘Oh, what fun,’ Miss Rousseau sparkled. (Fun?! That’s pure sex talk!) She put her heavenly hand on his arm impulsively. ‘Luke, I’ve been thinking – these journals, I really think your family should make a copy, in case they get destroyed in a fire or something. And I would love a copy for myself. Now, I’ve got a very good typewriter. Would you ask your father if he minds if I type them up? It’s quiet in the hostel while the girls are doing their prep, and in the holidays I’ll have the whole place to myself.’
Luke said casually to his father, trying not to blush: ‘Miss Rousseau thinks those journals are so valuable we should have them typed up in case they’re ever lost, and she’s offered to do so but she hasn’t got a decent typewriter and that girls’ hostel is so noisy, she says, and I thought maybe she could come here and use Mother’s typewriter –’
‘Well, that’s kind of her. But I’m not sure, son – she may make a copy and I don’t like the idea of that, I want to publish them one day –’
‘Oh, she wouldn’t make a copy, Father!’
It was his mother who swung it. ‘Well, I think it’s a very good idea, darling. It’s an opportunity to get her evaluation of them. Tell her to come around whenever she has time, Luke. I won’t disturb her.’
That afternoon Luke and Justin fetched the horses and as they casually cantered past the hostel Luke just happened to spy Miss Rousseau sitting on the verandah, marking books. He dismounted.
‘Miss Rousseau, my father is very grateful for your offer to type up the journals, and of course you may make a copy for yourself, but could you possibly come to our house to do it because he doesn’t want copies lying around because they’re so personal?’
‘But of course,’ Miss Rousseau said earnestly.
Oh joy! ‘And,’ he blurted on, ‘my mother suggests you come on the afternoons she plays golf so she doesn’t disturb you. That’s Mondays and Wednesdays, Miss Rousseau.’ (The days his sister had hockey practice). ‘And,’ he blurted on, ‘if you’d like to have a swim, bring your costume …’
‘Well, I’ll be there!’
He galloped all the way home. He’d done it! He’d contrived to get Miss Rousseau alone! He just had to lock himself in his bedroom again and get rid of his hard-on.
Oooh, the agony of waiting for Monday … That Saturday he played a suicidal rugby match, to roars of applause from the grandstand, where Miss Rousseau sat. ‘Brilliant game, Luke.’ Brilliant … ? In his sound senses he tried to hammer it into himself that nothing would happen on Monday, but with all these erections it was possible to imagine anything. The sheer eroticism of having Miss Rousseau alone in the house! Would she have a swim? Would they have tea together? Damn right they would! Would she sometimes ask him to help her decipher his great great grandfather’s handwriting? Would she … walk around the garden with him? Would she bring her swimming costume? Would it be a bikini? Please let it be a bikini …!
And it surpassed his wildest dreams. Not only did they have tea together, not only did she want to see the garden, not only did she call him to decipher his great great grandfather’s handwriting sometimes … but she did bring her swimming costume! And it was a bikini! Oh, the bliss of having tea with Miss Rousseau, just the two of them, like two adults – he had dredged up a stockpile of tricky historical points to talk about. Oh, the bliss of bending over the journals beside her (the sweet scent of her) deciphering his great grandfather’s handwriting. And Oooooh Miss Rousseau in her bikini… those lovely long legs, those ooooh-so-rounded hips and oh those tits … But how was he going to hide this hard-on?! And after she packed up the typing at five o’clock and drove off back to the hostel in her old Chevrolet he stood in the toilet thinking, This is where she pulled her panties down. This is where she placed her beautiful bare bum … And he just wanted to smother the seat in kisses.
It surpassed his wildest dreams when, after her fourth visit, his mother announced: ‘That nice Miss Rousseau telephoned today and asked if she could possibly hire one of the horses during the school holidays – she’s a keen horsewoman. Of course I said she could ride them any time free, but she asked if you would go with her the first time, until she’s familiar with her mount.’
Would he go with her… ? ‘Okay, Mother.’
‘Please don’t use those dreadful Americanisms, son. And, she had the highest praise for you. “Quite a remarkable historian”, she said. And that you’ll go a long way in life.’
Quite a remarkable historian?! Well she ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Go a long way? He would go all the way to the ends of the earth on his hands and knees over broken glass for Miss Rousseau …
It seemed an eternity waiting for the mid-year school holidays. And then Miss Rousseau surpassed his wildest wild dreams again. When they dismounted at the reservoir outside town and sat down under the trees, she gave him her creamy smile and said: ‘I think that you can stop calling me Miss Rousseau, Luke. Lisa will do fine when we’re alone. After all, we are partners in crime.’
Lisa! When we’re alone! Partners in crime?
‘What crime, Miss Rousseau?’
Oh … ‘Lisa.’ It was the most wonderful name in the world.
She smiled. ‘Fraud? Copyright contravention? Your father did not give me permission to make a copy of those journals, did he?’
Luke was mortified. Blushing. ‘How do you know?’
‘When I phoned your mother about riding she thanked me for the typing and apologised that your father wouldn’t allow a copy to be made because he wants to publish them one day.’ She smiled. ‘Why did you lie to me, Luke?’
He swallowed. ‘Because … you’re a historian, and … and you deserve it.’
She grinned. ‘Why do I deserve it, Luke?’
‘Because you’re –’ (he wanted to blurt ‘the most beautiful’) ‘– the best teacher I’ve ever had.’
‘An apple for the teacher?’
‘No, Miss Rousseau.’ He wished the earth would open.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘And Lisa, please.’
‘No, not an apple for the teacher. Lisa.’
She smiled. ‘The teacher? I’m only twenty-one, you know, Luke. Only four years older than you.’
‘Yes, I know …’ Luke croaked. ‘Lisa,’ he added.
‘And I’m not really a teacher, you know. I only got my B.A. last year, I haven’t done my teaching diploma yet.’ She paused. ‘And d’you know what?’
‘What?’ he croaked. ‘Lisa,’ he added.
‘I’ve decided I don’t want to teach kids, Luke. Next year I’m going back to university to do my M.A. And then a doctorate. I want to teach at university level – teaching minds like yours.’
Minds like his?! Not kids … !
‘You’ve no idea how bored I’ve been in this town, Luke.’
Goddesses get bored? ‘Really?’
‘Really. In fact …’ She paused, then grinned at him. ‘Can you keep a secret, Luke?’
A secret from Miss Rousseau?!
‘Promise,’ he said. ‘Lisa.’
‘In fact –’ she smiled her mischievous creamy smile – ‘the only stimulating thing that’s happened to me this year has been you and those journals.’ Miss Rousseau looked at him with a twinkle in her eye: ‘You and your riding past the hostel every Friday. To impress me? And undressing me with your eyes in the classroom. And – ’ her smile widened – ‘your monstrous erections in the swimming pool.’
Luke didn’t know whether he wanted to lunge at her or the earth to swallow him up. Monstrous erections? His heart was pounding and he was blushing furiously and he couldn’t think of anything to say except: ‘I’m sorry.’
She grinned widely. ‘Oh don’t be sorry – it’s very pleasing.’
Pleasing?! That could only mean one thing! Oh God he didn’t know what he dare do!
Miss Rousseau smiled. ‘Are you a virgin, Luke?’
He couldn’t believe this was happening. All beyond imagination. He blushed. ‘Yes …
She smiled. ‘Well, Luke? I seem to have taught you all the history you need. What shall we do about what you don’t know?’
Luke’s heart was hammering, his ears were ringing, his face on fire, his stomach was faint, his legs trembled. ‘I – I don’t know, Miss Rousseau.’
‘Lisa.’ Miss Rousseau smiled. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘let’s think … Now, if I were seventeen, and not your so-called teacher, what would you do now, Luke?’
Luke looked at her with utter, confused adoration. He swallowed and whispered hoarsely: ‘I’d kiss you.’
‘Very good, Luke. So, you may kiss me, you know how to do that, I’m sure.’
He stared, then he lunged at her. He seized her and plunged his gasping mouth onto hers so their teeth clashed, and she laughed in her throat and toppled over, and he scrambled frantically on top of her, and he ejaculated. In one frantic surging the world buzzed into a blurry flame that promptly crescendoed into the most marvellous feeling in the world, that exploded into a frenetic thrusting towards the source of all joy through jodhpurs and all. Luke Mahoney pounded on top of Lisa Rousseau, exploding, and she held him tignt, grinning up to the sky.
When he finally went limp, gasping, on top of her, his mind in a whirl, she smiled. ‘There … Now we can really talk about this like adults.’ She took a handful of his hair and lifted his suffused face. ‘Tonight, instead of going to the cinema, or wherever, why don’t you come to see me? The hostel’s empty.’
Those school holidays were wonderful. Wonderful, marvellous, divine, delicious, heavenly, breathtaking, walking-on-air – a head-over-heels, laughing-out-loud, do-backward-somersaults love affair, a secret so delicious he wanted to bellow it to the world.
Umtata was quiet, the school silent, the sunshine golden, the birds atwitter, the bees buzzing. And the big girl’s hostel was empty, except for the beautiful, long-legged, big-busted, sparkly-eyed, wonderful Lisa Rousseau. Every day they went galloping over the hills to the reservoir to make love on a blanket. Twice a week she came to the house to type up the journals (‘No, Luke – your mother may come home …’), every night he climbed out of his bedroom window and hurried across town to the hostel, let himself in the kitchen door and bounded up the stairs – and there was Lisa Rousseau, a grin all over her lovely face, and he seized her in his trembling arms. And, oh God, the wonderful feel of her against him, her strong-soft athletic body, her breasts crushed against his heaving schoolboy chest, her belly and loins crushed against him, his hands frantically sliding over her, feeling, feeling, feeling her. Then she swept her nightdress over her head, and the sight of her nakedness, each night, took his breath away. Then she tumbled onto her narrow bed, a grin of fun all over her lovely face. ‘The first one’s for you; the second one’s for me …’
So it went every night, those school holidays. The first one was over in minutes, two or three minutes of frantic thrusting, then a searing explosion of cascading joy. And Lisa Rousseau lay there, legs wide, smiling, receiving this explosive accolade, then, when that bit of heavenly nonsense was over, it was her turn. Miss Lisa Rousseau toppled him onto his back, and he lay there, exhausted, happy, wildly in love, and she began her magic. She slithered down to his loins and she grinned at him up his belly, her long hair awry and her big eyes twinkling, then she slowly, so slowly, lowered her head and, oh, the wonderful feel of her warm wet mouth, her teeth playfully nibbling, her full lips sucking, her warm pink tongue slithering, her eyes sparkling with the sheer fun of it all, and when she had done her magic she climbed joyfully on top of him, for her turn.
At the end of the second wonderful week Luke had a brilliant idea: his father owned a fishing camp down on the Wild Coast, sixty miles away: how marvellous to have the last week of the holidays there with Lisa all to himself, out in the wide open, sleeping together all night long, swimming naked in the crashing surf, romping together in the languid lagoon, walking along the wild deserted beach together like real lovers … It would be just like a real honeymoon. Lisa thought it a wonderful idea provided his parents didn’t know about her being there. ‘And provided we have some intellectual activity – I, my friend, am going to ensure you get an A for history …’
Luke said to his father: ‘Can I take one of the horses down to the camp? Do some fishing before I start work on my final exams?’
‘Can I come too?’ Jill cried.
‘No girls,’ Luke said firmly.
‘But what about that nice Miss Rousseau?’ Mrs Mahoney said. ‘She’ll be disappointed if you don’t go riding with her.’
‘Oh, she’s going off somewhere for a week to meet a friend.’
‘Well,’ George said, ‘provided you take Justin with you …’
But the sheer audacity of living together … it was the romantic stuff of story books. And it was a great adventure setting out in the predawn into the land of the Xhosa, something like his great great grandfather Ernest had done into the land of the Zulus. As they rode through the rolling green hills with their Xhosa kraals, through their scattered herds of cattle, Luke could almost feel the shades of his forebear riding with him – and his heart and loins were as deliriously tumultuous as Ernest’s had been over his Sarie. But this adventure required him to take Justin into his confidence.
He said soberly in Xhosa: ‘Justin, I must trust you with a secret. You know the white woman, Rousseau, my history teacher?’
‘I know her,’ Justin said.
Luke cleared his throat. ‘Well, she is going to drive down to the sea tomorrow to be with us.’
‘I know,’ Justin said.
Luke frowned. ‘How do you know?’
‘I know,’ Justin grinned, ‘because every night you climb out of your window and run to her house. Like this …’ He placed his elbow in his groin and thrust his forearm up rigidly.
‘So you are a spy!’
Justin smiled, ‘No, I only study till late, at my window.’
‘And how do you know I go to her house?’
‘Because we must ride past her house every Friday. And because when she comes to your house to work your tail wags like a dog. Like this … ’ He put his elbow in his groin again; and shook it about. He burst into laughter.
Luke grinned sheepishly. ‘She is only teaching me history!’
Justin dropped his head and laughed: ‘I know …’
‘And she is only coming to the sea to teach me more history!’
Justin threw back his head and guffawed, white teeth flashing: ‘1 know …’
‘Do you understand that?!’ Luke grinned. ‘And my parents must know nothing about this.’
Justin wiped his eyes. ‘I understand everything …’
They rode on in suppressed giggles for a moment, then Justin burst into laughter again. ‘But tell me, Nkosaan – is history nice?’
It was a wonderful week. Floating in the blue lagoon with Lisa, romping in the crashing surf, walking along the deserted beaches, sleeping all night together: not once did Luke go fishing – that was Justin’s job, to keep him out of the way. Who would want to fish when he could be with the divine Lisa Rousseau? He could not get enough of her. But the divine Lisa Rousseau did also get some brain-work out of him.
‘Luke, always think of history as a series of lampposts, which you can see leading up long networks of roads to the present. The greatest value of history is that our knowledge of the past, particularly past mistakes, helps us see into the future, and hopefully avoid mistakes …’
And she said: ‘As Ernest says, the Battle of Blood River wasn’t a battle, Luke, it was an execution – though don’t say so in your exam paper. But what’s the significance of that lamppost?’
Luke said: ‘It’s an emotional rallying point for the Afrikaner every year when they celebrate the Day of the Covenant. He is reminded every year that God was on his side, and therefore still is. And therefore apartheid is right, God’s will.’
‘Yes. But the real significance, the real tragedy is that a theocracy was born at the Battle of Blood River, Luke. “Rule of God.” Through our “divinely inspired” politicians like Verwoerd. That’s the mentality we’re up against. And we won’t get rid of apartheid until a new generation comes along who doesn’t believe that nonsense.’
‘Or until there’s an uprising. A bloodbath, like Kenya.’
Lisa shook her head. ‘No, that’s another myth. There may be a bloodbath, but it will be black blood that’s spilt, Luke. Like at the Battle of Blood River – an execution. History repeating itself. This government is surrounding us with a ring of steel – but tanks now, not wagons. An uprising will be crushed ruthlessly – it’ll solve nothing.’
‘But the communists? Russia’s got plenty of tanks too.’
Lisa sighed. ‘Communists? That’s just about everybody who opposes this government, according to our Suppression of Communism Act. As for the Russians coming, that’s another bit of wishful black thinking. As happened during the Great Cattle Killing. Sure, Russia’s bent on world revolution, and sure she’ll train saboteurs and black freedom fighters, but Russia’s a hell of a long way away, it’ll be many many years before her tanks get down here. No, the change in this country must come from here –’ she tapped her head – ‘from within. From people like you and me, Luke.’
And she said: ‘Okay, the Boer War. Big lamppost What light does it shed on today?’ Oh fuck the Boer War – he wanted to get laid again. He trailed his hand over the beautiful mound of her buttocks. ‘No, Luke, I’m determined you’ll get more out of me than the facts of life.’
Luke brought his mind back to the question. ‘This government is still fighting the Boer War, figuratively speaking.’
‘Yes. But why? The Boer War was over fifty years ago.’
‘Because of their bitterness. The injustice. The scorched earth, their women and children dying in the camps. So, now that the Afrikaner is on top at last, he intends to stay there at all costs. Hence his ring of steel. His steel laager of apartheid.’
‘True. But apartheid is only directed against the blacks, the Swart Gevaar. You’ve just said the Afrikaner is still fighting the Boer War – and blacks weren’t in that war except as labourers. So, who – and what – is the Afrikaner still fighting?’
‘The English-speaking South Africans?’
‘Right. And why? Because the English still dominate this country economically – because of the Boer War. So how is the government fighting that Boer War problem?’
‘By packing the civil service with Afrikaners?’
‘Right. Affirmative Action, it’s called. To give Afrikaners jobs and have every aspect of government dominated by loyalists. And every aspect of business. And who is the mastermind behind all that?’
‘God?’ Luke grinned.
She flicked his arm. ‘But who in fact?’
‘The Dutch Reformed Church?’
‘But the church only dominates the government’s thinking, its soul. Who is the physical power behind the throne of government?’
‘The Broederbond,’ Luke said. ‘The Brotherhood.’
‘Right … Lampposts, Luke. Illumination. And what do we know about the Broederbond? Very little, because it’s a secret society. But what light does the Boer War shed on it? Ah, now we can start making some intelligent deductions. The Broederbond was founded after the Boer War – after Sir Alfred Milner had made his cock-up of trying to turn us into Englishmen. It was founded to fight for Afrikaner dominance. In all walks of life: the Dutch Reformed Church, business, parliament, the civil service, the army, police, judiciary. And it’s grown into a mighty octopus that now controls the whole country – it’s an Afrikaner mafia now, Luke. And it is really they who rule the country – and they will stop at nothing to stay in power. And there’ll be no reform until their power is broken.’
‘And how do we do that?’
‘How, indeed? Only by the pen, my friend, because they’ve got all the swords – all the generals are Broederbonders. But what does history teach us about Power? “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Eventually they’ll corrupt themselves out of power. Become decadent.’ Then she rolled over onto her back and gave her creamy smile. ‘And now, about that decadent suggestion of yours …’
It was a wonderful time. And when the holidays were over and they went back to Umtata and the kids came pouring back to town it got even better: for now their secret was multiplied, a secret to blow a thousand tiny minds, the danger a delicious spice to the delicious forbidden fruit. Luke Mahoney walked to school feeling ten feet tall, a smile in his heart about seeing her surrounded by her bevy of adoring girls, seeing the other boys lusting after her, hearing their lecherous talk, exchanging delicious grins with her, standing in assembly looking at her up there on the staff platform, eyes locked on each other’s, suppressing a grin, his heart bursting with joyous pride – his gorgeous Miss Rousseau, acting history teacher at Umtata High School, centre of the universe… And when she came striding into the classroom in her gym skirt and the muted groan went up from the boys, his bursting heart turned over. And when she began to spin her wonderful tales of history, which he already knew backwards, he just wanted to leap up and applaud, and, oh God, the joy of her legs, her breasts thrusting against her white blouse as she stretched up to write on the blackboard – sometimes, just sometimes, she locked eyes with him for a moment when all heads were down making the notes, and – oh God – the delicious secret.
When the final bell rang and she set off back to the hostel – his hostel – he went to his father’s law office with his heart singing. After dinner he went to bed, waited, listened, then pulled on his tennis shoes and breathlessly clambered out of the window and dashed across town. Then he walked past the tall hedge of the girls’ hostel, heart knocking, eyes peeled, trying to look like a schoolboy going from God knows where. The towel hanging out her window, the all-clear sign … Then the heart-knocking business of creeping through the hole in the hedge, followed by the dash across the garden to the drainpipe. He crouched in the nasturtiums, seized the pipe and Went shinning up it desperately, hand over hand, every moment expecting a girlish cry from one of the dormitory windows. Then there was the sill and he swung his leg up and Lisa grabbed his ankle, giggling. He heaved himself over, and fell into her arms. And, oh God, the forbidden fruit was all the more delicious for the outrageous danger.
And so it went. Until the night the drainpipe broke away from the wall. He was about to grab the sill when there was suddenly this creaking sound, and he was clawing at the bricks; then slowly the pipe began to fall away from the wall like a felled tree. Luke Mahoney swooped slowly down through the night, wild-eyed. Oh Christ, how do I talk my way out of this? As he hit the earth with a jarring jolt, his ankle buckled, he crashed onto his side, and the pipe and masonry came crashing down on top of him.
For an instant he lay there, shocked, in agony; then windows were bursting open, lights flashing on, and he scrambled up and tried to run, and he sprawled. He had sprained his ankle. He lay for another instant, clutching his foot, then he was up again and hobbling frantically. ‘Hey!’ girls shouted. ‘Stop! Thief!’ He hobbled flat-out, grimacing, and he sprawled again. He scrambled to his feet once more, but as he reached the gate the hostel door burst open. Girls barrelled out, clutching hockey sticks. Mahoney staggered desperately through the gate, gasping, and the girls burst out. They sprinted after him, yelling, and the first hockey stick got him. He lurched, then another stick whacked his head and he reeled; then another, then another. Under a rain of hockey sticks he crashed into the hedge, his arms curled up over his head, surrounded by gleeful, swiping girls.
‘Good God!’ the head girl gasped. ‘Luke!’
Luke crouched in the hedge, gasping, his head splitting, looking at the menacing silhouettes of astonished, stick-toting girls. He was about to make a plea for he knew not what when a quiet voice said: ‘Leave him, girls …’ And there was Miss Rousseau, in her dressing gown, arms folded, a sombre smile on her lovely face. ‘Go back to bed, girls.’
The excited girls reluctantly turned to leave, staring back, giggling, exchanging glances. Mahoney straightened up painfully, dishevelled. He looked at Lisa.
‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered.
Lisa Rousseau smiled ruefully. ‘We’re in trouble, Luke. Tomorrow there’s going to be big trouble.’
Luke closed his eyes and shook his head.
‘I am,’ he said. ‘Not you. There’s no reason for two of us to be in trouble.’
‘To talk?’ the headmaster repeated furiously.
The headmaster gave a growl. ‘At midnight you’re shinning up the drainpipe of the girls’ hostel to talk to the housemistress? That’s what you’re telling me?’
George Mahoney, sitting beside his son, sighed.
‘To talk about what, pray?’
‘About life, sir.’
‘About Life? With a capital L, of course? And what aspect of Life were you so desperately anxious to talk about at that hour?’ He waved a hand. ‘The birds and the bees, perhaps?’
‘No, sir. About my career, sir.’
‘Your career …’ The headmaster whispered it with the contempt it deserved. He turned and paced across his study. He turned back. ‘Do you know what happens to one’s career when one is expelled from a school? Do you know what a blemish – what a criminal record that is you’ll carry with you for life – with the capital L?!’
‘And you are not daunted?’
‘Yes, I am daunted, sir.’
Another growl. ‘And what made you think Miss Rousseau would be willing to talk to you at midnight about your career?’
‘Nothing?’ Steely eyes. ‘She didn’t … invite you perhaps?’
‘No, sir, she did not.’
‘You expect me to believe that? You just took it into your head to climb up her drainpipe at midnight? Without any encouragement whatsoever?’
The headmaster glared at him. George Mahoney had his eyes down, a grim smile twitching his face. The headmaster stabbed the air with his finger. ‘I put it to you, Mahoney, that if you didn’t have encouragement from Miss Rousseau, your behaviour was insane! Unless you intended to rape her! Was that your intention?’
Mahoney was shocked. ‘Absolutely not, sir!’
‘To try to seduce her perhaps?’
‘But to “talk”? About your career? At midnight?’
‘“Oh, good evening, Miss Rousseau – or should I say good morning? – just dropped around – or climbed around – to have a little chat about my future career as an historian. I say do you mind giving me a bit of a leg-up over this window sill – but if you prefer I’ll just cling to this drainpipe for half an hour while we ‘talk’ … ”’
And Luke Mahoney, seventeen years old, in the dock without a defence, had very nearly had enough, after a sleepless night. He looked his headmaster in the eye, and his voice took on a new edge: ‘Yes, sir. Exactly.’
The headmaster glared. ‘Do I detect a note of aggression there?’
Luke looked the man in the eye. ‘No, sir. Just a note of self-defence.’
The headmaster’s glare lost its steel for a moment, then his face filled with fury: ‘‘You describe your story as a defence? Would your father –’ he flung an eloquent hand at the lawyer – ‘consider that a credible defence?!’
Luke Mahoney did not care anymore – suddenly he had had enough of this humiliation and he did not care that he was going to be expelled: and as he was going to be expelled why the hell was he putting up with this shit?
‘Very well, sir, as you evidently don’t think much of that defence, how about this one: I climbed up that drainpipe at midnight because I’m madly in love with Miss Rousseau, sir. Because faint heart never won fair lady, sir. But I absolutely assure you, sir, on a stack of bibles, that Miss Rousseau knew absolutely nothing about this passion of mine, sir. And that you have obviously interpreted her resignation as evidence of complicity is quite incorrect, and if that will be a blot on her copybook, if that will prejudice her career, if you give a bad report about her to the education authorities, that will be the grossest of injustices. That would be like the injustice suffered by an honourable woman who is stigmatised by society after being raped, sir. And I promise you I will correct that by writing to the Department of Education and confessing my guilt, sir.’
There was a silence. The headmaster was staring at him. George Mahoney was looking at his son with something approaching pride. Luke Mahoney stood there grimly – and he wasn’t blushing anymore. Take it or leave it, sir, was his demeanour. The headmaster recovered, and glared:
‘And what did you expect Miss Rousseau to do about that, if she had given you no encouragement?’
‘I had no idea, sir.’
His father sighed. The headmaster rasped softly: ‘I don’t believe you, Mahoney. I find it too much of a coincidence that Miss Rousseau does not intend to press charges against you –’
‘Indeed, sir, I’ve gathered that you don’t believe me.’
‘Oh? And have you also gathered that I intend expelling you?’
‘I have, sir.’
The headmaster glared. Then he slumped down into his chair. He sighed, then said: ‘You had a good life ahead of you, Mahoney. Brains, sportsman, personality, good looks. You had an excellent chance of winning a Rhodes Scholarship. Now? Do you realize you’ll have great difficulty even finding employment with an expulsion record?’
Mahoney said grimly: ‘Yes, I realize that, sir. So can we now please get on with it?’
The headmaster was taken aback by this impertinence. ‘Get on with it?’
‘My medicine, sir. The six of the best you’re going to give me. And let me get on the road.’
The headmaster blinked, then leaned forward. He hissed: ‘You can thank your lucky stars that before I formally expel you I am giving you the chance of leaving this school voluntarily.’
Mahoney closed his eyes. And sighed in relief. ‘I am very grateful, sir.’
‘I hope you’re still grateful after this …’ The headmaster picked up a cane. ‘Drop your trousers.’
Mahoney undid his belt. He pulled down his trousers. He bent over.
The cane whistled.
They drove home in grim silence. George parked in the garage. He switched off the engine, then slumped. He turned to his son. ‘You’ve been punished. I’m not going to punish you further.’
The old man nodded. ‘Besides, you’re not a schoolboy anymore. You’re a young man now, whether you and I like it or not.’
Mahoney didn’t say anything. Yes, he felt like a man, though his arse felt like a schoolboy’s.
‘You became a man in the headmaster’s study, You stood up for yourself, you protected Miss Rousseau and took your medicine.’
Mahoney didn’t say anything.
‘Miss Rousseau did know you were coming, didn’t she?’
‘Yes, sir,’ Mahoney said grimly.
The old man sighed. He looked away. ‘But you technically saved her honour. Just. That was right.’ He added: ‘Though I’d have expected nothing less of you.’
Mahoney said nothing.
‘Yes, I’ve noticed a sudden maturity’s come over you lately. Now I know why.’ The old man shook his head. ‘So, she did you some good, Luke. That’s the way to look at it.’
Mahoney nodded grimly. ‘Yes.’
‘But I hope you’re not going to keep in touch with her.’
‘No, sir. She and I agreed that last night.’
‘Good. That’s wise.’ The old man looked at him. ‘You’re not really in love with her, are you?’
Mahoney wished he could vaporise. Maybe that would also stop his arse hurting. He lied: ‘No, sir. It was just very exciting.’
For the first time the old man smiled. ‘I bet it was … And I think you can stop calling me sir. You’re out in the big wide world now. You can’t stay in this town. Though you might be a hero with the boys, it’ll be very embarrassing.’
George sighed. ‘So, young man, you’re going to Cape Town, to stay with your uncle. You leave by train tomorrow. And you’re going to finish your matric by correspondence course. When that’s over, you’ll come home and we’ll review your future.’ He sighed again. ‘But there’s no chance of sending you to Oxford now, without that scholarship. Or any other university overseas. I can’t afford that.’
‘Of course not, Dad.’
‘And that means you’re going to have to take your law degree by correspondence too, through the University of London. Because there’s no point in taking a South African law degree – there’s no future in this country under apartheid. You must prepare yourself for somewhere where they practise English law.’
‘Apartheid can’t last forever, Father.’
‘No, but it could easily last half your lifetime. And it’s going to collapse in a bloodbath. And when that happens you’ll need an English law degree, not Roman-Dutch. I want your sister to get out too.’
‘I’m not sure I want to be a lawyer.’
‘Nonsense. I know talent when I see it – you’ve got a nose for the law, like I have. And for argument. Anyway, it’s an excellent degree to have, good background for other walks of life. What the hell do you think you want to do – history?’
‘Yes. Or journalism.’
The old man sighed. ‘History? Look, son, you’re under the influence of this woman. Sure, history’s fascinating but there’s no money in it and anyway you’re far too brainy to be a teacher. Even if you become a university professor, there’s no money in it. And as for journalism, forget it, there’s no money in it either. And all newspapermen drink too much. Listen, son: you’ll get enough journalism if you write up those journals arid get them published one day – including your own story. The modern South Africa. In fact I want you to make me a solemn promise that you’ll do that. You’ve got the gift of the gab and history. Do you? Promise?’
Mahoney looked at his good father. ‘Yes, sir,’ he promised.
George slapped Luke’s knee: ‘The Law, son. It’s a grand profession. Get to the top! Become a QC. Then a judge. Not a country attorney like me. So, do you promise me you’ll do an LLB through the University of London? I’ll pay the fees.’
Luke was in no position to refuse anything. ‘Yes, I promise you.’
George Mahoney nodded. ‘So the next question is what job are you going to do while you’re doing your LLB? You can’t work for me in this town, after what’s happened. I think we could get you a job with HM Shipping for a few years?’
Mahoney said grimly: ‘I don’t want family charity.’
‘Charity? I’m sure you’d do an honest day’s work, even if you are bored out of your mind. I would be too. But –’ he pointed out a bright side – ‘I’m sure they’d give you a few trips on their freighters. See something of the world? Australia. The States.’
‘I’d love that, but not at the price of being a shipping clerk.’ Luke turned to his father. ‘No, for those three years I’ll be a newspaper reporter.’
The old man looked at his son. ‘And that’s a slippery slope, my boy. However …’ He sighed and began to get out of the car. ‘We’ll preview the future when you come home at Christmas. And now – let’s go and face your tearful mother.’
Mahoney put his hand on his father’s arm – a good man whom he’d disappointed so badly. ‘Dad? I’ve screwed up. And I don’t want you to pay for my stupidity.’
The old man smiled. ‘Miss Rousseau wasn’t stupidity, son. She was Life. The stupid part was getting caught. Remember that. Of course I’m bitterly disappointed about your Rhodes Scholarship. But don’t worry about my opinion of you, young man. You’re all right. And you only did what any young man with balls would do. And one day you and I will be laughing about this.’ He looked at his son, then clapped him on the shoulder. ‘And now let’s go and face the music …’
But there was no music from his mother. Only her gaunt face, her sniffs. Only once did she start to recriminate: ‘And we had such hopes that you were going to be a top lawyer one day … ’ and George Mahoney muttered: ‘And who says he won’t be?’ Nothing else was said throughout the meal, except Please and Thank you. The clink of cutlery, the tasteless meal. Jill glanced at her big brother with big, compassionate eyes and said not a word. Justin came in to replace plates and dishes: he knew the Nkosaan was in big shit. The whole town knew Luke Mahoney was in big shit. When the dessert was over Mrs Mahoney dabbed her eyes, and departed wordlessly.
That night, when silence had descended, there was a scratch on Luke’s door, and Jill came creeping in. She pulled a letter out of her dressing gown. ‘Miss Rousseau made me promise to tell nobody about this.’
Luke switched on his bedside light. He opened the envelope.
It will seem that a terrible thing has happened, but one day you will laugh about this. Despite this setback, I am confident you will get through the examinations ahead, and the many others you will doubtless sit, with flying colours. You should not think of contacting me, but I’m sure I will hear about you and I will do so with pride and great affection. You are the most promising historian, and young man, I have met. Work hard, and you will have a wonderful life.
Jill whispered: ‘Does she say she loves you?’
Luke switched out the light. ‘No.’
Jill didn’t believe that. ‘Are you going to marry her when the exams are over?’
Luke smiled despite himself. ‘No.’
‘Why not? She’s so wonderful. She loves you, all the girls think so. Did you … you know?’
‘You know …’
Luke put his hand on his sister’s. ‘No,’ he smiled sadly.
Jill put her hands to her face and gave a sob.
‘Oh I can’t bear it! My two most favourite people leaving at once, you and Miss Rousseau!’
Luke said softly: ‘You’ll be leaving too, in a few years.’
She sniffed. ‘Do you promise that you’ll write to me … ?’
Later there was a tap on Luke’s window. ‘Nkosi?’
Luke got out of bed and went to the window.
‘Come with me,’ Justin whispered. He turned and crept away through the garden.
At this hour? It could only be Lisa. He thought she had already left town! He scrambled into shorts and climbed breathlessly out of the window.
Justin was waiting. ‘I have a witch doctor here.’
Luke’s knocking heart sank. Not Lisa … ? And, oh, he didn’t want medicine from any witch doctor. ‘But I have no money.’
‘You can pay me tomorrow. He is a very good witch doctor, from my area; he is staying in my room tonight.’
Justin led the way down through the vegetable garden towards the servants’ quarters. Outside the row of rooms a cooking fire was glowing under a big black tripod pot. Round it squatted the cookboy, and gardenboy and their wives. And dominating them all, the witch doctor.
He was an old man. Around his neck hung the accoutrements of his office: the cloak of civet skin and monkey hide, the pig’s bladder, the necklace of baboon’s teeth, the pendants of bones and claws and fruit-pips, the bracelets of animal hair, the leggings. He looked up at Luke, without rising, and softly clapped his hands. ‘I see you.’
Luke clapped his hands. ‘I see you, nganga.’ He squatted down on his haunches. The servants looked on, wide eyes white in black faces. Luke wished they were not there to hear his troubles.
The witch doctor crouched, staring at the ground for a long minute, his white head down. Luke waited, and despite himself he was in the age-old grip, in the awe of the medicine-man, the priest, the medium to the supernatural. Then suddenly the witch doctor gave a shriek, and everybody jerked, he flung out his hands, and bones scattered on the ground.
They all stared at them. The witch doctor looked at the bones intently, motionlessly: then he pointed. To one, then another, then another: then he began to chant softly. He chanted over the bones for a minute; then scooped them up and threw them again. He threw them a third time. Then he rocked back on his heels, eyes closed. For a minute he was still: then he spoke softly: ‘Beware the land of twenty-one
Mahoney’s heart was knocking. Beware the land … A hundred and twenty-five years ago his great great grandfather had written in his journal, Woe unto the land whose borders lie in shadow … And that prophecy had turned out to be true. The murder of Piet Retief. Blaukrans, Weenen … It gave Luke gooseflesh. But the land of twenty-one?
‘Beware the woman with the red forehead.’
The red forehead … ?
‘Beware the woman who talks of pigs …’
Who talks of pigs?
Then the witch doctor said: ‘Stay in the land of the evening sun, or you will weep in the land that lies in shadows.’
Luke had gooseflesh. The land that lies in shadows … He wanted to ask, Where is this land? Justin touched his knee and shook his head, No. Then the witch doctor opened his eyes. He got up and disappeared into the nearest room.
Justin stood up. He beckoned to Luke. They walked back through the vegetable garden towards the house. Luke said in English: ‘Please ask him where the land of twenty-one is. And about the women. Come to the window and tell me.’
‘He only knows what the spirits have spoken.’ Justin stopped. ‘Maybe one day we will see each other again, in Johannesburg. I will pray for you.’
Luke’s eyes were burning. He held out his hand.
GHANA AND NIGERIA GRANTED INDEPENDENCE
BELGIAN CONGO TO GET INDEPENDENCE
HAROLD MACMILLAN MAKES WIND OF CHANGE SPEECH
In Kenya the bloody Mau Mau rebellion had finally been stamped out and, as Lisa Rousseau would have pointed out, referring to the Boer War, history repeated itself: having finally crushed the rebellion, Britain promptly gave independence to the blacks, and Jomo Kenyatta, the pro-capitalist but Russian-helped revolutionary, became the prime minister of Kenya and immediately instituted a one-party state. Ghana had been granted its independence, and Kwame Nkrumah had thrown his opposition into jail. The British had promised Nigeria its independence and fierce tribal fighting for dominance had broken out. In the vast Congo there were also demands for independence, the Belgian government panicked and agreed to grant it soon: there was fierce tribal fighting and looting in anticipation, and the whites were fleeing back to Europe. It was a bloody time in Africa and it was set to get bloodier.
Luke Mahoney started writing up his family’s journals in the Antarctic, on the whaling ships: there was nothing else to do when you came plodding off shift through the gore. He did not enjoy whaling but the pay was good, and you had nothing to spend it on down at the Ice. For four months you waded through gore, but you had enough money to last the next eight months. Most of those months Mahoney spent doing his compulsory military training. Then he returned to the whalers and plodded through more blood. And for the next three years he also plodded through blood as a crime reporter for Drum at the same time as he kept his promise to his father to study for a law degree through the University of London.
Drum was a glossy English-language magazine for blacks, about black issues, black society, black fashions, black music, black beauties, black sports; black news, black views, black politics, black crime, and black gore. Drum was a good magazine and the publisher wanted his black readership to be mindful of the blood they shed: the blood of faction fights, witchcraft murders and the blood of political rivalry. For junior reporters like Luke Mahoney it meant the stuff of police stations, courtrooms, photographs of pathologists’ tables with every glistening wound for the judge to see, the probes inserted to show the depth, the bones exposed, the gaping stomach, the severed limb, the shattered skull, and the weapons that caused it, the knives, the knobkerries, the axes, spears, screwdrivers, guns, all neatly labelled. And if there was not enough of the right gore, Luke Mahoney went to the black townships to look for it.
Soweto was the best place for that. Soweto, the vast black township beyond the Johannesburg horizon with its desolate rows of concrete boxes in tiny dusty yards, sprawling slumlands of shacks made of flattened tin and cardboard, the sprawling compound which supplied the labour needs of the Golden City, the grim place whites never saw where their serfs lived, the city of tsotsis who robbed and killed for a living, the city of shebeens and witch doctors and warlords and tribal fighting and just plain murder. Soweto had the highest murder-rate in the world. Usually the police telephoned the crime reporters if something worthwhile had happened because, firstly, they wanted the public to know what they were up against, and, secondly, the press were regarded as left-wing, anti-government, and the police wanted to rub their noses in the barbarity of Africa.
‘Thought you might like to see some of these photographs, Mahoney …’
The scene-of-crime photographs, the mortuary photographs. The charred body, the flesh still smoking.
‘We’ve got the body in the morgue right now. Like to see it?’
‘Who was he?’
‘Who knows? His face is burnt off. Probably somebody your ANC pals didn’t like. I hope you print that. And this one,’ the sergeant said, flipping the photograph, ‘we’ve got her in the morgue here, too, you must see her …’
The inside of a squatter’s shack: on the floor, in a mush of blood, the torso of a naked black girl of five, her stomach slashed open and her liver hacked out, her arms hacked off, her genitals removed.
‘Muti,’ the sergeant said. ‘He needed her liver and arms to make medicine to win the next fight.’
‘Who is “he”?’
‘Her father, Mr Mahoney. Her father cut her arms off while she screamed for mercy. Her mother saw everything. She’s here now, you can ask her yourself.’
‘But who were they fighting?’
‘An ANC gang. Unfortunately, he’ll hang. The evidence is strong.’
Unfortunately … He wrote an article that night around that word. Two interpretations were possible: ‘Unfortunately for the accused he will hang’, and ‘It is unfortunate that we have to hang a man who fights the ANC’, which is what the sergeant had in mind. Divide and rule: ‘Let ’em fight each other, the more the better.’ And there was a third interpretation, Mahoney wrote, with which many South Africans would secretly agree, even though they clamoured for the end of apartheid: they were afraid of them, the ANC, and felt secretly sorry for the primitive man who wanted muti to enable him to fight them … But the editor didn’t publish it: ‘Good stuff, Luke,’ he said, ‘but we can’t say it.’
And then came the famous speech in South Africa by Harold Macmillan, prime minister of Great Britain, and then came the gore of Sharpeville, and then came the gore of the prime minister of South Africa.
Harold Macmillan had just been on a whistle-stop tour through his government’s colonies in Africa. He had been impressed by the level of African nationalism and he wanted to tell Her Majesty’s dominion of South Africa a thing or two about their folly of apartheid.
‘The Wind of Change is blowing through this continent,’ he told the South African parliament, ‘… and this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact and our national policies must take account of it …’ The third world of emergent nations, he said, were trying to choose between the models of the first, free, world of the West and the second, communist, world of the East. ‘Choosing by our example.’ Great Britain, he said, was granting independence to its African colonies in the belief that it was the only way to establish a free world, as opposed to a communist world. ‘We try to respect the rights of individuals … merit alone must be the criterion for man’s advancement … We reject racial superiority, we espouse harmony, unity and the individual’s rights … We in Great Britain have different views to you on this…’ History, he prophesied, would make apartheid a thing of the past. Isolationism, he advised them, was out of date in the modern, shrinking world. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee …
‘It was a brilliant, dignified speech,’ George Mahoney wrote to his son, ‘and you must include it verbatim in the journals, but you can imagine that it went over like a lead balloon. The applause was, at best, mutedly polite, except from me: my clapping was thunderous. I’ve been telling them the same thing for years, to no avail. And old Mac’s speech will avail nothing either. I regret to report that old Hendrik Verwoerd made a most clever – and persuasive, goddamn it – impromptu reply. He made a defence of the white man’s rights as a European in the minority on a black continent, and a presentation of apartheid as a policy “not at variance with the new direction in Africa but in the fullest accord with it” – because he’s going to grant independence to the black homelands exactly as Britain is doing in her black colonies! But his speech left out of account the mathematics – the simple fact that these black homelands are incapable of being economically self-supporting, not big enough for the ever-increasing black population – they’ll be simply reservoirs of labour for white South Africa. And, of course, it leaves out of account the economic injustice and indignity of the blacks in the white urban areas. You must put all this in the journals, Luke …’
Mahoney did, with relish. And then, six weeks after Harold Macmillan’s speech, came a new defiance campaign, and the massacre of Sharpeville.
It is questionable how much Harold Macmillan’s speech resulted in the massacre of Sharpeville, for the new defiance campaign by the ANC had been planned for months: it had been set for 31st March. But the rival PAG decided to upstage the ANC and mount their own defiance ten days earlier, to draw new supporters. The campaign was directed against the pass laws that decreed that a black man who wished to look for work in a white area had to have a pass: if he failed to find work within fourteen days, he had to return to his native area. If found without a valid pass, he was jailed. It was the law that put the lie to Prime Minister Verwoerd’s dignified and clever reply to Harold Macmillan’s speech: the police cells were packed each night with pass-offenders, the courts clogged, the prisons overflowing. A cruel system: cruel to make it difficult for a man to find work, cruel to punish him if he failed to find it. And so the ANC had spread the word that on the appointed day all the people must come together in their thousands and burn their passes on huge bonfires and then march en masse to their police stations and demand to be arrested. Thus would they swamp the system and make the law totally unenforceable.
Luke Mahoney was at Sharpeville that day. His editor could have sent him to dozens of other locations, but he chose Sharpeville for Luke, the only white reporter on Drum, because it was a ‘model location’ with a reputation for little violence. But Sharpeville was not quiet on March 21 1960. A noisy mob of five thousand had almost finished burning their passes when he arrived. He threaded his way through, holding up his camera and calling out: ‘Mr Drum, Mr Drum!’ People were chanting and dancing as they tossed their hated passes onto the leaping flames.
Mahoney was the only white man present, but the mob was not hostile, they wanted publicity. Then the last passes burned and the mob began to surge down the road to the police station. Mahoney was swept along in the crush as the people converged on the open ground outside it. He worked his way through the mob to the very front.
The big police compound was surrounded by a high, diamond-mesh fence, topped with barbed wire. In the centre, surrounded by lawn, was the charge office, a single-storey building, behind it were garages, cells and quarters for the black constables. Beyond them the joylessness of the model location stretched on and on. And all along the stout fence surged the chanting, dancing mob, offering themselves up for arrest.
Mahoney’s impression was that the mob was not hostile. Ebullient, he scribbled, cocky, noisy, taunting – but not hostile in the military sense. In fact, from what I overheard, many people were expecting to hear some important announcement from the police about the suspension of the pass laws …
Suddenly out of the police station the constables came running, with rifles, and they formed a line across the lawn facing the mob. The commander strode up to the fence with a loudhailer and bellowed: ‘Please disperse! Go back to your houses! This gathering is illegal!’
The shouts came back: ‘Yes, we are illegal!’ ‘We have no passes!’ We must be arrested, please!’
The rest was confused. The people at the front were being shoved from behind, and the fence was heaving, a sea of excited, laughing, shouting, singing black faces, men, women, children, young and old pressed against it, clamouring to be arrested. Again and again the station commander bellowed over his loudhailer, and the mob yelled back. Then a black sergeant ran up to the fence in panic, shouting: ‘Disperse! They’re going to shoot! Disperse!’ From his position at the corner of the heaving fence Mahoney formed the impression that the vast majority of the people were just enjoying themselves at the expense of the nervous policemen inside the fence, gleeful grins on black faces.
Mahoney did not hear any order to open fire, and the commander subsequently denied ever giving one. All Mahoney remembered was the line of frightened young Afrikaner policemen, rifles at the ready, the massive mob yelling at the heaving fence, the commander yelling, the black sergeant pleading: then the first shocking shot, then the ragged volley, then the pandemonium.
The pandemonium as the mob turned to flee, screaming, shoving, trampling each other underfoot, bodies crashing, and the panicked firing continued cacophonously. Shots cracked out above the screaming chaos. Men, women, children and old people were running, stumbling, lurching, tripping, sprawling, and still the shocking gunfire continued, cracking open the heavens. Mahoney stared, horrified, his face creased up, screaming: ‘No! No! No! No! No!’ And still it continued, the bodies crashing and writhing; then the commander was running amongst his men, bellowing, and the gunfire spluttered out. Then wailing rose up in its place.
Luke Mahoney stared, aghast. On the ground lay sixty-nine dead, a hundred and eighty wounded. He strode furiously from his corner, his camera and notebook on high, his heart full of outrage, and he cried out to the policemen behind the fence:
‘You stupid fucking bastards!’
That evening there were furious marches at Langa, near Cape Town, protesting against the Sharpeville massacre; the police baton-charged, opened fire and killed two. That night there were riots, and municipal offices were burned down. The next day the Minister of Justice suspended pass arrests, which was interpreted as a victory for the PAC, but the next week over eighteen thousand were arrested under new emergency regulations, and the next week the ANC and PAC were banned as illegal organizations. A state of emergency was declared and the Citizen Force was called out in the Cape.
It was a bloody time, and South Africa was shaken. Then, less than three weeks after Sharpeville, came the Rand Easter Show, and South Africa got more shaken.
The Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg is a big deal, a massive agricultural fair featuring pedigree livestock, gleaming machinery, the whole range of South Africa’s industrial products. There are fashion shows, horse-racing, polo, show jumping; there are acres of enclosures, pavilions, marquees, stalls, bars, restaurants; there is all the colour and fun of the fair. And the women all dress to kill. Mahoney was at the show that opening Saturday, reporting for Drum, because as a white man he could get into all the areas. He was directly in front of the colourful raised dais when the prime minister of South Africa, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, was shot.
Thousands of people saw it. The prime minister’s motorcade arrived at noon to roars of applause. He walked down the red-carpeted avenue of people, smiling and waving, a tall, well-built, white-haired man with pale-blue eyes and a benevolent, pasty, intelligent face. Awaiting him on the platform were rows of dignitaries. The prime minister and Mrs Verwoerd mounted the dais to applause, then sat. The Mayor went to the microphone to initiate the opening ceremony and polite silence fell.
As the Mayor began, Mahoney noticed the white man approach. He was middle-aged, neat in a well-cut suit. He approached with an air of authority. Mahoney thought he was a security officer. He walked straight to the platform and mounted the steps. Several dignitaries turned but nobody looked surprised and the Mayor continued speaking. The man walked towards the prime minister, then put his hand in his pocket. He said: ‘Verwoerd,’ and the prime minister turned. The man pulled out a .22 calibre pistol, levelled it at the premier’s surprised head, and pulled the trigger. There was a shocking bang, gasps and screams went up, the prime minister slumped, a splat of blood on his head. The man pulled the trigger again, there was another splat of blood, the prime minister collapsed, and chaos broke out. The man was overwhelmed and disarmed.
The prime minister was rushed to hospital with two bullets in his head, but he survived. The gunman’s name was Pratt: he was a successful farmer. Psychiatrists judged him mentally deranged. In his statement to the police he said he shot the prime minister because he was ruining the country with apartheid.
Other blood that interested the editor of Drum was that flowing from Grand Apartheid, and forced removals.
After more than ten years of power the government had recently passed the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, which sought a ‘higher morality’ for the policy of ‘Separate Development’, as apartheid was now decorously called; but it did not diminish hardship and heartbreak. Midst fanfare the prime minister had announced in Parliament that under this act the various black ‘homelands’ would be prepared for self-government and, eventually, total independence. This, he explained, was the logical progression of the ‘benevolent science’ of Separate Development and it would result in a ‘constellation of southern African states’, eight black and one white, independent of each other but harmoniously cooperating in matters of mutual interest. It would be a constellation so successful, the prime minister promised, that future generations of blacks would look at us with gratitude.
It sounded fine, a worthy goal, but in fact it was a cynical attempt to shovel eighty per cent of the population into the poorest corners of the land. It was a mirage because the homelands were overcrowded, and the mirage required increased forced removals of unwanted blacks from the white urban areas back to their homelands.
‘Where they are to be stripped of their present South African citizenship – such as it is, second class – and have the new citizenship of their homeland thrust upon them!’ Once more George Mahoney’s gravelly voice rang out in Parliament. ‘So they will be foreigners in the rest of “white” South Africa, with no right to enter and seek work unless the white South African government decides it wants their labour! And, of course, as foreigners, they will never ever expect to get the vote in “white” South Africa, even when this government collapses! Hey presto! With a stroke of its pen, this duplicitous government has got rid of tens of millions of its unwanted black citizens without firing a shot, while pretending to grant them independence, and thus creating pools of cheap labour!’
‘They’ll have the vote in their own homelands!’ a government frontbencher shouted. ‘What’s wrong with that?! That’s what Britain’s doing to her colonies!’
‘What’s wrong with that,’ George Mahoney cried, ‘is that it’s quite immoral and quite illegal! These blacks of ours are legally South African citizens now and you intend to strip them of that citizenship and thrust a new citizenship of a new country upon them! A country which ‘I guarantee no other state in the world will recognize – a little tin-pot “country” which cannot possibly support its people! Where they will be bottled up in impoverishment!’
‘They won’t be impoverished! They’ll have their cattle, and the Border Industries will provide employment!’
‘Not impoverished?!’ George Mahoney echoed incredulously. ‘Eighty per cent of the population crammed onto thirteen per cent of South Africa’s surface? How can they have a cattle-based economy on crowded homelands like that?! And where are these wondrous Border Industries that are going to provide employment? How many will there be? How long before these optimistic industrialists decide to take the plunge? Years? Meanwhile what do our poor deportees do?’ George shook his head. ‘Mr Speaker, there is nothing wrong, per se, in giving the blacks local self-government in their natural homelands, such as in the Transkei and in Zululand and in Bophuthatswana, giving them valuable experience in democracy. But such local self-government cannot by any stretch of the law or morality be a substitute for their greater South African citizenship, the right one day to vote in the land of their birth when they are ready for that responsibility!
‘And there is nothing wrong, per se, in the notion of a “constellation of southern African states” so mistily envisaged by the Prime Minister, where half a dozen well-run, prosperous, contented black states collaborate at this tip of Africa with our big prosperous white one in some kind of commonwealth – but that will never come to pass, because those half-dozen little black states will not be well run, they will be misruled because this government is not bent on tutelage, on giving them local self-government to teach them the ropes of democracy gradually, they are bent on hurling total independence on them to get rid of them, so the government can then piously proclaim that the remainder of South Africa is white man’s land. The little black states will be misruled because the natives have no idea of democracy yet, and they lack the education to provide a civil service! And they will not be prosperous because their territory will be over-grazed pastoral economies riddled with soil erosion because the black man counts his wealth in cattle and daughters which he sells into marriage for more cattle. And he does not have one wife, he has several, he does not have two children, he has a dozen. The Prime Minister’s “constellation of southern African states” will become a shambles of little black banana republics, ripe for communist revolution! And big fat “white South Africa” will then be surrounded by enemies. And no other country in the world will recognize this so-called constellation, but will damn it as the political sleight-of-hand it is!’
Rumbles of agreement from the opposition benches, groans from the government benches. George Mahoney looked around, then dropped his tone to one of sweet reasonableness.
‘Mr Speaker, in the name of all South Africans, present and future, I beg this government to amend this Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act. The purpose of it should not be to get rid of our black citizens, but to teach them democracy by granting them some local self-government. I beg this government not to repeat the folly of the British government, of thrusting independence prematurely on unsophisticated tribesmen as it did in Ghana and Nigeria. And I beg this government to abandon its hard-hearted, heartless programme of forced removals, shoving unwanted black people over the newly created borders into their impoverished tinpot “states” …’
The Drum editor gave Luke Mahoney the assignment of writing a series on this ‘Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Farce’. Mahoney studied his father’s speeches in Hansard, made a study of British colonial policy, and came up with a raft of suggestions on the government’s responsibilities towards ‘Tutelage of the African in Democracy’.
‘You’re turning into a good political commentator, Luke,’ the editor said, ‘but, Christ, we can’t print stuff like this in Drum.’
‘Because you say here that blacks are not yet sophisticated enough for democracy – the government must “teach” them democracy “gradually”. Our black readers will resent that.’
‘But I clearly say that I don’t support apartheid – I only say there should be “gradualism”, and equal political rights for all civilized men, as is the policy in Rhodesia.’
‘That implies that most blacks aren’t civilized enough for the vote.’
‘Be that as it may, we can’t say it. But you may be able to sell it to a conservative-minded London newspaper like the Telegraph or Globe, provided you don’t tell ’em you’re only nineteen years old. Now I want you to write some tear-jerking pieces on forced removals.’
The government had produced a new map of the future ‘constellation of southern African states’. The present Xhosa ‘homelands’, where Mahoney was born and brought up, would soon become the Republic of Transkei and the Republic of Ciskei, separated from each other by a white-held corridor. Together they were bigger than Scotland. The Zulu homeland was a patchwork of black areas sprinkled down the face of Natal, each black pocket surrounded by white-held land, and it would become the independent Republic of KwaZulu. The Tswana homeland was a patchwork of black pockets spread across the western Transvaal, the Orange Free State and the northern Cape, and it would become the independent Republic of Bophuthatswana. The homeland of the southern Sotho would become the tiny Republic of QwaQwa, tucked away in the Maluti mountains, and the northern Sotho would become the tiny Republic of Lebowa. The Ndebele homeland in the north-east would become the tiny Republic of Gazankulu, and the Swazi homeland would become the minute Republic of KaNgwane. Each republic would have their own black president, cabinet, a legislature elected by one-man-one-vote, their own civil service and army – all mostly paid for by the taxpayer in the remnant white Republic of South Africa. It made a crazy piebald map.
‘ … which,’ Luke Mahoney wrote, ‘is bound to collapse one day under the weight of eight inefficient, expensive governments.’
The rest would become the white Republic of South Africa, and blacks working there would be foreigners with work permits.
‘Sounds okay, in principle,’ Luke Mahoney wrote. ‘After all, a Spaniard cannot work in England without a permit, a Frenchman cannot live in Germany without a residence visa. But the fact is that South Africa is one country and blacks are our citizens by international law, but they’re being made foreigners in their own land, and cannot seek work in their own country without permits. And the mind-blowing injustice is that the black man cannot get a residence permit – permission to live in a slum – unless he has found a job with his work permit, which is only valid for two weeks. After that he is arrested, jailed, and deported back to his soon-to-be-independent “republic”.’
There were two kinds of forced removals: the ‘old’ kind, under the Group Areas Act, abolishing blackspots in newly decreed white zones, as in the case of Sophiatown; and the ‘new’ kind, removing unwanted blacks, surplus to the labour requirements of the new map of the Republic of South Africa. While removals such as the one in Sophiatown were heartbreaking, removals under the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act were horrendous. Millions of unwanted black people were rounded up by the police sweeps, road checkpoints and door-to-door examinations of permits; millions of people – mostly the old and children – were ‘repatriated’ to their future republics. Luke Mahoney followed many of the removals in his Drum car, driving through the highveld to the dry lands of the western Transvaal to the future Republic of Bophuthatswana, driving down into the lowveld to the future republics of Lebowa and Gazankulu, driving down into the lush hills of the future putative independent state of KwaZulu, and what he saw broke his heart.
‘Economic murder,’ he wrote. ‘At least, in the Sophiatown-removal, most people still had their old jobs to go to on Monday, even if they now had to travel miles to get there. Here they have nothing. They are taken to pre-designated vacant areas and dumped. Sometimes there are rows of tin huts pre-built by the government, sometimes they have not been built yet, sometimes they are never built. There is no work, no hope. These people have no cattle, no goats, no chickens. And no young men and women to help. Vast new communities of the aged and children are being created and sternly told to get on with the business of survival. On this sick and hopeless economic base the government is building its model dream-state, its “constellation of southern African states”.
‘All one can say is, Christ help us all …’
That year the infamous Treason Trial finally ended after five years; all the accused were acquitted, most fled abroad, but young Nelson Mandela went underground and formed Umkhonto we Sizwe, Spear of the Nation. That year the Congo received its independence from Belgium, and the shit hit the fan. The world stared, aghast, and South Africa gained some credibility, almost some respectability: maybe apartheid wasn’t such a bad idea if this is how black democracy was.
The Congo. A vast territory, twice the size of western Europe. Fourteen million blacks from two hundred warring tribes held in check for ninety years by tiny Belgium. Vast mineral and agricultural resources. A huge network of roads and navigable rivers to extract the wealth. Being in the heart of darkest Africa, it was of great strategic importance: to Russia in her quest for African influence, and consequently to the United Nations because of the grim threat of nuclear war. The successful transition of the Congo to independence was vital to the West. Independence Day was 30 June 1960. Within twenty-four hours the Congo had burst wide open.
The electioneering was loud and furious, candidates outdoing each other in promising voters they would each get a white man’s salary and house, a white wife, a white man’s car, that stones buried in the ground would turn to gold, that their ancestors would be resurrected. The day following independence the banks were besieged by howling mobs demanding money – ‘Print money for all’ was the cry. The Force Publique was furious that they still had white officers, demanded massive wage increases, and mutinied. Thousands of mutineers ransacked Léopoldville in a drunken rage. The new prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, fired all the white officers, replaced them with sergeant-majors and promoted every soldier one rank; the Force Publique became the only army in the world without any privates. The army mutiny swept across the vast Congo. And then the black police arrested all their white officers, and massive tribal warfare broke out.
Whites were slashed with pangas and riddled with bullets and burnt alive, raped and robbed and tortured. Belgium and America sent aircraft to evacuate their nationals as all over the vast land the whites abandoned their properties and fled the country in terror, crowding the airports, driving frantically for the borders into Burundi, Uganda, Rhodesia and mobbing the ferries across the Congo river into Brazzaville, gunned down, robbed, murdered as they ran.
On the seventh chaotic day after independence, Moise Tshombe, provincial premier of Katanga, raised the first sane voice when he demanded that Belgium send troops to restore order. But that very day the Congo was taking its seat at the United Nations in New York and loss of face for Africa had to be avoided. On the eighth day Moise Tshombe unilaterally requested Belgium to send troops. On the ninth day Belgium paratroopers dropped out of the sky and fierce fighting began. On the tenth day Patrice Lumumba, infuriated by this challenge to his sovereignty, asked the United States to send its army to help him. Russia loudly objected, and President Eisenhower backed down for fear of aggravating the Cold War. On the eleventh day the Congo collapsed and Moise Tshombe proclaimed the unilateral independence of his province of Katanga.
Thus the independence of the Congo began. The chaos was to last many years. The Western world looked on in horror. And when those in the corridors of international power looked at what was happening in the Congo and in the rest of the continent – in Kenya, where the Mau Mau had raged, in Ghana and Nigeria with their riots and tribal war, in Rhodesia, where their policy of equal rights for all civilized men was under attack, mission stations burnt down, dip tanks burned, cattle maimed – there were many who wondered whether the Afrikaners might not have the right idea: maybe apartheid was not such a bad thing.
Mahoney begged his editor to send him to the Congo to cover the crisis, but the idea was turned down. He took unpaid leave and went up to witness the drama, to interview the wild-eyed Belgian refugees. He filled a long article, but his editor could not publish it.
‘Great stuff, Luke, but what Drum wants is the blood, sweat and tears of apartheid.’
The blood that his editor particularly wanted was that which flowed from the hearts broken by apartheid – from domestic tragedies arising from the Group Areas Act which forced members of the same family to split up under the Population Registration Act, from marriages and relationships broken up under the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, from indignities caused by the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act – but the most dramatic blood of all was that flowing from prosecutions under the Immorality Act. That was always news: scandal and heartbreak, broken lives, broken careers, and sheer shame. Most cases were prosecutions of white men screwing black prostitutes, or knocking off their housemaids when Madam wasn’t looking; but sometimes there was a case where a girl was only slightly coloured, and she was in love with a white man. That was big news. And that is how Luke Mahoney met the beautiful Patti Gandhi again.
Patti Gandhi had made news several times since she had left Umtata: as the Indian schoolgirl who walked into the Durban whites-only library; the Indian girl who climbed onto a whites-only bus and manacled herself to a stanchion; the angelic Indian girl who walked into the Dutch Reformed church and prayed until the police were called to take her away for disturbing the peace; the impertinent Indian girl who took herself to a whites-only beach and swam until the constables had to plunge in to drag her out; the girl who had become such a problem to her father that he had finally sent her to England to finish her schooling; the beautiful Indian girl who, when she returned, had the audacity to enter the Miss South Africa contest knowing she would be barred and cause a hullabaloo. And now here in the dock of the magistrates’ court, Johannesburg, looking absolutely beautiful (so said Drum, the Star, the Rand Daily Mail, the Sowetan et al), was the notorious Patti Gandhi, aged nineteen, long-legged and with a bust and face to break your heart, the great-niece of Mahatma Gandhi, charged with contravening the Immorality Act in that upon or about the 20th day of May, 1961, and at or near the city of Johannesburg, she did, being an Indian as defined by the Population Registration Act, wrongfully and unlawfully have carnal knowledge of Peter Howardson, a person defined by the aforesaid Population Registration Act as White.
All the crime reporters were in court that day. Patti Gandhi was alone in the dock because her co-accused, Mr Howardson, had broken bail and fled the country. Miss Gandhi did not have an attorney to represent her. She listened to the prosecution evidence with a little smile. When the arresting police officer, Sergeant van Rensburg, finished his evidence-in-chief, she stood up to cross-examine.
‘Sergeant, how long have you been on the Vice Squad?’
‘My word! We assume, therefore, that you are very experienced in vice? So will you please define for us the word “vice”.’
‘Objection, Your Worship,’ the public prosecutor said.
‘Miss Gandhi,’ the magistrate said, ‘we are not concerned with the witness’s ability to define abstract nouns – it’s not relevant whether the police call it the Vice Squad or the Virtue Squad – we are only concerned with his evidence that on the night of 20th May you contravened the Immorality Act.’
‘But it concerns his attitude to his job, Your Worship,’ Patti Gandhi said politely. ‘If that attitude is hostile, if it is persecutory, it reflects upon his overall credibility as to what he saw. If, for example, we were in Germany now, in 1939, and Sergeant van Rensburg were a Nazi, it would reflect on the reliability of his evidence that he saw a Jew breaking the law –’
‘Miss Gandhi,’ the magistrate said, ‘is it part of your defence that you are a white person?’
‘No, Your Worship, Heaven forbid! I am an Indian person. The real thing. My great grandfather came all the way from Bombay to these blighted shores as a coolie cane-cutter. My great-uncle was Mahatma Gandhi himself – that trouble-maker.’
‘Then stop talking about Nazis. Confine your questions to the evidence pertaining to the Immorality Act.’
She turned to the witness. ‘Sergeant, in your five years experience in vice – which means, by the way, things that are wicked, immoral, unjust, such as dealing in drugs, prostitution, illegal gambling, protection rackets and the like – have you done many prosecutions under the Immorality Act?’
‘Yes, many,’ the sergeant said grimly.
‘Indeed, is the Immorality Act the bulk of your job?’ She added kindly: ‘“Bulk” means the greatest part of your job.’
‘Yes, Your Worship,’ the sergeant said to the magistrate.
‘So when you broke into my friend’s apartment –’ she indicated the empty seat beside her – ‘you were using your experienced eye to look for evidence of immorality?’ The witness hesitated, and she snapped: ‘Yes or no?’
‘What’s the purpose of the question, please?’ the public prosecutor asked.
‘The purpose is to establish whether or not the witness was eagerly looking for evidence of immorality,’ Patti Gandhi said.
‘Very well,’ the magistrate said wearily.
Patti turned back to the sergeant. ‘You were looking for evidence of immorality, weren’t you?’
‘Correct, Your Worship,’ Sergeant van Rensburg said.
‘And in fact you were very confident of finding such evidence – otherwise you would not have taken the risk of damaging my absent co-accused’s door.’
The sergeant said: ‘Yes, I was confident, Your Worship.’
Patti Gandhi cried: ‘So confident that you were prejudiced!’
The sergeant said uncomfortably: ‘No, I was not prejudiced.’
‘No? You weren’t convinced you were right? Then why did you smash a citizen’s door down?’
The sergeant said gruffly: ‘Yes, I was convinced.’
‘Aha! You were convinced you’d find evidence of immorality within. And therefore, Sergeant, your expert, five-year-experienced eye was prejudiced by your conviction that you would find steamy evidence of immorality.’
‘I was not prejudiced …’
Patti started to argue but the magistrate said, ‘You’ve made your point, Miss Gandhi, now please proceed to your next question.’
Patti Gandhi said sweetly: ‘So, therefore, Sergeant, it is very appropriate – very relevant – to ask you what your definition of immorality is. To define to us exactly what you were looking for.’
‘Objection, Your Worship,’ the prosecutor said. ‘Argumentative.’
The magistrate sighed. ‘No, Mr Prosecutor, Miss Gandhi has squeezed the question in legitimately. Her question is: What was the witness looking for and what was going on in his mind? That’s relevant.’
Patti turned back to the witness. ‘So, what is immorality?’
Patti’s finger shot up. ‘Ah! So sexual intercourse is immoral!’ She turned to the magistrate. ‘And he was so convinced it was taking place that he smashed a door down! If that isn’t a prejudiced witness, what is, Your Worship?’
The magistrate managed a smile. ‘Continue, Miss Gandhi.’
Patti glared at the witness. ‘And what exactly did your prejudiced eyes see, Sergeant? First you saw my friend in his underpants, looking frightened, agitated.’
‘Wouldn’t you expect anybody to be frightened if someone breaks into his house at midnight? And then you looked into the bedroom. But you did not see me in there, did you?’
‘No, you were in the bathroom.’
‘Correct. You opened the bathroom door – which is down the passage – and saw me there. With a towel wrapped around my chest?’
‘Looking frightened, too, you said. Wouldn’t you expect any woman to be frightened – horrified – when a strange, nasty man bursts in when she’s naked, about to shower.’
‘You weren’t about to shower,’ the sergeant said wearily.
‘How do you know?’
The sergeant muttered: ‘It’s obvious.’
‘Oh, obvious? And you say you weren’t prejudiced? But the bathroom is an obvious place to shower? And isn’t naked the obvious way to shower?’
The sergeant sighed. ‘Of course, but …’
‘Thank you. And on the bathroom floor were my clothes, you said. Isn’t that the obvious place you’d expect to find them, as I was showering in somebody else’s house?’
‘No, you could have undressed in the bedroom, grabbed your clothes and run into the bathroom when you heard me coming.’
‘I see … But did you see me do that?’
‘No, I told you what I saw.’
‘But you presume I did that?’
‘That’s for the magistrate to decide, not me,’ Sergeant van Rensburg muttered.
‘Thank goodness for that! Now, turning to the bedroom: you say the bed was unmade, as if somebody had recently slept in it? Did my absent co-accused have a servant who makes his bed?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘So the bed could have been unmade like that for days. So why do you say it had been “recently” slept in?’
‘Because,’ the sergeant said triumphantly, ‘the bed was warm.’
‘Ah, yes, so you said. Warm? You used a thermometer, of course?’
‘No,’ the sergeant sighed, ‘I felt it with my hand.’
‘Oh, yes, your hand. I suppose your five years’ experience in vice has made your hand a reliable thermometer?’
‘The bed was warm, Your Worship,’ the sergeant insisted.
‘How warm, Sergeant?’
‘It was warm – it was obvious people had been lying in it.’
‘Obvious? People? Not just one person? It was obvious the temperature was caused by two or more human beings?’
The sergeant sighed. ‘The point is it was warm. And there were two people in the apartment.’
‘And two people will always jump into the same bed? Two people couldn’t possibly be in the presence of one bed without feeling irresistibly compelled to jump into it? Is that your experience?’
The sergeant sighed again. ‘I’m just telling the magistrate what I saw.’
‘And felt. With your experienced hand. So tell me, what was the temperature of the bed – in Fahrenheit. Or Centigrade.’
The sergeant muttered: ‘I don’t know. Just warm.’
‘I see. Hold your hand up in the air, please, Sergeant.’
The sergeant did so, grimly.
‘What is the temperature of the air in this courtroom?’
‘I don’t know, Your Worship,’ he sighed. ‘It’s normal.’
‘Normal for what? For Africa in general? Johannesburg in particular, six thousand feet above sea level? What is normal?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know! And what is the normal temperature of a bed that has just been vacated?’
‘I don’t know.’
In those days Drum had its premises in a rundown building called Samkay House, Troy Street, in downtown Johannesburg. It was a small outfit, with sales of only 80,000 copies per month, but over a million blacks read it. There was also a Rhodesia Drum and a Kenya Drum and the publisher intended to publish from Cape to Cairo in the fullness of time. Drum was also strong on black culture, all aspects of black urban life: Sophiatown had been the most dramatic manifestation of that urbanization, but Sophiatown had been razed to the ground and now Soweto was Drum’s new focus. Drum’s treatment was very American in style, heavy on American movies, cars, clothes, music and rising stars like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. In those days the ANC and PAC imagined that the repressions of apartheid would make their causes bloom into open rebellion, but the government clampdown on all dissent in pursuit of its dream state was so effective that Drum was the only mouthpiece the blacks had, and they loved it. In short, Drum owed its success to apartheid.
But Drum was careful. The basic, day-to-day enemy was the Police Censorship Department, the Subversive Publications Act as supported by the Suppression of Communism Act, but the editor managed to steer a precarious course through this maze of legislation. Nonetheless, every Drum writer – and many from the other newspapers – had received an ‘invitation to tea’ with BOSS, the Bureau of State Security, a branch of the South African Police. It was the week after Mahoney’s story of Patti Gandhi’s acquittal was published that he received his invitation.
BOSS had its offices on the eleventh floor of Marshall Square Police Station, in the heart of Johannesburg. You were escorted into the building, and you rode up in a special elevator with only one button. You passed through a security gate, walked down a row of offices to the big one, and there was Colonel Krombrink, his hand extended and a smile all over his Afrikaner face.
‘Mr Mahoney, thank you for coming to see us …’
‘Us’ included a young man in plain clothes at the window, smiling faintly, holding a fat file conspicuously marked Luke Mahoney, which he now carefully placed before Colonel Krombrink. Tea was served on a tray by a black constable, with a saucer of Marie biscuits.
After the niceties, Colonel Krombrink said: ‘Mr Mahoney, every man is entitled to his opinions, hey, provided he doesn’t commit subversion, but tell me, have you read the Communist Manifesto, and Karl Marx’s Das Kapital?’
Mahoney had: it was in his father’s library. But now Das Kapital was a banned book. ‘No.’
‘No? That’s interesting, because it strikes us here in BOSS that so many of you English journalists have had a grounding in communism, hey. Particularly you people in Drum. Nothing wrong, I suppose, with an intellectual inquiry, hey, provided you don’t write about it, indirectly encourage it. Anyway, it’s nice to chat about these things, us intellectuals.’ He waved his hand at his bookcase behind him. ‘I’ve studied just about every book that’s ever been written on communism, hey. It’s my business. So I’m very interested to hear what you have to say, Mr Mahoney. About our Suppression of Communism Act.’
Mahoney’s heart was knocking. He said: ‘I don’t believe in communism, Colonel Krombrink. For what my youthful opinion is worth, I think it is doomed because it must, by definition, be repressive, imposing a one-party state on the populace. And secondly, by definition, it must also suppress the most valuable resource a nation has, namely human initiative. Ambition. The work ethic. The determination to prosper.’
Colonel Krombrink smiled. ‘What big words for such a young man. But, of course, you are a journalist. And your father –’ he indicated the file – ‘is a Member of Parliament, an “independent”. And he is always proposing his votes of no confidence in the government, hey, so I suppose he taught you a lot of big words too.’ He smiled. ‘Tell me, Mr Mahoney, why don’t you have confidence in our government?’
Oh Jesus, he wanted to get out of here. ‘Because I think apartheid is also doomed to failure. Unworkable. And unjust.’
‘Ah. But you say you’re not a communist? Tell me, was – or is – Lisa Rousseau a communist?’
Mahoney was taken aback. Lisa – they knew about her? ‘Not to my knowledge.’
‘Perhaps your knowledge of her was only carnal? Oh yes, she’s a communist. Do you know where she is now?’
A communist?! ‘At the University of Cape Town, doing her doctorate.’
‘She’s in a house in Cape Town, doing her doctorate. She’s been banned.’ Mahoney stared. Lisa banned? Oh God, how awful!
‘It’s a terrible business being a banned person, hey, Mr Mahoney. Imagine, she’s not allowed to be in the presence of more than three people, she’s not allowed to make any speeches, or write anything for publication, she can’t play sport, she must be in her house from five in the afternoon to eight next morning. For three years. That’s a hell of a way to live, hey? It would be a pity if it happened to you. But it’s necessary in her case.’
Mahoney’s pulse tripped at the threat. ‘Why was it necessary?’
‘That’s our business. But you know she’s a member of the ANC. And now the ANC is a banned organization, after Sharpeville.’
‘I didn’t know she was a member. But being a member of the ANC doesn’t make her a communist.’
‘No? Have you read the so-called Freedom Charter of the ANC?’
“‘Of course”?’ Krombrink smiled. ‘Yes, journalists love to read things like the Freedom Charter, hey. Well, the so-called Freedom Charter says, amongst other things, that the land, and the mines, banks, life insurance companies, industry, big business, they all belong to the people and will be nationalised. What’s that if it’s not communism, hey?’
Mahoney took a deep, tense breath. Oh, he wanted this over. ‘But I think somebody like Lisa Rousseau can be a member of the ANC without supporting all its economic principles.’
‘You think so? Are you a secret member of the ANC, Mr Mahoney?’
‘No.’ Thank God he could truthfully say that. They could have no evidence to gainsay that.
‘Are you an ANC sympathiser?’
Mahoney mentally closed his eyes. And, oh God, he hated himself for being frightened of the bastards. ‘No’ would have been untrue. So would ‘Yes’. ‘Partly’ would open a Pandora’s box. ‘No.’
‘Then why – ’ Krombrink opened the file – ‘do you write nonsense like this, hey?’ He tossed onto the desk the glossy pages of Mahoney’s story in Drum about the Sharpeville massacre.
Mahoney looked at him grimly. ‘It’s news.’
‘News? It’s your opinion.’ Krombrink frowned at him. ‘You’re nineteen years old and your opinion is published across the land for all these stupid blacks to take as gospel. I ask you, is that reasonable? Would any other civilized country put up with that?’
It was Mahoney’s instinct to retort that the Pass Laws were not reasonable, that South Africa did not have a civilized government. ‘It was also my editor’s opinion – he made the decision to publish. It was also the opinion of the international press.’
Krombrink sat back in his chair and tapped the printed pages. ‘Mr Mahoney, you call the Pass Laws unjust. Unfair. Cruel. And you praise the defiance campaign, which resulted in all these people dying, hey.’ He shook his head. ‘Mr Mahoney, do you realize what would happen to this country if we didn’t have Pass Laws? Can’t you imagine the chaos? The millions of blacks streaming out of their homelands to look for work? Millions of blacks roaming our streets, knocking on doors – sleeping in the streets. Can’t you imagine the shanty towns? The squalor, the disease, the crime … Got, man, it would be chaotic! It would be asking for trouble. And so unhealthy. And for every job there would be a hundred blacks queuing up, hey – is that fair to them? They’ll be so desperate for jobs every Jew-boy will be screwing them for cheap labour, hey? And can you imagine the security problem?’ He shook his head. ‘Got, man, surely you can see that the Pass Laws are absolutely necessary for good government?’
Good government? Mahoney wanted to ask whether Job Reservation was also good government, but, oh God, what Krombrink said was also true – social chaos would ensue if the millions of blacks descended on the cities. Before he could muster a comment Krombrink tossed another pile of print on the desktop.
‘And if you’re not ANC, why do you write crap like this, man?’
It was his story of Patti Gandhi’s trial.
Mahoney stared at the top page: it was dominated by a photograph of Patti, looking like a million bucks, the breeze blowing her long black hair, descending the steps of the Magistrates’ Court, a smile all over her beautiful face. ‘What’s wrong with that story, Colonel Krombrink?’
The good colonel sat forward. ‘What’s wrong with it?’ He frowned in wonder. ‘Got, man, Mr Mahoney, I admit she is a good-looking girl, hey – you get some okay-looking Indian girls, I admit. Even some Coloured girls. But Got, man, that isn’t the point, hey.’ He frowned. ‘The point is we must have order. And the white man in Africa represents order. It’s all in the Bible, man. And therefore the white man must keep himself pure, hey. Can you imagine what a tragedy if the white man went kaffir, like in Brazil. Look what a mess South America is.’ He frowned again. ‘Mr Mahoney, does the sparrow mate with the swallow? Does a goose mate with a duck? Does a cow mate with a kudu?’ He shook his head, eyes big. ‘No, man – the sparrow sticks to other sparrows, the cow sticks to ordinary bulls. Why? Because it’s the natural law, man! God’s law!’ He stared, then raised his finger. ‘An’ what’s the only exception – the horse! The horse will mate with the donkey, hey. And what is the result?’ He looked at Mahoney sadly. ‘The mule. An’ we all know what a stupid animal the mule is! It can’t even breed.’ He shook his head. ‘The human being is as randy as hell, hey. An’ what’s the result? The result is Coloureds, Mr Mahoney – brown people who are neither one thing nor the other. Half-castes! Neither black nor white!’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘And Got, man, we know what a problem those bastards are: drunks, liars, crooks, prostitutes …’ He frowned at him, then jabbed a finger. ‘You know: you’ve been on the whaling ships with them.’
‘And most of them are perfectly ordinary people.’
‘“Most” of them! Ja – and the rest? Skollies. Hottentots. Troublemakers! Neither one thing nor the other! Don’t know where they fit in!’ He shook his head, then leant forward again. ‘Mr Mahoney, surely you can see that Nature did not intend that. Surely you can see that that is not God’s law. God’s law is pure. Sensible. Obvious.’ He held up a finger. ‘It’s all in the Bible, Mr Mahoney. God said unto Moses when he led them out of Egypt, “Thou shalt not let the seed of Israel mingle with the Canaanites”!’
Mahoney sighed. How do you talk to a guy like this? He heard himself say: ‘And the Sons of Ham shall be hewers of wood and drawers of water?’
Colonel Krombrink looked at him.
‘Man, that’s what it says in the Bible, yes. But you must admit we’re being bladdy fair to them, hey, because now the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act is going to give them independence. That’s okay, they can run themselves any way they like there. But Got, man, Mr Mahoney,’ he frowned, ‘you know bladdy well that they can’t run a white man’s country, hey? Do you seriously think they can? You know the Transkei, you’ve seen how simple they are. Stick fights and witch doctors and muti-murders. An’ here in Soweto – how violent they are. Got, man, one side is always knocking the hell out of the other. ANC versus PAC. Xhosa versus Zulu. That’s a kaffir’s idea of politics, hey. That’s how it’s always been since Shaka. Not so?’
Mahoney sighed. Oh, the age-old argument. And, yes, Krombrink had him there. He nodded.
‘Not so?’ Krombrink continued. ‘An’ even if they weren’t like that, even if they behaved properly instead of like animals, do you imagine they’ve got the know-how to run a modern country? You’ve seen them.’ Krombrink shook his head. ‘No, man, it would go to hell. Not so?’
Mahoney shifted. He began: ‘Of course they haven’t got the ability to run the country yet –’
‘Exactly. They hadn’t even invented the wheel when the white man came – an’ even the ancient Greeks had the wheel! No, South Africa would become just another kaffir country, hey. Look at Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah makes himself President-for-life and the country goes to ratshit. Do you want South Africa to go like that?’
Mahoney said grimly: ‘No, but I don’t want it to become a bloodbath either.’
‘Of course not, and that’s exactly what we will avoid with our policies, because the races will be kept apart, to develop along their own lines in their own areas an’ won’t interfere with each other. One day soon each race will be looking after its own affairs, an’ if they want to have a bloodbath in somewhere like the Transkei, it’s their problem, hey, not ours –’
‘But apartheid will bring the bloodbath right here,’ Mahoney said, ‘to Johannesburg. Like Kenya.’
Colonel Krombrink smiled. ‘Mr Mahoney, South Africa is totally different to Kenya – there were only fifty thousand whites in Kenya, there are five million of us here. Here we’ve got control, man.’
‘And Russia – can you control them? Apartheid is driving the blacks into the arms of the communists.’
The colonel shook his head. ‘Mr Mahoney, it is only by apartheid that we can control the communists. Without apartheid there will be chaos in which communists flourish. And apartheid offers the blacks an alternative to the rubbish of communism, it offers them the goal of self-government in their own territories. Russia wants to impose a one-party communist government. To achieve this, Russia wants chaos, it wants a bloodbath so it can seize power. Russia wants our gold and diamonds, Mr Mahoney – and Russia wants the Cape Sea Route. Because with the Gape she dominates all the sea traffic to the Far East, because the Suez Canal is now controlled by Egypt, and Russia can easily dominate Egypt. With the Cape route, she’ll have the whole of Africa in her hand, man. An’ from Africa they start on the rest of their world revolution. Do you want that?’
Mahoney sighed. ‘Of course not, but the point is –’
‘That’s the only point, Mr Mahoney: apartheid or communism. World communism.’ He frowned. ‘Are you sure you’re not a communist sympathizer, Mr Mahoney?’
Oh Jesus. It was intended to intimidate, and it worked. ‘Quite sure.’
‘Then why do you write crap like this, man?’ He smacked the Patti Gandhi story. ‘Trying to make a laughing stock of the Law … The Afrikaner is self-destructing … ’ Before Mahoney could muster a response he continued: ‘Do you know Miss Gandhi is a communist?’
Mahoney frowned. ‘No. She comes from a wealthy family of Indian manufacturers.’
‘Karl Marx was well off. Engels was rich. There’re rich communists too. What they want is power. What Miss Gandhi wants is revolution. She’s been making trouble for years and she makes headlines because she’s pretty. All that crap about going into white libraries and getting on white buses and swimming on white beaches. Even into the Dutch Reformed church. Got, man, she’s got no respect for other people’s feelings, she only thinks of her reputation as a trouble-maker. Then she goes to this high-fallutin’ school in England and they think she’s some kind of hero an’ her head gets more swollen. He frowned. ‘And now she breaks the Immorality Act and people like you write crap like this about her.’
‘She was acquitted!’ Mahoney interjected.
‘But only just! The magistrate said the evidence was very suspicious – “sinister”, he said – but it was just possible she hadn’t had sexual intercourse and he had to give her the benefit of the doubt! We all know she committed perjury! But you make her a heroine!’ He quoted: ‘“Beautiful … gorgeous … brilliant cross-examination … brilliant school record … courageous”.’ He frowned. ‘Got, man, that brings the law of the land into disrepute. Can’t you see that’s irresponsible journalism?’
Mahoney badly wanted to retort about the law of the land – but, oh shit, he just wanted to get out of here. ‘My editor approved it.’
Krombrink snorted. ‘Your editor, hey? That English pinko. An’ all those black colleagues of yours, no doubt.’ He shook his head. ‘Of course they would. All those drunkards at Drum are ANC.’
Mahoney wanted to protest their innocence, and thereby his own, but before he could think of anything, Krombrink banged the desk and said with exasperation: ‘Got, man, Mr Mahoney, what’s a well-brought-up chap like you doing working for a kaffir magazine like Drum, hey?! A communist rag, man? An’ you with all the advantages! Your father a lawyer an’ MP. Head prefect of your school. First class pass in matric!’ (Mahoney was amazed he knew all this.) ‘The Mahoney family goes back to the Great Trek days.’ He shook his head. ‘Got, such a proud record, an’ then you come along, a Mahoney with real brains, an’ first you get expelled for screwing the communist history mistress, you lose your Rhodes scholarship, then you go to work for a kaffir magazine and write crap like this –’ he thumped the stories – ‘about Sharpeville, and Miss Patti Gandhi.’ He looked at Mahoney with grim, steely eyes; then said theatrically: ‘BOSS has watched your downhill slide with great alarm. And sadness, hey.’
Mahoney’s heart was knocking. The statement was loaded. Krombrink looked at him witheringly, then stood up. Satisfied. He held out his hand, unsmiling. ‘Thank you for dropping round. Nice to have a chat about things of national interest. Contact me anytime you feel like another one.’
Mahoney stood up. National interest? Oh Jesus … He took the hand. ‘Thanks for the tea.’
As Mahoney reached the door Krombrink said: ‘Oh, Mr Mahoney?’ Mahoney stopped and looked back. ‘As you’re not a communist sympathiser, or ANC, any bits of information that come your way we would much appreciate to know about.’ He smiled thinly. ‘Do I make myself clear?’
Mahoney looked at the man. And, oh God, he hated himself for not having the courage of his convictions, for not giving the man a withering stare and turning on his heel. ‘You make yourself clear.’
He turned again, and Krombrink said: ‘Mr Mahoney?’
He stopped again. Krombrink smiled: ‘Remember Miss Rousseau. A Banning Order is a terrible way for a young man to live, with all those pretty girls out there going to waste …’
Colonel Krombrink was dead right: all the journalists at Drum were pro-ANC. What else was there to be in South Africa in those days if you were black? But none of the Drum writers was a communist, as far as Mahoney knew. It was true that if you supported the ANC you were indirectly sympathetic to the South Africa Communist Party because the two were partners in crime now that both were banned: the ANC relied on the communist’s cell structure and experience in underground survival. And Krombrink was dead wrong when he called Drum’s writers crap, but he was right when he called them heavy drinkers.
Mahoney could hold his booze but those Drum guys had livers like steelworks. Hard living was part of the job at Drum, part of its black mystique: ‘Work hard, play hard, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.’ The ambience and prose at Drum was styled on the tough American journalism of the fifties, the rough scribes with hats tilted, ties loose, cigarette hanging out of the corner of the mouth, a hip-flask to hand, pounding out flash, hard-hitting copy on their beat-up Remingtons before sallying out once more into the tough, dangerous, fun world of gangsters, shebeens, cops, jazz, politics, injustice, flash cars and fast women. Most mornings Mahoney stayed at home studying for his law degree: at lunchtime he hit the streets of Johannesburg and Soweto, the courtrooms and the copshops and the mortuaries, looking for copy, chasing blood-and-guts stories. When he got to the office for the editorial meeting the boys were already getting along with the booze as they bashed out their prose; it was against the law for blacks to drink anything but kaffir beer, but Mahoney and the boss bought it for them, or they got it illegally at the Indian and Chinese fast-food joints that did a roaring trade servicing the black workers in downtown Johannesburg because they weren’t allowed into bars and restaurants. The editorial meetings were very stimulating, a barrel of laughs, ideas flowing as fast as the wine and whisky and brandy as the boss kicked around subjects with his scribes and dished out assignments. It was at one of these meetings that he tossed a letter on the desk.
‘An application for a job from a friend of yours, Luke. Justin Nkomo, says he was your garden boy. Know him?’
‘Justin? Sure! Good guy. Where is he?’
‘Transkei. Says he’s done a teacher’s diploma but wants to try his hand at journalism. Suggests he can be our education columnist. I’m embarrassed to tell him we haven’t got an education desk, none of you guys are educated enough.’
‘I’m educated,’ Mike Moshane said. ‘C-O-A-T spells JACKET. How’s that?’
Mahoney said: ‘He was bloody good at English. And a marvel at cricket. Best batsman I’ve ever seen. Hit anything.’
‘Cricket?’ the boss said.
‘I swear, if he were white he’d be a Springbok cricketer. No bowler can get him out. Even if he uses a baseball bat.’
‘Baseball?’ The boss looked up at the ceiling for a moment. ‘Now there’s an angle: “Apartheid Foils Brilliant Sportsman.” If he’s as good as you say we could blow it up into a big story, make the government look silly. Now, how do we test him?’
Mahoney said: ‘Take him to a private cricket pitch. Like Wits University, they’d turn a blind eye for a few hours. Get their best bowlers to turn out. I guarantee he’ll knock ’em for six. Invite some sportswriters from the dailies to watch.’
‘Then,’ Mahoney said, ‘you invite some baseball league people along. Give Justin a baseball bat, let their best pitchers have a go at him. Invite the American Chamber of Commerce, maybe. Maybe Justin’ll get a scholarship to some Yank university.’
The editor nodded pensively at the ceiling. ‘Now this bears thinking about. I’ll invite him to drop round, tell him to write me a piece, take it from there.’ Then he tossed a second letter on the desk. ‘And, you’ve got one other friend, Luke – nice letter from Patti Gandhi thanking us for your “excellent, witty, and sympathetic story” about her trial.’
The room resounded to ribald remarks about bearing the Immorality Act in mind when he crawled on his hands and knees to thank her for her nice thank-you letter. Then Willy Thembu said: ‘Why doesn’t Luke do a full-length feature on her, her whole history, a sort of “Day in the Death of an Indian Beauty under Apartheid”? Hey – why doesn’t he talk her into screwing a few top-cops, and then we blow the story?’
‘Hey, how about that …’
The boss grinned. ‘But we’d be sued – and Miss Gandhi would go to jail.’
‘But so would the politicians and the top-cops!’ Butch Molofo said happily. ‘The Afrikaner establishment would have egg all over their faces! We’d make a sort of Mata Hari out of her – a love-nest spy. I bet that girl would go for it, she’s a trouble-maker. And I bet she’s in the thick of the ANC’s underground – I bet she knows what this guy Nelson Mandela’s up to …’
But the boss shook his head. ‘We’re trouble-shooters, not troublemakers, and we don’t make ourselves accomplices to crime. Anyway, Miss Gandhi’s been over-written lately.’ (Mahoney was very disappointed.) ‘But what we should do is start building a profile on this guy Nelson Mandela – to be ready for the day he does something dramatic. Luke – you start on that, between other stories. Start in the newspaper cuttings; look up every reference to him and his wife, Winnie. And you’re a law student – maybe it’s time you wrote us a nice piece on that ridiculous Treason Trial that Mandela was involved in. “What is treason in this land of ours?” Reminding us how the cops broke up the Congress of the people at Kliptown when the Freedom Charter was formed, arrested thousands, put a hundred and fifty-six on trial for treason, how five years later there were only thirty-one accused left because the government had withdrawn charges against the rest due to lack of any real evidence of treason. Explain to us what treason now means in our poor benighted country under our new draconian legislation. Can do?’
‘Can do,’ Luke said. ‘I’ll get my father to check me on the law.’
‘Good.’ The boss looked around the table. ‘So what else is happening out there?’
Fred Kalanga took his feet off the desk to pour himself another shot of brandy. ‘Talking about Nelson Mandela, I’ve heard a bit of talk in the shebeens that we’re going to start seeing a few bangs from him soon. Something about the ANC changing its policy of non-violence.’
There were some cheers. The boss said: ‘Doesn’t surprise me – the ANC has got to resort to violence sometime soon if it’s going to retain credibility with the blacks. But Drum doesn’t publish rumours …’
Two weeks later Justin Nkomo came to work for Drum, on probation. Mahoney was delighted to see him again but he soon concluded that Justin was not going to fit in: he was too serious and bookish. Sure, he drank, but not enough. He wrote good prose, but not flip enough. He wanted to enjoy life but he was not flash enough for Soweto. Sure, he loved women but he was not hip enough. ‘Our intellectual’ they called him at Drum.
It was a month after his arrival that Drum staged their debut of Our Black Springbok. Justin had been sufficiently tested at nets to convince the publisher he was on to a winner of a story. Now he persuaded the Witwatersrand University first cricket team to turn out, and the first baseball team, he invited the sportswriters of the daily newspapers to come along, and several members of the British and United States consulates in the hopes that Justin might be offered a scholarship.
‘I hope to God he doesn’t let us down after all this.’
Mahoney was worried too – this had been his idea. Please God … he prayed as Justin walked out onto the university cricket pitch.
It was not, of course, to be a cricket match: it was an exhibition, and a wager. The publisher had offered five hundred rands to the university cricket club if Justin failed to score a century. And what an exhibition of slugging it was! The university team were astounded – and so were the sportswriters.
‘They did not know what hit them,’ the Star reported. ‘There at the crease stood this gangly young black man, holding his bat like a caveman’s club, smashing the university’s best bowlers to all corners of the field as if swatting flies. Having reached his century in record time – thus winning the wager for his sponsor, Drum – the batsman, armed now with a baseball bat, repeated the same phenomenon against the best pitchers of the university’s baseball club. The man is a genius with a bat: he has little style but who needs that with an eye and brawn like his? It would be foolish to tamper with such unorthodox brilliance. If there were no apartheid in this sports-mad land of ours he would, without a doubt, be a Springbok cricketer in a year or two, if not immediately. There is every chance that if he and Drum play their cards right, this man Justin Nkomo will be offered a sports scholarship to an overseas university. Indeed, the United States cultural attaché, watching wide-eyed, told me that he was certain that an American university would snap him up. South Africa will be the loser. What a sporting tragedy …’
Three months later Justin Nkomo accepted a scholarship to the University of Miami. Many years were to pass before he returned.
In those days Mahoney shared a big, seedy, four-bedroom apartment with three other bachelors: Shortarse Longbottom, a tall, thin, mournful young reporter on the Star, Hugo Wessels, known as Huge Vessel because of his capacity for beer, who was a young reporter on an Afrikaans newspaper, and Splinter Woodcock, a law student who was justifiably pleased with his genital endowments. The apartment was on the top floor of an old apartment block in Hillbrow, on the edge of downtown Johannesburg, one of the most densely populated areas of the world. By day the area teemed with blacks, employees of the shops and restaurants and cheap hotels, and servants who worked in the cheap apartments, but at night they all disappeared back to the townships beyond the horizon.
Most of the apartment blocks had servants’ rooms on the very top but ‘locations in the sky’ were discouraged under apartheid. There were servants’ rooms on Mahoney’s rooftop and it was a term of the lease that they should not be occupied, but Mahoney had purloined a key and he went up there to work when the partying got too hectic downstairs. They called the apartment The Parsonage because there was a substantial turnover of young ladies at breakfast all weekend. The parties were fine with Mahoney, because he had most mornings free, but the weekend was an important time for him to study, at least during daylight, though it was great to know the party was going strong downstairs whenever he was ready to join it.
The Parsonage piss-ups began on Friday afternoons in the staff canteen of the Star, where the junior reporters of Johannesburg’s various newspapers gathered to solve the problems of the world and flirt with the female junior reporters, including Gloria Naidoo, who wrote for the fashion page, and Wendy Chiang, who wrote for the book page, and Innocentia Molo, who wrote for the Sowetan. This multi-racial gathering was not illegal, but to adjourn together across the road to the Press Bar of the Elizabeth Hotel was illegal because of the Group Areas Act and the Liquor Act. Miss Chiang, Miss Naidoo and Miss Molo were not allowed to darken its white doors, so the party usually graduated back to The Parsonage. And this, strictly speaking, wasn’t illegal either: people of different races were not actually forbidden to meet in private homes provided there was no question of contravention of the Immorality Act, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, the Prohibition of Political Interference Act, the Influx of Unwanted Persons Act, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which authorized a policeman to detain you for twelve days without trial, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Seditious Publications Act … It wasn’t actually illegal – not yet – but Sergeant van Rensburg and his squad were very optimistically suspicious about The Parsonage. Out there in Soweto there was murder going on, but there was Sergeant van Rensburg cruising Hillbrow trying to get evidence of the English press contravening the Immorality Act with Miss Chiang, Miss Naidoo and Miss Molo. As it happened, neither Shortarse, Huge, Splinter nor Mahoney were screwing Gloria – who had the reputation of preferring ladies – Wendy or Innocentia, though not for want of trying. The three women usually left The Parsonage together in Wendy’s car – she did not drink – to go home over the horizon where they belonged, but they took great delight in reeling out of the building blowing kisses up to the boys in the hope that Sergeant van Rensburg was watching through his binoculars.
It was on one of these Friday piss-ups, the week after Justin Nkomo left for America, that Gloria Naidoo said to Mahoney: ‘You remember Patti Gandhi?’
‘How could any man forget?’
‘Well she’s a friend of mine, and she’d like to talk to you – she likes the sympathetic way you wrote up her trial. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind her calling you? She’ll use a public phone in case her line’s being tapped. I gave her the number of the Star canteen, she’ll phone here next Friday in case your number is being tapped too. Okay?’
Was it okay?
‘Of course I remember you,’ he said when she telephoned. ‘And I thought you were very clever. You should be a lawyer.’
‘Flattery will get you everywhere. So, I have a business proposition to put to you.’
Flattery would get him everywhere?
‘Is this a story?’
‘That’s your business, isn’t it? There are no other grounds upon which we can legally meet, are there?’
‘Where do you suggest?’
‘Well, there’s no bar we can legally meet in. Not even a park bench, like they do in the movies. So would you come to my shop? Where my workers will ensure the bed temperature remains normal?’
Perish the thought … !
Gandhi Emporium was in the Indian quarter in Diagonal Street. The streets were teeming with people and traffic at five o’clock, blacks hurrying home from work to the locations. The shop was closing up as Mahoney walked in. An Indian salesgirl led him through to the workshop, where a dozen black tailors were shutting down their sewing machines. They entered the office beyond. Patti Gandhi was descending a staircase, her hand extended. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. She wore a lime-green silk dress that flared over her breasts revealing a breathtaking cleavage.
‘Thank you for coming!’
As she got a beer for him from the refrigerator Mahoney said: ‘You won’t remember me, but we come from the same home-town, Umtata.’
‘Yes, I know, though I don’t believe we met. Your father was my father’s lawyer.’ She smiled. ‘And I’ve checked you out.’ (Checked him out?) ‘By the way, we needn’t worry about Sergeant van Rensburg,’ she continued matter-of-factly. ‘He’s not gunning for me anymore: I neutralized him.’
Neutralized him? ‘How?’
She sat down on the sofa opposite him with a glass of wine and crossed her legs elegantly. ‘I screwed him.’
Mahoney tried not to show his amazement. Exactly as Willy Thembu had suggested in jest. His heart was knocking in hope. She smiled. ‘That’s off the record, for the moment. Do I shock you?’
He was blushing. ‘No …’
‘Liar,’ she said, smiling.
‘I mean, why shouldn’t you sleep with whoever you like?’
‘But I didn’t like. I did it for two reasons. One, to get him off my back. Two, for the future. You never know in this country when it’s going to be necessary to have a few cops on your side.’ She raised her eyebrows. ‘Not only did he contravene the Immorality Act, he’s also a married man.’
Why was she telling him this? ‘I see. You’re right.’
‘Sure I’m right. This is a wrong country. I don’t care what I’ve got to do to get a few levers. So look at this.’
She got up and went to a wall-safe. She took out a large envelope. She pulled out a photograph. Mahoney stared at it. It showed a couple naked on a bed, having sexual intercourse. The woman was Patti Gandhi. And the man was unquestionably Sergeant van Rensburg.
‘Who took this photograph?’ And why was she showing it to him?
‘Gloria Naidoo. In my apartment upstairs.’ She explained, with a wisp of a smile: ‘The day after I was acquitted, who should come here but Sergeant van Rensburg? Ostensibly to warn me officially that Vice Squad were watching me. Then he got fresh and said that he could put in a good word for me. I thought fast. I said I was having my period, could he come back in two days. I set it up with Gloria, she’s a photographer. We bored a hole through the spare bedroom wall. When Sergeant van Rensburg came round for his illegal goodies Gloria photographed the terrible deed. But the photos didn’t come out well enough because of the light – I didn’t look like an Indian. So we set it up again for two days later, and that’s the result. When the good sergeant came round again, I showed him that photo and told him to get off my back, or else.’ She took back the photograph and slipped it into the envelope.
Why was she telling him this?
‘You’re wondering why I’m telling you this.’ She folded her arms. ‘Well, a few nights later I was raided by the Security Police. With a warrant to search for seditious material. My apartment was swarming with detectives, led by a certain Major Kotze. They ransacked the place, but found nothing – I’m not fool enough to keep seditious material at home. And I’m sure they weren’t looking for those photographs because they were even looking down spines of books. And why would Sergeant van Rensburg confide in Special Branch? No, they were looking for a connection with the ANC. Anyway, I was quite calm and I answered all Major Kotze’s questions very sweetly – I even offered him a drink. Which he declined at the time. But when the boys departed empty-handed, Major Kotze stayed behind to ask a few more questions and I got the distinct impression it was because I was wearing a rather revealing sari. And I thought: Hullo, maybe this trick can work twice. And sure enough, with the minimum of provocation, he made a heavy pass at me. Again saying he could put in a good word for me.’ She smiled widely. ‘Again I stalled him for a couple of days. Two days later Major Kotze was back again, boots and all. And so was Gloria, in the next room, with her camera.’ She grinned widely. ‘And the results are in this envelope.’
Mahoney had to command his hand not to reach out for those results.
Patti grinned: ‘There’s no reason for you to see them now – I only showed you the first one to convince you of the truth of my story. You’ll see them later, if you agree to my proposition.’ She smiled. ‘And it’s not an illegal proposition, Mr Mahoney. “Blackmail” would be a most inappropriate word to describe legitimate self-defence against the injustice of apartheid. Though I admit that if the entire South African police force wants to expose themselves to blackmail I’ll arrange it.’
It broke his heart to think about it, a beautiful woman like this! A brutal, shocking, wildly erotic thought.
She said quietly: ‘No, you don’t understand, Mr Mahoney. You’re white. You have all the normal privileges of a civilized Western country. I do not. You may sympathise, but you do not really understand what it is to be non-white in this country.’
‘Okay, you’re right, Miss Gandhi.’
‘Patti,’ she said. ‘Please.’
‘Patti. And I’m Luke.’
‘Wow, first-name terms already, we’re getting on like a house on fire and you’ve only seen me in one pornographic photo.’ She smiled widely. ‘I’m not really domineering, you know. I’m as soft as butter when I’m treated right. All I want out of life is justice. A good society. And cops to catch crooks. Is that too much for a citizen to ask?’
‘Ah, but it is, in this country. In fact it’s against the law.’
‘So what are you going to do about it, Luke? Are you going to write courageous stuff?’
He knew now he was undergoing some kind of test. ‘I do my best – for a junior reporter.’
‘You do very well indeed. I’ve read a lot of your work, including your articles about whaling.’
The quickest way to a writer’s heart. ‘Thank you.’
‘But if whaling is so horrific – so cruel, as you so vividly described it – why did you keep on going to the Ice?’
‘For the money.’
‘Ah, yes, the money … Well, I can’t promise you any money out of the proposition I’ve got for you, but on the other hand you could make a killing, if things go wrong.’
‘If the police start persecuting me again. Because in this envelope are not only the photographs but two affidavits testifying as to how they were taken. I intend to put them into a bank safety deposit box with the story of how they came about – a well-written story, for publication in the event of my being seriously arrested.’
‘Arrested for what?’
‘For a serious matter, like “furthering the illegal objectives of the ANC”. I want to be able to tell the authorities that if they persist in their persecution of me I will be releasing a highly embarrassing story. This envelope – ’ she picked it up – ‘is my insurance, Luke. Not blackmail – because it would be to the public benefit that everybody be informed that the custodians of the law are breaking the law.’
God, yes, it would be a story. Though he wasn’t so sure it wouldn’t be blackmail – but to hell with that for now.
‘You would be performing a public service, Luke. And showing up the cruelty of apartheid. And the ridiculousness of it.’
‘Yes. Except I doubt it would pull down this government.’
‘No, but it would rock the police. “Senior BOSS officer in Immorality Act love nest with ANC member”.’ She smiled. ‘It would let the cat loose amongst the BOSS pigeons: how many security secrets would Major Kotze have told the ANC through me?’
Mahoney was bemused. Almost exactly what Willy Thembu had suggested. ‘But do you intend to … see this Major Kotze again?’
It shocked him. A beautiful woman like this.
She said: ‘This is too good an opportunity to pass up. The job must be done properly. The scandal must be about a love nest, not about a one-night stand. And I might even get some secrets.’
Jesus. BOSS secrets in a love nest? This story was getting better and better. He said: ‘Are you also a member of the Communist Party?’
Patti smiled widely. ‘I’m not going to make any unwise confessions in my story, Luke. The only crime I’m confessing to is contravening the Immorality Act with Sergeant van Rensburg and Major Kotze. Plus whoever of the BOSS hierarchy come my way. Of course, you must write that I was a member of the ANC before it was banned and that’s how I came to be raided by Kotze – and ended up in bed with him.’ She added: ‘Of course, this could be an on-going story, with more BOSS victims. But you haven’t agreed to write it yet. Will you, Luke?’
Would he? Any journalist would give his eyeteeth for the story! ‘Oh, I’ll write it.’
‘You realize you may never publish it? It’ll only happen on my instructions and that’ll mean I’m in big trouble.’
‘Yes.’ He rubbed his chin. ‘But you must realize that you’re taking a chance on this. I might be raided by the police and if they find the story – then you will be in big trouble.’
She shook her head. ‘If your house is raided they’ll find nothing to do with me. Because you’re not going to work on this at home. You’ll do so in a nice secure place. I won’t tell you where yet. And each time you finish a page, it’ll disappear.’
‘I see. Does your attorney know about this?’
‘Not yet.’ She smiled over the rim of her wine glass. Oh, she was beautiful. ‘Any questions, Luke? Aren’t you going to ask me why I’ve asked you to do this job?’
He grinned. ‘I hoped it was because of my big blue eyes.’
‘Oh, yes, those too.’ (That made his heart turn over.) ‘Because,’ she said, ‘you’re a very good writer, Luke. I read your stories in Drum every month. And I loved your articles on whaling in the Star, your descriptions of the horror of the hunt – how the mother whale tried to take her harpooned calf under her fin!’ Her eyes were suddenly glistening. ‘It made me cry.’
He’d made her cry? And she made him want to cry, thinking of those fucking hairyback policemen rumbling all over her. He heard himself say: ‘But there’re better journalists than me, Patti.’
‘If I phoned up the editor of the Star and told him I had a story for his ears only, would he have come along personally to see me?’
He tried to think what that august personage would do. ‘No, he’d send one of his reporters.’
‘Right. And I wouldn’t know that reporter. And would I like him?’ She smiled. ‘But I do feel I know you, and Gloria says you’re a good guy. And she says you’re studying law – that shows you’re serious, even if Gloria says you’re wild as hell. And,’ her smile widened mischievously, ‘I saw the way you looked at me during the trial. You like me.’
Oh, there was sexual teasing in that. ‘Yes, I do.’
She let that admission hang, her eyes bright with amusement, then said: ‘And I like you. That’s why I asked you to do my story.’ She added: ‘Probably as much as you like me, Luke.’
Mahoney’s heart seemed to turn over. Surely this was an invitation? But he hesitated to blunder in – he wanted to make a good impression.
She went on: ‘Tell me, what is it you like about me? Apart from my body.’
Her body … Now he was in no doubt. His heart was hammering. But play it cool… ‘Your mind. And your courage.’
‘But you don’t know anything about my mind yet. Except that possibly I’m a hard bitch who’s prepared to screw policemen.’
Her mind was the last thing on his mind right now – let’s get back to the bit about her body. He said: ‘I saw your mind in action in the trial – you were clever. And you were courageous to make a public issue over that Miss South Africa contest.’
‘And how do you like my politics?’
Oh fuck politics. The conversation, moments ago so promising, was taking an unfortunate turn. ‘All I know about your politics is that you’re against this government – and so am I.’
‘But are you really against the government, or are you a typical schizophrenic South African liberal? All talk and no action. Against apartheid, vote for the United Party, but secretly understand why the government’s doing what it is, because in your secret racist heart you’re really scared to give the blacks the vote. Because most of them are so ‘‘primitive’’ and your civilization will be swamped.’
He wished they could get off this tack. ‘“Schizophrenic”.’ He smiled. ‘“Secret racist heart”: I must use those expressions.’
‘Well,’ she smiled, ‘are you?’
Was he undergoing a test to see if he deserved getting laid? He was determined to pass it. ‘Absolutely not.’ That was only half-true but it felt like a hundred per cent.
She grinned. ‘Then you’re very much an exception, Luke. Even the Indians are scared of blacks. Well, not only am I anti-government, but I’m a do-er, not just a talker.’ She lifted her wine glass to her sensual mouth, her eyes shining with amusement. ‘Well? Does that worry you?’
Worry him about what? Right now there was only one thing he wantedher to be a do-er about. Right now he didn’t care if she blew the South African government to Kingdom Come as long as she didn’t involve him. ‘I’m a journalist, Patti, my job is to write what’s happening. I’m shock-proof.’ He added for good measure: ‘And I’m trustworthy.’
She threw back her lovely head and laughed. It was resonant with sex. ‘Oh Luke … I know what you’re thinking. And I like you …’
Now you’re talking, Miss Gandhi …
‘And I like you …’ he said huskily.
He was about to cross the room and take her in his arms when she said: ‘Know what I like about you, despite your schizophrenia? Your boyish charm … In fact, your body …’
His body? And this was definitely it! Luke Mahoney got up out of the armchair with uncool alacrity, put his glass down, and crossed the room. And Patti Gandhi put her glass down, as if to make ready for the assault. Mahoney halted in front of her, she lifted her lovely face and he crushed her smiling mouth to his, devouring her with kisses; then he tried to heave her up to her feet.
‘No, Luke!’ she said, grinning.
No Luke? After that come-on? He stared down at her smiling face.
‘I’m sorry, Luke, I’ve led you on.’
Damn right she had! And he wasn’t taking no for an answer. He dropped to one knee and put his arms around her and she laughed, and stood up. She smiled down at him, holding his hands, and said: ‘Not tonight, Luke. It may surprise you, after all you know about me, but I’m not an easy lay. I like you, Luke, but going to bed with me is not part of our deal yet …’
Not part of the deal yet? When, oh when would it be? And how long was he going to have to wait to get his hands on this story? And on that gorgeous body. He’d undertaken not to telephone her in case her lines were being tapped. It was seven long days later that Gloria Naidoo brought the message.
He was taken aback at the elaborateness of the arrangements. He could understand why she couldn’t risk him writing the story at home, but wasn’t this taking things too far? As instructed, he left the Drum offices at five o’clock and walked to the public underground parking near the City Hall. On the lowest level he located a blue delivery van. He climbed in and pulled the doors closed. He was in total darkness: the van had no windows. Half a minute later he heard the driver’s door open. The van drove off. It emerged into the rush-hour traffic. About thirty minutes later the vehicle turned onto a dirt track. Not long afterwards it stopped, the rear doors opened and there stood Patti.
‘Hi! Sorry about the cloak-and-dagger stuff.’
He climbed out. She was more beautiful than ever and his loins stirred. ‘Where are we?’
‘On a farm belonging to a friend of mine, sorry I can’t tell you where. Come.’ She started leading the way towards a cottage.
Was this an ANC hide-out? This was stuff tailor-made for a journalist but Jesus Christ he’d better be careful! If the cops knew about this. ‘Patti, is this an ANC safe house?’
‘Good Lord, no. Look it’s a real farm. Real cows, real fields.’ In the distance he could make out the roof of a farmhouse through a thicket of trees, perhaps a kilometre away, beyond a fence. ‘The only reason I can’t tell where we are is that I’ve promised the owner I wouldn’t tell a soul. Because it’s illegal – he’s white and I’m Indian.’
‘I see. Where is the owner now?’
‘He only comes occasionally. You won’t see him, there’s a separate road and entrance he uses, on the other side of the farm.’
She led him into the living room. There were two armchairs and a dining table with a typewriter on it. Two small bedrooms led off the room – he saw a double bed in one, two iron cots in the other. There was a small kitchen. In the backyard was a small swimming pool surrounded by a wooden fence ‘This was the farm manager’s cottage, but he lives over at the main house now because the owner rarely uses it. He won’t disturb us. I use this place as a weekend retreat. Aren’t I lucky?’
Wasn’t he lucky? ‘Very …’ And with all his heart he just wanted to take her in his arms and feel those breasts and thighs crushed against him and carry her off to that double bed.
‘What can I get you to drink?’ She fetched beer and a bottle of wine, kicked off her shoes, settled in an armchair and curled her lovely legs under her as only a woman can. ‘Right,’ she said. ‘Where do we begin?’
He sat down at the table. ‘At the beginning. Childhood. Family life. Schooling. Your defiance campaign. Miss South Africa. What it’s like to live under apartheid. Every detail to rouse public sympathy …’
That first night he only took notes, looking for angles. It was going to be a long story and, by the time he had wrung every tear and jeer out of it, a good one. The beautiful, dutiful Indian girl, great-niece of one of the most important leaders of our time, Mahatma Gandhi, the man who started the disintegration of the mighty British Empire. The highly intelligent Indian girl who always came top of her class, who started learning the family trade at age seven, working on the cutting-room floor so that one day she could take over. The defiant schoolgirl who made such a nuisance of herself she had to leave town and go to live with her relatives in Natal. The girl who continued to defy apartheid, walked into the public library in Durban and sat down to read and went to jail after telling the magistrate she ‘only wanted to learn, like other children, Your Worship’. The girl who, when she was released four days later, walked straight back into the public library and got arrested again. The girl who climbed into a whites-only railway coach and padlocked herself to the stanchion. The girl who walked into the Dutch Reformed church, sat in the front pew and waited, reading a prayer book, for the dominee to enter, as worshippers stormed out until the police came in: ‘I only wanted to worship, Your Worship. I wasn’t disturbing the peace.’
‘You’re a trouble-maker,’ His Worship said.
‘All I did was study the prayer book. I think it’s the government who’s making the trouble, Your Worship.’
‘You’re a Hindu,’ His Worship said, ‘you have your own temples.’
‘But I’m very interested in Christianity, this being a Christian country, and this being my country, where I was born – and anyway we all worship the same God, don’t we? There’s only one God, the Christians say, and I just wanted to worship Him, I’m sure that as a Christian you understand, Your Worship.’
‘And what did the magistrate do?’
‘He was in a cleft stick, wasn’t he? The press were there, in force. And not even this government – yet – has been so stupid as to forbid multi-racial worship – though don’t bank on that. I was charged with disturbing the peace.’ She laughed. ‘Oh boy. The peace? By silently reading the Afrikaans prayer book, Your Worship? If the other churchgoers are so un-Christian that they refuse to worship God in my presence and call the police to haul me out of their Christian church, they are disturbing the peace, surely, God’s peace, Your Worship, making Him jolly angry, I bet. Remember how angry the Lord got about the moneychangers in the temple, Your Worship, how He threw them out, and quite rightly too? But I was only reading the prayer book, Your Worship, I’m quite sure the Lord wouldn’t have thrown me out for that.’
Mahoney was furiously making notes. ‘Lovely stuff,’ he murmured, ‘And … ?’
‘And the magistrate had to acquit me. But not without having the stupidity to warn me not to do it again and make a public nuisance of myself. Public nuisance … ! Can you imagine what the press did with that gaffe? “Magistrate warns Indian not to bother God”! “Worshipper is a nuisance, His Worship says”!’ She grinned. ‘They called me the “God-Botherer” after that …’
And after that, many things. The beautiful Indian girl who shamelessly walked into the public whites-only toilet, put a penny in the slot before the white attendant could stop her, pulled down her knickers and had a pee while the press waited gleefully. ‘Don’t you dare come in here, you perverts …’ she shrieked at the police. And when the woman-constable finally led her away she beamed at the cameras and said: ‘What’s a girl to do? When you gotta go, you gotta go!’
Mahoney grinned. ‘And … ?’
‘No option of a fine, this time, with my criminal record. A straight fifteen days.’
Fifteen days. And, when she was released from prison that time, not only were the press there to meet her but her father.
‘But what did your parents think of you?’
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘you know what parents are like … My family was very conservative in that they’d come up the hard way, and even though they were bitter about apartheid they didn’t want to rock the boat. When their darling daughter started rocking the boat they were so worried – for me. They wanted the best for me, to finish school and take over the business and get married to a nice high-caste Indian boy, and here I was, sixteen years old and seven criminal convictions behind my name. Not good. So, when the God-Botherer waltzed out of prison the last time, beaming for the pressmen’s cameras, there was my father with an air ticket to England, to finish my schooling there.’
‘And how did you feel?’
‘At sixteen? With my eyes full of stars about thrashing the apartheid system? I’d already spent over thirty days in jail for my various offences – I was becoming an old hand at it, and I was something of a celebrity with the local press. I wanted to carry on. There were all these other apartheid laws I hadn’t defied yet. I still hadn’t booked a room in a white hotel. I hadn’t gone to a white cinema or played tennis on a white court. I still hadn’t gone into the Orange Free State where Indians are forbidden to set foot even in transit. And,’ she grinned, ‘I still hadn’t screwed a white Afrikaner policeman.’
‘Did you really intend to do that?’
‘Well, I was still a virgin. But I thought it was a bloody good idea in principle – hoist the bastards on their own petard. And I had a few chances, by the way. Anyway, although my parents were generally very supportive, they’d had enough – particularly my poor mother. So, off to England I was sent to finish my education.’
Patti Gandhi, head prefect in her final year, leading light in the debating club, victrix ludorum. And, oh, she loved it in England. Not denied buses, tea rooms, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, not told to stand in another queue at the post office or bank or railway station. ‘What a novelty! I was like a kid in a candy store. Just being treated like an ordinary person.’ But, ah yes, an exotic one: there were advantages to being a non-white in lily-white England, standing out in a crowd: the head-turns, the wolf-whistles. ‘I felt like a million bucks for a change, knowing I could date any boy who asked me, dance with anybody, hold his hand legally – kiss him goodnight! And the girls were all super to me, invited me home for weekends, and in the summer we went on coach tours of Europe and to villas by the sea – and the Europeans seemed to go out of their way to be nice to me. And the fact that I’d been to jail for defying apartheid? Oh boy, that made me a heroine in the girls’ eyes.’
It made her a heroine in Mahoney’s eyes too. South Africa had plenty of liberals who said apartheid was cruel, economically unfair, and so on, but who did nothing about it – all talk and no action, as Patti said: but here was a sixteen year-old Indian girl who did, and did her talking in court: it took a hell of a lot of courage to take on the South African system. And when she went on to university she was even more of a hero – and belle of all the balls. God, you’re beautiful, Mahoney thought as he looked at her photograph albums of those days: Patti Gandhi being punted down the river; Patti yelling her head off at the Oxford-Cambridge boat race; Patti in a bikini on the French Riviera; Patti in ski-gear in the Austrian Alps; Patti in her graduation gown.
But when she returned to South Africa, she wasn’t a heroine anymore, she was a criminal. As the sergeant from BOSS, who was waiting for her at the airport, warned her: ‘Don’t think you can come back here with your fancy English ideas, hey, jus’ remember this is a white man’s country, hey, and we’ll be waiting for you before you make any more bleddy trouble, hey!’
‘And what did you say?’
‘Just smiled sweetly and said it was lovely to be home – what else can you say to an oaf like that, his English is too poor.’
‘But why had you come back? You must have been able to get a good job overseas.’
‘To make trouble …’
The first trouble she caused was her announcement that she was entering the Miss South Africa contest. ‘Not because I wanted to flaunt my flesh, but just to cause a furore.’ And cause a furore she did, for by law only white girls could show off their bodies for the Miss South Africa crown. Until the big night when that was decided, however, the law could not stop her hollering her intentions from the rooftops – although a certain Brigadier van Wyk of the South African police, contacted by the Star, warned darkly that ‘if Miss Gandhi insists on making a spectacle of herself the police will not fear to act,’ and a member of the public prosecutor’s staff was moved to ponder aloud to the press about ‘the point at which an act of preparation, which is not an offence, becomes an act of consummation in a case like this – which is an offence.’
The press loved it, and the cartoonists had a field day. Overnight Patti Gandhi became a household name and face, her glamour shots drooled over in every newspaper in the land – and the international press was quick to give South Africa another tongue-lashing. Day after day the press gleefully published different pictures of her, stacking her up against other contestants, doing opinion polls, inviting letters, until an honourable member of parliament, Mr Koos van der Bergh, was moved to demand of the Minister of Police why the government was not ‘putting a stop to this cheeky provocation?’ But Miss Gandhi had not yet broken the law, the Minister of Police explained to honourable members, she would only be guilty of a crime when she physically showed up at the City Hall for the contest – ‘which would be a contravention of the Separate Amenities Act, because the City Hall is for whites only – honourable members need have no fear that Miss Gandhi will be allowed to flout the laws of the land with her ridiculous behaviour.’
‘Why not use the Riotous Assemblies Act?’ the Cape Times ridiculed, ‘which would enable the police to tear-gas and baton-charge Miss Gandhi …’ ‘… and water-cannon to cool down her admirers,’ the Standard in London added gleefully, while the Natal Mercury considered the Terrorism Act more appropriate for such serious cases of creating an ‘explosive’ situation, alternately ‘spreading alarm and despondency’ amongst the other contestant. The Argus was of the opinion that a clear-cut case lay against Miss Gandhi under the Suppression of Communism Act for impudently implying she was as pretty as the next South African.
And then, predictably, came the registered letter from the organizers of the contest regretting to inform Miss Gandhi that they could not accept her entrance application because that would be contrary to the laws of South Africa; but Miss Gandhi did not receive it because she had disappeared. She did not reappear until the big night, when she arrived in a limousine at the stage door of the City Hall, to roars of applause from hundreds of fans and the flash of pressmen’s cameras, ‘looking like a million bucks’ as the Argus put it; ‘absolutely gorgeous’ – the Star; ‘pure long-legged, busty appeal’ – the Rand Daily Mail; ‘devastatingly beautiful’ – the Cape Times; ‘Wow wow wow’ was how Drum put it. She swept through them gaily, flashing brilliant smiles and blowing kisses. And the commotion when the police arrested her surpassed Parti’s wildest dreams.
She had expected to be arrested the moment she set foot across the whites-only City Hall stage-door: as the Star put it, the stupidity of the police was ‘crass and complete’ because they wanted to make a ‘show of their kragdadigheid. They wanted all the world to see they would put up with no nonsense from pretty Indian lasses who tweaked apartheid’s nose; but instead they only showed it up for the cruel, tactless, boorish system it is …’ The South African police waited and let the glittering pageant get under way. The show had been going for some time when the doors burst open and into the pageant strode a squad of very serious members of the South African police, and up out of the audience rose a dozen plain-clothes men – ‘twenty beefy South African policemen to arrest one young unarmed Indian girl’ (Time Magazine).
The commander strode up onto the stage, took over the microphone and announced that the proceedings were in contravention of the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act because there was a non-European on the premises. Policemen were hurrying backstage. Patti Gandhi had been standing with one of the organizers in the wings, fully clothed, watching the proceedings; now, as cops swarmed towards her, she gave a girlish cry and fled, crying ‘Help!’ She ducked behind the curtains and then burst onto the stage. She ran across it, dodging lunging policemen, and plunged into the opposite wing. She dodged around the curtains again then burst back again, shrieking ‘Save me!’ She made sure that she was arrested centre stage. Cops grabbed her from all sides. The audience was in uproar. And as Patti was led off the stage, gleefully crying ‘Please don’t hurt me!’, the punch-up started.
Midst the cheers and applause from the government supporters and the boos and cat-calls of Patti’s supporters, the first fist flew and within moments one corner of the hall was a mass of brawling. It took the police ten minutes to restore order. And the press loved it. As the Star put it: ‘They don’t realize it, of course, in their mindless lust for kragdadigheid, but the authorities played right into Miss Gandhi’s hands and they could not have made greater fools of themselves, could not have exposed their beloved apartheid to greater ridicule and contempt, if they’d sent in the Keystone Cops …’
And now, last month, the cops had played into her hands again. Oh, it was going to be a humdinger of a story when he’d worked it through. It was nearly midnight by the time he’d finished making his notes about Sergeant van Rensburg of the Vice Squad and Major Kotze of the Bureau of State Security – and he was finally allowed to see all the photographs. But only briefly, only long enough to be satisfied that they existed. It was with the greatest of effort that he tore his gentlemanly eyes off them and handed them back to her. ‘Okay?’ she said. No, it wasn’t okay. Oh, the rampant sensuality of that gorgeous golden body in the act of fucking – it was enough to make your eyes water, enough to break his heart. He ached to feel that gorgeous body under his … And now it was time either to leave or make that pass, and he had drunk enough to be emboldened.
‘Right,’ she said as she put his notebook into the big envelope with the photographs, ‘I’ll look after all this until you can come back to start writing. When? This weekend?’
Oh, the whole weekend with her? ‘Fine.’
‘Okay, I’ll send the van to the same place on Saturday morning. Well, you must be tired. Shall I call the driver?’
And it was now or never, and he stood up and took her in his arms ardently.
And, oh, the wonderful feel of her breasts and belly and loins crushed against him, the wonderful feel of her wide warm mouth, the glorious scent of her and the smoothness of her satiny skin; with all his heart and loins he had to possess her, hurl himself on top of her and splay those gorgeous thighs and thrust his grateful way up into the glorious depths of her; his hand went to her breast – oh the lovely fullness of it – and his other slid down her satiny back – then suddenly he realized she was laughing into his mouth as they banged against the wall.
She broke the kiss and giggled into his shoulder: ‘Oh, Luke …’ Her arms hung at her sides, her eyes bright with mirth. ‘You’re terribly attractive, but you’re so artless.’
Artless? But terribly attractive! ‘Me artless?’
She burst into new giggles and walked towards the telephone. Then she turned to him and tried to put on a straight face: ‘Luke, you know that there’s no future in this … mutual attraction?’ She had to work at it to suppress her grin: ‘You’ve just seen pornographic pictures of me …’ Then her face failed her and she burst into giggles again. ‘Oh, it’s all terribly funny, but don’t you realize what a … tart I feel when you make a grab at me straight after that?’
There was a silence: Patti’s eyes moist, Mahoney blushing, his heart knocking with the implied promise. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Please don’t be too sorry!’ And she reached for the telephone, giggling.
He was driven back to town in the back of the van, riding on air. ‘Please don’t be too sorry!’ And, oh, the wonderful brief feel of her; it seemed he could still taste her mouth, her lipstick, smell her scent. Oh, it felt like love. He could not wait for the weekend. It had to happen next weekend. And he did not care if he was playing a dangerous game.
It did happen the next weekend. And when it did, it was even more wonderful, more exciting, more erotic, more exotic than he had imagined: he was trembling with desire as he took her in his arms and crushed his mouth against hers, and, oh, the wonderful feel of her again, and this time her loins were pressed against his, she was kissing him as hard as he was her, and he peeled her dress off her golden shoulders, and, oh, the bliss as he cupped her beautiful breasts. Her dress fell off her hips in a silky heap, and there she stood, naked but for her brief panties, her glorious thighs golden and perfect, and he lowered himself to one knee and kissed down her belly and thighs, and then peeled the panties off her rounded hips, and he buried his mouth into her soft sweet pubic triangle. And she sighed, then she turned out of his embrace and walked to the sofa; she sat down, then she lifted her knees and she opened her long golden legs to him.
SOUTH AFRICA BECOMES A REPUBLIC
CONGO CHAOS CONTINUES
KENYA, TANGANYIKA, UGANDA GRANTED INDEPENDENCE
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
TROUBLE IN RHODESIA
ANC ANNOUNCES ARMED STRUGGLE
NELSON MANDELA ARRESTED
POLICE FIND ANC UNDERGROUND HQ
A lot of things happened in the two years that followed. Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd led South Africa into becoming a republic, severing its ties to the Queen and the Commonwealth; the Afrikaner had thrown off the British yoke at last, the Boer War had finally ended and there was an orgy of emotion. In Kenya the last of the Mau Mau had been wooed out of the forest with an amnesty and a promise by Britain of independence, which caused outrage amongst the settlers. Tanganyika was given its independence, for the British government had lost its stomach for fighting. Immediately a new Marxist government began collectivization and villagization and communization; America was alarmed, the USSR applauded and South Africa said: ‘I told you so.’ Uganda was granted its independence and Milton Obote, the new prime minister, sent his army, under the command of a sergeant major named Idi Amin, to blast King Freddy, the popular monarch of Buganda, out of his throne and palace. America wrung its hands, the Soviets rubbed theirs and South Africa said ‘I told you so’ again. In Ghana the Great Redeemer continued throwing his opposition into jail. Nigeria was granted independence and immediately there was a military coup, the first of many. In the United Nations President Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table and sent Cuba intercontinental ballistic missiles to be aimed at America. In the Rhodesian Federation the black nationalists sent their youth about burning mission schools and dip tanks, maiming cattle and throwing petrol bombs. In the Congo chaos reigned supreme, tribalism and Marxism and nihilism and cannibalism and black magic, and Moise Tshombe defended the secessionist Katanga against this chaos with white mercenaries. In South Africa, the Spear of the Nation, under Nelson Mandela, started setting off bombs. The rival PAC sponsored a terrorist organization called Poqo, which means We go it alone, and random murders of whites began. The government responded with a new raft of tough legislation, the press was curbed and suspects in police custody began having fatal accidents. It was a bloody, frightening time in Africa as the colonial powers withdrew with reckless haste, and to many people all over the world the South African kragdadigheid seemed the only way. It was the start of the really bad times.
But to Luke Mahoney they were wonderful, exciting, happy times. And when they ended in a crack of thunder, in shock, in desperation, in running for his life, it was all the more heartbreaking because they needn’t have ended that way. In the years that followed he never ceased to remember the happiness of those days. And the unhappiness.
The happiness of being head over heels in love; the happiness of knowing he had one of the most beautiful women in the world to love; the excitement of knowing that tonight they were going to make glorious, riotously sensual love. And there was the excitement of danger, of delicious forbidden fruit – the sheer fun of getting away with it; the breathtaking joy of making love in the apartment above her emporium, with the tailors working below, the telephones ringing; the thrill of smuggling her into The Parsonage for quickies during the afternoons, the excitement of stolen secret hours, sometimes whole perfumed nights.
The stolen nights were mostly on the farm. He was allowed to know where it was now; he drove himself, but always by a different circuitous route, always watching the rear mirror. Although she had neutralized the Vice Squad, or at least Sergeant van Rensburg, it was unwise to spend the night together in her apartment above her shop, and The Parsonage was out of the question because although he trusted the boys he could not trust the girls who emerged in the mornings. The farm was the only place they could safely do it. And did they do it? Oh, the anticipation of waiting for the weekend, the excitement of driving out by roundabout ways, then, when he was halfway to Pretoria, doubling back by other roads to Buck’s Farm. He drove up to the cottage, grinning with anticipation, and the front door burst open and out she came, looking like a million bucks, a laugh all over her lovely face. And his heart turned over each time. And, oh, the wonderful feel and scent and taste of her. And, oh, the joy of being out in the open again, for nobody to see …
It was lovely to be twenty years old and head over heels in forbidden love with a beautiful woman most of South Africa knew about – but didn’t know he had. Lovely, exciting, knowing that they had the whole weekend to themselves until Monday morning, with nobody to knock on the door. Each weekend he brought his law books – he had finished her story – and in the mornings he studied but midday found them lying beside the little pool, drinking wine, cooking on the barbecue, the sun glistening on her goldenness, her long legs so gloriously female, her tiny bikini covering her mount of Venus, the wonderful olive line where her thighs touched, her rounded soft-firm hips, her glorious breasts naked, her long black hair loose, her mouth happy below her sexy sunglasses. They were lovers who had been kept apart most of the week, catching up on each other’s news, what happened at the office, who said what about whom: the delightfully important business of talking about unimportant things when out there in the rest of the land awful things were happening. It was a relief ‘to get away from South Africa’. And, oh, the blissful knowledge of what they were going to do after lunch: just take each other by the hand and lay themselves down upon that big double bed with a smile of anticipation, happiness all over their faces. It seemed that each time he looked at her, her perfect body, cool and warm, the droplets of the swimming pool on her, he took a happy sigh. And she was as beautiful a person as she was beautiful. And their love-making was as beautiful as she was.
Sometimes they got away from it all by getting the hell out of South Africa. Gandhi Garments had outlets in Botswana and Mozambique, all of which fell under Patti’s jurisdiction. About once a month she had to visit one of them, and they made a holiday out of it. They had to go in separate cars, because a white man leaving the country in the same vehicle as an Indian woman, particularly one as well known to the authorities as Patti Gandhi, would be a prime suspect for contravention of the Immorality Act when he returned – the wires would be hot between the border and Police HQ. So they left in separate cars and met in the hotel on the other side of the border. Patti had a cousin in Botswana whom they sometimes visited, but they always stayed in hotels. And, oh, it was a lovely feeling to be free. God knows there is nothing beautiful about the towns of Botswana, flat and dry, the sun beating down hot as hell, but to them it was lovely, freedom. Freedom to be like two people in love, to lie together by the motel pool, to have dinner together by candlelight, to dance together for all the world to see. To them Botswana was beautiful. But Mozambique was truly beautiful: the Portuguese motel on the palmy beach outside Lourenço Marques, the Indian Ocean warm and clear, the fishing boats, fooling together in the warm surf, chasing, splashing, ducking each other like two kids let out of school, pulling her bikini off midst girlish squeals, the wonderful fleeting feel of her nakedness, the laughing salty kisses, lying in the sun, her long hair shiny, her golden skin glistening. Oh God, he was proud of her; he loved the way people looked at her, stole glances at her, the furtive stares when she walked into a room.
‘How does it make you feel?’
‘It amuses me,’ she said. ‘But in South Africa it makes me angry because I’m good enough to lust after but I’m not good enough to be one of them. I’m like an Amsterdam prostitute to be drooled over and left behind in the window. In fact, I’m lower than the prostitute because it’s legal to fuck her. I’m an Untouchable.’
‘Damn right, anybody touches you and I’ll break their bloody necks. Apartheid’s done me a favour …’
Then there were the long languorous lunches at the beachside bistros under the palms, piri-piri prawns and fresh crayfish and barbecued suckling pig and chicken Portuguese style. There they would talk and talk, with the sun sparkling on the sea, the vinho verde slipping down cold and crisp, getting good and replete and sensuous in delicious anticipation of what they were going to do. And waking up in the late afternoon, in the hours after love, sweaty, replete, and diving back into the sea together to start the whole lovely process again.
‘Do we make love more than other lovers, d’you think?’ she asked.
‘Because we want each other more than other lovers.’
She said: ‘Because we’re abnormal lovers. We’re not allowed to be normal. So every time we’re together it’s a honeymoon.’
‘If I came home to you every night it would feel the same.’
She smiled. ‘Would it, darling?’ She stroked his eyebrow. ‘Yes, I know how it feels. However I doubt the best of lovers could keep this up. But …’ she sighed, ‘even if we did end up moderating our carnal appetites wouldn’t it be lovely to come home to each other every night?’
Oh, it was a heartbreaking thought. With all his heart he did not want the weekend to end, he did not want to drive back alone to South Africa tomorrow, he did not want to go to bed alone in The Parsonage, he did not want to wake up on Monday morning without her, he did not want to wait for next weekend on Buck’s Farm.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘And that’s how it’s going to be one day.’
She snorted softly, and stroked his eyebrow. ‘One day when apartheid is gone? When it’s torn us to bits? When we’re old?’
It made him burn to talk like this. He hated those Afrikaner bastards who had done this to them. He said: ‘So there’s only one thing to do: get out.’ He looked at her. ‘Get out when I’ve got my LLB and we’ll go and live happily ever after in another land.’
She looked at him. It was the first time he had expressed his commitment like that. Her face softened. ‘Thank you, Luke.’ Her big brown eyes were moist; then she clenched her fist and clenched her teeth and heaved herself up and clasped her knees and said to the glorious sunset: ‘And I mean this too: I will never, never leave South Africa!’ She glared at the sunset. ‘Fuck them! I’ll never let them drive me away from the land of my birth! From my parents. From my livelihood!’ She shook her head angrily. ‘If we stand up to these Afrikaner bastards we can pull them down!’ She glared at the sunset. ‘I hate them! And I love what Umkhonto we Sizwe is doing …!’
Umkhonto we Sizwe – MK, for short. Spear of the Nation.
That year the ANC and the Communist Party decided violence was their only policy now that they were banned, driven underground and into exile. Mau Mau violence had worked in Kenya. All over Africa the colonies were getting their independence: the ANC could be sure of support from many places in the north. It was common knowledge that Nelson Mandela was the leader of MK, but it was the South African Communist Party who hurried to Moscow to arrange weapons and training for his new army. MK’s existence was unveiled on 16th December of that year, the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River when the Boers defeated Dingaan’s Zulus. That day bombs exploded in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban, at post offices, government administration offices and electrical installations, and MK’s manifesto was broadcast over Radio Freedom:
‘The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom …’
The recruits made their way over the border to join MK, to go for training in Eastern Europe and China and elsewhere in Africa, all arranged by the South African Communist Party. That year two hundred explosions rocked the land. The journalists called Nelson Mandela The Black Pimpernel; the police called him Public Enemy Number One, a Tool of the Communists.
That year Gandhi Garments opened a factory in Swaziland, which was a British protectorate. Swaziland was ideal for those long weekends, the border only 150 miles from Johannesburg. It is high, hilly country with forests and valleys with tumbling streams. Patti usually drove up on Friday morning and completed business in one day so they would have the whole weekend free. Mahoney followed on Friday afternoon. They stayed in the Mountain Arms, in the high forests near the border. It was lovely to sit on the verandah in the evening with a bottle of wine looking down on South Africa turning mauve, the sky turning orange red and setting the western horizon on fire. It was extraordinary that up here on this side of the border they were free to watch that romantic sunset together, to be in love, to stay in this hotel – and down there the law forbade it.
‘Don’t think about it,’ she said. ‘Or it’ll drive us mad.’
‘I am mad. Fighting mad.’
She smiled. ‘Never be fighting mad. You’ve got to be cold, calculatingly mad in this game. And you’re more valuable as a wordsmith, the pen is mightier than the sword. Leave the fighting to us.’
He looked at her. ‘In what game?’
‘Dealing with those bastards down there.’
‘What fighting? And who’s “us”?’
She smiled. ‘Don’t worry, I’m keeping my hands clean. If the cops had anything on me they’d have gleefully nailed me long ago.’
That was the first time he really worried.
‘I don’t want you involved in any of this MK business, Patti.’
She put her hand on his. ‘I promise you I’m far too smart to get my hands dirty or my nose bloodied.’
‘For Christ’s sake, what are you talking about? “Far too smart”?’
‘I simply mean we should leave the fighting to MK.’ She squeezed his hand brightly. ‘Now can we please stop talking about bloody apartheid?’
‘No, I want to know what you mean about being far too smart to get caught.’
‘I didn’t say that. I said too smart to get my hands dirty.’
‘Patti – are you involved in these explosions?’
‘Do I look like a bomb-artist?’
‘Answer me, damn it!’
She looked at him. ‘No.’
He glared at her. ‘But you are still a member of the ANC?’
‘You know the answer to that one.’
‘I mean, are you a member of an ANC underground cell?’
She smiled. ‘Darling, if I were I’d be the last to admit it.’
‘And that’s what worries the shit out of me. Answer me, Yes or no.’
She looked him in the eye. ‘No, darling. There – better?’
Not much. ‘And are you a member of the Communist Party?’
She smiled. ‘Darling, a Communist Party member never admits it. The membership is so secret that not even other party members know who’s a member apart from their immediate cell. Not even all the members of the national executive know who’s who.’
‘So even the ANC executive doesn’t know which of its members are also members of the Communist Party.’
‘I would imagine that’s right.’
She would imagine … ‘Are you or are you not?’
She smiled. ‘Would it make any difference to how you feel about me?’ She held up her palms. ‘And please don’t let’s have another argument about the failure inherent in communism – about the repression of human initiative and the dictatorship of the Party.’
‘But it’d make a difference to our strategy. How careful we are.’
‘Can we be more careful?’
He took a breath. ‘Patti, bombs are going off all over the place. The cops are scouring the land for Nelson Mandela. Roadblocks everywhere. Midnight raids. Surveillance. Tapped telephones. Intercepted mail. Informers.’ He held out a finger at her. ‘If you’re in any way involved in Nelson Mandela’s fucking bombs, even as just a … post office box for passing on messages, you’ll be nailed as an accomplice. And that’s the gallows in Pretoria, Patti!’ He glared at her. ‘Now, do you have anything to do with that?’
She looked him in the eye with fond amusement. ‘No. And now can we please stop talking about it? We’re away from it. We’ve got two whole nights and two whole days! And tomorrow we’re going to our favourite place. Please let’s be happy …’
Their favourite place was a valley two miles from the hotel where a little waterfall tumbled into a deep pool, then swirled away over rapids of smooth stones, round big grey boulders that were warm in the sun, swirling into little bays with pebbled beaches. They had the whole glorious valley to themselves. They were free, free as the air, with nobody to see them. The forest, the waterfall, the sky so blue and the sun golden warm – it was a beautiful place to be free with the most beautiful young woman in the world, swimming naked in the pool, splashing, thrashing, ducking, the wonderful sensuous feel of her cold-warm slipperiness in his arms, her breasts and her hips and her thighs satiny smooth, her long hair floating in clouds about her shoulders.
She always had to do one dive off the top of the waterfall. It was a thirty-foot drop and it gave him the willies. She stood up there, straight lovely legs together, arms stiff at her side, her hair plastered to her head, her breasts jutting. ‘Watching?’
She looked like a goddess of the forest against the sky. ‘Watching.’
Up came her arms, breasts lifting, thighs tautening, up onto her toes, then a big breath and she launched herself. Through thin air she flew, her arms out in her swallow dive, hair streaming, buttocks tight, long legs together. She arced through the sunlight, glistening, then hit the water with a splash. She broke surface, puffing. ‘Were my feet together?’
‘Were my toes pointed?’
‘I was particularly proud of your toes.’
‘Shall I do another one?’
‘No, that was perfect, quit while you’re ahead.’
Then came the important business of building a fire. She insisted on doing it herself. Why does she love the actual making of a fire? he wondered. While he sat on a warm rock drinking cold beer she went off into the forest, wearing nothing but sunglasses, collecting wood. The blackened stones of their last fire were still there: she elaborately laid her kindling, then her bigger wood, critically rearranging it, crouching around on her haunches. Mahoney watched her, wondering at her girlish pleasure. Then, the match. Great care as she applied it to her creation: it was a matter of pride that she needed only one, and used no paper. She anxiously dropped to her knees ready to blow. Then, as flame took, great satisfaction.
‘Voilà! Only one match!’
‘Next time I want you to rub two sticks together, that’ll really impress the shit out of me.’
They lay in the sun on a warm smooth rock drinking crisp wine as they waited for the fire to turn to coals, the waterfall cascading, the rapids sparkling. Then they roasted the meat, succulent lamb chops and sausages, and ate with their fingers, teeth tearing, the taste of the fire and wood-smoke, the juices on their chins – it seemed like the best food they had ever eaten. Afterwards, lying back on the warm rock, happy, free, he looked at her, her eyes closed behind her sunglasses, her hair splayed out, her breasts gently rising and falling, the sun glinting on her dark pubic triangle, her thighs glistening; she was the most naked woman in the world. He leant towards her and kissed her nipple and teased it with his tongue, and she gave a little sigh. He kissed down her breasts, and down her belly, kissing her hip, her thigh, down to her knees, then slowly up her other side, and oh the bliss of her soft inner thighs, smooth and fragrant. She lay, eyes closed, a small smile on her wide mouth, her nipples hard as he lingeringly trailed his tongue all round her mount of Venus, his breathing ruffling her silky pubic hair, then she could bear the waiting no longer and she slid her legs apart. He sank his tongue into her warm secret place, and her hand reached out for him.
Later, lying side by side, replete, he said: ‘Why do you love making the fire so much?’
She smiled up at the sky.
‘It’s freedom,’ she said. ‘Being close to nature. When I was a little girl I longed to go into the bush and see the animals. I longed to go camping. But there are no places where Indians are allowed. We aren’t allowed into the Kruger National Park or the other game reserves except as day-trippers. Going to the Indian beach on the Natal coast was about as close to nature as we could get. And it was always full of other Indians with their picnic baskets and portable radios – it wasn’t nature. And you’re not allowed to build fires on the beach. So the only place you can have a fire is in your backyard – and that sure isn’t nature either. That was just frustration when I was a girl – a mockery of freedom. So now I’ve got the opportunity to do it, here, in real nature, real forest, real mountains, it’s a real treat for me. I want to run and do somersaults. Skip and play the fool.’ She smiled. ‘So making the fire is just responding to a childhood deprivation, I guess. That’s why I get a bang out of it.’
‘And that crazy swallow dive is the same?’
She smiled. ‘When I was a kid I saw a movie with Jean Simmons in it, where she’s shipwrecked as a girl on this desert island in the South Pacific with a boy. And they grow up not knowing anything except each other – and then they fall in love, of course, and have a baby, doing it all just instinctively. And they live off the sea and wild fruit, and they are forever diving off cliffs into this turquoise sea – and they collect pearls and don’t know the value of them, until one day this ship arrives and agrees to take them back to civilization, but the wicked captain finds their pearls and he makes them dive for more, and more, and more, until they’re enslaved, and they rebel and run and hide and eventually the ship sails away without them. But they are happy to be free again, living with nature, just the two of them and their baby …’ She smiled. ‘I saw that movie again and again, and I cried each time. And I longed to be like Jean Simmons, so beautiful, so free, standing there on the lip of the cliff, the wind in her hair, the turquoise water below, then launching herself so gracefully, diving like a wild creature into her underwater wonderworld, amongst all the lovely fish and coral … Anyway, I longed to dive like that, when I was a little girl. But there were no public pools for Indians. Now, when I’m standing up there at the top of the waterfall I feel even better than Jean Simmons. Because I’m like a bird let out of a cage. I’m free in real nature at last, and I’m high, and I’m naked, the sun and wind on my body, and I feel defiant – I want to shout, so the whole of South Africa can hear: “Look at me, I’m as good-looking and smart as you are and this is what I want to say to you all: Fuck you!” And then I try to do a perfect swallow, to show ’em.’ She turned her head and looked at him. ‘I guess that’s what it is …’
Politics. They tried not to think about politics when they were together, but you couldn’t avoid politics in South Africa, because you lived it. The laws of the land rubbed your nose in it every day. You worried about it, read about it, argued about it, despaired over it. Mahoney wrote about it, daily Patti seethed under it; both were the victims of it, riven apart by it.
The newspapers were full of it. Every other day, it seemed, the ANC caused another explosion, and Poqo kept striking at random. Much of this bad news was half-concealed from the public by censorship laws, but everybody knew about the terrible politics of the rest of Africa: that was not censored. The terrifying triumph of the devil in Kenya, the whites selling up their lovely farms for a song, the convoys of farmers fleeing to South Africa – ‘Thank God for South Africa and Hendrik Verwoerd’. Everybody knew about the independence of Uganda, the slaughter of his tribal enemies by Milton Obote, the chaos of his socialist policies. Everybody knew of the economic chaos of Tanzania where Julius Nyerere was uprooting whole peoples with his socialist policies of ‘villagization’. Everybody knew about the chaos in the Congo, the mayhem, the murder, the rape, the looting, the arson, the cannibalism. Everybody knew about that terrifying shit happening in the rest of Africa. Everybody knew that the USSR and China were behind it all, that they intended to turn Africa into a communist continent. Everybody knew that the USSR and China were behind the ANC and PAC, that the ANC was dominated by the South African Communist Party; and everybody knew that Nelson Mandela and his MK were the bastards causing these explosions.
‘He’s National Hero Number One,’ Patti said. ‘I pray for him …’
Nelson Mandela, the ‘black pimpernel’ who flitted in and out, organizing support outside the country, training, arms, money, masterminding the sabotage inside the country. Rumour had it he moved like a fish through the waters of the people, as a tribesman, a businessman, a delivery boy, a mine worker, visiting his underground cells, reconnoitring his targets, drawing up his plans, smuggling his explosives, building his bombs, getting them to his men. His face was well-known, a handsome, intelligent face, splashed across the police posters offering huge rewards for information leading to his capture; but the bombs kept exploding, damaging electric pylons, post offices, government offices, prisons, railway installations.
‘Don’t you think he’s a hero?’ Patti demanded.
Yes, Mahoney thought Mandela was heroic. But Patti believed that Mandela’s bombs would eventually frighten the whites so much it would bring about the collapse of apartheid; Mahoney did not believe that. Mandela’s bombs would only frighten the whites into the government’s laager, like the Mau Mau atrocities did in Kenya, like the nihilism was doing in Rhodesia. No way would Nelson Mandela’s bombs bring down the South African government: they would only make the laws harsher. The only thing that would bring down the government was a full-scale invasion, and the Defence Force would shoot the shit out of that too. And who was going to support such a communist invasion in the middle of the Cold War? If America was prepared to risk nuclear war against the USSR when she tried to emplace missiles in Cuba, who was prepared to support an ANC war and place the Cape sea route in the hands of the South African Communist Party and Russia? America had just fought the Korean War, it was fighting the Vietnam War: the West had already lost most of Africa to the USSR and China – no way were they going to lose South Africa and the Cape sea route by supporting Mr Mandela and his home-made bombs. Yes, Nelson Mandela and his boys in MK were brave men taking on an unjust system, but were they not also quixotic figures?
‘Quixotic!’ Patti cried indignantly.
‘No, look: government offices and electric pylons are important targets, but he can’t win like that. The Afrikaner won’t be scared away by bombs – his whole culture, his whole history is one of fighting, fighting the Kaffir Wars, trekking into the unknown, then fighting the whole mighty British Empire – so he’s not going to surrender because of a few bombs, that’ll only make him more repressive.’
‘It’s a start,’ Patti said. ‘Somebody’s got to start hitting this government. We can’t just accept our fate. And it’s got great propaganda value – it shows the masses that the flame of freedom is burning brightly.’
But bombs? There was something distasteful about bombs that tarnished Mandela’s image. Blowing up bridges, railway and electrical installations was legitimate in an armed struggle, but the step from there to bombs in supermarkets and hotel foyers was a short one.
‘Sooner or later innocent people are going to get killed, and Mandela will lose his moral high ground.’
‘It is our policy that there will be no loss of human life.’
Our policy? Jesus, that worried him. ‘Patti, you aren’t involved in any of this, are you?’
‘Of course not, I mean it’s ANC policy, made loud and clear at the start of the armed struggle. Mandela is a very principled man.’
‘Yeah, but how principled are all his boys scattered across the country? How long before one acts on his own initiative and blows up a crowded railway station? Mandela may be smart, but he can’t be everywhere at once keeping his hitmen under control.’
‘“Hitmen”,’ she said quietly, ‘is hardly the right word for freedom fighters. However, yes – there is a risk that life will be taken, arid I agree that’s regrettable, and it’s our policy to avoid it. But history is full of human life being taken in the struggle for freedom, Luke – it’s sad, but sometimes it’s a risk that has to be taken. Good God, how many lives are the Americans taking every day in Vietnam, as we speak? How many lives did the British take in establishing their empire? How many lives of Aborigines did the Australians take? How many Maoris were slaughtered in New Zealand? Red Indians in America? Who started the barbaric custom of scalping in America? Not the Indians, but the white settlers, to claim a bounty from the government for every Indian they killed. How many lives did Castro have to take in Cuba?’ (Oh Jesus, it worried him that she saw nothing wrong with communism.) ‘God, how many people did the South African police shoot at Sharpeville? The history of freedom is soaked in blood. This country’s history is soaked in blood. So don’t expect “us” to be too squeamish about the risk of a little more blood – regrettable though that is.’
Regrettable … Jesus, she frightened him when she talked like that. Out there bombs were going off and the police were scouring the land for Nelson Mandela – and where was she five nights a week when he couldn’t see her? He held a finger out at her perfect nose. ‘As long as you have nothing to do with that blood.’
She pretended to bite at his finger and grinned. ‘It’s not the blood that worries you, is it, darling – it’s me? Us. And the police. The Immorality Act. Boy, that’s typical South African liberal schizophrenia! All talk and no do. “Blood is historically inevitable, it’s academically necessary – as long as it’s not on my fair hands. Oh, apartheid is brutal, oh, apartheid must be toppled, and to do so there’ll be blood – but I can’t lift a finger in case a spot falls on me! So, alas, I can do nothing” …’
‘I do nothing? I write my articles for Drum, and the Globe. What I want to know is what you do, Patti?’
‘Wellshe said reasonably, ‘I run Gandhi Garments. I make nice cheap dresses and pants for “kaffirs” …’
‘And that’s all?’
‘That’s all, darling. Please stop worrying …’
Michael Sullivan was a geography teacher, twenty-seven years old. It was a cold winter’s afternoon and he wore a hat and overcoat as he hurried into Johannesburg railway station, his collar turned up. He was carrying a large, new, cheap suitcase. He made his way to the platforms. Some white people were already waiting for the 5.15 train, where the whites-only first-class coaches would pull up. Further down the platform, where the second-class coaches would stop, a good number of Coloured people were waiting. Past them, where the third-class coaches would be, many more blacks were waiting.
Michael Sullivan walked to a bench marked ‘Europeans Only’. where an elderly woman was sitting with her two grandchildren. They moved up to make space for him. Sullivan placed his suitcase down beside him at the end, then moved it back to make it less conspicuous. He consulted his watch, then began to read a newspaper.
It was fifteen minutes before the first rush-hour train was due. As the minutes ticked by the long platform began to fill up. The blacks and Coloureds hurried past Sullivan, and the whites began to collect in the area in front of him, waiting impatiently. Michael Sullivan looked at his newspaper sightlessly. By five o’clock there were at least two hundred people, he estimated. Over there on the big concourse people were now hurrying in all directions to different platforms. Michael Sullivan stood up. He folded his newspaper and moved away down the crowded platform, trying to look like a man wanting to stretch his legs. He wandered off through the throng, tapping his newspaper on his leg. When he reached the concourse he increased his pace.
He strode away through the crowd, side-stepping people, until he got to the big entrance, then he broke into a run. He tried to make it a jog, like a man in a bit of a hurry – he had practised this, and timed the distances involved – but panic gripped him and he sprinted, dodging people, making for the two telephone boxes across the parking area. He raced up to the nearest box; across the dial was his handwritten adhesive tape reading ‘Out of Order’. He ripped it off, rammed coins into the slot and dialled 999 feverishly.
He shouted: ‘There’s a bomb in a suitcase about to go off in ten minutes on Johannesburg Station! Clear the area! This is a warning from the anti-apartheid forces of freedom!’
He slammed down the telephone, and he felt the vomit rise in his guts. He clutched his chest and reeled out of the box, taking deep breaths. But once the vomit was forced back, what he felt was elation. He had done it! He had done his duty as instructed! Only he could have done it because no black man in his cell could have sat down on a Europeans-Only bench. He had done it! And he’d given the bastards enough time to clear the station – a lot of Johannesburg’s first-class whites-only passengers would be very late getting home tonight. He lifted his head to listen for the police sirens: but instead he heard a thud. He jerked, and looked at the big station, and he saw glass flying up into the air. He stared, horrified, aghast. Then he heard the screams, and saw the pandemonium, the people reeling out.
Michael Sullivan stared in horror. Then he vomited. He retched and staggered away into rush-hour Johannesburg.
Politics. They tried not to talk about politics, but those bombs kept going off, and now lives were going up with them. Patti was shaken when they heard of the first life lost; she was absolutely shocked by the Johannesburg Station blast that killed nine people and wounded over thirty. But she vehemently denied that any of them were Mandela’s bombs – they must have been Poqo’s, or that white student group called the African Resistance Movement.
‘Our policy is no loss of life … And anyway what alternative is there? We can’t wage a guerrilla war like Castro did because we haven’t got Cuba’s mountains and jungles, and South Africa is buffered by the European colonies to the north – Mozambique, Rhodesia, Angola. We have no option except classical urban guerrilla warfare.’
Jesus. Classic urban guerrilla warfare? ‘How do you know about urban guerrilla warfare?’
‘I don’t know anything – you’re the one who’s had the military training, not me. But it’s common sense – guerrillas need sanctuaries when the pressure is on, like mountains and jungles. And friendly neighbouring states where they can get supplies. Well, the ANC hasn’t got that.’
‘South Africa has got mountains and dense bush. The mountains of Basutoland, the Drakensberg, Swaziland, all that vast bush –’
‘Yes, but we’re surrounded to the north by hostile territory – the Portuguese in Mozambique and Angola, the British in Rhodesia – so it’s very difficult for us to get supplies through.’
‘Castro,’ Mahoney said, ‘had no friendly neighbouring territories either. Cuba is surrounded by sea.’
‘Exactly. So he could get his supplies by sea –’
‘So is South Africa surrounded by sea – almost three thousand miles of coastline.’
‘But South Africa’s got a powerful navy –’
‘Bullshit, we’ve got a very small navy. Castro was faced by the United States Navy. Even a United States naval base on the island, which is there to this very day.’
She cried, ‘So what’s your point?’
‘The point, darling, is that Castro and eighty men – only eighty – landed off the yacht Granma on the coast of Cuba and ran straight into gunfire. Only three years later Castro marched triumphant into Havana, despite all the odds against him.’
‘And Mao Tse-tung didn’t have any friendly territories to supply him either. On the contrary he had the whole might of America and Chiang Kai-shek dropping bombs on him –
‘So – what’s the point?’
He only knew that he did not accept that South Africa and its borders were unsuitable terrain for guerrilla warfare. The point was that although he rejected communism he admired Castro as a soldier. He admired Mao Tse-tung as a soldier. They had tremendous odds against them but they waged courageous and efficient guerrilla wars. Efficient – that was the point. The ANC and their MK were inefficient. The ANC had been in existence fifty years, apartheid had been in existence for fourteen years and all the ANC had managed was bombs. They had not liberated one square foot of territory. Bombs were bad soldiering. Oh, he admired Mandela’s courage, but as a soldier he was no Castro, no Mao Tse-tung. He was pissing into the wind with his bombs – it would all come back at him. Soon he would be caught and hanged and then the police would run rings around MK; the Spear of the Nation would flap around like a chicken without its head.
‘The point is bombs won’t get you anywhere in this hard-arsed, well-armed, heavily policed Afrikaner country. Bombs are no good unless they’re part of a well-fought guerrilla war, where they’re aimed at military installations and industry – otherwise they’re counter-productive, especially when they start killing people. Nobody respects a bomber, they hate him. Unless they wage a proper guerrilla war the ANC will lose international sympathy, and that is all they’ve got going for them. And bombs will only make the government more repressive.’
‘Could they be more repressive?’
‘Sure. How about concentration camps of suspects, like the British did during the Boer War?’ He snorted. ‘We’ve only begun to see apartheid legislation. If they decide to get really tough that’ll be bad news for you and me.’
‘So we should just give up, should we?’ she countered aggressively. ‘Mandela and MK are wasting their time?’
‘Mandela should be devoting his considerable brainpower and courage to organizing a guerrilla army, not fucking about with home-made bombs and sticking his head in a noose. It’s a quixotic waste of good manpower. And suicidal. If bombs are all MK’s good for, forget about them. And forget about the ANC, because what good is a liberation movement without an army? It’s a paper tiger.’
Her eyes flashed. ‘Bullshit! They’ll do it with urban guerrilla warfare!’
‘They’ll fail. They’ll shoot themselves in the foot.’
She glared at him. ‘You think the ANC are useless, don’t you? You don’t think they can run the country –’
‘I’m not saying that –’
But, ah yes, he was saying something like that. Patti wanted one-man-one-vote tomorrow, but look at the Congo – were those blacks capable of running the country? Look at Ghana, look at Uganda … Of course Mahoney wanted apartheid abolished tomorrow, of course he wanted a happy multi-racial South Africa. But the only way democracy would come to Africa was gradually, with political education. One-man-one-vote tomorrow would create chaos.
‘But I don’t believe there’ll be chaos,’ Patti said; ‘I believe the experienced ANC leadership will prevent the type of chaos that’s happening in the Congo. But if chaos is what it takes to get rid of apartheid, so be it. If we’ve got to blow the whole government to kingdom come to achieve a just society, so be it.’
He smiled. No use arguing with her. ‘You really are a communist, aren’t you? Tear down the whole structure, rebuild on the ruins?’
‘I’m a socialist, darling. Not a Marxist. And so are you, in your secret racist heart.’
‘Me a socialist?’
‘Of a sort. I couldn’t love you if you weren’t just. You also think there’s got to be a redistribution of wealth in this country. A redistribution of land, for a start. Housing – why should the vast majority of urban blacks live in hovels while the whites live in nice suburbs? The state must provide decent housing. The mines, and big industry – why should the blacks, who create the wealth, receive miserable wages while the fat white shareholders get the big profits? Obviously, the commanding heights of commerce must be nationalized, like the coal and steel industry in Britain.’ She spread her hands. ‘That hardly makes me a communist, any more than Harold Wilson … ’ She sat up straight. ‘And now can we please stop talking about bloody politics? Weekends are supposed to be for us …’
But you couldn’t avoid politics in South Africa because you lived with it. And with those bombs. And with the government’s new laws to deal with it all. That year the Defence Act was beefed up to give the army wider powers to suppress internal disorder, the period of military training was extended and a police reserve was created. Police powers of interrogation, control of suspects and witnesses were drastically increased: now they were empowered to detain a suspect in solitary confinement, without access to a lawyer and without a criminal charge being laid, for successive periods of twelve days. The state already had the power to ban and banish people and organizations, but now new legislation gave them the power to condemn people to house-arrest without a trial. The Prisons Act forbade the press from reporting on conditions in jails, and new legislation empowered the state to hold suspects incommunicado, which made it impossible for a prisoner to prove he had suffered third-degree treatment. Magistrates holding inquests were frequently hearing how suspects were ‘having accidents’, slipping on soap in the showers, falling down staircases, ‘committing suicide’ by throwing themselves out of high windows, hanging themselves, being ‘shot in self-defence’ when attacking their interrogators, ‘shot escaping custody’: the new laws made it impossible to refute this new tendency of suspects to injure and kill themselves. The editor of Drum gave Mahoney the task of reporting on all such inquests. ‘Build up a case file against the bastards.’
‘God,’ Mahoney said to Patti, ‘it’s getting like Orwell’s 1984.’
‘Do you still,’ Patti said, ‘consider that Mandela shouldn’t plant bombs?’
Oh Jesus, he didn’t know anymore. He would like to see the government blown to smithereens too.
‘God help Mandela when his luck runs out …’
It was not long before Nelson Mandela’s luck did run out.
He was disguised as a chauffeur, driving a shiny Jaguar through the rolling green countryside of Natal. It was a tertiary road, only used by country folk, a needle-in-a-haystack road, which made it impossible that the police were so lucky to just pick the right one. Their ambush was massive. Mandela drove straight into it: within moments his car was surrounded by firearms.
It was an agent of the American CIA, a professional going about America’s covert business, who had heard on the underground grapevine of Mandela’s movements, asked President John F. Kennedy for the green light, then tipped off the South African police. Within hours the whole world knew of the triumph of the forces of law and order.
As Mahoney had said, bombs lose international sympathy.
The Spear of the Nation was broken. The bombs spluttered out. ‘Which,’ as Mahoney wrote in an article for the Globe, who sometimes published his work, ‘is not surprising in view of the massive armoury of draconian legislation the state has assembled to suppress dissent. It can lock you up, without a trial, even before you have dissented. But what is surprising is the case of the State versus Nelson Mandela. The police know that he was the commander of MK, directly and indirectly responsible for the recent spate of bombings, liable therefore to the death penalty: but he was only charged with incitement and leaving the country without a passport. With the laws of human rights and habeas corpus in tatters, with suspects regularly “committing suicide” by leaping from windows, it is surprising that Mandela wasn’t also a victim of Newton’s law of gravity; or that evidence of his bombing was not “discovered” – a fingerprint here, a bit of explosive there, an eyewitness or two – which would have ensured he succumbed to gravity on the hangman’s trapdoor. But, no: three years’ imprisonment is all Mandela has received – a mere slap on the wrist.
‘But as the ANC evidently rule out the possibility of a Castro-style guerrilla war because the buffer states are in unfriendly colonial hands, and as their urban guerrilla war has flapped to a standstill, they are reduced to a couple of offices in the “sanctuary state” of newly independent Tanzania and London. Doubtless they’ll get a trickle of refugees from South Africa who have the guts to cross hostile territory to reach them, but what are they going to do with them? Train them in Russia, then send them back as urban guerrillas? Big deal: more cannon-fodder for the draconian security legislator.
‘So, what other realistic weapon do the ANC have left? The only answer is: labour. The labour that creates South Africa’s wealth, the black muscle that works the mines, industry, toils on the farms. Surely, if they withhold that labour, in the form of strikes, they will not only bring the economy to a standstill, they will also destroy the basis of the Lekker Lewe, the Good Life upon which this unhappy land was built. Strikes will pull apartheid down – right?
‘Wrong. Why? Two reasons.
‘One: strikes require organization. Leaders, shop stewards, discipline, instructions, leaflets. Sorry, folks, but the aforesaid legislation, backed up by a system of well-paid informers, will stop that at first base: twelve days’ detention without trial, and twelve days and twelve days for as long as it takes, plus house arrest, banning, and banishment will nip that in the bud.
‘Two: the workers want their work. If you’re black, you’re poor. And if you’re fired, there’re ten guys to take your place, and they don’t only come from South Africa, they hail from Mozambique, Rhodesia and Malawi. South Africa has to patrol its borders to keep illegal black immigrants out, because lousy though the wages are they’re many times better than back home.
‘So my educated guess is we can forget about the ANC for the time being. The Afrikaner has finally won his long battle that began with the Kaffir Wars and the Great Trek. He’s got his beloved republic and Lekker Lewe at last: land, security, and labour, all sewn up. The ANC, blustering a thousand miles away is, in the words of Mao Tse-tung, “the mere buzzing of flies”.’
‘It’s good writing,’ Patti said grimly, ‘“wise beyond your years”, as your editor says. But I wish to Christ you’d stop being so disparaging about the ANC.’
‘I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot of time for the ANC, I simply mean that they’re a lame duck now. Or for a long time. Until they get their act together.’
She glared. ‘“Lame duck”? Far from it, pal! Let me assure you that this duck –’ she tapped her breast – ‘is not lame!’
Oh Jesus. ‘What does that mean?’
She closed her eyes. ‘Nothing,’ she sighed.
‘Patti? Are you up to something?’
‘No … I’m just devastated by Mandela’s arrest, that’s all. While he was around there was hope – something was happening. Now?’ She sighed bitterly. ‘I’m angry because what you say in your article is probably true … Freedom: that’s all I want. For everybody. Freedom to live how I want, where I can afford, to love who I like.’
They were lying beside the little pool at the cottage. ‘I know the feeling.’
She shook her head, her eyes closed behind her sunglasses. ‘No, you only partly understand, darling. You only understand the injustices of being a lusty young white man having an affair with a lusty young Indian woman, the towering injustice of not being allowed to come out in the open and just enjoy the fun of being in love. But you don’t fully understand that Indian lover of yours, Luke, what it’s like to be an Indian. Or a native, or Coloured. But an Indian is something else again – an Indian is just as sophisticated as you whites, Luke.’
‘But you don’t know what it’s really like to be as good as the next person, even smarter, as pretty as the next girl but not allowed to stand next to her in a post office queue. A bank queue. Not even ride on the same bus. Let alone live in the same suburb. You don’t know how insulted that makes you feel, you commiserate but you don’t carry away with you that appalling sense of injustice.’ She sighed. ‘But that’s not what I’m really talking about. I’m talking about you.’
She sighed up at the sky, eyes closed. Silent a long moment. ‘I really love you, Luke. I’ve tried not to. I’ve tried just to keep it a fun relationship – just a sex thing, but I failed long ago. And in fact I’m very lucky. Because, as an Indian, I had no selection at all. No choice of men. Oh, there are a dozen eligible Indian men I could have, but I just don’t happen to fancy any of them. Imagine that – if the law made you choose your love-life from a dozen women you didn’t fancy. Imagine the feeling of bondage, if the law did that to you. But, wow, did I fancy you! And I’ve got you: so I’m lucky, aren’t I?’
‘And so am I.’ He tried to jolly her out of this mood. ‘If it weren’t for the law you’d have won that Miss South Africa contest and be in Hollywood now.’
‘Bullshit. But, yes, we’re lucky. But it’s also very, very sad. Because there’s no future in it.’
Oh God, he did not want to talk about the future, all he cared about was here and now, the happiness of being in love.
‘No future,’ she repeated. She hadn’t opened her eyes. ‘People say apartheid can’t last much longer, but how long is that? Ten years – twenty – thirty? A twinkling of an eye in the history of a country but a lifetime for you and me.’ She sat up suddenly. She swept back her hair and said: ‘Shall we please stop talking about it? Can we just be happy? And have fun?’
Just fun love? He didn’t want that – he wanted the real thing. Oh yes it was fun, to be in love and beating the law, these deliciously exciting lover’s trysts, wine in the sun, the lovely satiny feel of her nakedness as they romped in the pool, her long black hair flared out in clouds as she floated, her lovely breasts and belly and pubic mound awash, her long golden legs glinting, and bathing together as the sun went down, legs hanging over the rim of the bath, soaping each other, drinking wine, talking.
‘Just fun love,’ she said. ‘Look at it this way: we wouldn’t make love so much if we were allowed to sleep together every night. You simply couldn’t keep up this spectacular weekend performance.’
‘Yes I could.’
‘No you couldn’t. You’d get bored. Sexually bored.’
How could any man become sexually bored with this sensual beauty, those legs, that heavenly bottom, those glorious curves, that classically lovely face, those sparkling, flashing dark eyes. ‘Impossible. But maybe you’d get bored with me?’
‘That hard-on? Impossible. But, you see, if it were legal, I’d want to marry you. And that’s the good deed apartheid’s done us – if we could get married you’d get scared and run away.’
‘Oh yes. You’re far too young to get married, Luke. You haven’t sowed enough wild oats yet.’
‘I love you,’ he said. ‘Fuck the wild oats.’
She smiled sadly. ‘I am your wild oats, Luke. Your forbidden wild oats. I just hope your memory will be the more vivid because of that.’
Oh Jesus. ‘I love you and I love you and I love you. And I’m not going to leave you.’
‘And I believe you mean it. But you cannot marry me. Illegal, So? So you’re safe to be in love without the responsibility that usually entails.’
‘But I do want to marry you.’
‘And you’re lucky. Because if you weren’t screwing me you’d be screwing some nice white girl who’d be wanting you to marry her. I’m saving you all that hassle. Us women are trouble, Mahoney; remember that when you leave me.’
‘You’re not listening. I’m not going to leave you.’
She sighed. ‘Oh, yes,’ she said, ‘you will leave me. And if you don’t, I will leave.’
‘That’s a terrible thing to say.’
‘I’ll never want to leave you,’ she said sadly. ‘I’ll be leaving … what? Us? But there is no “us”. Because there’s no future in “us”. “Us” means being together forever. That means a home. Home means marriage, all the things Mother Nature designed “us” for. But all that is impossible – for us. So there is no real “us”, to leave. So I will leave … our heartbreak.’ She waved a hand at the cottage walls.
He could not bear to hear this. ‘We could leave this fucking country instead!’
She snorted softly. ‘Oh, don’t imagine I haven’t thought about it often. But I don’t want to leave Africa. And go where?’
‘Australia? Never heard of the White Australia Policy? They haven’t got a black problem because they shot most of them. And they don’t intend acquiring a new one.’
‘You’re not black, for Christ’s sake!’
She smiled. ‘Oh, I know I’ve got a good complexion. All I’ve got to do is read the ads for suntan lotions. Drive along the beaches I’m not allowed to lie on and see all the pretty white girls desperately trying to get themselves the tan nature gave me. But the fact of the matter is that I’m not white, and Australia has a White Australia Policy. And so has Canada.’
She waved her hand. ‘But that’s not the point. The point is I don’t want to leave this country, Luke! It’s my country. I just want to change the bloody place! I want to stay right here and raise hell until they change it. I refuse to leave.’
Oh, Jesus. ‘And how’re you going to raise hell?’
She sighed, then grinned and kissed his cheek. ‘Just a figure of speech. Don’t worry, darling, my hands are as clean as the driven snow.’
He badly wanted to believe her. ‘Tell me the truth, Patti.’
‘Darling?’ She looked at him with big innocent eyes. ‘I also want us to keep a low profile so that we don’t have trouble. Just examine the facts. Have I made trouble since we started going together? Have I climbed or any whites-only buses? Walked into any white restaurants? Tried to cash a cheque in any whites-only queue at the bank – or buy a-whites-only postage stamp? Tried to swim in a whites-only pool? Have I?’
‘No,’ Mahoney sighed.
‘And that used to be my stock-in-trade. Now Patti Gandhi has disappeared from the magistrates’ courts. Why? Because I want to be happy with you. I don’t want to get into trouble and spoil it. So, I suppose I’ve become like ninety per cent of the white South Africans. Like ninety per cent of Germany under Hitler: don’t make trouble with the big bad authorities.’ She looked at him with big dark eyes. ‘Which is pretty despicable, I suppose, but that’s where yours truly is at.’ Then she flashed her brilliant smile. ‘And we’re not allowed to talk about politics, remember? So …’ She heaved herself up out of the bath, gleaming, and reached for a towel. ‘So, shall we just have fun while it lasts?’
‘Don’t talk like that.’
While it lasts. Oh God, those words frightened him. But somehow he did not believe them, that these glorious days could not last, somehow they would get away with it. This apartheid craziness could not go on forever. Lying alone in his bed in The Parsonage, staring at the ceiling in the darkness, he knew that these laws would not change for a long, long time and then only because of the bloodbath, and he knew she was right when she said they were doomed, living in an unreal world. But out here on Buck’s Farm, drinking wine by the pool in the sun, lying together in the slippery caress of the bath, making love on the big double bed, it felt like the real world, how people were meant to feel and live, and he could not believe it was not going to last.
Unhappiness came in the second year of their relationship. In May he was going to Write his law examinations: when he had that degree what the fuck was he going to do with it? What were they going to do?
‘You’ll write the local bar exam, and practise,’ she said.
‘I don’t want to practise law.’
‘Nonsense, you’ll be an excellent lawyer. You can’t keep on working for Drum. It’s been a great job but it’s a dead-end.’
‘I could work for the Star. Or the Rand Daily Mail.’
‘Luke, you’re destined for greater things than newspaper work.’
‘What’s wrong with being a political columnist? An opinion-maker.’
‘Luke,’ she said. ‘With your brain and gift of the gab you should be in the courtroom fighting for justice, raising hell. Helping people who’re politically persecuted, not being an armchair political commentator. We need people like you.’
‘Patti, law isn’t a very portable qualification – it’s not like medicine or dentistry, which is the same the world over – a lawyer cannot easily uproot himself and go to practise in another country. He’s got to write their local bar examinations. And one day South Africa is going to blow up. I don’t want to start exams all over again in Australia or Canada.’
‘That’s exactly the point! Yes, this country is going to blow up. But that’s when you must stay and help rebuild it after the dust settles, not run away to Australia or Canada!’
He sighed. ‘Patti, when the dust settles there’s going to be very little law. The policeman and the judge are the cornerstones of society, and they’re going to be black.’
She said quietly: ‘You don’t believe that us blacks are capable of running this country, do you?’
‘You’re not black, for Christ’s sake.’
‘The point is you don’t believe that we in the ANC can run a decent government, do you? You think it will be corrupt, inefficient and under-qualified.’
Mahoney sighed. True. ‘Not true. I just think it will take a hell of a long time to rebuild on those ruins. And during that time I will be unable to earn a reliable living as a lawyer. So if I’m going to be a lawyer I must leave South Africa, as my father said. But if I’m going to be a journalist, a political commentator, South Africa is the best place to be. Because there’s more to write about here than anywhere else.’
She looked at him narrowly with those beautiful brown eyes.
‘The truth of the matter is that you’re a racist, darling.’
No. A realist. The truth of that matter lay in those mortuaries, in the cloven heads, the stab and hack wounds down to the bone, the severed limbs, genitals cut off for muti; the stick fights, two, three, four hundred armed a side, all breaking loose. The truth of the matter was in the chaos of the Congo, the turmoil in Uganda, the horrors of the Mau Mau, the corruption of Ghana. The truth of the matter was Luke Mahoney liked blacks and wanted to help them: he simply did not believe they were ready yet to run the country.
‘No. The solution is a policy of gradualism,’ he said. ‘Equal rights for all civilized men. Meanwhile let the others have a degree of local self-government in their areas, so they gradually learn the responsibilities of democracy.’
‘The “civilized” ones. “Them.” You really don’t consider them to be ordinary people, do you? They’re a different species. God, that’s typical of the white man – even the liberal white man: the blacks are “them” out there picking their noses, they’re not like “us” though of course there are a few civilized ones and of course we mustn’t be beastly to “them”.’
‘I didn’t mean it like that.’
‘But they are different.’
‘Of course they’re different, Patti. Different cultures, different institutions, different ideas on how to live and behave.’
‘And therefore unfit to govern themselves and have the vote?’
‘The vote, democracy, is a sophisticated Western institution. It’s alien to them, not one of their institutions. If they’re going to adopt it – or have it thrust upon them – they’ve got to learn how to use it.’
‘Become “civilized”? By your standards.’
‘By normal standards.’
‘By normal standards you’d have to exclude a lot of the dumb whites in this country.’
‘And a hell of a lot of the peasants in Europe. So are you seriously telling me that if we were Italians, having this discussion in Rome now, you’d be recommending that we disenfranchise the peasants in the hills?’
He sighed. ‘No, because there are plenty of educated Italians to run the country properly. But there are not enough educated blacks to run South Africa by Western standards – and it’s Western institutions they want to take over.’
‘But there are enough educated blacks to run it their way.’
‘The African way? Sure. Shaka did it single-handed.’
‘Bullshit. You wouldn’t disenfranchise the Italian peasants because they’re white, but if they were black you’d only let the elite govern Italy. Or have a benevolent dictatorship, like Franco does in Spain.’
‘As a matter of fact a benevolent dictatorship may be good for Africa. “Nobody has the vote for the next thirty years until we’re all civilized sufficiently to use it properly” – maybe that’s the answer. The blacks respond well under their chiefs and behave themselves. But to answer your question: no, I would not recommend disenfranchising the Italian peasants because they do not settle their political differences with an axe. They do not chop the opposition’s head open to make a point.’
‘And the blacks will?’
‘For God’s sake, Patti, they do.’
‘So there’s no hope?’
‘The hope is civilization. Gradualism.’
‘And what are these normal standards of civilization?’
‘Various alternatives. A reasonable level of education is obviously one. Income is another alternative. Or property – a man who owns his own house is smart enough to have the vote. Age is another one: when a man reaches say, forty –’
‘Forty, huh? You’re twenty, you have the vote and you’re judging the maturity of a man of forty. What white arrogance –’
He groaned. ‘You’re looking for a fight, aren’t you?’
‘For Christ’s sake, Patti. I love you.’
‘I love you too, big boy, so what’s that got to do with democracy? Except we’re not allowed to love each other.’
He said slowly, leaning forward: ‘Patti, I loathe apartheid. Apartheid must go, immediately. But surely that doesn’t mean we must reduce this country to chaos. Do you honestly believe that the ANC – or the blacks – can be relied upon – tomorrow – to run South Africa? With its vast civil service – its health, and railways, and airports and its judiciary and police force and its navy and its agricultural departments and its mines and industries and forests and game reserves and its economy – the whole works. Do you?’
She said angrily: ‘Obviously we’ll have to train a new black civil service –’
‘But they wouldn’t – they’d fire the whites and put their pals in office. That’s why we need gradualism. For God’s sake, apartheid must go, we agree on that, but I’m asking you whether, if apartheid was overthrown tomorrow, you honestly think that the blacks could successfully take over the administration of this country?’ He shook his head. ‘It would be a shambles.’
‘Anything,’ she said, ‘would be better than apartheid. Like anything would have been better than the Nazis in Germany. And you, sir –’ she placed her fingertip on his nose – ‘are a racist in your secret heart.’
But what the fuck were they going to do about each other? About the real world.
‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘This is the real world. We’ll do nothing, until we’re caught and sent to jail.’ She added: ‘Or until you leave me.’
Oh, bullshit. ‘So that only leaves one alternative: leave South Africa.’
‘I’m not leaving South Africa, Luke.’
He sighed angrily. ‘So that only leaves jail. And when we come out, what happens? Get caught again?’
‘True. So? So there’s only one thing to do.’
‘And that is?’
She said solemnly: ‘Capitalize and get married.’
He wondered if he had heard aright.
She smiled. ‘We get married in Swaziland in a blaze of publicity. You set it up through Drum and we’ll get other newspapers involved. “Young White Lawyer Defiantly Marries Indian Wench.” We drive back into South Africa to set up our happy home, we get arrested the first night and thrown in jail. Outcry. A black eye for South Africa.’
He groaned. ‘Be serious, for God’s sake. We go and live somewhere else. In England. In Swaziland.’
She smiled at him. Tenderly. ‘Thank you, Luke. And I love you too. But darling? This is my country of birth and I’m going to stay and see it through.’
‘See what through? Our jail terms? The bloodbath?’
‘I’m going to see those bastards in jail. A Nuremberg trial. Crimes against humanity.’
He took both her hands. ‘We can’t wait for that. We have no alternative but to leave the country.’
She sighed. ‘Yes we have. And that is to quit.’ She looked at him. ‘Split up. Before we’re caught. And never see each other again.’
He stared at her. ‘You don’t want that, so don’t say it. Ask yourself what you do want. And how you can achieve it.’
‘I want,’ she said, ‘a hell of a lot more than most women. I don’t just want a nice home and a nice husband with a nice job and nice children – I want justice for all. Freedom. Legal freedom – instead of legal bondage. And how do we achieve that? By getting rid of this Afrikaner government.’
‘You’re preaching to the converted.’
‘Yes, but you’re not prepared to fight for it. I am.’
Oh Jesus. He said grimly: ‘You’re right, I’m not prepared to fight for it – because you can’t win, because they’ve got all the big battalions. All the laws. But I’m prepared to work for it –’
‘By leaving the country?’
‘By writing about it. Creating a fuss, raising public awareness, international public awareness –’
‘From outside the country.’
‘Jesus Christ, I only want to leave so that I can live with you! As we can’t do that here we’ve got to do the best we can from outside. You can’t fight if you’re in jail, Patti.’ He glared at her. ‘Tell me how you’re going to fight, Patti.’
She said grimly. ‘Ask no questions and you’ll get no lies.’
Oh Jesus, words like that frightened him. ‘For Christ’s sake! Tell me what you’re doing! So I can evaluate it!’
‘Evaluate it? And if you don’t approve?’ she said grimly. ‘What you don’t know you can’t be forced to tell Colonel Krombrink next time he pulls you in.’
‘For God’s sake! Do you think I’d betray you?’
‘I think our cops can make anybody betray anybody. Unless you throw yourself out of one of their upper windows.’
He paced across the room. ‘Patti – I can’t live like this, tell me what you’re doing. So that maybe I can … help you. Protect you.’
‘Help me?’ She smiled fondly ‘You weren’t meant to be a fighter, Luke. You’re a great guy, and I love you to bits, and you’re an adventurer, but you’re not a warrior, you’re a worrier – that’s why you’re such a good writer. You’re a wordsmith – that’s what nature intended you to be, and that’s wonderful.’
He was stung. Not a fighter? He sat down and took her hands. ‘But you are a fighter?’
‘Yep.’ Then she closed her eyes. ‘Darling, I’m doing nothing.’
‘I don’t believe you.’
She snorted softly. ‘Too bad. Nor would Colonel Krombrink.’
He glared at her. Too bad, huh? He stood up angrily. ‘Okay. That’s it. You don’t trust me. And I don’t trust you not to land us in the shit. So neither of us trusts the other. And we can’t live inside the country, and you refuse to leave. So you don’t love me enough. So there’s no future in this relationship. So? So I’m off. I’m getting out of your hair.’
She looked up at him. ‘On the contrary,’ she said quietly, ‘I love you with all my heart.’
‘But not enough to run away with me!’
‘I’m not a runner. I’m a stayer.’
He glared at her. ‘Goodbye, Patti. It’s been great. I really mean that.’
Her eyes were moist. She said: ‘Next weekend I’ll be here.’
It was a long week.
‘I love you,’ he said.
‘I love you too,’ she said. ‘But as you say, there’s no future in it. So let’s just have fun. Fun-fucking, that’s all we’re really good for, Mr Mahoney. So, tell me a fantasy.’
He wondered if he’d heard that right. ‘A fantasy?’
She smiled in the dark. ‘A sexual fantasy. Everybody has them, so tell me yours.’
He was astonished. ‘You are my sexual fantasy.’
‘I can’t be, because you’ve got me. But you can have a fantasy involving me. Wouldn’t that be fun? Exciting?’
She smiled. ‘For example wouldn’t you like to fuck two girls at the same time – me and another girl?’
It shocked him. And it was wildly erotic.
She grinned. ‘Poor baby, do I shock you?’
‘Why are you telling me this?’
She smiled. ‘Because for all your maturity you’re a well-brought-up Anglo-Saxon who believes in love and marriage and being faithful.’
‘And you don’t?’
‘Oh I do, I’m well-brought-up too. But I’m an Indian girl in South Africa so I’m not allowed to have love and marriage with you. I’m not allowed by law to be jealous about you. So I’m making myself bulletproof. So, tell me your fantasies.’
‘I wish we could stop talking about apartheid.’
‘So do I – oh don’t I just. I wish apartheid wasn’t there, to be talked about, but it is. So, I can’t be jealous.’
‘Are you unfaithful to me?’ It made his heart squeeze to think about it.
She smiled. ‘Ask no questions, you’ll get no lies, Mahoney.’
Oh God, not that one again. ‘For God’s sake. Don’t you care if I’m being unfaithful to you?’
‘Oh yes I care. But there’s nothing I can do about it, I can’t compete with another woman, I can’t move in with you and make myself indispensable, I can’t throw a tantrum outside your door or scratch the other woman’s eyes out. So although I care like hell, it’s impractical to have sleepless nights over it. So, I’m busy making my heart unbreakable.’ She was silent a moment. ‘Are you? Unfaithful to me?’
‘As a matter of fact,’ he said grimly, ‘I’m not.’
She smiled in the dark.
‘I didn’t think you were. You’re too honest to be much good at cheating – unless you didn’t care about me.’ She sighed. ‘And, I’m not being unfaithful to you either. Which, in the circumstances, is dumb, Mahoney – for both of us.’ She sat up and swept back her long black hair. ‘Dumb! Because … Oh – I’m so sick of talking about it! But dumb it is! So shall we please stop? And think about something practical.’ She added: ‘Like sexual fantasies?’
‘Sexual fantasies are practical?’
‘More practical than “us”.’ She snorted. ‘And the other good thing about fantasies – so I’ve read – is that when you fulfil your partner’s fantasy, you’ll find –’ she fluttered her eyelids – ‘that they’re eternally grateful to you.’
He didn’t know what to make of this. But it was wildly erotic. ‘Where did you read that?’
‘In some wicked magazine smuggled into this country. Or was it Freud himself? So, what’s your fantasy?’ She waved a hand. ‘Is it leather? Is it boots? Is it plastic raincoats? Two girls? Tell me.’
‘Are you trying to make me eternally grateful?’
She looked at him with big liquid eyes. ‘To stop taking each other so bloody seriously!’ She glared, then strode to the bathroom. She ran the tap.
Mahoney followed her. He slipped his arms around her and cupped her breasts. He whispered: ‘I love you.’
She hung her head, so her long black locks swirled in the water.
‘And I love you. And that’s the bloody problem – I’m not allowed to love you.’ Then she threw back her head, so her hair flew, and looked at him in the mirror. ‘So the answer is to brutalize it.’
He stared at her in the mirror. ‘Brutalize it?’
‘So we stop taking each other so bloody seriously! So we just treat it as fun. Because there’s no other way to treat it!’
He didn’t want to hear. ‘And how’re you going to brutalize it?’
She looked at him in the mirror. ‘And you’re going to be eternally grateful.’ She closed her lovely eyes and turned and slipped her arms round his neck and held him tight. She took a deep breath. Then, as if she’d resolved to be happy, or suddenly saw the funny side of it, she giggled. ‘Gloria Naidoo, that’s who we’ll start with. Don’t all you guys drool over Gloria?’
He was astonished. ‘But she’s a lesbian.’
‘A bi-sexual, darling. Maybe more lezzie than bi, but bi she is.’
He grappled with all this. ‘And have you and Gloria …?’
She leant back in his arms. ‘Ever got it together? But of course, darling!’ She made big beautiful eyes. ‘What do you expect two good-looking Indian girls to do in sunny South Africa where all they’re allowed is nice Indian boys?’ Then she dropped her head and giggled. ‘The look on your face.’ Then she kissed him hard on the mouth. ‘Can we please stop taking life so seriously? And I refuse to talk about it any more … !’
But they had to take life very seriously indeed. Because the next week the police raided Buck’s farm, and all hell broke loose.
The editor slammed down the telephone. ‘The cops have found the ANC’s headquarters on a farm in Rivonia called Lilliesleaf – grab a photographer and get your ass out there!’ The name Lilliesleaf didn’t mean anything to Mahoney but the sketch map the editor thrust at him sure did. Christ, it must be right next door to Buck’s Farm! It wasn’t until he saw the policemen guarding the gate that he realized Lilliesleaf was Buck’s Farm … Christ … His hand was shaking as he held out his press card to the policeman. The ANC’s headquarters … And he’d been screwing himself flat in the middle of it.
He drove up the track towards the main house. Over there, amongst the trees, was the cottage, two police cars parked outside it. His mind was racing – God, had he left anything there that would identify him? Was there anything of Patti’s? Oh God, he had to get to a telephone and warn her. His heart was knocking. He crested the rise, and there was the main house. It was swarming. A dozen police vehicles, policemen everywhere, police dogs. Cars from the newspapers. He got out and walked shakily over to the group of pressmen, his face ashen. ‘What’s the story?’
‘We’re going to be briefed in a moment.’
‘ANC headquarters … ? Anybody arrested?’
‘Lots. They’ve all been whisked off to town. In irons.’
The terrible question: ‘Any women?’
Then Colonel Krombrink walked towards them, a malicious smile on his weathered face. ‘Ah, so Drum has arrived an’ we can begin our little tour. How are you, Mr Mahoney?’
Mahoney felt white with fear. ‘Fine thanks, Colonel.’
‘Did you bring a photographer? Good. We want your black readers to realize the police aren’t asleep, hey, man. An’ we want them to realize what the penalty for treason is – death, hey, man. Will you make sure they understand that?’
‘Good. So first I’ll read to you the official police press release, then you can take your nice photographs.’ He produced some sheets of paper and began to read in his heavy South African accent:
‘On the afternoon of Wednesday 23 July 1963, the South African Police, as the result of intensive undercover investigations, conducted a raid on Lilliesleaf Farm in the Rivonia area on the fringes of Johannesburg. A hundred and ten policemen were deployed. The first party of them arrived at the farmhouse inside two panel vans, one a bakery truck, the other a laundry van. The house was stormed. Inside we arrested nine leading members of the banned African National Congress gathered around a table studying a mass of documents which cursory examination proved to be plans for military-style insurrection and sabotage within South Africa. In different rooms were found two telex machines, two powerful two-way radios capable of reaching anywhere in the world, a photocopy machine, numerous cameras and film-development equipment, filing cabinets full of documents pertaining to the ANC and the Communist Party and other subversive matters, and a large quantity of arms, ammunition, land mines, grenades and explosives, all of Russian origin. The police believe that this raid has exposed the headquarters of the ANC and the Communist Party. Investigations continue and it is expected that a large number of other persons will now be traced who will be able to assist the police in their enquiries.’
He folded up the paper with a little smile. ‘Any questions, gentlemen, before you are taken over the house?’
Andy Murphy of the Star said: ‘Who is the owner of the farm?’
‘The registered owner is a certain white person whose name we cannot divulge at this time, but clearly somebody sympathetic to the ANC and SACP, who bought it on their behalf.’
‘What are the names of the people arrested?’
‘When their identities have been definitely established, a list will be released to the press.’ He looked at Mahoney. ‘How about a question from Drum? On behalf of all those black readers.’
Mahoney’s ears felt blocked. All he could think of was Patti, all he wanted to do was get the hell out of here, grab her and run like hell. His mind fumbled: ‘How big … a breakthrough against the ANC have you made today – do you think you’ve smashed them?’
‘Thank you for that question.’ He looked at the expectant pressmen. ‘Today is a triumph for the forces of law and order over the forces of darkness, hey! We believe we have smashed them, yes. Of course all the documents must be evaluated, but we believe we’re going to finish them off and mop up the rest with the information we’ve got today.’
Mop up the rest … Oh God, he had to get to a telephone.
The tour of the house seemed to take an eternity. A nightmare. They crowded through the rambling house, the photographers’ bulbs flashing, Colonel Krombrink like a showman, showing them the dining room where the men were arrested in flagrante delicto. They saw the office with its two-way radios, its filing cabinets, telexes, rooms with a dozen unmade beds, the kitchen with meals still in preparation, the fingerprint experts everywhere dusting for evidence, and outside on the back verandah the weapons neatly laid out in rows, the hand grenades, the landmines, the explosives, the ammunition, all neatly labelled for the public prosecutor. ‘That alone will hang ’em …’
Oh God, how much did Patti know about this? He just wanted to get the hell out of here.
But he was the last to leave. As the pressmen hurried back to their cars, Colonel Krombrink called: ‘Meneer Mahoney?’
Mahoney turned, his heart knocking. The colonel took his elbow and led him aside. He appeared to be thinking, then he said: ‘Are you feeling all right, Mr Mahoney? You’re very pale, hey, man.’
Mahoney’s pulse tripped. ‘I’m fine, thanks.’
‘Very pale, man,’ the good colonel said, ‘like you’re sick to your stomach. Or jus’ seen a ghost, hey, man. Anyway …’ He paced beside him pensively, down the verandah. ‘Mr Mahoney, you asked if we’ve smashed the ANC today, an’ yes we have, because we’ve chopped the head off the snake, hey? Quote that – the head off the snake. An’ now we’re going to get the rest of the snake out of its hole. Easy, man. Quote that too. Okay?’
Why was the man repeating this if it wasn’t a threat?
They came to some wicker armchairs. The colonel waved to one and sat down. Mahoney slowly sat down on the edge.
Krombrink said: ‘But, Got, man, it’s the eggs that snake laid that we’ve also got to find, before they hatch. An’ those eggs are buried, but not in the snake’s hole, hey? An’ sometimes they’re not so easy to find, hey?’
Mahoney knew what was coming, and he felt sick. ‘Yes.’
‘Yes, I can imagine …’
Colonel Krombrink snorted. ‘Imagine? Don’t you know?’
Mahoney felt his guts turn over. ‘Know what?’
‘Got, man, Mr Mahoney, newspapermen are supposed to use facts, hey? Tell the people the facts, not so?’
Oh God, the facts … ‘Yes.’
‘Jus’ like the judge wants. Facts, that’s what he wants to hear. An’ that’s what the police have to give him, not so?’
Mahoney’s nerves were stretched, as the colonel intended them to be. ‘Yes, that’s so.’
‘Yes …’ The colonel sat back pensively and looked at the ceiling; then, as if a sudden thought had struck him, he continued: ‘But, of course, newspapermen do use their imagination, hey, to get a good story. And so do policemen, to outsmart criminals, get information … So?’ He looked at Mahoney. ‘So you an’ I have a lot in common, really. We both work with facts, but we both have to use our imagination. An’ we both got to keep our ears open to get those facts. An’ another thing, hey – we both work a lot with kaffirs, don’ we? You write for them, and most of my customers are kaffirs, who’re trying to ruin the country.’
He knows, he knows, and he wants to use me …
‘Not so?’ the colonel said.
Mahoney nodded, sick in his guts. ‘I suppose so.’
‘And,’ the colonel said, as another thought struck him, ‘we’re both involved in the law, hey? Your father’s a lawyer an’ you’re working on a law degree, I believe?’ He spread his hands reasonably. ‘We both know what the law is – about accomplices, for example. About accessories before, during, or after the fact?’
Mahoney’s ears were ringing. ‘Sure.’
Colonel Krombrink nodded absently. Letting the silence hang. Then, as if heaving himself out of a reverie, he sat up: ‘So we’ve got a lot in common, Mr Mahoney. So – why don’t we cooperate, hey, man?’
Mahoney had known it was coming but it was like a blow to his guts. He heard himself say: ‘Cooperate how?’
The colonel said earnestly: ‘Of course, being an honest South African citizen, an’ an educated man, an’ a responsible newspaperman, you would always cooperate with the police? I mean –’ he waved a hand – ‘if you knew your neighbour had murdered his wife, you’d report it to the police, wouldn’t you? That’s your civic duty, hey man. Isn’t it?’
‘Yes. Any crime.’ The colonel waved his hand. ‘And so I feel confident that you’ll cooperate with us now.’
Oh Jesus, Jesus … ‘Over what?’ He tried to sound puzzled.
The colonel sat back. ‘Well,’ he said, man to man, ‘it’s about those bladdy eggs that bladdy snake’s laid, hey? The problem is, this snake doesn’t lay its eggs in one place, hey, like a nice ordinary viper or mamba. It lays them all over the show. An’ those eggs aren’t all the same colour, hey man. No, Got, they’re not all black, they’re also white and different shades of brown, man. Which makes looking for them quite a job, hey?’
Mahoney looked at him, his heart knocking. The colonel put his fingertips together. ‘Well, you work with kaffirs, Mr Mahoney, and you must hear a lot of talk, hey man. A lot of …’ he waved a hand, ‘stories. Information, about crime. Tip-offs. And –’ he stared with big reasonable eyes – ‘I’m sure that as a responsible citizen you will pass on such information to the police. Not so?’ He paused, then leant forward. ‘In fact, we’re relying on you to do that?’ He smiled.
Jesus, Mahoney feared and hated the bastard. He nodded. ‘Of course.’
The good colonel nodded. ‘Of course. Because anybody who didn’t do that might be described as an accomplice, hey man …’ He let that hang. ‘But you must also hear a lot of talk about this and that, which aren’t actual crimes, hey man? Rumours, even. Like who’s come back to town, maybe. Who knows who.’ He shrugged. ‘Who thinks what.’ He looked at Mahoney, then gave a wolfish smile. ‘And, of course, we want you to pass on all that too.’
Colonel Krombrink’s eyes had suddenly taken on a naked menace. And Mahoney wanted to shout, in anger and self-hate. Anger that this bastard was threatening him, bullying him into becoming an informer, self-hate that what he felt was gratitude, like he was meant to feel. Anger that he was being softened up by fear. Self-hate that he was so easily frightened – for Christ’s sake, if they knew he’d been using the cottage they’d have arrested him on sight! Self-hate that he felt prepared to agree to almost anything to save his skin.
‘Colonel Krombrink, you can rely on me to report any crime, as any responsible journalist would do. But no journalist is allowed to disclose the source of information …’
The colonel slapped his knees and stood up.
‘And, of course, as a journalist, you know all about the law, which enables the police to detain any person for ninety days now, until they’re satisfied he’s given all the information at his disposal? But, hell, man –’ he slapped Mahoney on the shoulder – ‘forget about depressing things like that on such a successful day! Mr Mahoney?’ The colonel took him warmly by the hand. ‘You’re busy, an’ so am I. So will you now excuse me, hey?’
He was still shaking when they got back to town. But what else could he have said? He had stood up to the bastard as much as anybody would dare: they were trying to bully him into being an informer, but that didn’t mean they had something on him – if they knew about his criminal relationship with Patti they would have nailed him long ago; if they’d known he was using the cottage his feet wouldn’t have touched the ground this afternoon. But, Jesus, he was angry: at the system that gave them such power, at the laws that made him a criminal for being in love. And, by God yes, he was angry at himself for being afraid of the bastards. By God yes, he was afraid …
He stopped at the Rosebank Hotel. He hurried to the public telephone and feverishly dialled Patti’s number.
‘Gandhi Garments,’ she said. Mahoney closed his eyes in relief: she hadn’t been arrested.
‘May I speak to Mr Jackson, please?’
‘I’m afraid you have the wrong number.’
‘I’m so sorry.’ He hung up and looked at his watch. It was a long five minutes waiting for her to get to the public telephones in the Fox Street post office. He dialled the first number: engaged. He cursed and dialled the next box.
He said: ‘Don’t go anywhere near the cottage. It’s been raided, I’ve just come from there. Got that?’
There was a stunned silence. Then: ‘Yes.’
‘Did you leave anything in the cottage that’s identifiable?’
Short pause. ‘Don’t think so.’
Thank God. ‘So we’ve got to do some fast thinking. And the only safe place to do it is Swaziland. Meet me there on Friday night. At the hotel. Okay?’
No hesitation. ‘Okay. But shouldn’t we make it tonight?’
‘No, they’re watching me, and going to Swaziland mid-week would be unusual. Just go about your normal business.’
He hurried back to the car. He drove feverishly back to the Drum offices. He sat down at his typewriter, put paper into the machine and threw open his notebook. He pressed his trembling fingers to his eyes.
It was six o’clock when he crossed the border into Swaziland, his heart knocking. But the beetle-browed Afrikaner constable showed no interest. And, oh, the relief of driving across into the hilly land of the Swazis where there was no apartheid … And, oh God, he didn’t want to live in that land back there anymore. It was dark when he wound up the dirt road to the Mountain Arms. He ordered dinner to be served in their room at eight o’clock. He got a beer and went to sit on the verandah to wait for her.
And he waited. And waited. By the time the dinner gong rang he knew she had been arrested at the border. When the dinner hour was half over he telephoned her apartment. No reply. And he could bear the suspense no longer: he got in his car to drive back towards the border in case she had broken down. And, oh, the relief when he saw headlights coming up the road and identified her car. He stopped. She pulled up alongside him. He flung open her door and clutched her tight.
They sat at the table in their room, the food untouched. Her face was gaunt.
‘Well? Did you know?’ he asked.
She took a deep, tense breath. She said to her wine glass: ‘And, are you? Going to be an informer?’
He stared at her. ‘God! Inform on you? Would I have told you what Krombrink said if I intended that?’
She sipped from her glass. ‘But if I was not involved? Would you inform on the ANC?’
He closed his eyes. ‘Oh God, this is what this country does to you. Suspicions …’
‘Exactly,’ she said quietly. ‘Because in South Africa you’re either on one side or the other. The police ensure that: if you don’t give them information you’re the enemy. An accomplice. So – would you inform on the ANC?’
Mahoney took a deep breath. ‘I’m a journalist, and journalists don’t reveal their sources.’
‘But supposing you knew that a bomb had been planted in a supermarket? Would you tell the police?’
‘What the hell are you trying to do, Patti? Test me?’
‘To prove something to you. Please answer the question.’
‘The answer is, of course I would report it to the police! I don’t want innocent women and children blown up.’
‘And if it was a military installation? Would you report that?’
Mahoney glared at her.
‘Hypothetical questions … The answer, in principle, is No. Because this is a police state and any smack taken at it is fair. So, what does that prove to you?’
‘But supposing innocent soldiers just doing their national service get blown up too?’
He looked at her grimly. ‘Let me make one thing abundantly clear, Patti. I also want to see this government thrown out, and I accept that violence is probably inevitable. But violence should be confined to soldiers fighting each other – not killing civilians in supermarkets with urban terrorism. I want nothing to do with killing people. But yes, military installations are legitimate targets. Now cut out this hypothetical crap and answer my question: did you know the farm was the ANC’s headquarters? And did you know about the explosives and arms?’
She looked at her drink. ‘No. Does that satisfy you?’
He looked at her. ‘No it doesn’t.’ He took a breath. ‘Patti, if you knew, you were playing with fire – we could both be under arrest now on charges of treason. And that’s the gallows, Patti. I had a right to know about the risks we were taking.’
‘And you consider I was reckless? With your life?’
‘And your own. Which is just as important to me!’
‘Reckless? Irresponsible? Because you had the “right to know”? And, if you had known? Would you have dropped me like a hot potato?’
‘I’d have had the opportunity to find us a safer place!’
‘Where, pray? Do you think I didn’t rack my brains – so that you wouldn’t drop me. Where could two people of different colour find a love-nest in this country – if I enter any white house I stick out like a sore thumb. If you enter any non-white house you do the same. We’d have been busted in a week!’ She glared at him defensively. ‘And the cottage was almost a mile from the main house – and there’s a fence. The cottage had nothing to do with it, except the same owner. And as for your “right”, you have no right to know what’s going on in the flat next door, let alone the neighbours’ distant farmhouse, just because you do your fucking in the neighbourhood. And as for being reckless, I was the opposite! I checked the situation out and I was convinced it was as safe as anywhere in this God-forsaken police state! God – at first even you didn’t know where the place was!’ She smouldered at him, ‘You certainly had no “need” to know what was going on and that’s the cardinal principle of –’ She stopped.
She took a deep breath. ‘Haven’t you read any spy-thrillers? In the cloak-and-dagger business the agents are only told as much as they need to know – so if they’re caught they can’t spill all the beans.’ She looked at him grimly. ‘All you need to know for our relationship is that, like you, I also want to get rid of apartheid. But, no, I don’t approve of blowing up people in supermarkets either. But, yes, military installations and the like are legitimate targets.’ She paused. ‘And I have to make something very clear, Luke. If we’re going to continue our relationship, all you’ll ever know about me is as much as you need to know. And I’ll answer no other questions outside of those parameters.’ Her dark eyes grim. ‘I love you, Luke. I didn’t mean that to happen, I intended it to be just a fun thing, but then I fell in love with you. Now the only condition upon which I can continue is the need to know.’ She took a tense breath. ‘You must decide whether you can live with that.’
‘Live with that?’ He waved a hand. ‘How can any man live with not knowing whether his lover’s going to be arrested for treason? Whether she’s going to jail or the goddamn gallows!’ He frowned angrily. ‘Well I do need to know, Patti. Know what I’m up against!’
‘Plenty of people have lived with not knowing what risks their loved-ones are taking – in the French underground during the war. The Irish Republican Army. All the wives of men in the CIA and KGB and MI5.’
He closed his eyes in exasperation. ‘Patti, you’re fighting against the might of the Afrikaner government. Against BOSS. Against detention without trial. Against the Group Areas Act and the Immorality Act which makes you a subject of suspicion because of your colour – you’re not like a Frenchman in World War II who had the natural camouflage of his skin. You’re conspicuous, Patti! As if you’re wearing the uniform of the enemy! And I’m conspicuous, the moment I step out of my area.’ He glared at her. ‘You have no camouflage, Patti – if they can’t prove anything against you they lock you up without trial. And now your whole underground has just been busted. Realize that you’re on very thin ice indeed, and underneath it is very deep shit. And you expect me not to want to know? I do need to know!’
She put her hands to her face. ‘Oh, it will never work …’ Then she sobbed.
He began to get up. ‘Patti …?’
She sobbed into her hands. ‘Please don’t …’ She took a deep breath; then raised her head. The tears were running down her face. She whispered: ‘Us, darling Luke – we can’t work. I knew it all along. And I tried.’ Her lip trembled; then she swept her hand through her hair resolutely. ‘I really tried, but it all got out of control. And my heart’ she banged her breast – ‘ruled my head!’
Mahoney put out his hand.
She held up a palm. ‘Please let me finish … It’s my fault because I knew we couldn’t get away with it – I knew sooner or later we’d be found out and go to jail. But …’ Two tears brimmed down her cheeks. ‘But honest to God I didn’t think there was any danger of you being dragged into this other business. But now, of course, you want to know what’s happening, for your own sanity. But, it doesn’t work like that, darling.’ She shook her head. ‘I can tell you nothing. Because the police will be on to you, Luke. And if you don’t tell them voluntarily you’ll eventually tell them involuntarily. So the less you know, the better. That’s the way the system works, darling. And that’s why we can’t work, Luke. Because there’ll be nothing but tension, and anxiety and naked, solid fear … and suspicions.’ She stared at him, then she dropped her face in her hands again. ‘Oh God, wasn’t the Immorality Act enough to live with?’
‘Patti …’ Mahoney stretched out his hand and she got up impulsively holding her face. She walked to the window and dropped her forehead against the frame and sobbed. ‘Patti …’ Mahoney took her in his arms. He held her tight and whispered: ‘Yes, it can work.’
She rested her forehead against his shoulder and took a trembling breath; she whispered fiercely: ‘There’s only one way it could possibly work, darling Luke. And I’ve just proved that can’t either. And there’s no way I’m going to put you through it – or us.’
‘What have you just proved?’
She turned out of his arms, her face wet. ‘So the only thing to do is to quit. Now. Tonight.’
He stared at her, his knocking heart breaking.
‘What is the way that won’t work?’
She tried to wipe the tears off her face. She said resolutely: ‘We have only two options. The obvious one is to quit, right now. Quit, and never see each other again.’ Her mouth trembled.
‘And the other one?’
She closed her eyes. ‘That you play the bastards at their own bloody game. Become an informer. But feed them disinformation.’
He stared at her. Outside the night insects were crick-cricking. ‘False information?’
‘And I’m not going to allow that. I’m not going to put you through that – or me: It would be highly dangerous – I love you too much. And it would be terribly unfair on both of us. Because …’ She shook her head at him. ‘Because you’re not the type, Luke.’
‘Not the type?’
She blurted: ‘To be an activist! A spy, if you like.’ She looked at him tremulously. ‘And that’s not a criticism – very few people are. You’re too straight, Luke. And I wouldn’t put you through that torment even if you were willing. And so –’ she tossed back her hair – And so the only thing is to stop this crazy affair right now.’
Mahoney stared, his heart breaking. And there was no way he could accept that. No way could he let her walk out of his life, never see her again. And no way could they go back to the old ways either – he could not face any more of that subterfuge, he was sick of that drama, sick of South Africa and its sick laws – it was clear as day what he had to do about it. He crossed the room and took her in his arms.
‘There is a way, Patti.’ He wanted to laugh it. ‘And that is to get married, and never go back to goddamn South Africa.’ There – it was as simple and as complicated as that. He held her tight. ‘Just get married. Tomorrow. And live happily ever after – right here in Swaziland. Or in Botswana – I can get a job anywhere, and you’ve got your business.’
She had gone stock still. She slowly lifted back her head. Then she closed her eyes and burst into tears. She dropped her forehead onto his shoulder and she sobbed and sobbed. ‘Oh God why is life such a pig?!’ She banged her forehead against him. ‘A pig – pig – pig!’
‘Patti?’ He tried to lift her head and she clutched him tighter and cried: ‘Of course I want to marry you! And that’s why life’s a pig! Because how the hell can we live happily ever after in a country which forbids it?!’
‘But we’re not going to live in South Africa –’
She banged her forehead against his shoulder and cried: ‘Like hell we’re not! I refuse to run away! I want to live happily ever after right there, as is my basic human right! I refuse to let those bastards terrorize me! I refuse to be made a refugee!’ She turned abruptly out of his arms. She swept her hand through her hair and turned to face him. She said tremulously: ‘And that’s the whole crux of the matter, Luke. I love you but I can’t marry you – because I have to stay and fight.’ She looked at him, her eyes brimming. ‘And so it must end, darling Luke. It is just too dangerous. We’ve been blown wide open – we got away with it today by the skin of our teeth.’ She shook her locks at him. ‘We knew it had to end someday – and that day has come. Tonight. Not tomorrow, not next week, not after waiting to see how the land lies. Tonight. I’m going to go and get a hotel in town. I simply could not bear to sleep in your arms knowing I was saying goodbye forever in the morning.’
He could not believe this was happening. He started towards her, to say he knew not what, and she put her hand out on his chest, her eyes bright. He whispered: ‘This is your whole life you’re dealing with! You’re going back into the lions’ den!’
‘The struggle is my life, darling Luke. And the lions’ den is where it’s happening.’
‘For God’s sake, Patti, we’ve got the whole world to live in.’
She took a deep breath, then put her finger on his lips. ‘Goodbye, darling Luke.’
She turned to her overnight bag. She picked it up. She put her hand on the doorknob and opened it. She looked back at him, her face streaked with tears. She whispered: ‘It’s over, darling. Believe that.’
He looked at her, his eyes full of tears.
‘Do you believe that?’ she whispered.
He took a deep breath, then he shook his head. ‘No.’
She cried: ‘Believe it, darling! Believe it! For your sake and mine!’ She turned abruptly and walked through the door. She closed it behind her with a bang.
He heard her sob once. Then there was the sound of her high heels down the corridor.
He stood there. And with all his breaking heart he wanted to run after her, to seize her arid make her come back. Drag her back. But, oh God, he did not believe this was the end. And he needed time to think, about what she had said – about a thousand things. Think. About what today meant. What Krombrink meant. What she had meant. He stood there, his eyes full of tears; then he turned to the double bed and sat down and held his face.
He heard her car start, and he sobbed out loud.
He woke up before dawn, and he thought his heart would break. He swung out of bed, slammed on the shower and stood under cold jets, trying to knock the pain out of himself. He pulled on his tracksuit and set out into the first light, to think.
He climbed along the mountain paths, then down into the valley to their waterfall. He sat on the big flat rock where they had made love so often, and it seemed he could almost hear her splashing in the water, almost see her long black hair floating and her golden body glistening, almost hear her laughter, almost feel her satiny nakedness. When he could bear it no longer he climbed up to the very top of the mountain.
Spread out below him was the vast mauveness of South Africa, so beautiful, so quiet, and so bloody cruel, so mindless. And way over there Patti Gandhi was doing something about it, doing God knows what, but putting her freedom and life on the line for what she believed in. He admired her and loved her and, oh God, he was frightened about what could happen to her, and he despised himself for not having her guts …
It was midday when he came down from the mountain. He knew what he had to do: there was only one way he could live with himself, and with her – and that was to play the Afrikaner bastards at their own bloody game. No way could he turn his back on her, let her walk away into the lions’ den alone …
In the early afternoon he drove across the border back into South Africa. His heart was knocking like a criminal’s. But the young policeman showed no interest in him beyond a polite ‘Goeie dag’ and the routine question, ‘Iets om te verklaar?’ Anything to declare? But as he walked out of the immigration post he imagined the man reaching for the telephone. Driving through the beautiful afternoon, he tried to shut his mind to his fear and just think about her. And when the bushveld began to give way to the rolling grassland of the highveld, and the industrial satellites of Johannesburg began to loom up on the skyline, it was unthinkable that he wouldn’t see her again. All he cared about was her and, oh, he hated this land which made it illegal to live happily ever after with her. He had to get to a phone. He saw a filling station and pulled in. He rammed his coins into the callbox and dialled.
‘Hullo,’ she said.
He closed his eyes in relief. She hadn’t been arrested. She was still in the land of the living. What he wanted to say was ‘I love you’, but he said: ‘Is that Mrs Lambert?’
There was a silence. He heard her breathing. Then she said softly: ‘You’ve got the wrong number.’ She hung up.
He walked back to the car happily.
It was not until he was winding his way through downtown Johannesburg that he was sure he was being followed. He had first seen the blue Ford about fifty miles back. Three men in it. At a set of traffic lights, where he would normally turn left to the Indian quarter, he carried straight on, towards Hillbrow, and the car followed him. His knocking heart sank.
The car tailed him all the way across town. As it pulled up behind him in front of The Parsonage, he was shaking.
The men got out and came towards him. The first said, in a heavy Afrikaans accent: ‘We’re police. Will you come with us to the station, please.’
His heart was pounding. ‘What on earth for?’
‘You either come voluntarily or we arrest you.’
‘On what bloody charge?!’
‘The Terrorism Act.’
He stared, white with fear. ‘What bullshit …’ he whispered.
A policeman drove his car to Marshall Square. He went with the other two. His ears felt blocked, his mind was racing. The cars parked in the yard. One man stayed behind: he went with the other two.
They entered the same back door he had used last time he was here. The same elevator, with only one button. Nobody spoke. The top floor. The long corridor, neon lights. The security gate. A row of doors. Into an office, where they took his passport, and then his fingerprints.
‘Why are you taking my fingerprints?’ He tried to control his shaking hands.
‘But I’m not a fucking criminal!’
The man said nothing. He gripped Mahoney’s fingers and rolled the tips one by one onto the pad. The other detective took the form and walked out of the room. ‘Kom.’
They walked back along the corridor. Into the lair of Colonel Krombrink, who sat behind his desk.
At the window lolled the same detective as last time.
‘Colonel, am I under arrest?’
Not yet? ‘Then why am I here? And why was I fingerprinted?’
Krombrink said quietly: ‘Sit down.’
Oh Jesus, he hated the bastards! And he was scared of them. ‘If I’m to answer questions I’m entitled to a lawyer. In which case he will answer them for me!’
‘Mr Mahoney, you know as well as I do that you can be detained for ninety days to answer questions – without access to a lawyer. What have you got to hide, that you Want a lawyer?’
‘Nothing!’ And he hated the bastards so much it felt like the truth.
The colonel smiled. ‘Nothing we don’t know already? So sit down, please.’
‘Oh Jesus …’
The colonel clasped his hands. ‘I’m not going to beat about the bush, Mr Mahoney. You have broken the law. And broken God’s law: the Immorality Act …’
Mahoney closed his eyes, but in relief. If that’s all they had on him … But he had to deny it. The colonel went on: ‘We know all about you and that Indian, Patti Gandhi. We can give you dates, places, times. And you’ve just come back from another dirty night in Swaziland. Don’t waste our time denying it.’
‘I do deny it …’
Krombrink shook his head in sadness. ‘And you a law student.’ He looked at him. ‘You’re going to go to jail, Mr Mahoney. And when you come out you’ll never be allowed to practise law; not with a criminal record like that, man.’
The Immorality Act … So they weren’t going to try to use him as an informer? He said: ‘This is crazy.’
The colonel said: ‘What we find crazy is that a man from a good family like you, with your education, should want to consort with a non-European!’ He looked at him with disgust; then his eyes narrowed. ‘And a communist. A terrorist.’ Mahoney felt himself go ashen. Krombrink let it hang. ‘Contravening the Immorality Act is only one of the charges, Mr Mahoney.’
Mahoney desperately tried to think straight. ‘She’s not a communist! Or a terrorist! What preposterous charges do you think you’ve got against me?’
The colonel smiled. So did the detective at the window: he muttered something under his breath. The colonel said quietly: ‘Preposterous? That’s a big word.’ He paused. ‘Contravening the Suppression of Communism Act?’
‘But I’m a fucking capitalist! And so is Patti Gandhi!’
The colonel smiled. ‘And how about the Terrorism Act?’
Mahoney’s ears were ringing. Sick in his guts, with fear, with anger. ‘Neither of us is a terrorist!’
Colonel Krombrink smiled widely. ‘“Us”? You make it sound like you’re a couple. But the Immorality Act’s the least of your worries, hey? Because the Terrorism Act isn’t jail. It’s the gallows in Pretoria.’
Mahoney’s ears were ringing, his heart pounding. ‘For doing what?’
Colonel Krombrink smiled. ‘The men we arrested at Lilliesleaf Farm all face the gallows.’
Mahoney felt the vomit turn in his guts. ‘I’d never been to Lilliesleaf Farm before last Wednesday.’
The colonel sighed. ‘Another charge: attempted extortion.’ He looked at Mahoney grimly.
Mahoney stared at him, absolutely astonished. ‘Extortion?’
‘Blackmail?’ The colonel opened a drawer. He pulled out a folder. He pulled out a photograph and flicked it across to him.
Mahoney stared. It was the photograph of Patti copulating with Sergeant van Rensburg. He could see the stacked pages of his long story. Her secret weapon exposed …
‘That’s a legitimate journalist’s story!’
The colonel tossed across another photograph: Major Kotze with Patti. Krombrink looked at Mahoney with disgust. ‘Legitimate? How can any newspaper – even Drum – publish pictures like that?’
‘But they would publish the story! The pictures are just evidence to prove veracity …’
The colonel held his eye. ‘Then why didn’t you publish it?’
‘Because that was Miss Gandhi’s decision. It’s her story. Told to me in confidence. She would decide whether to publish!’
‘And when was Miss Gandhi going to publish her story?’
Mahoney closed his eyes in fury. ‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know? Agh, come, Mr Mahoney, you expect us to believe that?’ He smiled. ‘When she wanted – or needed – to blackmail the police, perhaps?’
Mahoney tried to sigh theatrically. ‘I’m just a journalist, and I agreed to write it for her. Miss Gandhi is not a writer – it is an art form, you know.’
‘Oh, I know …’ the colonel said earnestly. The detective smirked. ‘And what did Miss Gandhi give you in exchange for your art form?’
The Immorality Act was the least of his worries. He was about to say ‘Nothing’ then brilliance struck him. ‘A case of brandy.’
‘Brandy?’ The colonel leered. ‘And what else?’
‘Nothing.’ He added shakily: ‘It is possible to be just friends with a woman, you know. And friendship with a non-European isn’t yet an offence, is it? They haven’t passed the Suppression of Friendship Act yet, have they?’
The colonel smiled. ‘And it was in the name of friendship that you’ve been going out of the country with her?’ He reached for the file, ran his eye down it studiously. ‘Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique. I can give you dates …’
Outside the country? If that’s all they had against him he could laugh in their faces because there was no Immorality Act outside the country! ‘So what? We’re friends.’
The colonel smiled. ‘And what did you two friends talk about?’
Mahoney forced a shrug. ‘Oh, you know, this and that. Art. Poetry. Literature –’
He shrugged. ‘Not really, politics is so … predictable, in this country. So black or white – if you’ll pardon the pun.’
The detective who had taken the fingerprints entered. He placed a sheet of paper in front of Krombrink then withdrew. Krombrink read it expressionlessly. Then he sat back. ‘I like a man who sees the funny side of trouble.’ He slapped the file. ‘And where did you write this story?’
Mahoney’s pulse tripped again. ‘At Drum.’
‘At Drum, hey?’ The colonel flicked his thumb over the pages. ‘A long story. Even you can’t write such a long story in one go, man.’
‘Yes, all of it.’
‘Over how many sessions?’
‘Three or four.’ He shrugged.
‘And what make of typewriter have you got at Drum, hey?’
Oh God, typefaces. ‘A Remington.’
‘Yes,’ the colonel nodded. ‘Not an Olivetti. And this story, Mr Mahoney, was typed with an Olivetti.’
Mahoney fumbled. ‘I might have used somebody else’s typewriter at Drum – I can’t remember.’
‘Yes, you did use somebody else’s, Mr Mahoney. But not at Drum, hey? In fact,’ he smiled, ‘you used the Olivetti we found at Lilliesleaf Farm. In the cottage.’
It was another blow in the guts. He heard his ears ring. ‘That’s impossible.’
The colonel sighed. ‘Experts have compared the typeface of the Olivetti with your so-called story. And they match one hundred per cent.’ He raised his eyebrows pleasantly. ‘And if that’s not enough evidence – which it is – fingerprints were found all over the machine, hey. And those fingerprints – ’ he held up the note the detective had brought in – ‘match yours.’
Mahoney stared, heart pounding. Before he could say anything Colonel Krombrink continued: ‘So you were at Lilliesleaf Farm, Mr Mahoney. Where you wrote the whole –’ he flicked the typescript – ‘long story, over three or four long visits.’ The detective at the window grinned, fixing Mahoney with a cheerful glare. Colonel Krombrink went on: ‘An’ before you come up with some cock an’ bull story, let me advise you that your fingerprints were found on many of these, which we seized in the cottage.’ He waved his hand like a showman and the detective held up a beer bottle triumphantly.
Mahoney’s mind stuttered. And all he could think was – oh God, what about Patti’s fingerprints? He looked desperately at Colonel Krombrink.
‘Got, man, Mr Mahoney, you’re in big trouble, hey? Exactly the same as the guys we arrested red-handed at the farm, hey. Treason …’ He let that hang, then asked earnestly: ‘You know the penalty for treason?’
Mahoney was ashen, dread-filled. ‘You know bloody well I haven’t committed treason!’
The colonel sighed. ‘What I know is that you frequented the underground headquarters of the banned ANC and Communist Party, where the most-wanted terrorists in this country were arrested in possession of thousands of documents planning armed revolution to set up a black communist government supported by Moscow – and caught with a supply of weapons and explosives, hey. And I know that you wrote this –’ he flicked the file – ‘disgusting story for them with the intention of blackmailing the police – and you wrote it on their typewriter in their headquarters, drinking their beer, and that you left the story and pornographic pictures in their possession – we found it buried in a box. An’ I know that this Gandhi woman is a member of the ANC, an’ that she’s your girlfriend, an’ that you went on numerous trips with her to kaffir countries which are known ANC bases where these weapons and explosives come from – an’ you and Miss Gandhi had every opportunity to bring in those explosives and weapons.’
‘Bullshit! You know it is!’
‘And you’re a known troublemaker, always writing –’ he waved his hand in distaste – ‘crap about apartheid.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘Treason, Mr Mahoney. And that’s not just the Immorality Act, hey – that’s the gallows, man.’
Mahoney scrambled to his feet and smashed his hand on the desk. ‘You know I had nothing to do with explosives and treason!’
The colonel smiled. ‘You’ll have to convince the judge, not me, Mr Mahoney. And,’ he added, ‘so will Miss Gandhi.’
‘She had nothing to do with that farm!’ Mahoney roared.
The colonel said softly: ‘Sit down, Mr Mahoney. You make the place look untidy.’
Mahoney glared, aghast, shaking. He rasped: ‘I refuse to answer any more ridiculous questions!’
The colonel sat back. ‘Ninety days, Mr Mahoney? We can detain you ninety days for questioning. An’ if we’re not satisfied you’re telling the truth we can detain you another ninety days. An’ so on, indefinitely. Now, be a sensible chap and sit down, hey.’
Mahoney stared, heart pounding. And, oh God, he was terrified. Ninety days and ninety days and ninety days… He slowly sank back into his chair.
The colonel nodded encouragingly. Then hunched forward, hands clasped. ‘Mr Mahoney, where was Miss Gandhi when you were working on the story on Lilliesleaf Farm?’
Mahoney closed his eyes, his mind frantically racing. They’d said nothing about her fingerprints… ‘I don’t know. She wasn’t present.’
‘So you just got in your car and drove out to the farm to write the story because it was your other office, hey? That proves you were one of those terrorists! Good! Thank you!’
Anger rose through the fear. ‘I had no idea the farm was an ANC base! And Miss Gandhi didn’t even know of the farm’s existence – she thought I was writing the story at Drum!’
‘I see.’ The colonel nodded. ‘So how did you come to write it on the farm?’
Oh Jesus. ‘I decided not to write it at Drum in case Drum got raided. The same applied to my apartment. Then I met a guy who rented a cottage outside town but hardly lived there. He offered it to me. I grabbed it. Writers do that, you know – we need to get away to work.’
‘Of course,’ the colonel said, and the other detective snickered. ‘Artists are like that. So?’
‘So this guy said I could use his empty cottage whenever I liked. He took me out there. And, it was ideal.’
‘How kind of him!’ the colonel beamed. ‘And so you rented it?’
‘No. Well, I gave him a case of wine. It was just a favour.’
‘I understand,’ the colonel nodded earnestly. ‘And the Olivetti typewriter?’
‘It was already there.’
‘Ah … So it was absolutely ideal, hey? An’ tell me – what’s this kind guy’s name?’
Mahoney had managed to think this far ahead. ‘Mac’
‘Not sure. I just knew him as Mac, like most MacGregors or Mackintoshes. I did know, but I’ve forgotten.’
‘So easy to forget funny names. And where is this Mac now?’
‘I don’t know – I heard he’s left the country.’
‘Oh dear! So we won’t be able to meet him – an’ such a nice guy too! An’ what did he do in this country?’
‘He was looking for a job. But he seemed to have quite a bit of money – always enough to stand his round.’
‘An’ that’s where you met him, of course – in a bar?’
‘Yes. In the Elizabeth Hotel. The so-called Press Bar, opposite the Star. But I ran into him in several other places too.’
‘The Press Bar. So he was looking for a job as a writer?’
‘Yes. He said he’d done some writing – freelance. Recently arrived in Jo’burg. Been all over the world.’ He added: ‘Told me he had this cute cottage, but he really wanted a place in town.’
‘I see. A globe-trotter, hey. Very hard to find him. Pity. An’ what other friends did this friendly Mac have?’
‘I don’t know. I only ever bumped into him alone.’
‘So who told you he’d left the country?’
‘He told me he was thinking of leaving last time I saw him.’
‘An’ what arrangements did you make about the cottage?’
‘None. He’d only said he was thinking of leaving soon. No job. I presumed he would tell me about that when he left.’
‘And Miss Gandhi? She never went to the cottage?’
Oh Jesus, had they found any of her fingerprints? ‘Only once.’
‘Once? And why?’
He waved a shaky hand. ‘Just to … show it to her. We’re friends. We went for a picnic there one Sunday.’
‘A picnic? Agh, how nice.’ Colonel Krornbrink shook his head. ‘Not for the purposes of sexual intercourse, of course.’
Oh God, why not admit it for the sake of credibility, the Immorality Act was peanuts compared to treason. He heard himself say: ‘Perhaps that was my purpose. Even you will admit that Miss Gandhi is extremely attractive. But unfortunately it never happened.’
Colonel Krornbrink burst into a wide grin. ‘Mr Mahoney, I like your cheek, hey. You expect us to believe that?’
And suddenly Mahoney had had enough of terror. He crashed his hand on the desk. ‘I don’t give a shit if you don’t believe me – it’s the truth! Now, are you charging me under the Immorality Act or not? If not, I’m going home!’
The colonel grinned. ‘Mr Mahoney, we’ve got a very nice cell for you, provisionally booked for ninety days. In fact, we took the precaution of putting your name down for the following ninety days too, so don’t worry about accommodation, hey.’
Mahoney stared at him, unnerved. ‘Provisionally’? And, oh God, he wanted to say something, to do something to ingratiate himself.
Colonel Krornbrink said: ‘An’ tell me, Mr Mahoney, as neither you nor Miss Gandhi knew anything about the farm, how come we found your story – her story – buried on the farm?’
Oh Jesus, Jesus … Then he heard himself say: ‘It was stolen.’
‘Stolen?’ Colonel Krombrink looked taken aback for a moment.
Why hadn’t he thought of it before? ‘Yes. When I finally finished the job I put the story in my briefcase. I drove back to town. I stopped to buy milk. I thought I’d locked all the car doors. But when I came out – the briefcase was gone!’
Colonel Krombrink made big eyes. ‘Got, man, you must have been horrified, hey!’
‘Yes. And so was Miss Gandhi. Imagine – the whole story and those pictures of her falling into … wrong hands.’
‘Got, yes, man. How embarrassing! An’ you rewrote the story?’
Mahoney had stumbled ahead to this one. ‘No. Miss Gandhi was so horrified she just wanted to forget the whole thing. And the story was no good without the photographs to prove it was true.’
Colonel Krombrink nodded deeply. ‘And, of course, she had destroyed all the negatives?’ The detective snickered. Colonel Krombrink sat back. ‘Mr Mahoney, you expect us to believe all this crap?’ He shook his head, then looked at his watch. ‘Well, I must go, but we’ve got plenty of time to get to the truth in the next ninety days. Mr Mahoney, we hoped this wouldn’t be necessary.’ He turned to the detective. ‘Put him in the cells.’
Mahoney was aghast. The colonel stood up and straightened his jacket. He put his pen in his pocket, then paused, as if remembering something.
‘Mr Mahoney, do you know who that Indian girl is sleeping with on the nights you don’t visit her for the purposes of contravening the Immorality Act?’
Mahoney stared, his mind stuttering. Colonel Krombrink looked at him over the top of his spectacles, then opened the file again and ran his finger down a page. He shook his head. ‘Got …’ He took off his spectacles. He said sadly: ‘Amazing – that you’re prepared to go to the gallows for a coolie woman like that …’
Mahoney’s mind reeled. He bellowed: ‘Lies!’ The detective grabbed him by the wrist and the colonel walked out of the door.
The worst thing was the not knowing.
Not knowing what’s going on out there, what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, what evidence they’re fabricating, what they’re doing with her. Oh god, what are they doing to her? What is she going to say? Is she going to hang herself with her answers – and you with her? The helplessness, being unable to warn her, to tell her what to say, to tell her to run for her life … And, oh God, the not knowing how long. How long are they going to keep me in this cell? Days? Weeks? Months? When they lock you up you are panic-stricken by the not knowing, frantic, you want to bellow and shake the bars and pound the walls, roar to the sky that they can’t do this to you.
He did not bellow and shake the bars, though he wanted to: he sat on the bunk and clutched his face, desperately fighting panic, taking deep breaths and trying to calm himself. It took a long time for the screaming despair to subside; and then the cold, solid fear set in. The fear of that courtroom, that judge, those gallows. It took a long time for the dread to subside sufficiently to be able to think. He began to pace up and down.
Think … They hadn’t charged him with anything, not even under the Immorality Act – they’d only detained him. Surely to God, if they thought they could hang him they would gleefully add him to their bag of traitors. ‘We hoped this wouldn’t be necessary,’ Krombrink had said. So they were only trying to squeeze more information out of him with talk of ninety days and the gallows. Bullying him for information about Patti – they’d tried to poison his mind against her. So the way out was to play the bastards at their own bloody game, and agree to become an informer – like Patti had said. Agree to any fucking thing, then get the hell out of South Africa. Grab Patti and run like hell, run right off this continent.
In an hour or so they would come for him. Play it cool. Play them at their own bloody game … and say what?
How much are you going to admit?
But they did not come for him in an hour or so.
The sun went down, gleaming on the bars of the small high window, and the panic began to rise up, and he had to fight fiercely to keep it at bay. Think... Think about anything except this cell; Think about what you’re going to say to Krombrink. Think about how you’re going to get the hell out of this country.
Without a passport? Surely they would give him back his passport if he said he was going to be an informer?
And if they didn’t?
Now think calmly. Be calm. They’ll come for you tonight and you’ve got to have thought of everything.
But they did not come for him that night. A black constable brought him some food.
‘I want to see Colonel Krombrink!’
As he waited into the night, the sounds of traffic grew less. Occasionally there were shouts from the courtyard below, the slam of a vehicle door, an engine revving. Every time he heard a car’s noise he desperately wanted it to be Colonel Krombrink. Wanted Krombrink to come so he could throw himself on his mercy and beg to be an informer?
He pressed his forehead to the brick wall and tried to get the calm back. No, not mercy! Admit nothing! Play it cool, man. Remember they want you to be an informer, they’re just softening you up in this cell …
Finally nervous tension turned to exhaustion and he threw himself on the bunk. Sleep so you’re on the ball tomorrow … But he could not sleep, his mind a turmoil of screaming claustrophobia and fear and frustration. And through the turmoil there seethed the black poison they had injected, the image of Patti screwing around. He did not believe them, it was just to make him inform on her, to soften him, like this cell. But, oh God, in the long hours of that night there were many times when he did not know what to believe and his heart turned black with jealousy, as it was meant to, and he had to hang on tight.
In the small hours of the morning he fell into an exhausted sleep and woke up gasping, rasping, scrambled up off the bunk and into the wall; for he was standing on the gallows with a row of faceless men, the noose around his neck, then the sudden horrific plunging, the screaming, choking … He leant against the wall, taking deep shuddering breaths, his mind reeling in horror.
He stared at the first light penetrating the high window, trying to remember all the things he had thought and decided, but he felt the panic of not knowing come back and he had to press his forehead against the wall again to control it.
Get the calm back … They’ll come for you soon. You’ve got to be calm.
But they did not come for him. At six o’clock footsteps approached, but it was only a white policeman ordering him to shower. He was led into a bleak ablution section. He let the cold water beat down on his head. He took it as a good sign that he was not given any kind of prison garb.
‘I’ve got clean clothes in my car downstairs.’
‘Your car’s in Pretoria.’
‘In Pretoria? What for?’
‘Forensic tests.’ The door clanged shut.
Forensic tests? But what the hell were they looking for? Explosives? Drugs? Well, they’d find nothing!
And suddenly he felt relieved – the tests on his car accounted for the delay. The tests were done yesterday, the results would be reported this morning. Krombrink would soon send for him to bully him into making a deal. And he would play it cool and finally “let himself be bullied, and this afternoon he would be out and tomorrow he would be gone, gone …
But Colonel Krombrink did not send for him that morning. He could hear the Sunday traffic outside. Out there people were with their families and he wanted to cry out, and he wanted to sob in self pity. He had to restrain himself from beating on the door and bellowing: ‘Colonel Krombrink, where are you?!’ As the long African afternoon wore on, his nerves stretched tighter and tighter. He paced up and down the small cell: three paces up, wall, turn, three paces down, door, turn. Finally the sun began to go down, glinting on the window, and he had to press his forehead against the wall again to stop him bellowing his dread. And, oh God, Colonel Krombrink was the only man who could get him out of here, Colonel Krombrink was his saviour …
He threw himself down on the bunk and held his face.
Get the calm back. Krombrink needs you as much as you need him, remember – you’re no use to him standing on the gallows. He knows he’d be hanging an innocent man, he wants you as an informer … Krombrink will come for you tonight …
But Krombrink did not send for him that night. Mahoney fell into an exhausted, troubled sleep. Monday dawned brilliant red and gold through the high barred window and the world began to come to life out there, and he clutched his face to stop himself bellowing out loud. But he was sure Krombrink would send for him this morning – he wanted him as an informer and the sooner he was sent out into the world the better. But Krombrink did not send for him that Monday, and he thought he would go mad. Tuesday dawned. At midday the policeman brought him the clothes from his bag and Mahoney wanted to shout for joy: his car was back from Pretoria! They were giving him clean clothes to go home in.
‘Now come to the ablutions and wash your old clothes.’
‘When am I seeing Colonel Krombrink?’
No answer. Mahoney wanted to seize the man. Tuesday dragged by and darkness fell and he had to clutch his face to stop himself weeping. He knew what game Krombrink was playing – Krombrink was brain-beating him with fear, with the horror of indefinite incarceration, softening him up so that he would do anything to get out of here. And, oh God, it was working. When he shaved on Wednesday morning his hand trembled so much he cut himself. His eyes were gaunt, with dark shadows. He had to clench his fist to stop himself saying to the policeman, ‘Tell Colonel Krombrink I have a statement to make.’ No, that’s not the way to be cool. Give it one more day. He’ll send for you tomorrow.
But Colonel Krombrink did not send for him on Thursday. Or on Friday. On Saturday, listening to the midday traffic, Mahoney was ready to crack.
It was mid-afternoon when Colonel Krombrink sent for him.
He was bordering on euphoria, bordering on gratitude – as he was meant to feel. He tried to play it cool.
‘Good afternoon, Mr Mahoney, have you had a good rest?’
‘Sure. Not that I needed it.’ He sat and crossed his legs.
‘You look tired. Haven’t you been sleeping?’
‘Like a baby, Colonel. Maybe I’ve been overdoing it on the exercise. Jogging on the spot, press-ups.’
‘I hope you thought while you did it. That bullshit about Mac and the cottage and your briefcase being stolen.’
He managed a frown. ‘It’s the truth!’
The colonel opened a file and withdrew a typewritten sheet. He put on his spectacles and said: ‘Mr Mahoney, we have a new charge against you. The same charge the others face.’
‘What bullshit –’
‘Forensic tests were done on your car. And under the back seat –’ he consulted the report – ‘were found numerous particles of explosives, identical to those found on Lilliesleaf Farm.’ He sat back and took off his spectacles.
Mahoney stared at him, aghast, his heart pounding. Krombrink went on: ‘The evidence at your trial will be that these explosives from Russia usually come wrapped in cheap plastic which often cracks and small crumbs fall out, hey.’ He smiled. ‘The evidence against you now is: one, that you used the cottage on Lilliesleaf Farm; two, that you wrote a story to try to blackmail the police force on a typewriter found on the farm, three, that said story was found buried on the farm which was clearly the underground headquarters of the ANC; four, that Russian-made explosives were found in and around that farmhouse; five, that traces of identical explosives were found in your car.’ He raised his eyebrows, then spread his hands. ‘And, six, that you regularly went to Swaziland and Botswana where we know there are ANC bases with supplies of explosives.’
Mahoney stared, his mind fumbling, his heart white with fear. ‘You’re lying!’ He scrambled to his feet and smashed his fist down on the desk. ‘Ridiculous! You’re lying …’
Colonel Krombrink said quietly: ‘And point number seven: you’re the lover of the notorious Patti Gandhi.’ He raised his eyebrows again. ‘Who is well known to us as an ANC operative.’
Mahoney’s mouth was dry. He smashed his hand down on the desk again and cried: ‘You’re lying! You didn’t find explosives in my car! I’ve never touched explosives in my life!’
The colonel smirked: ‘The gallows, Mr Mahoney …
‘You bastards put the explosives in my car!’
The colonel had not moved. ‘Why would we want to hang an innocent man? That doesn’t suppress terrorism, does it?’ He sighed, then sat up. ‘Mr Mahoney, either you put those explosives in your car on one of your trips with Miss Gandhi, or she did.’ He added: ‘With or without your knowledge.’
Mahoney stared. And, Jesus Christ, the bastard was trying to make him pin the explosives on her, to hang her! He rasped: ‘Patti wouldn’t have anything to do with explosives!’
‘Then you put them in your car?’
‘No! You did!’
‘Why should we waste our time framing people when we’ve got our hands full catching real terrorists – like Miss Gandhi?’
‘To blackmail me into giving information about her! And she’s not a fucking terrorist!’
Krombrink smirked. ‘There’re easier ways of getting information without resorting to the dangerous crime of blackmail. Mr Mahoney, your car was never searched at the borders, was it?’ He tapped the file. ‘They keep records at the borders of cars searched.’
‘No! And if they had they’d have found nothing!’
‘But,’ Krombrink said significantly, ‘they usually search an Indian’s car. Because you know what bladdy crooks they are.’
‘And they never found anything in her car either! Or you’d have hanged her long ago!’
‘Right,’ the colonel said. ‘They only ever found merchandise samples.’ He spread his hands. ‘If we were going to frame somebody, surely we would frame Miss Gandhi, who we know is ANC.’
Mahoney stared, Ms mind fumbling, an awful thought dawning on him that perhaps the bastard was telling the truth. He looked so convincing.
The colonel said: ‘So, who put the explosives in your car? Miss Gandhi, who knew she was likely to be searched on the border? Or you? Or both?’
Mahoney rasped desperately: ‘Neither of us!’
The colonel sat back. Then he said thoughtfully: ‘When you went on these lovers’ jaunts, were both your cars parked in the same place?’
Lovers’ jaunts. ‘Yes.’
‘But Miss Gandhi wasn’t in your company the whole time?’
‘You’re suggesting that she sneaked out and put the explosives in my car? Bullshit. You put them in my car!’
‘But she had the opportunity to instruct her ANC friends to hide explosives in your car while your back was turned?’
Mahoney glared at him. The man was offering him an escape route. And, oh God, the cleverness of the swine, planting the doubt in his mind! All he wanted was to get out of there and find out the truth. Yes, he was prepared to make bargains. But play it cool … ‘I don’t believe she did it.’
‘You don’t believe she would expose you to the death penalty?’
The words struck dread in his breast. No, he did not believe Patti would do that, but they had planted the doubt and, oh God, he would do anything to get out of there, out of South Africa. ‘That’s right, I don’t.’
‘So you did it?’ He suddenly became angry: ‘Got, man, admit it!’
It shocked him all over again – the suspicion was suddenly back on him. ‘I deny it! You planted that stuff on me!’
The colonel sneered. ‘Why d’you think she wouldn’t do that? Because she loves you? And, are you in love with her?’
Relief that the suspicion was shifting back to her. What did they want to hear? Yes, so he wouldn’t betray her and hang himself. No, so he would betray her? He tried to think fast. ‘I don’t know now.’ Doubt was what the bastard wanted to hear.
Krombrink took a breath of satisfaction. And proceeded to poison the hook. ‘Do you know what Miss Gandhi does on the nights you don’t visit her for the purpose of contravening the Immorality Act?’ He studied a typewritten page.
Mahoney’s heart gave a pump of black jealousy. Oh, that poisonous doubt again. ‘She has numerous business meetings.’
The colonel nodded over his file, reading. ‘Ja, some business meetings also … and other types of meetings?’
Mahoney wanted to snatch the page from him. He said grimly: ‘Friends.’
Colonel Krombrink did not look up, running his finger down the page. ‘Friends, ja … boyfriends?’
Oh Jesus … ‘I don’t know. You tell me.’
‘Would you be angry if you found out she was sleeping around?’
‘Yes.’ That’s what the bastard wanted to hear. And he was jealous already.
‘And you would be disgusted if in addition she placed those explosives in your car so you unwittingly took the risk of smuggling them across the border on her behalf?’ He added: ‘Exposing you to the gallows.’
Mahoney closed his eyes. He almost believed the bastard now. ‘Yes.’
‘Yes.’ The colonel nodded. ‘And what would you do about it?’
Thank God the man was at last getting to the point of this torture. ‘I’m not sure, I’ve never been in this position.’
The colonel leant forward and said softly: ‘Mr Mahoney, that girl is sleeping with two men apart from you.’
It was a shock, even though he had known it was coming, even though he didn’t believe it. He stared; the colonel went on: ‘And one of them, Mr Mahoney, is a kaffir, hey.’
Mahoney blinked. It was intended as a sickening blow, and it was. He had to bite his tongue to remind himself it was lies. The colonel looked at him:
‘The kaffir is called Amos. The other is a white called Michael. Both are ANC. Communists. And terrorists. Mr Mahoney, the explosives in your car ended up on Lilliesleaf Farm. And we’re sure that these two men used them. To blow up Johannesburg station. And other jobs.’ He paused. ‘The men who’re screwing Miss Gandhi, for whom you now stand in risk of the gallows.’
If this was for real it was mind-blowing. This wasn’t true! ‘Have you arrested these two guys?’
‘They weren’t on the farm when we raided. But we’re working on it.’ He paused. ‘Evidence, Mr Mahoney. We need evidence, and I do not fabricate evidence, contrary to what you think. Remember that, when you accuse me of planting traces of explosives in your car.’
Oh God, God.
‘Do you see,’ Krombrink demanded gently, ‘that you were used? As an expendable pawn – to be hanged if you were caught.’
It was mind-blowing. He did not believe it. And he did not know what to believe.
Krombrink continued: ‘Doing the dangerous dirty work for Miss Gandhi’s other lovers? The men she fucks.’ The colonel went on softly: ‘Mr Mahoney, we have enough evidence to hang you …’
Mind-blowing … He hung on his words, like he was meant to, desperate for reprieve.
Krombrink said quietly: ‘Are you going to go to the gallows for those two guys? And for Miss Gandhi?’
Oh God, of course not. And he wanted to roar with outrage that the bastard was terrifying him. He rasped: ‘No.’
‘But how’re you going to escape those gallows?’
Oh, he knew how he was going to escape them – get to the border and run like hell! And he didn’t care that the man was lying – run like hell and never come back!
Krombrink sat back again, in deep thought. Then he said: ‘Mr Mahoney, speaking personally – and not for my superiors – I do not believe you are a terrorist. An ANC sympathizer, definitely. But not a terrorist, in the normal sense of the word.’ (Oh God, the relief. The veritable rush of gratitude. Just like he was meant to feel.) ‘But we have this evidence. And I can assure you that any court will convict you on this evidence.’
Mahoney stared at him, desperate for his deal, his mercy.
‘Mr Mahoney, the only way to escape evidence like this –’ he tapped the file – ‘is to prove that you’re the victim of a terrible, cynical plot by these people.’ He held his eye. ‘I am prepared to give you a chance to do that.’
Mahoney closed his eyes in relief. He wanted to gush his gratitude. ‘And how do I do that?’
Colonel Krombrink nodded solemnly. ‘Only by cooperating completely with us. Doing exactly as we say Reporting absolutely everything to us.’ Then his eyes took on a steely glare. ‘And not only will you prove your innocence but we will make a break into these communist cells. Do you agree to cooperate?’
Oh yes, yes, he agreed. ‘Okay,’ he said.
Colonel Krombrink studied him, assessing. Then gave a judgement: ‘Okay.’ He sat up. ‘We’ll get you to sign a statement to that effect.’ (Mahoney wanted to whoop for joy.) ‘And another statement. Our insurance, hey, that you don’t cheat us.’ He shrugged. ‘Not important to you, really, in your circumstances, just a Cautioned Statement admitting to contravening the Immorality Act on various occasions with Patti Gandhi.’
The Immorality Act was peanuts compared to that cell for ninety days! Absolutely nothing compared to those gallows!
‘And a third statement. Summarising how you wrote the story for this Gandhi woman at Lilliesleaf Farm, how you often went to neighbouring countries together, et cetera.’
‘And that I knew nothing about the farm being an ANC base? Nor about explosives? Nor did Miss Gandhi?’
‘Not to your knowledge, no.’
‘And if I refuse to sign?’
Krombrink sighed. ‘Mr Mahoney, everything you’ve said has been tape-recorded, we’ve got the evidence against you if we want to use it. But you’re much more valuable working with us than hanging by your neck until SAFFAS – they’re the prison’s contract undertakers – take you away to an unmarked grave.’
Mahoney’s face was ashen, his heart knocking.
‘Okay, I’ll sign.’
Krombrink gave him a small reasonable smile; then clasped his hands together. ‘I personally will be your handler – you will report to me. You will receive all reasonable expenses incurred. Of course, we will retain your passport. But, of course, you will be given it back if and when you need it to travel with Miss Gandhi to somewhere like Swaziland again, provided I approve.’
He heard himself blurt: ‘Why can’t I have it back now?!’
Krombrink smiled. ‘We’re not fools, Mr Mahoney. You must realize you’re on a kind of unofficial bail. Now,’ he hunched forward, ‘remember I explained to you about the snake that laid the eggs? It’s those eggs you’re going to help us find …’
It was unreal. The joy of walking back down the long corridor, his car keys in his hand, Colonel Krombrink escorting him to the security grille, shaking his hand … It was unreal that he even felt grateful to the man – he even almost liked Colonel Krombrink, for Christ’s sake … Then walking out of that dread-filled building into God’s own sweet fresh sunset – and, oh, he loved the world with his whole heart. Driving away up the empty streets was a wonderful feeling. Look at those shop windows, look at the lights …
And it was unreal that he could now drive to her shop without worrying about being seen, could spend the whole night with her now without being arrested: Krombrink had ordered him to get back together with her – Krombrink would be expecting him to go to her immediately. No car was following him. He drove down Pritchard Street, turned left into Diagonal Street. Carmel Building, the row of Indian shops underneath, the apartments above – it seemed a long, long time since he had been here. And, yes, there were lights in her window! He parked. He went through the big front archway, for all the world to see. He entered the yard, then climbed the staircase onto the access verandah. He rang her bell.
The door opened. She stared at him, amazed.
He put his finger to her lips, then took her in his arms. And, oh, the wonderful feel of her again! He was trembling. And, oh God, he could not bear to believe what Krombrink had told him about her.
It was likely that her apartment was bugged with a listening device. As he told her his story, they sat in the courtyard, outside the back door of her shop. She listened without interruption, her face grim.
‘And you signed those statements? So they’ve got you nailed down. If you don’t cooperate they charge you on those confessions.’
‘If I didn’t agree to cooperate they’d have pulled you in and put you through the wringer.’ He looked at her shakily. ‘How did those traces of explosives get in my car, Patti?’
She closed her eyes. ‘There never were any explosives in your car, don’t you see? They’re framing you.’
‘Then why not make a good job of it and plant a whole bag?’
She held her face. ‘For credibility. It sounds so convincing, mere traces, whereas a whole bag may sound like a plant.’
‘But they’re after you; you’re the ANC member. If they were going to frame somebody, why didn’t they plant explosives in your car?’
‘Because they don’t want to arrest me yet – they want you to find out what I’m up to, what the ANC cells are doing.’
He took her hands from her face. He looked into her beautiful brown eyes. ‘Patti, the time for need-to-know crap is passed. We’re both in very big shit and I do need to know. The truth! Now, did you or did you not ever smuggle explosives?’
She stared at him, eyes gaunt. ‘You’ve swallowed their poison, haven’t you? You think I really might have hidden explosives in your car, so that you would take the risk instead of me!’
Mahoney closed his eyes. Oh God, he wanted her to say the right thing, to stop their poison working. ‘Did you?’
She hissed: ‘I swear to God I didn’t do that! I would never expose you to that risk – I love you!’ She glared, then sighed feverishly. ‘Oh, what’s the use – you need to know … ’ She looked at him. ‘Yes, I smuggled explosives. But I never did so in your car, always in my own. But on one occasion the fools in Swaziland put the stuff in your car instead of mine – the guy got his instructions mixed up. I discovered the mistake – I looked under my back seat, they weren’t there. I guessed what had happened, looked under the back seat of your car and there they were. I transferred them to my car. That’s how the traces got into yours.’
Mahoney sighed in relief. Thank God she admitted it. Or the poison may have worked. But Jesus, smuggling explosives …
‘And did you know what they were going to be used for?’
‘Yes.’ She jabbed her finger at him. ‘Military targets. Not blowing up women and children on Johannesburg Station.’
‘How could you be sure of that?’
‘Because that was ANC policy! Military targets only.’
He said: ‘Krombrink told me that when they raided the farm the ANC boys were sitting around a table covered with documents about hitting soft targets.’
She glared at him. She said slowly: ‘If that is true, I know nothing about it. I am not a member of the executive. I simply did as I was told. And I was told that only military targets were legitimate.’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘Do you believe me?’
He sighed. ‘Yes. Thank God.’
‘If I was using you to smuggle my explosives, why did I tell you last week that I was never seeing you again?’
Right. Which brought him to the next bit of poison. And he desperately wanted to believe her on this one. ‘Do you know a man called Michael? And a black called Amos?’
She looked at him steadily. ‘What about them?’
He took a deep breath. ‘Krombrink says you’re screwing both of them.’
Her expression did not change. She looked at him a long moment, then said quietly: ‘That’s an absolute lie. To poison you against me.’
Oh God, he wanted to believe that. ‘But you do know them?’
‘Obviously,’ she said grimly.
‘You’ve never screwed either of them?’
‘No. On two occasions recently I have hidden them in my apartment for the night. That’s all. Obviously the police know about it.’
Oh, thank God. ‘And are they saboteurs?’
She said quietly, ‘No.’
He did not believe that. ‘Did they blow up Johannesburg Station and kill those people?’
She hissed: ‘No. I’ve told you – that was not an ANC bomb! It must have been a bloody Poqo bomb – or those African Resistance Movement guys! No loss of life is our policy!’
‘But lives have been lost, apart from Jo’burg Station. How do you know Michael and Amos didn’t plant that bomb?’
‘Because I would know what’s going on in my cell!’
‘They’re in your cell?’
She closed her eyes. ‘I’m not going to answer that.’
She already had. ‘But it’s possible they did it without your knowledge.’
Her hands were shaking. ‘Anything is possible.’
‘How do you know your smuggled explosives weren’t used in that station bomb? Who did you give them to?’
She looked at him fiercely, tremulously. ‘I wouldn’t answer that question if I knew. But I don’t know. The procedure is secret, so I can’t know, so I can’t tell the police if I’m caught. I simply park my car in an appointed place, and walk away. Somebody comes and collects the stuff.’ She added: ‘For use against military targets.’
Mahoney took a deep-breath, and massaged his eyes. Okay, he believed her. Thank God. He sighed. ‘Smuggling explosives … is that the reason you weren’t going to see me again?’
Her eyes moistened, and she wanted to cry, I’m pregnant, that’s why I can’t see you again! She blinked back the burn and told half of it: ‘The reason is that there’s no future in our relationship. Because I will not leave this country. And I don’t want to break my heart further. Or yours. And because it’s too dangerous now that Lilliesleaf’s been raided. On the day of the raid Krombrink put the screws on you to be an informer, and I refused to let you be a double-agent, expose you to those risks. And anyway you’re not the type.’ She tried to glare, to smother the tears. ‘And if you don’t believe that you can go to hell.’
Mahoney sighed. ‘Well, I was coming back to tell you, before I was so rudely interrupted by Krombrink, that I’d decided I am the type. If you can be, so can I. That you’re right, we can’t take this government lying down.’ He added: ‘And that’s the only way we can be together.’
She was staring at him. Taken aback. She began to argue but he continued grimly: ‘However, I didn’t know you were involved in bombs – even indirectly.’ He looked at her. ‘I’m not prepared to be involved – even indirectly – in things like that, Patti. In murder. Nor am I prepared to let you be.’
‘Are you saying you’re prepared to be a double – work for the ANC and feed Krombrink disinformation?’
He said quietly: ‘That’s what I was coming back to tell you; yes. But that’s before I learnt about the explosives. However, that’s all academic now. Because we’ve got to leave the country. Fast. And never come back until this government’s fallen.’
‘But are you still prepared to work for the ANC?’
He took a deep breath. ‘That very much depends. On a whole lot of things: where we are, what kind of work. Give them free legal advice when I’m qualified? Sure. Do some writing for them? Sure, as long as it’s not Marxist crap. Write about apartheid? I already do that. Do some administrative work? Yes, as long as it’s honest – and nothing to do with bombs. And that kind of thing –’ he jabbed a finger at her – ‘is the only sort of work you
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