Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Azanian Apocalypse

The Opera House (1892), also known as The Grand Old Lady of Whites Road.
Chapter 1
‘So, Comrade Health Minister, what are we going to do about all these wretches with Aids? Are we going to spend millions of rands on antiretrovirals, or should we, how can I put it, dissemble a bit, and propagate the theory that there is no causal link between HIV and Aids?
‘I mean, I really don’t think we can afford to pump all that money into extending the lives of people who are going to die anyway, eventually, once the virus takes hold and their immune systems finally collapse. It makes no economic sense and, if you think about it, in the long run is actually cruel to the people involved, giving them false hope that they will survive.
‘Yes, Minister, I think this will be our strategy: We’ll go along with the Aids dissidents and, indeed, appoint a few onto the Aids Council. In so doing, we can create enough confusion to delay taking any action for years to come. But you, Dr Minister, have got to show your caring side to the nation. You have got to come out with regular statements expressing your sympathy for those with HIV, and then offer some sort of palliative, which the gullible will swallow.’
‘Thank you Comrade Esteemed President. Of course I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the situation. There is really no way that we, as a developing nation, can pour all that money into what is, I agree, a hopeless cause. Furthermore, it will become a cash-guzzling, bottomless pit. And really, if you think about it, the economy won’t actually be affected much by these deaths. Most of the victims are from the impoverished squatter camps and rural townships. They are unemployed and malnourished surplus people.
‘Which, Comrade President, brings me to my suggested strategy. Since it is our policy to blame every ill on the legacy of apartheid, I think this Aids problem offers us another golden opportunity. I propose that our strategy be to blame the massive incidence of Aids on the apartheid government, and add that the reason our people have been so badly affected and infected, if you get me, is because of their generally low immune systems due to apartheid-induced malnutrition. I have been scouring the Internet and have found an Aids researcher, a Cape Town woman would you believe, who insists that immune systems can be enhanced simply by eating certain things. The African potato, the naartjie, beetroot, garlic and olive oil are, according to her, packed with immunity-enhancing properties which will do more for our people than these anti-retroviral drugs. Furthermore, they are far cheaper and will not line the pockets of multi-national drug companies who have been ripping the struggling masses off for generations.
‘So, Comrade Esteemed President, I suggest I release a statement endorsing your view that the link between HIV and Aids has yet to be proven, and then promoting the consumption of the aforementioned foodstuffs. I know our enemies will whine about the cost of olive oil, but it is not as though we are encouraging people to drink the stuff like water. Just use it to fry your chicken in place of ordinary sunflower oil, that’s all I’ll be telling the people.
‘Well, Comrade Esteemed President, what do you think?’
‘I think it is a marvellous solution to a tricky problem. Please get your officials working on it right away, Dr Minister.
‘Next on the agenda, I see, is Zimbabwe. I think we are all agreed as a Cabinet that our policy should remain that we privately support the President and his party in their endeavours to repossess the people’s land as speedily as possible. At the same time, we will put out a statement saying we are concerned at the situation in that country and will continue with our policy of quiet diplomacy, confident that a solution will be forthcoming in the not-too distant future.
‘Is there anything we have missed, comrades?’
‘Yes, the special budgetary allocation for incidental miscellaneous expenditure.’
‘Ah, yes, Comrade Finance Minister. You’ve done an excellent job in keeping inflation down, thanks to reduced social spending and other effective cuts, but I agree it is essential we boost this item to at least five billion rand. It is important for the pride and prestige of the party that each year we have nation-wide celebrations and parties to mark the advent of democracy. Then there are all those state-funded funerals as our struggle heroes finally pass away, after a lifetime of devotion to the cause of our people.
‘So yes, I don’t think there will be any objection to our allocating those extra billions, do you Comrade Environment Minister?’
‘Absolutely. I fully support the move, Comrade Esteemed President.’
A door flies open and heavy-booted footsteps are heard.
‘Okay everyone, the game’s up! That’s enough of that subversive, treasonous twaddle. Officers, arrest all these people, these scumbags!’
Sitting near the front of the theatre, Nick and his wife Patricia are first terrified, then amused. ‘This is surely part of the show,’ Nick whispers to Patricia.
‘Just like The Satirist used to do during the dark days of apartheid, when he introduced the security police presence to add to that fear dimension, so today, much older and wiser, he is still using this ploy. It is certainly convincing, isn’t it, dear?’
‘I’m afraid you’re wrong, Nick. This is the real thing. I recognise their leader from the newspapers. He’s a top metro security services official. I think we’d better get out of here as fast as we can, before they find out how to switch the lights on.’
Nick, aged 55, is aghast. Of course Patricia, always the realist, is dead right. Fortunately, a few years back when shows could still be staged in theatres without state interference, he had had his first and only play, Discussions – tracing the country’s history from Van Riebeeck’s time till the present – performed right here. The old Opera House, built in the late nineteenth century, has in recent years become dilapidated, most of its ornate furnishings vandalised or stolen. But this is a clandestine show, in an upstairs venue formerly known as The Barn, and is totally illegal in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Gatherings Act.
Nick leads Patricia towards the stage, where The Satirist is being manhandled by three burly plain-clothed policemen. As they pull him down the stairs, stage right, Nick and Pat slip behind the curtain, stage left. They speed across the boards and into the back-stage area, and Nick prays the door into a little-used passageway leading to the back of the building will be unlocked. It is. So too, once they have navigated the narrow stairway, is the door leading out of the building. They hurriedly clamber over boulders and filth before scaling a two-metre high fence. They are now on the steeply sloping open stretch of parkland formerly known as the Donkin Reserve. The lights which used to make this a peaceful and safe area for families in the past are, thankfully, no longer working. All they can see, as they head up through the long grass, is the outline of the pyramid and lighthouse complex. They glance back. No-one seems to be following them. Nick, his left leg playing up, stumbles along while Patricia, five years younger than him but much better preserved, takes him by the arm. Perspiring profusely, they find their battered old Toyota parked in a side street. Miraculously, it still has all four wheels and, when Nick turns the key, it starts first time. As the sound of police sirens reaches them from the Opera House below, they set off on as circuitous a route as possible, making it home just in time to watch the 11pm news broadcast on television.
There is comprehensive coverage of the arrests at the Opera House. Then an Azanian Broadcasting Corporation journalist interviews The Executive Mayor. He expresses grave concern at the fact that what was clearly a play designed to undermine the government and state security, was openly being staged in a venue ‘notorious under apartheid for the reactionary and anti-revolutionary shows that it used to host, aided and abetted by massive state grants and the bussing in of people to provide full-houses for what were, of themselves, worthless productions’.
The Executive Mayor, his anger deepening, adds that as the Eastern Cape prides itself in being the fountainhead of the struggle and of the transformation process, he will petition The Esteemed President for the right to make an example of those who flout the country’s laws.
‘These people are undermining the rule of law by their behaviour,’ says The Executive Mayor. ‘We were unable to arrest all of those who attended this show tonight, but you can be assured that we will not rest until every traitor who harbours anti-democratic and anti-transformation desires in his or her bosom is exposed. Comrades around the country, we urge you to keep your eyes and ears open. Anyone you notice behaving suspiciously, or who reveals themselves to be negative about the future of our great country, must be reported to the authorities.
‘For far too long we have allowed opponents of the government to undermine, criticise and ridicule the elected leaders of our people. We don’t mind the odd bit of opposition. That’s democracy. But this underhanded, subversive spreading of clearly racist, sexist and bourgeois ideas must stop forthwith.’
‘But Comrade Executive Mayor, what concrete steps are you going to take?’ asks the reporter.
‘As you know, our comrades in Parliament have passed new legislation which, I believe, will start to address one of the most pernicious fomenters of this kind of dissent. People of this country, I am talking about the new Removal of Colonial Buildings, Monuments and Statues Act. Look, I know some critics say we should have included apartheid-era buildings in this statute, but I think our lawmakers got it just right. The apartheid buildings are, to my mind, modern, functional edifices ideally suited to our cause as a government of the people, for the people, by the people.
‘But when you look around you in this metropole, comrades, you have to agree with me that the time is long overdue for the removal of such heinous reminders of British imperialism as this so-called Opera House, so long a thorn in our side.
‘There has also long been a popular demand that the statue of Queen Victoria outside the Main Library be removed. Well, I’m going to propose to my executive that we go one further. This is a first, I think, for the country. Further details will be announced in the coming days, but I’d like to disclose now, in the wake of what was a serious breach of our intellectual security and integrity, that the month of September, Heritage Month, will be devoted in this metro – and I hope others will follow our lead – to what I’d like to call a process of anti-colonial iconoclastic mass action.
‘I’m sure all my comrades in The Party will support me in my proposal that the following anti-democratic buildings and/or objects be destroyed during Heritage Month: the Queen Victoria statue and adjacent library, which is an object lesson in bourgeois extravagance; the so-called Opera House, scene of this evening’s despicable activities; Fort Frederick, symbol of the imperialists’ first violent occupation of our province over 200 years ago; and, most importantly, the so-called Donkin Memorial pyramid on the former Donkin Reserve, which will be turned into a site for high-income cluster housing.
‘I will be submitting the full list, along with other suggested targets, to the executive committee tomorrow.
‘Viva the struggle for a colonial-free country, Viva! And goodnight, comrades. Sleep tight. Except those of you, of course, who plot the downfall of our hard-fought democracy. Know this: we will get you.’
Nick and Patricia are in shock. They repair to bed, dazed, and spend the night thrashing around in a sleepless, head-pounding pall of despair.

The Prince Alfred's Guard memorial (1907), erected over a water reservoir.
Chapter 2

Despite the existence for several months now of the new law on removing colonial buildings and statues, it has not yet been acted on with any conviction. So The Executive Mayor is pleasantly surprised the next day at the overwhelmingly positive, nation-wide response to his proposal.
Sitting in his R10 000 chair, he fields phone calls, faxes and e-mails from comrades around the country, praising what was in fact an impromptu speech precipitated by the outright cheek of reactionary forces flagrantly flouting the law on unlawful gatherings. Furthermore, the so-called play they had been watching, by an apartheid-era comedian known as The Satirist, was in the worst of taste, from what the police told him. It had sought to disparage The Esteemed President himself, and ridiculed members of his cabinet.
No, as The Executive Mayor basks in the afterglow of his new-found popularity, he sees the possibility of better things in the future. If he handles this one right, he thinks, perhaps The Party may see fit to redeploy him to the national level. With his giraffe-like stature and chiselled good looks, he has always known he has the potential to take on a national leadership position. Now the whole country is looking to him to lead the campaign to remove all reminders of the hated colonial past.
Other metros have, he tells his executive committee, informed him they will be following the same course. Even some city halls, so long the power bases of reactionary city administrations, stand to fall in what should be a suitable orgy of cultural assertiveness in the month of September.
After their meeting, The Executive Mayor’s press secretary releases a statement outlining the programme for the anti-colonial celebrations. It reads:
‘As this metro has long been tainted by some of the oldest surviving relics of our colonial exploitation and domination, it has been deemed necessary – and here The Esteemed President himself agrees – that we should lead a national crusade to rid our towns and cities of offensive buildings and statues, which only serve to confuse the general population, and often lead to members of the community experiencing serious trauma just from looking at them.
‘Since the so-called Opera House has so recently been the scene of an outrageous assault on our culture, it has been decided to kick off the celebrations with the demolition of this building, which as you all know has not been used with official sanction now for almost a decade. Contracts will be awarded to deserving empowerment demolition companies to carry out this project, but the public will be allowed to assist or simply watch as this carbuncle on the face of our metro is razed to the ground.
‘A specially arranged explosives display will also be presented at Fort Frederick. The National Defence Force’s engineers will be using carefully placed devices which will reduce this symbol of our oppression to rubble in a matter of seconds.
‘On the former Donkin Reserve, it is intended to retain the lighthouse, although this is considered to have numerous negative political and social connotations. However, the adjacent pyramid, built with slave labour by an early colonial governor, will be levelled, again by the Defence Force. This will either be done by means of explosives, or soldiers with rifle grenades will practise their accuracy by firing on the thing from a distance of 200 metres.
‘The nearby terrace of so-called settler cottages will not, at this stage, be demolished, since they are currently all occupied by members of the democratic movement. The same applies to the adjacent hotels, which are owned by members of The Party.
‘Also during this first phase of our iconoclastic duty we will all congregate, as a city, on Martyrs’ Square to watch the burning of seditious books from around the metro. Thereafter, members of the Executive Committee will be afforded the opportunity to take ten-pound hammers to the marble monstrosity known as the Queen Victoria statue. Once “her majesty” has been reduced to dust, the Defence Force will again show its skills as the Main Library building is gently imploded. Or it may simply be burnt to the ground. We’ll see. The site will be used for a new People’s Re-education Centre.
‘We trust these measures will meet with the general approval of the population of the metro, and invite all and sundry to participate. Each evening, following the demolitions, the people are invited to celebrate at what was once the St George’s Park cricket stadium, where goats and sheep will be ceremonially slaughtered. Aluta continua!’
Martin, 21, the son of Nick and Patricia, reads the press statement in the Daily Post with dismay. A history student at the Metro University, he has long been taught by his parents that the preservation of the past, particularly in a country with so complex a history as this, is essential. Yet here it is planned to summarily wipe off the face of the earth several key, concrete reminders of that past.
‘I know we are taught at university to ignore everything that occurred before February 2, 1990, apart from those factors which informed the liberation struggle,’ he tells his parents at breakfast.
‘But surely these buildings hold no dangers. They cannot speak or defend the colonial forces responsible for their construction.’
Nick looks his tall, thin, blond son in his blue eyes, and says resignedly: ‘I’m afraid, son, that this is the beginning of the end. The end of history. While you and I may have a working knowledge of what came before the great Liberation, out there in the sprawling townships and squatter camps very few people know or care.’
Martin gets up, agitated. ‘But you guys on the newspaper don’t help matters. When last did you publish an article criticising the government? When last was there even a news report mildly critical of the state? It’s as if everything is hunky-dory in our land, when we all know that crime is rampant, Aids has reached epidemic proportions and corruption is rife. But the newspapers, not to mention state-controlled television, tell us nothing.’
‘Son’, says Patricia, ‘we know. We know. Your father and I campaigned during the apartheid era to end that hated system. We wanted National Liberation as much as the previously disadvantaged. But we never expected that the new regime would turn out to be even more repressive than the old.
‘Your father has stuck his neck out all too often in an attempt to speak some sense into the regime, but it has got us nowhere. They don’t seem to read the newspapers anymore, except if it’s articles extolling the virtues of what the authorities are doing.’

‘Ja, your mother’s right, you know,’ says Nick, his balding head bowed, his shoulders stooped, his bushy eyebrows shrouding tired eyes. ‘I have to keep my head down at work now, or I could lose my job.’
‘Are you saying that the paper is now fully under The Party’s control?’
‘Absolutely, son. Look, there is still a pretence of ethical journalism, of letting the other side have its say, and so on. But over the past few years of “transformation” the news has been carefully tailored to toe the political line. It’s never done overtly, but key stories simply no longer make the newspaper. And features I’ve written critical of the regime are simply ignored.’
‘Well I’m not going to be cowed into submission like you old toppies. This is my country, and I’ll fight to return it to democracy, or rather fight to ensure that it finally gets democracy, since, from what I can gather, we went from one form of dictatorship to another. From a right-wing nationalist despotism to a left-wing nationalist despotism.’
‘Don’t do anything rash, son,’ says Patricia. ‘We don’t want you detained by the security police, as happened to that crowd at the Opera House last night. We ourselves were lucky to escape. No doubt those who were caught will now be subjected to a course of coercive re-education’
‘No Ma, I won’t get violent or anything. I’ll simply be issuing a very bland pamphlet outlining exactly what it is these people are set on destroying. These are not just buildings. They are symbols of our ancestors’ courage and hard work. I’m amazed they did not mention targeting the Campanile. Either they overlooked it, or they are so ignorant they don’t realise it commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the 1820 British Settlers. Or perhaps they’re saving it for a more spectacular bit of destructive festivity, possibly during the New Year’s Eve fireworks display.’
‘Well, Martin, whatever you and your friends get up to, do it anonymously. Don’t let them link it to you, or you’ll land us all in trouble,’ says Nick, his bottom molar aching as it so often does when he’s feeling tense. But he no longer has enough medical cover to afford having that tricky bit of root-canal work he underwent a few years ago redone. No, he’ll just have to grin and bear it.

The Pearson Conservatory (1882) in St George's Park.
Chapter 3

Martin has no friends working with him. He has found at the university that there is a general lack of interest in matters political among his fellow students. They sit during lectures with a glazed look in their eyes, as The Party’s sanitised version of history is presented to them. He is too scared openly to challenge the outrageous untruths presented as fact by his lecturers. And no-one else bats an eyelid. He recalls that throughout his schooling career he was taught a version of history which almost denied the existence of history at all. The unbanning of The Party in 1990 was presented as the first major victory in The Struggle. Before that, the history lessons revolved around The Saintly Leader and his comrades and their heroic decades of incarceration. It told of the imposition of laws which treated the masses as third class citizens under apartheid, and how the masses had finally risen up against the apartheid state. The apogee of this struggle was the first democratic election on April 27, 1994. Nowhere did he hear about the arrival of European settlers in this country, except where their presence was presented in as poor a light as possible. Nowhere was he told of their struggle to survive in an inhospitable country, or of their pivotal role in bringing learning and expertise to the Dark Continent. Instead, the history of colonialism had been presented as even more heinous than that of apartheid itself, despite the latter being that much more oppressive.

Somehow, he reasons, because the apartheid leaders by and large joined The Party after liberation, they have been officially forgiven, but those who still oppose The Party, especially the Official Opposition in parliament, are considered virtually treasonous.
Martin has watched television coverage of parliament as the leader of the Official Opposition is pilloried by members of The Party, which controls some 80 per cent of all seats. It allows an opposition, he believes, for the same reason as the Apartheid Party did from 1948 till 1990 – in order to give what is a de facto one-party state some semblance of democratic respectability.
What to do about it? Martin, who has long been something of a loner, knows that if he uses his parents’ computer he could land them all in trouble. The computer has not been registered under the Licensing of Computers Act, which enables Party officials to vet who owns such machines. So his parents are illegally operating a device of which the Party is particularly afraid, especially when it is connected to the Internet, since this exposes people to an outside world they should not be allowed to experience.
Martin knows that the state controls not only the printed media – through the empowerment companies established during the 1990s and early 2000s – but also the electronic media. Satellite television is owned only by the handful of very wealthy. The Party can afford for them to have access to foreign news services because they constitute such a minority that they pose no threat at all to its hegemony. The national television broadcaster, ATV, is much like its apartheid predecessor, from what his parents have told him. Known jokingly as His Master’s Voice, it only airs news and documentaries which reinforce Party ideology.
Martin, lying on his narrow bed in his bedroom that evening, cannot help feeling a bit like Winston Smith, the protagonist in the banned novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. Is Big Brother watching him and his parents? He seems sure they are. Only time will tell.

The Cenotaph (1929), the Arts Hall (1927), right, and the King George VI Art Gallery (1956), with St George's Park's Duckpond Pavilion behind.
Chapter 4
The Commission on Human Rights (COHR) releases a statement on national television praising The Executive Mayor’s initiative.
‘For too long,’ its chairman, or chairperson as he prefers to be known, opines, ‘the masses of our people have had to endure the presence of reactionary and anti-democratic buildings and statues in their midst. It is high time that this sort of action was taken. We can only wonder why it has taken this long to act in terms of legislation which we, in fact, initiated.
‘Such buildings and statues, it must be remembered, are symbols of our repugnant past. As such, in contravention of our Constitution, they present one section of the population as superior, and the others, including the majority group, as inferior. Though these objects may in themselves be mute and incapable of voicing hate speech, their mere presence is hurtful to all historically disadvantaged people, as well as those who have renounced their repressive pasts. As such, they cannot be allowed to survive any longer.’
The Chairperson says he will be consulting with the National Youth Congress, the National Women’s Congress and the National Congress of Traditional Leaders on arranging a series of festivals to coincide with the September anti-colonial iconoclasm. He urges all citizens, especially those who supported the old order, to attend these festivals, particularly those in Metro Four, known in colonial times as Port Elizabeth, where the event will be kickstarted.
‘This,’ says The Chairperson, ‘will be a litmus test of these people’s commitment to transformation. Those who do not attend will be deemed to be opponents of transformation and to have anti-democratic tendencies which can and will not be tolerated in a society which values human rights and cultural rights.’
Martin watches the smug COHR leader with anger. He rejects the rationale for these events and, in the next few weeks prior to September he will be starting a little dissident campaign of his own – thanks to his parents’ clandestine computer and printer, both of which still miraculously work. He will print a copy, just one, of his pamphlet, and then sneak into his lecturer’s office and photocopy a few dozen. Or maybe more. These he’ll surreptitiously leave around the campus and in public buildings, in the hope that those who support him will make further copies and spread the good news.
He considers writing a letter to the newspaper, but knows that it is now little more than an official gazette. Readers’ letters have to either support The Party, or be about mundane matters which do not in any way reflect negatively on the state.
No, pamphlets are the only option. E-mail is virtually a defunct means of communication, particularly since all computers are registered and closely monitored by the security police and national intelligence agency. While cellphones are ubiquitous, they too are tapped by the state, so sending a lengthy SMS outlining the folly of The Executive Mayor’s proposals would also easily be intercepted and traced by the security agencies. Which is why young Martin feels like a decidedly small Don Quixote tilting at huge and menacing windmills.
He consults a treasured Guide to Port Elizabeth, produced in the heady days of the country’s early Liberation when The Saintly Leader was still in power and every attempt was being made to attract foreign tourists. Although a slender booklet, this is the only information he has been able to find on the threatened buildings and statues. The metro’s libraries have long since been purged of all Africana and other historical documents, apart from those espousing socialism, communism and biographical accounts of The Party’s leaders. The banned books are in secure rooms, waiting to be burnt. Martin writes:

The proposed destruction of colonial-era buildings in Port Elizabeth is a criminally insane act. Those who propose to do this are terrified that people will discover the truth about their past.
Those buildings and statues are a reminder that not everything about our colonial past was awful and wrong. They are a concrete embodiment of a broader infusion by European settlers of skills, expertise and learning in the African continent – factors which our post-apartheid leaders have deliberately sought to deny. This is yet another step in their bid to destroy all aspects of history which do not fit snugly into their interpretation of our country’s past.
Before you blithely support The Executive Mayor in his iconoclastic orgy, think about the fact that the Opera House was built long before any of us were born. It was opened in 1892 and is the only surviving example of a Victorian theatre in this country. Instead of something to be vilified, it should be respected, restored and revered.
Far from being a symbol of British imperialism, Fort Frederick is the oldest stone structure in the Eastern Cape, having been built in 1799 during the British occupation of the Cape to provide a permanent military presence. It was named after the then British Duke of York – possibly even the one who “had 10 000 men”, as we used to recite in a children’s nursery rhyme which for many years now has been banned and removed from our children’s consciousness. Significantly, while the fort was used to oversee the arrival of the 5 000 British Settlers in 1820, no shot was ever fired in anger from its ramparts. This building you would destroy in the name of political correctness?
The acting governor of the Cape, Sir Rufane Donkin, ably assisted the British Settlers after they arrived and settled in the Bathurst area. Still grieving for his young wife, Elizabeth, who died of fever two years earlier in India at the age of 28, he named the settlement after her: Port Elizabeth. He declared a hill overlooking Algoa Bay as a permanent reserve, and instructed that a pyramid be built there to her memory. It was erected in August 1820, and is based on a similar pyramid at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. And you want the soldiers to blow this ancient monument to smithereens?
The statue of Queen Victoria is made of Sicilian marble. Fundraising for the statue started in 1897, the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It was unveiled in 1903. The Governor of the Cape, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, after whom Durban (now Metro Three) was named, in 1835 granted the adjacent site for the construction of the first public library in Port Elizabeth. It was completed in 1848, with Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, donating a set of books in 1861.
The present building, a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture, was completed in 1902, the terracotta façade having been manufactured in England and shipped out in pieces. And you would reduce these to rubble?
Think, my fellow citizens, what this step will mean. It will tear at the very fabric of our city. The Party’s supporters may get some joy out of smashing buildings and memorials built many, many generations ago, but their children will walk about in a city bereft of texture, of the very heart of its history and culture.
I urge you, anonymously for fear of victimization, to copy and disseminate this pamphlet around this city and country. Let us halt the forces of destruction before they ruin what’s left of our crying, beloved country.
After rereading his piece, a satisfied Martin presses ‘print’ and watches as two pages of text are spewed out of the ancient Epson. He is ready for business.

Fountain in the Pearson Conservatory (1882).

The Holy Trinity Anglican Church (1858).
Chapter 5
Martin successfully gets his pamphlet photocopied onto both sides of about 30 foolscap pages, which he manages to distribute as planned without being caught. He waits to see if there will be any reaction.
The denunciation is swift, and ruthless.
The Executive Mayor issues a statement the next day saying that the pamphlet is so inflammatory and divisive that he has issued an immediate proclamation under the emergency regulations of the Public Safety Act making it a criminal offence to be found in possession of it or to distribute it. He does not divulge its contents, saying this would give unwarranted publicity to the perpetrator, but does say that it is an ‘anti-transformation diatribe by a mentally deranged recidivist bent on undermining the will of the people’. He also confirms that the planned iconoclastic programme is the target of the invective contained in the pamphlet, but says such attempts to halt the project are doomed to failure and ‘underscore all the more strongly the urgent need for us to proceed with our stated course of action’. Finally, and ominously for Martin as he reads the statement in the newspaper, there is The Executive Mayor’s warning that ‘whoever is responsible for this treasonous piece of political incitement will be caught and will feel the full might of the law’.
Other leaders of The Party and what’s left of civil society issue similarly worded statements condemning the pamphlet, the likes of which, one commentator observes, has not been seen in the country for nearly a decade. ‘Is this evidence of an underground terrorist movement?’ the commentator asks. ‘Or are we merely witnessing the desperate scribblings of a warped and demented mind? Is this the opening gambit by a well-organised resistance movement orchestrated by our enemies in the imperialist West, or is it the unfortunate product of some maverick, who by all accounts should be in a mental institution? Whatever the case, I think our people can rest assured that the security forces will ferret out the perpetrator or perpetrators before long, and that, while in itself alarmingly subversive, the pamphlet and its progenitors pose no real threat to the safety of the public.’
Martin does not tell his parents that he is behind the pamphlet, feeling the need to protect them from any possible repercussions. But he’s sure they suspect. However, they too realise it is safer for them not to know. If it is him and he’s caught, at least they can plead ignorance.
But then Martin goes too far, and blows his cover.
Seething with anger, Martin decides to take out his frustrations in the only way he, as a would-be historian seeking the truth, believes he can. He decides to submit what is clearly a subversive critique of a banned book as part of his history thesis. All the students are forced to read and digest the histories authorised and authored by members of The Party. But Martin found, among his father’s secret collection of books, one that had him enraptured as he read it. It is about the 1820 British Settlers and – despite knowing the serious ramifications that are likely to ensue – this is what Martin submits to his history lecturer:

In a few years’ time this country will celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of the arrival in Algoa Bay of some 5 000 British settlers.
I use the word ‘celebrate’ advisedly, because there is no way this event can be as ignominiously ignored as was the three-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary, in 2002, of the arrival in the Cape of Jan van Riebeeck.
Bizarrely, this first major European settlement in South Africa by the Dutch in 1652 was virtually purged from the collective memory as we went blindly in pursuit of guilt-ridden political correctness.
This can surely not be allowed to happen with the two-hundredth anniversary of the British settlers’ arrival, and it is hoped that serious consideration is already being given to how we commemorate that event – with our without The Party’s consent. The Campanile, built virtually on the spot where the first settler set foot on the sand at Algoa Bay on April 10, 1820, was a fitting memorial marking the hundredth anniversary. The Settlers Monument in Grahamstown, built at the late Guy Butler’s inspiration to mark the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary, is another wonderful ‘living’ monument, and for long was the heart of the annual National Arts Festival.
H E Hockley’s book, The Story of the British Settlers of 1820 in South Africa, was first published in 1948, the year the Apartheid Party came to power and bedevilled our future. This is a meticulously researched work which, while no doubt biased towards the settlers, documents the incontestable impact which those brave souls had on the fortunes of our country.
My British ancestors only arrived on these shores in the late nineteenth century, but I still feel a strong affinity for the enterprise and stoicism which this group of pioneers showed in the face of tremendous odds.
With the Industrial Revolution and the recession following the end of the Napoleonic Wars there were thousands of unemployed people in England after 1815. But it emerges here that the key reason for Britain voting ₤50 000 for emigration to the Cape Colony was not, as many thought, simply to address the unemployment problem. There were no similar emigration schemes organised to other, more developed, parts of the empire.
No, the primary, but unacknowledged aim of this scheme was to plant a substantial European community in the Zuurveld to act as a buffer between the ‘warlike’ Xhosa in the east and the rest of the colony.
With the British having taken permanent occupation of the Cape in 1806, the colony by 1819 officially comprised 112 000 people. Of these 47 000 were European, mostly Cape Dutch. There were 30 000 Hottentots (Khoi) and 35 000 slaves and apprentices. Of the 47 000 whites, only about 4 000 were British, mostly based in Cape Town.
The Cape Dutch had spread out across the colony by this time, often living on vast cattle ranches of up to 6 000 acres per family. The small towns of Graaff-Reinet and Uitenhage had been established.
Frontier wars against the Xhosa had already occurred in 1779, 1793 and 1799 (during which Fort Frederick was built in Algoa Bay to land British troops during the first British occupation of the colony).
But it was the fourth frontier war (1811-12) and particularly the fifth, in 1819 when the small settlement of Grahamstown was attacked by 10 000 Xhosa warriors, that led to Colonial Secretary Lord Bathurst organising 21 emigrant ships to bring settlers to the Zuurveld, between the Bushmans and the Fish rivers. They would replace British soldiers needed for service in India.
The settlers were fortunate that the Governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, was on board a ship home in early 1820 as they sailed south. He was taking a couple of years’ leave, which meant the less abrasive Acting Governor, Sir Rufane Donkin, was in charge when the settlers arrived. By all accounts, Donkin made life as bearable as possible for people who, after four months at sea, were literally dumped in the veld with their few possessions and a tent, and left to fend for themselves.
They had been able to pick up rudimentary farming implements and basic food rations from the British regiment in Algoa Bay before being transported by the Cape Dutch farmers’ ox-wagons to the Zuurveld, but the next few years would be grim indeed.
As part of the emigration deal, each family was granted 100 acres of land. But, as they soon discovered, this was far too small to farm successfully with sheep or cattle, and the soil was not conducive to agriculture. Three successive wheat crop failures due to rust blight saw them become increasingly desperate. Vegetables grew well, however.
The settlers were not allowed to own slaves, or to use Hottentot or ‘Native’ labour. Neither, initially, could they trade with the Xhosas. They even had to endure a pass law, which prevented them leaving their demarcated area without official permission.
But all the time, during the first couple of years, Donkin was attentive to their needs, as gradually they built homes for themselves and started farming.
Under regulations dating back to the eighteenth century under the Dutch East India Company, they were banned from calling a public meeting to discuss their problems. Donkin, however, visited the area and relaxed the curfew to allow skilled artisans to seek work in the few towns and villages in the Eastern Province.
He also suggested the land grants be increased in size, and that periodic trade fairs with the Xhosa be allowed in the unoccupied ‘neutral terroritory’ which Somerset had decreed should exist between the Fish and Keiskamma rivers. But the first trade fair would only occur three long years later.
After Donkin left at the end of 1821 and Somerset returned on December 1 of that year, the latter set about undoing all the good work Donkin had done, reversing many of his pragmatic policy changes aimed at making life a little more sustainable for the settlers.
After the wheat crop failure at the end of 1821, many settlers were in dire straits. Yet, as anger grew, Somerset’s first move was to replace the helpful landdrost at Grahamstown, Major Jones, with Henry Rivers, who was unco-operative from the outset.
Somerset withdrew the small number of soldiers posted to the frontier, the policy of non-intercourse with the Xhosa was strictly enforced, the plan to extend the land grants was reversed, and he insisted they subsist by agricultural, rather than the better-suited pastoral farming. A promise to make Bathurst the administrative capital was reversed, with the more remote Grahamstown retaining that status. Cattle raids by the Xhosas increased in tempo.
A planned protest meeting on May 24, 1822, was forbidden by Rivers. A petition signed by 97 leading men from the group was sent to Somerset, whose response was to write to the Colonial Secretary about the problems he was having with the ‘Radicals’ in Albany. Somerset had not yet set foot in the area.
After the third crop failure in December 1822, the ‘pass laws’ were finally abolished. This enabled those with skills to move to towns. Some became traders, travelling to the Dutch farms to sell various wares. Despite Somerset, economic necessity was starting to shape the frontier.
In exasperation at Somerset’s attitude, the settlers drafted a ‘Memorial to the British Government’ on March 10, 1823, which was signed by 171 leading settler men and sent to Lord Bathurst. Essentially, they called for Donkin’s policies to be implemented. Interestingly, they noted that their area was free of ‘the contamination of slavery’, but warned that ‘existing measures can only lead to a war of mutual extermination’ between the settlers and the Xhosas. They called for government based on ‘proper British principles and by British laws’.
By now, several settlers had returned to Britain to speak to the Colonial Office. Donkin himself was defending his policies in London and attacking Somerset’s. The British Press took up the issue, with debates held in Parliament.
But one settler, former Edinburgh editor Thomas Pringle, played a key role in ousting Somerset. He is rightly recognised as the father of the free press in this country.
Pringle led a party of Scottish settlers who were placed along the Baviaans River in 1820.
Under the existing Dutch law, the colony was a despotism. Somerset had virtually absolute power, which he exercised without compunction. The government had a printing and press monopoly, the Cape Town Gazette printing mainly official notices.
In September 1822, Pringle got a job as librarian at the Public Library in Cape Town and also started a small school, or academy, which he ran with a friend he invited out from Scotland, John Fairbairn. Together with Dutch Reformed Church minister A Faure, they sought government permission in February 1823 to start a magazine. After stalling initially, the government eventually gave the green light in December, provided ‘all topics of political and personal controversy’ be excluded from the South African Journal quarterly magazine.
The first edition was printed in February, 1824, and the second in May that year. At this time, the plight of the settlers was dire indeed. They were for the most part living off pumpkin and maize and were often clothed only in the rags that their clothes had been reduced to since arriving.
In the May edition, Pringle wrote an article on the ‘Prospects of the English emigrants’, which was full of constructive suggestions. The chief legal officer of the colony demanded a commitment from him that no more political articles would appear. Pringle refused, saying they would rather cease publishing altogether. Meanwhile, Pringle and Fairbairn had accepted the joint-editorship of the South African Commercial Advertiser, a weekly paper to be printed by one Greig. The legal officer threatened to act as its censor. With the press freedom issue causing a huge row in England, Pringle said they would cease publication until the British government decided on the matter. Somerset ordered the press sealed, and that Greig be deported.
Pringle appealed to the King-in-Council for a press freedom ruling. Somerset called him in for a meeting, their first. Pringle’s account of his heroic confrontation with the dictator, reprinted in his own words in this book, makes for compelling reading. After first attempting, and failing, to intimidate him into accepting his conditions for publishing, Pringle says Somerset attempted to cajole him, which ‘disgusted me even more than his insolence’. Somerset thereafter set about destroying Pringle’s character and reputation in the colony. Pringle quit his job as librarian, lost half the pupils at his school (which he left for Fairbairn to run), and returned to the Baviaans River settlement.
Three years later, after a damning report by a special government commission of inquiry, press freedom was granted in the Cape, along with a major overhaul of the administration of justice to bring it in line with British policy.
With his own reputation in tatters, in February 1825 Somerset made his first and last visit to the Albany district, during which he finally proceeded to implement many of the reforms Donkin had for so long championed. Extension of land grants was allowed, paid Hottentot and Xhosa labour was authorised, ration debts which threatened to destroy families were written off, and trade fairs with the Xhosas were at last allowed.
After Somerset departed for Britain in early 1826, the settlers finally started to prosper. Trade with the Xhosas (which excluded guns, ammunition and alcohol) provided ivory, hides and gum and totalled ₤40 000 per annum. Permanent trading stations were eventually allowed among the Xhosas, Tembus and Pondos. But the settlers moved across the breadth of the sub-continent, some of them settling in Natal in the late 1820s, including the legendary Dick King.
On the negative side, big game hunters started getting their ivory directly from ‘source’, with one settler, John Thackwray, boasting that he shot 400 elephants in one year.
While trade flourished, and Port Elizabeth grew rapidly as an import and export harbour, the most important development once large farms were allowed was the introduction of fine-woolled sheep, such as merinos, on a large scale. Wool exports totalling ₤545 for the whole colony in 1826, grew to ₤26 000 from Port Elizabeth alone in 1836. By 1841, the Eastern Province wool exports totalled ₤34 150. Wool had become the country’s most important farming activity.
This progress occurred notwithstanding the devastation wreaked by the invasion of over 20 000 Xhosas on December 21, 1834. A total of 456 farmhouses were destroyed, and 5 700 horses, 12 000 cattle and 162 000 sheep and goats were driven off. The entire devastation totalled about ₤300 000. The Sixth Frontier War that ensued finally saw the ‘defeated’ Xhosas agreeing to the extension of the colony to the Kei River, with the area between the Kei and Keiskamma rivers (the present-day Border) becoming the Province of Queen Adelaide and later British Kaffraria.
Globalisation may be considered a fairly new term. But the British settlers clearly played a key part in placing this country on the map as an international exporter. Port Elizabeth for a time in the latter part of the nineteenth century was a bigger exporter than Cape Town, and became known as the Liverpool of South Africa.
Hockly’s book also documents the extensive impact made by individual settlers in all facets of society, including religion, education, science, engineering, geology, exploration and politics. Churchill may well have called them The Few.
Martin’s article causes a storm in the corridors of power at the university. He is summoned into the lecturer’s office where he is informed that the document has been forwarded to the political commissar of the university. It will not, obviously, be considered for a mark (except a zero) and as punishment, Martin is ordered to research the history of street committees in the Vaal Triangle during the 1980s. He must produce a 40-page thesis by the following Monday on why the committees were essential elements in securing victory in the liberation struggle.
Martin leaves the lecturer’s office, fearful and subdued. He knows the connection will be made to the pamphlets, although they will still have to prove he produced them. Nevertheless, a search of his parents’ home now seems almost certain. The computer and banned books will be seized, and charges under the Suppression of Subversive Literature Act will be an inevitable consequence. Fortunately, the state, borrowing from China’s cultural revolution, has a policy of not physically harming those who challenge it intellectually. He and his parents are likely to be forced to attend several months of re-education. If, however, a connection to the pamphlets is made, Martin fears harsher treatment. For this is a more overt attack on the authority of the state and is punishable by a mandatory three-month prison sentence under a clause in the act aimed at penalising the dissemination of subversive literature.
Meanwhile, Martin settles himself down in the university’s library and consults the many books dealing with street committees. A smiling librarian is solicitous in helping him with his book selection.

The Donkin Street terrace houses (1860-80) and Hill Presbyterian Church (1863).
Chapter 6
‘Son, I have been forced to sign an undertaking not to contravene the new Prevention of Anti-Socialist Propaganda Act. If I had refused, the newspaper would have fired me. What this means is that every piece of writing or sub-editing I do has to be assessed against the criteria laid out in the act. These include factors such as whether the articles promote liberal or conservative ideas or agendas. What constitutes a contravention of the act, in the end is a purely subjective decision. So what this boils down to is that all journalists are now self-sensoring. And if The Party’s representatives on the various politburos running the newspapers decide you have contravened the act, then out you must go.’
‘Well Dad. It seems you’re in a similar pickle to me. Did Mom tell you about my mini-thesis on Hockly’s book about the 1820 Settlers? Anyway, my big fear is that the security police may well search our home for “undemocratic” literature, such as the Hockly book. Is there anywhere you can put the stuff, including the computer, to safeguard us against arrest?’
‘Consider it done, Martin. After your mother told me what had happened, I contacted an old friend, a retired doctor who is dying of cancer. He told me he has nothing to lose anyway since his days are numbered. He took two suitcases full of books and our computer and printer. He put them in an upstairs room he never uses, and invited us to make use of them whenever we want – provided we ensure we’re not followed when we go to his home.’
‘Dad, I’m relieved about that. But I’m afraid that’s not the end of our woes. Did you see on the news at lunchtime that the Defence Minister has announced a general conscription for all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 25? Wait, we’ll catch it on the 7pm bulletin.’
The two, father looking older than his 55 years, and son, fit and ripe for military service, take beers from the fridge and watch the Saturday evening newscast. Patricia is out with a group from her church at a ladies’ cookery class. The two try to relax as the news comes on. The main story is shocking in its import. Not the Defence Minister, but the Foreign Minister is first on the screen. She warns that South Africa is under serious threat of a military attack from the world’s last remaining super power, the United States of America.
‘A new world order has emerged since the end of the Cold War and the beginning of what is becoming known as the Fourth World War,’ she says, her cold dark eyes looking directly into the camera – and out at a nation startled by this unexpected and essentially undiplomatic outpouring.
‘As you know, the United States and its Western allies have claimed victory in the Third World War, also known as the Cold War, which lasted from the end of World War Two in 1945 until the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989-90. This analysis we do not accept, since it is that of the capitalist imperialists, but we merely report it to you to warn you of where we stand today, vis-à-vis the United States.
‘Following the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11, 2001, the United States has led what it calls a “coalition of the willing” in what its President has labelled a “war on terror”. First it invaded the sovereign state of Afghanistan and overthrew its Islamist Taliban government. It installed a puppet, pro-US regime in its place, as it set about trying to locate Osama bin Laden, whom it claims was responsible for the 9-11 attacks.
‘Then, in 2003, it turned its sights on the sovereign state of Iraq, invading that country without United Nations approval, under the pretext that it and ally Britain had proof that the country was developing weapons of mass destruction. As you all know, no such weapons were found, and it became increasingly clear the only aim of the US was that of “regime change”. It wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government, with whom we had long and cordial relations, and install a pro-US government in its place. This it has done. But it did not expect the sort of widespread insurrection which then followed, as ordinary Iraqis entered into a lengthy guerilla warfare campaign against the invaders which continues to this day. Thousands of US and allied troops and advisers, businessmen and workers have died at the hands of the various Iraqi factions fighting tooth and nail for their freedom. Needless to say, thousands of innocent Iraqis have died too.
‘Comrades, as a people who know all too well what it is like to live under the yoke of oppression, I think we can appreciate where these leaders of the rebellion are coming from. Just as we can understand what drives the Palestinian martyrs to wage bloody jihad against the rogue Jewish state of Israel. Sometimes oppressive regimes will only listen to violence.
‘Recently the US government warned that any state anywhere in the world that supports or aids terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda will be considered an enemy of the American people.
‘Comrades, we have never openly supported a terrorist organisation. Sure, during our own struggle we backed other liberation movements fighting for their people’s freedom. But today we are a non-aligned nation, proud of our independence. We did not and will not support the US government’s unilateral “war on terror” when it is conducted outside the parameters of the United Nations. We are not alone in expressing those reservations. But that does not make us supporters of terrorism. Indeed, when a member of al-Qaeda was recently identified by the CIA as having been seen in our country, we agreed to allow him to be extradited, on condition he did not face the death penalty.
‘Yet still, comrades, we have the US administration issuing harsh warnings that amount to an ultimatum: either you are with us or you are against us. We are not against the US, we simply do not agree with their policy of using their military might to resolve their president’s family disputes, or to settle old scores in the Persian Gulf.
‘In the light of the above, I have been authorised by The Esteemed President himself to announce that as from October 1, all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 25 will be called up for a year’s compulsory military training. A new law, The Promotion of Freedom Act, will be passed shortly, providing the legal framework for this step, which we undertake with reluctance. However, given the obvious threat which the US and its allies now pose to all non-aligned nations, we have no option but to rapidly increase our defensive capacities. Fortunately, we still have close friends in Europe and elsewhere, countries which have helped bolster our naval, air force and artillery capabilities.
‘We know we will never be a match militarily for the US or any other major would-be invaders, but we trust any potential enemies will accept this as a grave warning not to tamper with our sovereignty.
‘There will be no enforced regime change in our country, just as we have refused to condone similar change in neighbouring Zimbabwe. When Comrade Bob died a few years back, we were the first to accept that his party would continue ruling under his successor, Peter Mayo. This has happened and, while Zimbabwe continues to struggle against the concerted efforts of those both inside and outside it to disrupt the country’s economy, we will retain cordial relations with its legitimate and democratically elected leadership.
‘The Minister of Defence will be issuing a statement shortly outlining the details of the new conscription process. But let me add that those currently studying at university or college will not be exempted on any pretext. We consider the situation so grave that we feel it imperative to extend our recruitment net as wide as possible. Already hundreds of thousands of our people are suffering from HIV and Aids – the product of decades of malnutrition and ignorance fostered by apartheid – so it is among the wealthier, better educated classes that we will be looking to supply our man- and womanpower needs. Furthermore, given the sophisticated and technical nature of modern weaponry, it is essential that today’s soldier be both fully numerate and literate.
‘The Esteemed President himself will address you all at a later date on the ideological reasons for this step. I thank you. Goodnight.’

The terrace of Victorian houses in Donkin Street.

The Donkin pyramid (1820), right, and lighthouse (1861) on the Donkin Reserve.
Chapter 7
Keen to help his beleaguered parents pay for his studies, Martin arrives on a Saturday morning at a small supermarket in North End owned by an Indian man his father knows, where he works as a packer. It is a menial task, but he feels here he should be safe from the tentacles of the dreaded Employment Police.
While the Employment Equity Act did not contain provisions to enable formerly advantaged people to be dismissed from their jobs, a recently passed amendment makes it abundantly clear that no employer, no matter how small the business, may take on a member of the previously advantaged group, especially a male of that group, unless it can be proved that every effort has been made to first find a member of the previously disadvantaged group to fill the post.
Martin is fairly sure that his employer, who is paying him a pittance anyway, did not bother to advertise his lowly job. However, he did not raise the issue with him when he started work about a month ago, believing it unlikely the Employment Police would bother with a mere labourer’s position. His experience of the act has been that the state is more concerned with securing middle and senior management positions for its preferred type of people. In any event, looking at most factories in the metro, he knows that the vast majority of blue collar workers are from the formerly disadvantaged group, in most firms exclusively so. No, he has often told himself, if they are going to make an issue of this, they will be watching the bigger concerns, the big employers, not an out of the way place like this little supermarket. Wrong!
An official, accompanied by two policeman, is ushered through to the owner’s office as Martin packs the last few tubs of margarine on a shelf. He shudders. This is what he has been dreading for so long. He knows there is no way he can conceal that he is indeed from the previously advantaged group. It is clear for anyone to see. His boss is being interrogated at length as the official casts a baleful glance in his direction. He is the only packer working in the shop this morning, the staff who work during the week all having the weekend off.
Martin knows he should run for it, since he is clearly guilty. But he realises it would be folly. Two more policemen are at the entrance, and they no doubt have back-up covering the other exit points. Finally, the official and the owner come over.
‘Are you a full-time employee of this man,’ asks the official, his face deadpan.
‘No, sir,’ Martin replies. ‘I’m just doing temporary work, standing in for someone else.’
‘It’s as I said,’ says the owner. ‘He happened to be passing and I offered him a day’s work to help me cope with the load. He is a casual labourer. He is certainly not an employee in the sense that it is covered under the act.’
‘So this is your first day here?’ asks the official.
‘Yes, sir,’ lies Martin, knowing that the least said the better.
‘Well, I think you know you are in contravention of the act. However, I will overlook it this time and let you both off with a warning, on condition you, employee, vacate these premises forthwith. You, employer, must sign an admission of guilt form. No fine will be levied, but this does mean you will have a criminal record. In the event of a repeat offence, a two-month prison sentence will be obligatory. You, employee, will do the same. Let’s go to that office and complete the relevant paperwork.’
Half an hour later, Martin leaves the shop, still shaking. He has had to give his details, name, address, parents’ particulars, to the official. Yet another black mark is registered against his name. He is sure that when this information is fed into the security police computers, it will immediately tie in with his infraction at the university, ensuring he is placed under increasingly tight surveillance. What hope for the future? he wonders as he walks the two kilometers back to his parents’ Cotswold home. How will he ever find employment while the laws are stacked against him and those like him? How will he circumvent affirmative action and the Employment Equity Act?
He recalls his father telling him about how, under apartheid, laws prevented the oppressed from doing all manner of work. One bizarre prohibition was that they could not lay bricks or build houses. This practice was reserved for the advantaged sector. They also could not be train drivers or stokers. They could not even be waiters on trains, and indeed could only travel third class on trains, since first and second class carriages were reserved for the advantaged sector. His father had gone into great detail about the impact of apartheid – indeed even wrote an autobiographical account about his attempts within the Federal Progressive Party to oppose apartheid. So Martin is fully conversant with the injustices of the past. He is aware of the Western Cape having been declared a Labour Preference Area, which meant the most disadvantaged sector were even more severely dealt with here than elsewhere in the country. He is aware of how the formerly disadvantaged coming from rural and ‘homeland’ areas were denied the right to live in urban areas unless they qualified for permanent residence under the Urban Areas Act. This was known as the Pass Laws, whereby disadvantaged people had to carry a document with them at all times proving they were authorised to be in an area. Failure to produce the document would land them in jail and they would be ‘endorsed out’ of the urban area and sent back to ‘from whence they came’, as the drafters of the apartheid law put it.
It was terrible, thinks Martin, but is the barrage of legislation targeting his group now not in many ways similar? His father had always stressed that, since people Martin’s age bore no responsibility for apartheid, they should not be punished. However, Martin can see it is not that simple. The government is not concerned with the individual, but with demographics, he reasons. It’s sole aim is to reshape society so that the previously disadvantaged become the currently advantaged, and vice versa. Those who for generations were economically dominant must now make way for those who were not, enabling them to take their places throughout the private and public sectors. It happened almost overnight in the civil service, his father had told him, as the new government placed formerly disadvantaged people, who had to be members of The Party, into positions of power and perquisites. This ability to dispense patronage, he can see all too clearly, is an integral part of The Party’s long-term strategy to stay in power. As long as it controls the purse strings, and determines who enjoys public sector employment, it can manipulate the voters to repeat its electoral mandate over and over again. Initially, his father said, The Party had accepted it could not take over private firms willy-nilly. But, thanks to the Economic Empowerment Act and various amendments and derivative legislation, it has ensured that all of the country’s blue chip companies are now firmly in the hands of its cadres.
Entering the family’s shabby home, slap on the edge of the busy Burt Drive thoroughfare, Martin is too depressed even to stop to talk to his mother and tell her what has happened. He goes straight to his bedroom. He is an adult now, he thinks, and must start taking some hard and harsh decisions about his future. He has seen the nature of that future, as reflected in the actions he experienced today, and does not know whether he wants to spend the rest of his life in the country of his birth. Although a fifth generation citizen, he believes he may have to do what so many other young men his age, especially of the formerly advantaged persuasion, are doing, and find work somewhere overseas, whether on an island in the Caribbean, or in some menial capacity in London, under the special two-year Commonwealth work-permit dispensation. Thereafter, who knows?
Or. Or he could join the resistance movement. He has heard rumours that there is, somewhere, a group of dissenting formerly advantaged young men, and a few women, mainly from the group which imposed apartheid, who are planning to wage armed guerilla warfare against the regime. But does he want to become part of such a reactionary group, a group tainted by its apartheid-era connections? Hardly, given his family’s firm liberal credentials down the years. Yet. Yet in this harsh new world, he reasons, your enemy’s enemy is your friend. It is a case of alliance-forming. You don’t have to like their policies to support their basic cause, namely the overthrow of the regime. As his clandestine reading of history has shown him, Britain and the United States were happy to join up with Stalin’s Soviet Union in their war against the fascist regime of Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
And then, of course, there is this latest shock. Military conscription. If people from his group have become disillusioned with what has transpired thus far, he thinks, how much more so now, when it seems they will soon be required to become cannon fodder for The Party in its unwinnable little spat with the massive forces of the United States.
It all seems to be coming to a head, he thinks. The time is fast approaching when he’ll either be coerced into joining their military, or he’ll have to flee, either into exile, or into the hands of the underground, wherever and whatever that might be.

Fort Frederick (1799), with cycads. No shot was ever fired from its walls in anger.
Chapter 8
There are nation-wide celebrations as the iconoclastic campaign gets under way. As planned, and much to the gratification of The Executive Mayor, the principal focus, at least for the first few days, is on Metro Four. Surrounded by the cameras of the country’s national broadcaster, but excluding any foreign journalists, their having already been forced to leave the country under anti-propaganda regulations, a giant demolition crane stands poised in the former Whites Road, now renamed 53rd Avenue. The Executive Mayor, lapping up the limelight, stands proudly on a special dais that has been erected on Martyr’s Square a stone’s throw away. He says:
‘In fulfillment of a heartfelt desire by the masses of our people to finally be rid of obnoxious buildings and monuments, it is today my privilege to launch the national iconoclastic campaign. For so long a scene of reactionary rubbish posing as theatre, the so-called Opera House evokes echoes of a past too ghastly to contemplate. It was a past of imperialist exploitation by the running dogs of international colonialist capital. Our people were treated like slaves in the land of their birth, while the colonialists lived off the fat of our land, growing corpulent and wealthy on the sweat of our forefathers’ brows.
‘Today, comrades, marks the beginning of the end for all the painful reminders around the country of those terrible times. As the buildings and monuments fall, so too will the remaining colonial place names be eradicated from the face of our beloved country. Sadly, the one area where we would like to have also effected fundamental transformation, in the lingua franca of this country, we have been forced, for reasons of pragmatism, to stick with the English language. However, I have been authorised by our esteemed President to announce today that under new legislation currently being formulated, the language will no longer be known as what I have just said. Indeed, that term must never again be repeated. This language will henceforth be called Azanian. Any resemblance to other global languages will be deemed purely coincidental. All new dictionaries will be printed in our country, and these will reflect the new, unique interpretations for words which have acquired altogether new meanings as a result of our experience.’
The crowd around the dais, tens of thousand of cheering souls, applauds loudly at this announcement. Many blow colourful vuvuzelas, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a Kaiser Chiefs v Orlando Pirates soccer derby.
But The Executive Mayor calls them rapidly to order, helped by the firing of a volley of shots over their heads by his cordon of security guards.
‘Thank you, comrades. Let us now get the show under way. It gives me pleasure to hereby declare the National Iconoclastic Campaign formally open.’
As his voice echoes through the public address system, a few dozen metres up the steep road the one-ton steel ball of the demolition crane slams into the front of the Opera House, causing a fatal crack along its ornate facade. A second strike sees the wall crumble, with bricks raining down on the pavement below. Several more and the roof starts to cave in. Overhead, a police helicopter monitors proceedings, while on the open reserve behind, a ring of soldiers keeps a beady eye on proceedings.
The next few days and weeks see celebrations such as have not been witnessed in the country since 1994. Probably the biggest festivities are focused on what was once called Cape Town, but is now Metro Two. All Party members of parliament as well as of the Council of Provinces are seated on plush red chairs in an extraordinary joint sitting called to witness the greatest and most symbolic piece of colonial-icon demolition under the month-long programme.
The Esteemed President has decreed that certain colonial buildings will not be demolished – at least not yet. He has taken a liking to his official residence, what was once called Tuynhuys, but is now known as The Presidency. So it will remain. So too will Parliament itself, as well as numerous other buildings clearly constructed during the British occupation since they are still of use to The Party. There is, however, one building that is considered too offensive to survive a minute longer. A 21-gun salute announces the beginning of proceedings, whereafter The Esteemed President, a man who rarely addresses Parliament, takes to the podium. Flanked by his cabinet, he addresses the crowd of hundreds of thousands on the foreshore:
‘Comrades. Metro Four set a fine example to us all. They took action at a time when so many of us sat by complacently, not realising the extent, the depth, of our people’s suffering at the hands of these colonial buildings and monuments, symbols of our centuries of repression. Thanks to this initiative from the Eastern Cape, which for so long has been the heartland of The Party, our country is seeing transformation like it has never seen before. By the latest count, no fewer than 320 buildings had been demolished nationwide, along with dozens and dozens of statues and other monuments. And this is only the beginning. Some, like our Official Opposition, would call this wanton destruction. But they did not suffer like we did, comrades, under successive repressive regimes which denied us our birthright.
‘So I have endorsed this programme with all my heart, sensing that it is indeed the will of the people. Your presence here today confirms that belief.’
The crowd, listening attentively to their leader through the public address speakers dotted across the foreshore of Table Bay, breaks out into enthusiastic applause.
‘The time has now arrived for the greatest single act of physical transformation this country has ever seen. Behind me stands a fort, a large stone building designed in the shape of a five-pointed star. It was built not long after a certain European occupied this fairest of all capes on behalf of a commercial trading company. From this fort spread the tyranny which in time covered our land, placing our people in bondage for centuries to come. They raped. They pillaged. They tore out our mineral wealth. Our diamonds and our gold. They enslaved our people. They marginalised our communities. But eventually we overcame these occupiers, who for generations slaughtered us with their guns and bullets, while our ancestors, armed only with spears, opposed them defiantly.
‘Today, we will see this symbol of our oppression, this hated old castle, removed from in our faces, where it has been since our grandfathers’ grandfathers’ grandfathers’ time. No more. This chapter of history ends today, and with the destruction of this fort, that awful past will be expunged from our collective memory. We can now look forward, not backward. The hurt of the past is being supplanted by promises of opportunity. As we see this building turned to rubble, we will, however, never forget the damage that the occupiers did to us collectively, as a people. And that collective memory will continue to galvanise us in our ongoing democratic struggle to improve the lives of all our people.
‘In the name of a new nation, free from all exploitation, let us be rid for all time of this blot on our landscape, on our hearts. Let the explosions begin.’
As this last word reverberates through the speakers, the crowd breaks out into a chorus of ululating and chanting. Toyi-toying groups, many armed with assegais and kieries, swarm around the podium, blowing whistles and vuvuzelas, the new symbol of the transformation struggle. Then, a few hundred metres away, a series of thunderous explosions rocks the city. As the dust settles, where once had stood a large stone castle, hated symbol of colonial occupation and logo of the apartheid regime’s Defence Force, all that remains is a pile of stone and rubble. A great cheering goes up from the crowd. The Esteemed President smiles broadly and waves to his admiring supporters, before being ushered into his black stretch limo and driven back to his office. With his Health Minister safely out of the way in another car behind him in the presidential cavalcade, he celebrates the day’s events with a leisurely pipeful of his favourite tobacco. Life is good when you’re an African leader, he thinks.

The Holy Trinity Anglican Church (1858).

Parsonage House, No 7 Castle Hill (c 1830).
Chapter 9
Martin’s uncle, Peter, does not exist. Officially, that is. Officially, he died in 2000, shortly after The Esteemed President took office. Officially, he drowned while surfing in the Transkei and was cremated. That’s what Martin believes and what everyone else who knew Peter believes.
But for Peter, the story is very different. When he was approached by the New Torch Commando at this work in what was then Neave Industrial Township in 2000, General X, as he called himself, said he, Peter, had been identified as a particularly strong personality. He had been singled out due to his commitment to many good causes down the years through various service organisations, which had subsequently been banned. He was also, reflects Peter, singled out due to his skills as a military man – skills acquired not in the former apartheid army (where he had been forced to serve against his will), but later in the British SAS. He had joined the SAS in the late 1980s after fleeing the country, and served with distinction in the Gulf War of 1991. Back home after Liberation in 1994, he was confident his country was finally on the road to true democracy. Everything looked rosy, he thought, until 2000, when the Zimbabwean president started to throw his toys out the cot. And his own president had sat by and let it all happen, without raising a murmer of concern, let along criticism. This, Peter thought, was not a good thing for the future of his country. Because it meant that what was good for the goose may well in time be good for the gander. In other words, similar shit may soon be unleashed on his own country by a megalomaniac leader happy to exploit the obvious resentment and grievances of the exploited, disadvantaged majority. Despite the advent of democracy, a vast mass of the formerly disadvantaged, while now politically advantaged, remained on the periphery of the first world economy. The Esteemed President had spoken of two distinct economies based on apartheid-era divisions, but to Peter it was obvious that many formerly disadvantaged people were now seriously advantaged. They commanded huge salaries and essentially ran the country for their own account. The myriad unemployed, poverty-stricken people outside the loop of patronage provided via The Party remained, by and large, as badly off as they were under apartheid, often even more so.
But, as General X told Peter, what was of most concern was the manner in which a coterie of Party members had acquired what he termed ‘dangerously hegemonic tendencies’. In short, they wanted all power and wealth for themselves, forever, and were happy to follow in the footsteps of their Zimbabwean counterpart. In the process, they would seek increasingly to marginalise the previously advantaged, with the repression of this group growing steadily and insidiously through a welter of more and more complex and soul-destroying legislation. This would endear them even further to the impoverished masses.
General X had recruited Peter as a senior commander in the New Torch Commando’s Restore Democracy Resistance Movement, or Redrem. It was necessary for Peter to ‘die’ in order for him to be reborn into the movement in such a way that he could not be traced or identified during the troubled times which lay ahead. This had been done with little hassle, since Peter was a loner with few friends, no wife, and only a tenuous, long-distance connection to his sole surviving sibling, his brother Nick. General X had also spoken to Nick, and the doctor with cancer, who had both confirmed officially that the ‘body’ cremated that day was Peter’s. A death certificate was issued. His life ended, and then began again. His wake was truly an awakening into a new world. As the few people who knew him mourned his passing, Peter was whisked across the border into Zimbabwe, right under its President’s nose, where he joined a quite considerable force of his former compatriots on a smallholding on the outskirts of Harare.
The smallholding, unlike those which were seized by ‘war veterans’ from 2000 onwards, is not officially a farm at all. It only has a few decrepit, uninviting old buildings on it, and nothing is produced here.
The farm is run by General X, with funding direct from exiles living in the West, and it offers what Peter, as he surveys the humble shells of crumbling buildings, sees as the only hope for the future. Because beneath those buildings lies a rabbit warren of interlinked tunnels which house one of the largest arsenals ever assembled in southern Africa. The end of apartheid rule was foreseen many years before it happened, and soldiers with foresight, including General X, saw to it that truckloads of weaponry moved secretly across various borders, before being secreted on this farm and numerous others across southern Africa.
Peter, very much alive, looks forward to his first meeting in years with his nephew, the young tourist called Martin, who is due to arrive any day now direct from Metro Four.

The Campanile (1923).

From left, St Augustine's (1866), the City Hall (1860) and the Feather Market Hall (1885).
Chapter 10
Nick and Patricia saw the first signs of a general collapse when they heard rumours that municipal officials were running large herds of cattle in the catchment areas of the metro’s main water supply dams. The decline had started soon after Liberation when, in a wave of empowerment and affirmative action, senior municipal officials were first sidelined, then finally retrenched. With them went centuries of expertise and experience.
The metro’s water supply, electricity infrastructure, roads and sewers, always operating on the brink of overextension, are now in a state of terminal decay. The incidence of diarrhoea and dysentery is on the increase and many people have taken to boiling tap water before drinking it. Bottled water is prohibitively expensive.
But more alarming is what is happening to the sewerage system. Blockages and spills are occurring around the metro, and municipal workers seem unable or unwilling to keep up with the demand as the antiquated, overtaxed infrastructure is literally inundated with the people’s waste matter.
As the exchange rate of the rand has plunged, well past the lows of the early 2000s till it now stands at around R30 to the US dollar, so too has inflation reached record heights. At the moment it officially stands at about 50 per cent, but unofficially is closer to 100 per cent. Economic growth is now negative, unemployment is at its highest level ever, and capital investment, both local and foreign, has all but dried up. Only the mines are operating at full tilt, with the workers living virtually like slaves and earning just enough to survive, as they delve deeper and deeper underground to haul out the precious gold- and platinum-bearing ores, the tons of increasingly poor-quality coal. The state, which has nationalised all the mines, is dependent for its very survival on the foreign exchange it earns through minerals exports, especially to the East. So the mining industry is run like a military operation, under the control of oligarchs from within The Party, who are the new Randlords of Metro One.
Nick peruses the national state-owned Sunday News, in which the virtues of this fine example of empowerment are cited as one of the nation’s great success stories. And he cannot understand, given his knowledge of how journalists used to defy apartheid orthodoxy, why there is so little criticism of this new form of crony capitalism. Everywhere, even in newspapers once renowned for their investigative journalism, he notices unwavering support for each and every policy direction taken by the state, no matter how destructive in the long term.
News of what he calls the iconoclastic orgy has reached the free world and, according to those who still have access to foreign and independent media, the US intends submitting a resolution to the United Nations proposing the implementation of sanctions against Azania. Already, no new investment is occurring purely for economic reasons, but the US proposals, backed by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and even Russia, will see disinvestment, an oil embargo, trade restrictions and a global cultural and sporting boycott. Nick cannot help a wry smile as he considers that this is precisely where apartheid took the country all those years ago.
‘History is repeating itself,’ he tells Patricia, as they sit in their sparse lounge. ‘The new regime was quick to learn the tricks of the apartheid government, all that corruption and nepotism, duplicity and patronage, fear and coercion. It could never work in the long term and now the chickens are coming home to roost.’
‘And then we have Martin heading off for a holiday in Zimbabwe of all places,’ says Patricia. ‘How great aunt Elise survives in that country, I don’t know. If we thought things were collapsing here, how much worse mustn’t it be there, where the situation has been going steadily downhill for decades. Yet somehow Zanu-PF stays in power. But this new president seems just as whacko as the last one. Woe is Africa.’
‘It will certainly give Martin an insight into where we may be in a few years’ time, unless there is a dramatic turnaround.’
Nick and Patricia, like so many others, are battling under the new water and electricity restrictions. Both services only operate for four hours each evening. That’s just enough time to heat up the water for a shower, and to enable them to cook some supper, maybe watch a bit of what passes for television, and fill the bath with water for the next day. Only the commercial and industrial areas have services running during working hours, thereby at least ensuring that the economy somehow ticks over. But there are other problems, too. With the collapse of the currency, there has been a growing shortage of spare parts for most makes of motorcar. Nick’s old Toyota is now barely running, as he is unable to afford the major overhaul needed to get it fully serviceable. The price of petrol is also becoming increasingly prohibitive – when it is available at the pumps.
At Nick’s work the pressure from the censors has been growing, with the paper becoming increasingly grey in content. What advertisements there are come primarily from the national, provincial or local authorities. Filled with ‘good news’ articles praising the ‘remarkable tourist potential’ of the metro and province, the paper generally steers clear of anything that could be construed as criticism of the government. Even when the electricity was off for two days, on one day of which the paper did not come out – for the first time in over 100 years – there was no news report on the matter. What the paper increasingly does carry, however, are short reports about the ‘protective guardianship’ of a growing number of people who are being held in what were formerly state prisons, but are now known as ‘correctional facilities’. These people, the reports say, have ‘failed to enter positively into the spirit of national transformation’ and have resorted to ‘acts designed or intended to create a negative feeling within the populace and to foment dissent’.
Nick knows of at least a dozen former friends and colleagues, or their children, who have ‘disappeared’ in this way under the nation-wide state of emergency which has been in effect for the past five years. He wonders whether he is also on the ‘hit list’. At work he keeps his head down, having long ago given up writing the controversial articles which, for a few years, stirred up so much debate. He also fears being deregistered, which would prevent him practising as a journalist.
‘Journalism has to all intents and purposes died in this country,’ he tells Patricia as they prepare a supper of cabbage stew. ‘Gone are the days when you could try to win over people with the power of your argument, with the logic of your ideas. Look at the charade that passes for Parliament. With just 20 per cent of the seats shared by half a dozen small parties, The Party knows it can dismiss its opponents with utter disdain. I don’t know why the Official Opposition don’t just pull out altogether.’
‘They can’t,’ replies Patricia. ‘Remember that new law they passed, an amendment to the floor-crossing legislation, which makes it an offence, once elected, not to take up your seat in parliament? Failure to do so, apart from for sound medical reasons, will immediately see that party fined. It will also lose that seat, which will remain open until the next election.’
‘Ja Patricia, you’re right. Should the Opposition withdraw, it would be a last-gasp act of desperation. It would be tantamount to saying they have given up all hope. One often wonders if they are not, in a way, also complicit in keeping this farce called democracy alive. By remaining in Parliament they give some semblance of legitimacy to a system which only pays lip service to democracy. It is purely about lining the pockets of the members of The Party, and, I’m afraid, those of the opposition parties. It makes the country look democratic, although from the growing sanctions lobby abroad I think it is safe to say the real democracies are not taken in one iota. Just like the good old bad old days under apartheid, the West can see straight through the façade to the corrupt heart of the regime.’
‘Nick, I think you should keep your voice down. It also doesn’t help you getting yourself too worked up about something that we can do nothing about. We’re too old to fight the system. And it’s too late for us to join them. We burnt our bridges long ago.’
‘I’d never dream of sidling up to that corrupt bunch of palookas. Unless, of course, it comes down to a question of our actual physical survival. Then, I suppose, like I am forced to kowtow at work, I will simply have to eat humble pie and go on my knees to my masters asking for forgiveness. But I’ll probably only end up in one of their “correctional facilities” anyway. One hates to think what new scheme they’ll come up with next.’

The entrance to the 51,8m-high Campanile (1923).
Chapter 11
Nick doesn’t have to wait long to find out what The Party has up its sleeve. The country is informed that The Eminent President will address the nation in a special live televised broadcast at 8pm. He will be making an announcement of ‘national importance’.
The screen crackles into life as Nick, Patricia and Martin settle down to watch what next their leaders have in store for them. To Nick, the similarities to life under apartheid are bizarrely apparent. He thinks back to how the first apartheid Executive President would rant and rave as he took on the world, telling it not to interfere in the internal affairs of his country. And, as the masses waited anxiously, expectantly, for some hint that the granite-like policy of apartheid would finally start to be dismantled, the Executive President always managed to disappoint all but his diehard legions of previously advantaged supporters. Every time he was supposed to cross his Rubicon, he ended up plunging the country deeper into the mire. Now, as this new president prepares to speak, Nick foresees only doom and gloom.
For weeks now, the country has waited on tenterhooks to hear The Eminent President spell out his plans for the widespread conscription of those between 18 and 25. This is surely what it’s all about, muses Nick, whose heart is pounding in his sunken chest. At least it’s not going to be about us oldies, he thinks. He would not have thought of 55 as old a few years back, but today he feels every year he has lived and a whole lot more besides. He has been experiencing increasing pains behind his knees, as well as ongoing tooth-ache in a molar. Generally, he feels he is losing the will to live. But right now he must survive this newscast.
‘Comrades,’ says The Eminent President, quite happy to continue using a term long since disgraced and discarded across the globe following the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe around 1990. But, despite the evidence of gross human rights violations under successive Soviet leaders, particularly Stalin, as well as those in communist China, The Party – now reputedly in favour of a free-enterprise economy – adheres rigidly to the nomenclature of a 1940s Marxist-Leninist state. The party still has its politburo, its members are still called cadres, and it loves its five-year plans, thinks Nick, as the president gets through his bland introductory remarks. Now he is about to cut to the quick.
‘As earlier intimated by my Defence and Foreign ministers, it is the government’s intention to introduce a period of national military conscription for all males between the ages of 18 and 25. Those at university, particularly those studying the arts, will not be exempted. Those studying in more useful fields, like nursing, maths, science or in the technical arenas, will be deployed for a year’s community service at the discretion of the state. The bottom line is, under the proposed National Patriotic Service Act, to be passed this week, everyone, male or female, will have to devote the first year of his or her working life to the state – and three months every year thereafter for ten years. Young men and women, comrades, you will be paid a nominal amount for your services, which are in the national interest. For too long young people have qualified in their fields, only to flee our shores and work in Western countries. We pay for your education and then you abuse that privilege and take your skills elsewhere. This has had to be stopped. Apart from the above-mentioned provisions, another law has been promulgated, the Protection of Key Skills Act, whereby no-one is allowed to leave the country without first obtaining clearance from the state. All our borders will be rigidly policed to ensure no-one takes their skills abroad when they are vital to our continued success as a progressive industrialised nation. The Department of Home Affairs will handle all applications for permits to travel abroad, whether for holidays, study or business. But the concept of emigration, as we used to understand it, ceases to be. Companies promoting emigration to Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Australia and so on – where so many of our people have taken their expensive skills, thereby helping to undermine our country – will be prevented by law from operating.
‘Comrades, the first intake of national servicemen will be from December 1. We have postponed the initially planned earlier call-up to enable our officials to work out the logistics for this enterprise. We expect at least 300 000 people to start training on that date. Every six months, a new intake will be called up. Official call-up papers are in the process of being prepared and will be posted shortly. Those who defy the call-up face six years in correction facilities.
‘I believe all right-thinking citizens will welcome this opportunity to serve their country, whether in our Defence Force or in community service. While our doctors and nurses battle valiantly in the face of shortages caused by our enemies in the West, the injection of young new blood from what I like to think of as a national volunteer corps, or peace corps, will I’m sure, bolster them in their vital work to look after the poorest of the poor.
‘The many young people who have little education or training will also be accommodated in this programme, through one of the most exciting policy initiatives yet taken by our collective leadership. These young men and women will be placed on farms around the country, to boost the production of foodstuffs. As you all know, the land restitution process initiated early on in our democracy was not entirely successful. Greedy farm owners from the formerly advantaged sector refused, by and large, to enter into the spirit of transformation. Too often they demanded far too much in compensation under the willing seller, willing buyer plan. Eventually, we were forced to expropriate much land in order to satisfy our landless people’s hunger and thirst for land.
‘However, the reality remains that too few people occupy far too much of the country’s productive land. These farmers are getting rich thanks to an anomalous and skewed distribution of land dating back to hated colonial times. The cabinet has decided enough is enough. We will be nationalising all farmland in the country, but will allow the farmers on the land to remain as tenants. They will move out of their farm houses into premises currently occupied by their workers. They will live alongside the workers, while each farm house will be occupied by a skilled manager appointed by The Party. Where the land lends itself to communal farming, in our old tradition, it will be converted. Young people from the metros, towns and rural areas will be settled on such farms to help with the many tasks of food production. They will even each be given a small section of land to farm for their own account, and will be allowed to consume what they produce on that section. For the rest, they will work for the state, and be paid according to their needs.
‘I know our detractors will say this is a “reversion” to socialist practices, but we do not do this for ideological reasons. The simple reality is that the masses of our people are landless. Before the colonialists came they had land and they lived comfortable lives. Our people lived close to the land. They worked the land. They did not need expensive tractors and other machinery. Many would prefer to return to the sort of lifestyle their ancestors enjoyed before the invasion. This policy will, we hope, give many people a chance to return to a life based on the philosophy of ubuntu. We are people through other people. We will work the land for each other and for the country, in a form of volunteerism that will turn this country into one of the great success stories of the world.’
The Eminent President stops to take a drink from a glass of water. Nick sighs. It’s worse, far worse, than he thought. ‘This is the end of commercial farming in the country,’ he says. ‘We’re going to go the way of Zimbabwe, a return to medieval subsistence farming. Those white farmers won’t want to live with their workers. Essentially they are being driven off the land, without compensation. And they can’t even emigrate.’
The Eminent President, his grey moustache and ‘bokbaard’ matching his pin-striped suit, is ready to resume his speech.
‘Finally, comrades, we are initiating a policy which will properly integrate the vast majority of formerly advantaged people who for so many years have declined to identify with the broader mass of formerly disadvantaged people. In order for them to participate in the bounty which ubuntu offers, the camaraderie, the sense of community, the government has decided to nationalise all property that is privately owned.’
Nick and Patricia exchange shocked glances. ‘This is it,’ says Patricia. ‘This is the end of the world as we know it.’
‘Comrades,’ continues the president, ‘in terms of the Extension of Property Rights Act and in terms of our founding document, the Freedom Charter, all property in the country will be shared equitably among all those who live in it. What this means, in effect, is that the state will be deciding who lives where, each according to their requirements. There are many formerly advantaged people who acquired inordinate wealth due to centuries of exploitation under apartheid and colonialism. That wealth has to be redistributed. Since much of it is tied up in property, it is here that we will effect the most fundamental transformation process this country has ever seen. Over the next few months, once the law has been enacted, members of a new Property Police Force will be carrying out the voluntary transfer of people from their existing homes to new homes within the metro. A typical example will see a woman who has worked for a formerly advantaged family as a domestic worker finally inheriting the large house she for so long has cleaned and pampered. Together with her extended family, she will finally be able to enjoy something of the lifestyle of the “madam” and “master” who have exploited her down the years. The formerly advantaged family will be offered the domestic worker’s house, or shack, in exchange, but will still be required to pay the municipal rates and water and electricity bill of the big house, since this will be out of the range of the domestic worker. Such worker will also continue to be paid for cleaning the house, which she now occupies, although she will no longer be working for the formerly advantaged employer. This should, we hope, offer some recompense to domestic workers for their decades of exploitation. We also are confident that the former employers will benefit from their experience of ubuntu in their new surroundings. Many, it must be remembered, have never been near a township, or seen the hovels our people often are forced to live in due to the slave wages they have been paid down the years.
‘There will be nothing to prevent these formerly advantaged people from upgrading their township properties, although these will also naturally be leased from the state, to whom they will pay a monthly surcharge proportionate to their income. Those who are unemployed or survive on a state pension will be spared this cost.
‘Letters notifying householders of their imminent move will be dispatched by the Property Police in the coming months, with many of the moves hopefully completed before the summer holiday break. We trust that the formerly advantaged section will take this in the spirit of reconciliation, ubuntu and nation-building in which it is intended. Our detractors will again accuse us of retribution and taking revenge, failing as usual to see that this will have quite the opposite effect. By placing fairly wealthy people in less affluent areas, they will be able to plough something of that wealth into impoverished communities, thereby uplifting the country generally.
‘Comrades, in 1913 the colonial government passed the Natives Land Act, consigning just 7,5 percent of the land to the indigenous, disadvantaged people, much of that in the impoverished so-called homelands. Yet these people comprised about 67 percent of the population. It is our firm belief that these steps announced today will go some way to redressing this glaring and inordinately damaging disparity.
‘I know I can count on you to implement smoothly this brave new world which we have designed for our country’s future benefit and success. I thank you.’

The Port Elizabeth railway station (1875) with flyover, left.
Chapter 12
‘It’s Hitler’s Germany all over again,’ says Martin, seething. ‘This is nothing less than Nazism. Or Stalinism. Mom, Dad, what are we going to do?’
‘I never dreamed, in my worst nightmares, that it would come to this,’ says Nick. ‘When we campaigned in the 1970s and 1980s for the end of apartheid and free elections, we always knew that The Party would come to power, along with its communist and trade union allies. That was the obvious product of years of exploitation. But I always hoped that this country would be that rare exception in Africa, a working democracy. I was obviously naïve. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I fear we are now reaping the whirlwind sown during the dark days of apartheid, and earlier.’
‘So now we must just sit back, must we, and wait for them to throw us out of our homes,’ says Patricia. ‘I think I’m going to be sick. Excuse me,’ she adds and rushes crying from the room.

The Main Library (1902) and Queen Victoria statue (1903), with St Mary's on the right.
Chapter 13
There is little chance of legally opposing the Extension of Property Rights Act, thinks Nick, given that all similar discriminatory legislation, albeit not as harsh, when challenged in the courts has been deemed constitutional.
This is due to Section 9, the Equality clause, of the Constitution, which has been in force since February 1997. Nick has a print-out of the constitution, made when these things were still readily accessible on the Internet. The key subsection, No 5, states that ‘discrimination … is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair’.
And, Nick knows, having read the clause many times, that this must be read in tandem with subsection 2. Qualifying subsection 1, which says ‘everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law’, subsection 2 says: ‘Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.’
That, according to various previous judgments by the Constitutional Court, is sufficient grounds for any and all forms of legislative and executive action taken by the government to ‘protect or advance’ the previously disadvantaged in pursuit of ‘achieving equality’.
The fact that this premier court, like the rest of the judicial system, is peopled by members of The Party, means that any chance of a legal challenge to this new legislation succeeding is negligible in the extreme. Furthermore, thinks Nick, who has the finances to launch such a challenge?
Already, the recent Non-Governmental Organisations Act has banned the foreign funding of all human rights and other NGOs, including and especially legal bodies like the Legal Resources Centre and media organisations. Instead, the government has urged foreign donors to help fund statutory bodies like the Commission on Human Rights and the Public Protector, which it says are adequate safeguards of people’s rights.
That evening Nick, back at his desk as a sub-editor on the Metro Post, grimaces as he reads a property report concerning wine farms in the Western Province. One of the country’s biggest and richest new entrepreneurs from the ranks of the formerly disadvantaged sector has just bought himself a little wine estate for R120-million. This is the face of ‘empowerment’ that Nick finds so repugnant. He does not begrudge the wealthy their riches if these are achieved lawfully and through their own hard work and business savvy. But for most of the many formerly disadvantaged Party members now heading up companies and consortia, their wealth has been accrued through a coercive system of equity deals made compulsory under the Empowerment Act.
But, while this elite grows richer, Nick is privy to information, from news sources which only a handful of journalists still have access to through a lifetime of contact-making, that there is a growing groundswell of unrest among ordinary people. The previously disadvantaged, it would seem, are as disadvantaged as they were, or even worse off, due to the parlous state of the country’s economy.
The key reason has been the government’s decision to halt the payment of all state pensions and disability grants on the grounds that the entire system is riddled with corruption. The Anti-Corruption Task Force has, over the years, found widespread evidence of officials paying friends and relatives money to which they are not entitled. But, while the social services section of the national budget has steadily been cut, in the face of the new monetary crisis facing the country, the state has announced, by means of notices in the media, that all such payments have now been halted. ‘Those who believe they are entitled to such payments,’ the notice says, ‘should bring all relevant documents pertaining to their applications and apply at your local Home Affairs office. It is essential that you also display your Party membership card, and proof that your payments of the R20 monthly Party subscription fees are up to date.’

The Collegiate Church of St Mary the Virgin, built in 1832 but rebuilt after a fire in 1895.

The City Hall (1862) and Market Square, now used as a councillors' parking lot.
Chapter 14
Martin hears the news on the car radio. Driving in his dad’s cancer-ridden friend’s old Audi, he approaches the Azanian border post at what was once Beit Bridge, but is now known as the Mugabe Bridge, in honour of the man who for so long led Zimbabwe, which Martin now eyes across the greasy Limpopo River. He realises that the new ban on anyone leaving the country without the express permission of the state, even for holidays in countries like Zimbabwe, means he is unlikely to get across. As he parks and joins the lengthy queue, he notices that only trucks and other commercial vehicles are being allowed through. It is stinking hot, although it is still only spring. But this is the heart of Africa, and there is not even a suggestion of a breeze to cool things down.
After two hours, some of it spent, fortuitously, under the shade of an acacia tree, he finds himself across a desk from a customs official who continually consults his watch to ensure he isn’t missing out on a tea break. After checking Martin’s passport and identity book, the official types on his antiquated computer. ‘No,’ he says. ‘No. I am afraid you are not going into Zimbabwe. You know it is now illegal to leave the country without getting express permission. This you will have to do at your metro Home Affairs office. I suggest you turn around and drive back to the coast. I trust you’ll enjoy being back near the sea. Who, after all, wants to go to Zimbabwe at this time of year? Most people in their right mind are going the other way.
‘But there is something else about your desire to leave the country. I am informed by the security police, on my computer here, that you have been guilty of various, how shall I put it, indiscretions over the past few months. You are, I would submit, extremely lucky not to be in a correctional facility at this point in time. Indeed, it might be thought that you are deliberately fleeing our country in the light of the aforementioned indiscretions. Simply put, young man, you are walking on thin ice. I wouldn’t even bother trying to apply for a permit to leave the country if I were you, because they won’t grant it. I suggest you keep your nose clean, return home and participate like a good patriot in the forthcoming processes of transformation and democratisation.’
What else can Martin do? He returns to his car, uses almost the last of his dwindling money supply to fill up with petrol, and heads back the way he has come.
Four hours later, Peter travels from his smallholding outside Harare into the suburb of Guineafowl. He knocks on the door and a wizened old woman, Martin’s great aunt Elise, tells him that due to the latest laws in Azania her great nephew has been turned back at the border post. Peter gives her a roll of US dollars – essential for most purchases in Zimbabwe – and wishes her well. He says he’ll be in touch and hopes that they will both eventually get to see their young relative.
Back at the smallholding, he enters an underground hangar where two technicians are working on a couple of attack helicopters.

The stone Feather Market Hall (1885), behind. The front section was added in 1901.
Chapter 15
In Tshwane, formerly known as Pretoria, the US Ambassador sets off for a breakfast meeting with his counterpart at the British High Commission.
Driven in a black limousine by a chauffer, and accompanied by two other vehicles each containing one US and one Azanian protection services operative, the Ambassador, a short, balding, bespectacled African American in his mid-fifties, is immediately allowed through the three security gates which protect the entrance to the High Commissioner’s residence.
The Victorian-era building dates back to the days of the old Traansvaal Republic, one of the few reminders of a period in history when President Paul Kruger and his Volksraad ruled the roost north of what was then the Vaal River. As the egg and bacon is served, the High Commissioner, a tall, attractive blonde woman of about 40, looks glumly at a pile of e-mail printouts and faxes on the table next to her. But, as they sip their orange juice and exchange platitudes while they eat, she decides not to broach the serious issues at hand until they both have full stomachs. It’s always easier to think rationally when you’re not hungry, she reminds herself.
The Ambassador is curious as to why the High Commissioner has requested this meeting. Of course the US has been growing increasingly concerned at recent developments in the country. But compared to the crises it is embroiled in elsewhere, this bottom corner of Africa is surely not much of a priority. The ongoing wars in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, North Korea and Cuba are a decided drain on the US, both militarily and in terms of its prestige and popularity in the world. The last thing they want is fresh destabilisation to police, their being the world’s last super power. Even that, he has to concede, is no longer a truism. China’s economic growth has been phenomenal and, while it espouses free markets, politically it remains firmly undemocratic. And there is always the probability that it is increasing its nuclear arsenal in many ways the US is not even remotely aware of.
The Brits, given their long association with their former colonies, have always had better intelligence in Africa, he admits to himself. In the Middle East, too, if the truth be told. The latest outrages against former colonial buildings and monuments are viewed by the US with concern, as are the increasingly despotic new social engineering laws. The planned forced removal of economically dominant minority groups from their homes and farms has been viewed with outrage back home. Could this be what she wants to discuss?
The High Commissioner, sipping her coffee, gathers her thoughts ahead of her informal presentation. As usual, she prefers these ‘discussions’ to formal meetings between the two legations. Far more, she reasons, can be achieved on a one-to-one basis than in drawn-out think-tanks where there is always the chance of a security breach.
‘Ambassador, like yourselves, no doubt, we are extremely concerned about the latest policy shifts by the local regime. We believe they can only exacerbate the economic crisis into which the country is falling. We are also saddened that, some twenty years after the miracle which heralded the end of apartheid and prevented almost certain civil war, the new leadership may be ushering in just the sort of violent upheaval everyone had hoped the country had been spared.
‘It was always going to be tricky moving from apartheid to a new democratic order, especially given the huge disparities in wealth, but things seemed to be on track during the first parliament. However, the Zimbabwean contagion clearly soured relations. With The Esteemed President endorsing the excesses of Mugabe, it was only natural that demands for something similar in this country would escalate – despite the fact that his policies have been disastrous for all but the Zanu-PF elite.’
‘I’m with you on that, High Commissioner, but is there anything else you guys have picked up that we don’t know?’
‘We fear the country may be on the brink of a nasty civil war. Our informants across the sub-continent tell us that there has been a substantial stockpiling of weapons by exiled Azanians in virtually all the neighbouring states. The recent abortive plots by the far-right seem to have been half-baked conspiracies by a bunch of fairly small-fry desperados. The worst they have done is damage a bridge or two. But these other forces are another kettle of fish altogether. They are not motivated by a desire for a return to the apartheid status quo. Instead, we are looking at a body of “new South Africans” from all sectors of the community who are thoroughly disillusioned with the direction the country is taking.
‘There has, as you know, been a steady exodus of skilled people over the past decade or two. These are people who will not forget their roots. And if they see that there is a viable insurgency being planned, who knows how many might not support it.’
‘Of course, High Commissioner, neither yourselves nor the US would dream of backing such forces, would we?’
‘Definitely not!’ says the High Commissioner. ‘But you have to see the dangers. Many of the neighbouring states are inefficiently run, with great holes in their border security. It has been a piece of cake for the nascent insurgents to stockpile all manner of weaponry in remote areas of these states. We must also remember that a large proportion of previously advantaged men underwent military training under apartheid. They may be middle-aged, but all too many of them are dangerously disillusioned. The latest excesses by the regime don’t help. I mean if they go ahead with their threat to remove people from their homes and farms, there is no telling what might occur.’
‘The solution, High Commissioner, I would suggest, is a strongly worded demarche from both our governments, secret but forceful, direct to The Esteemed President, telling him in no uncertain terms what we think of his latest policy directions. I know the Foreign Minister has already cast the US as an enemy, with her recent speech warning of a possible US invasion. But then she has become well known for her hyperbole. Let us send off a joint communiqué from our respective governments voicing our concerns and take it from there.’
‘If you like I’ll draft something today and courier it to you. Once we’re agreed on the text, we can send it to our respective superiors for their approval. With any luck, we’ll get the demarche finalised within a couple of days. The regime can make as many public condemnations of us as it likes, but there are enough intelligent people among them to realise that they cannot afford to alienate us. I’m convinced we’ll get them to see sense.’
‘I hope so, High Commissioner. Otherwise we’re in for a bumpy few years on the southern tip of Africa.’

Detail of the Main Library (1902).
Chapter 16
Just how bad things could get becomes evident sooner than the envoys might have imagined.
With growing poverty and unemployment, as well as the suspension of pensions and grants, rural and township communities have been simmering for months. But in the space of one week it appears they have launched an orchestrated campaign of insurrection and disruption.
In townships outside dozens of rural towns in all nine provinces, impoverished masses of people have manned barricades on national roads. Burning tyres and holding well-printed placards calling for the immediate implementation of the land-seizure programme, the groups are supported by even larger, if less disruptive, protests in the townships of all the major metros. Government buildings, including schools, have been attacked and burnt. In each case, the clamour is for the immediate hand-over of homes and farms to formerly disadvantaged communities. This, observes Nick from his increasingly stressful vantage point as a news sub-editor, is grist to the mill of the regime. Instead of addressing the real demands of the poor for better services and housing, regular pensions and disability grants, fully functioning school-feeding schemes and, most importantly, some form of broadly based social security system such as a basic income grant for all indigent families, the regime has decided to take the, in Nick’s view, disastrous expedient of promising the earth. Even if it goes ahead with its planned exchange of houses, which will cause widespread strife, it will still be unable to meet the needs of all the poor, who outnumber the relatively well-off by about five to one. And if they do proceed, the wealth-producing sector of the community will be so alienated and isolated that economic meltdown will be virtually assured.
Nick has sympathy for The Party. Certainly, he believes, many of its leaders, especially in the early days, did their best to deal with what was an almost impossible situation. He recently travelled through the Karoo and saw how around each town, such as Cradock – whose new name he cannot recall – the townships have mushroomed beyond belief. Row after row of matchbox houses line the hills, like so many identical crosses in a war graveyard. But, despite the decimation wreaked by Aids, there is no work for the vast majority of the people, who somehow survive in their tiny, thin-walled houses, built under a vastly under-funded programme to provide accommodation for first-time home owners. As he drove through the towns, he noticed the streets were packed with people with nothing to do, pestering those who still conducted some form of productive business or activity. On the main roads in and out of the towns, a few enterprising people sold wire and tin windmills and cars, beautifully carved wooden animals, bead necklaces, and so on. But, when he stopped to buy a little trinket, he was immediately surrounded by desperate people. He was lucky to escape, driving away at full throttle as hungry, angry faces converged on him.
Yet, thinks Nick, it could all have been so different. Properly managed, the post-apartheid era could have been a rare African success story. All it needed was a mutually respectful partnership between the liberal-minded business establishment, which had always traditionally opposed apartheid, and the new leadership. With the collapse of communism, this would easily have been possible. Sound governance principles could have been implemented from the outset. Instead, The Party opted for a unity government with the ousted apartheid regime. Then, in Nick’s view, it proceeded to adopt many of the worst methods of its predecessor. Only in the macro-economic arena was it successful, initially, keeping inflation low and the currency fairly stable. Over the past few years, however, the failure to keep up with the demands of the ever-growing proportion of poverty-stricken people had seen an ongoing collapse of law and order. Crime, once a major concern, had reached frightening proportions. It has become, thinks Nick, very much a return to the law of the jungle. The new firearms legislation isn’t helping restore confidence either. While not a gun owner himself, Nick has always felt more secure in the knowledge that a large portion of the previously advantaged sector do own guns and that, if the worst comes to the worst, they will use them. But now, under the new Firearms Control Law, all registered gun owners have to hand in their weapons at their nearest police stations. This process, in pursuit of a ‘gun-free society’ must be complete by the end of the year. What Nick and many others have secretly noted, but been too intimidated to express publicly, is that those illegally in possession of firearms will not be forced to relinquish their weapons in the same way. They are on no registers so, short of a house to house or shack to shack search, there is no way those millions of illegal guns will ever be confiscated. Amnesty after amnesty is offered, but very few weapons are handed in. Already, all private security officers have been disarmed and their companies outlawed. The end result, Nick sees, will be a disarmed middle class, an underpaid and understaffed police force beholden to the ruling party, and a vast gang of poor and often desperate people armed with illegal weapons. It is, thinks Nick, a recipe for genocide.
As the crisis has deepened, particularly with the threat of people being forced from their homes, many have taken to withdrawing what little cash they have saved in the banks. Many banks have been closed for weeks while the state tries various rescue mechanisms. Nick and Patricia have, over the past few months, been drawing out their meager savings on a regular basis. Nick now walks around with a wad of notes in an envelope in his trouser pocket, a prime target were he to be mugged. But, he believes, despite the widespread lawlessness, that his money is far safer in his pocket than it would be in a bank.
The rural demand for farms is escalating. Already, ahead of the implementation of the Extension of Property Rights Act, many farm workers and Party officials have started a ‘noise-making’ campaign outside the homes of farmers. This entails keeping up a steady racket, day and night, outside farmsteads. Farmers are also prevented from working in their lands.
One farmer, Patricia’s uncle, has been in contact with Nick to say that for the past week he and his wife on their remote sheep farm in the northern Karoo, have been virtually under siege by a mob chanting slogans like, ‘This is our land’, ‘You stole our land’ and ‘Kill the farmer’. The couple, who had been intending to retire soon anyway, are now planning an escape down a dry riverbed one night in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The farmer has told Nick they will pack what they can onto the bakkie, lock up the house and head for the home of relatives in Metro Four. But even there, with the urban forced removal plan still imminent, they don’t hold out much hope of long-term survival. Fortunately, they have a son in New Zealand and may try to flee to Botswana, the one neighbouring state which does not have an extradition treaty with the regime. Once there, they will apply for political asylum. At the age of 75, Patricia does not know if her uncle, who is diabetic, will survive.

The statue of Queen Victoria (1903) in front of the Main Library.

The Port Elizabeth Club (1906) in Bird Street.
Chapter 17
At the university, Martin has been increasingly enamoured with a second-year history student called Veronica. The two of them disembark jointly after having taken the bus back from the beachfront campus to the old inner city area around Rink Street (it’s name miraculously unchanged). It is only as they get off the bus that they realise that the programme of rolling mass action known by some as the ‘iconoclastic orgy’ is to reach its local apotheosis right there and then. On the eve of Heritage Day proper, the Minister of Arts and Culture himself is in town to witness events. A throng of people blocks what once was Russell Road as they mill around the Horse Memorial. Considered by apologists for colonial exploitation as one of the most poignant statues in the country, Martin has read that the bronze memorial was unveiled in 1905. It commemorates the thousands of horses, brought over by the British during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, that died during that conflict. Port Elizabeth was the main port of entry for the horses. An inscription beneath the statue, which Martin knows by heart, reads: ‘The greatness of a nation consists not so much in the number of its people or the extent of its territory as in the extent and justice of its compassion.’
This memorial has been singled out by The Minister as the ideal starting point for the day’s festivities, which again will culminate in the slaughter and eating of several beasts in the old St George’s Park, where the shell of a cricket stadium still stands. As usual, this free repast will be paid for by the metro.
Martin has read about and seen on television the various iconoclastic operations over the past few weeks, but has tried to steer clear of the actual attacks for fear of being targeted as a member of the previously advantaged group. Now he and Veronica stand transfixed as The Minister concludes his speech, having reiterated much of what The Esteemed President and Executive Mayor said earlier, and declares the day’s destruction under way. Five tall, powerful men with pick axes are assigned to launch the project. Stripped to their waists, their bodies glistening in the hot sun, they set to work with a vengeance. Martin watches as the pointed end of a pick penetrates the thin bronze shell of the horse’s right flank. Another sinks into the pith helmet of the British soldier holding a bucket out of which the horse drinks. For a fleeting moment, Martin’s gaze is focused on a section of the horse’s mane, where a rich green patina has developed over more than a hundred years of exposure to the elements. It is at this precise point that another pick blow penetrates. After a few more strikes the men are finally able to buckle the horse and soldier sufficiently to enable them to pull the mangled forms into the drinking trough at the base of the plinth, where for many years horses came to quench their thirsts. Now more people join the fray, using whatever implements they can find to dismember the animal and soldier. Others hack away at the plinth with heavy hammers and picks, shouting raucously as the base crumbles beneath their blows. After less than half an hour, all that remains is an unrecognisable jumble of broken stone and torn and twisted metal. As the iconoclasts move away, their job done, the scavengers move in to collect the buckled bronze, which they’ll sell at the nearest scrap-metal dealer.
Veronica cannot believe what she has just seen. ‘It was as if that horse and soldier were real, live beings,’ she says to Martin, as they stand well back from the crowd, which heads off towards its next target, the Cenotaph. A horse lover, Veronica says: ‘I could almost feel each of those blows as they sank into the flesh of that poor animal. And the caring man beside it … how could they do it? That was one of the most beautiful pieces of sculpture I have ever seen – on a par, I’m sure, with the best anywhere else in the world. And it had such an important message, about love, caring and compassion. Yet these people are so blind with rage, they’ll destroy everything that has anything whatsoever to do with the past. I just don’t understand such hatred. What happens when they turn on people with the same venom?’
‘It may happen sooner than we think, Veronica. But let’s follow them and see what’s next on their hit list.’
At each venue, The Minister stands, legs apart with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye, as the mob sets about its task. The Cenotaph, sculpted in 1929 by James Gardener to commemorate those who died in the First World War of 1914 to 1918, is reduced to rubble in less than 20 minutes. But miraculously, thinks Martin, they overlook the King George VI Art Gallery and adjacent Arts Hall, which date from 1956 and 1927 respectively, but have been sanitised with the introduction of a new name, the Metropolitan Art Museum.
Not so lucky is Fort Frederick. Here, as with the Castle in Metro Two, army engineers are roped in to do the dirty work. In the space of a few minutes, well-placed dynamite charges reduce stonework completed in 1799 to ruins, with the impetus of the explosion sending large sections tumbling down the steep cliffside into the Baakens River below.
Retracing their footsteps, the crowd stops off at No 7 Castle Hill, a settler cottage built in about 1830 by the Reverend Francis McCleland, the town’s first colonial chaplain. With The Minister again smiling benignly nearby, a few windows are smashed and burning tapers thrown inside, fuelled by cans of petrol. Within an hour, the building is a burnt shell, which will be demolished completely later. Because the crowd cannot delay. All roads, at this stage, lead to Queen Victoria. A huge party has been under way on Martyrs’ Square since early in the day, with much drinking of traditional and western beer, by the time the rest of the crowd arrives. A leading metro councillor is afforded the honour of striking the first blow against a figure which The Minister describes as ‘the woman responsible for so much of our suffering’. As a symbol of British imperialism at its height, he says, Queen Victoria’s statue ‘has to be one of the most hurtful and despised images or icons still standing in our great democracy’.
The councillor briefly takes the microphone: ‘When I declared many years ago that this statue should go, there was a hue and cry. Now I am happy to find that my prayers have been answered. The democratic movement – and here I must thank The Executive Mayor for his bold leadership – has finally responded to the deep-seated desire of the masses of our people to see the end of such symbols. I now strike a blow for our freedom and our democracy.’
Viva! shouts the huge crowd in unison, as The Councillor climbs low scaffolding set up around the 1903 marble edifice. Martin was too young to remember, but his father told him how he watched as a local sculptor painstakingly removed nearly a century of grime from the statue during a major restoration project in 1992. Now The Councillor is in his element. Brandishing a ten-pound hammer, he beams broadly at the crowd, who reward his enthusiasm with a huge cheer and much ululating. This man, a leading anti-apartheid activist in the 1980s, is now giving back something to the community he has served since taking office in 1995. He brings down the hammer on the Queen’s small crown and emits a cry of joy as her head splits open. The first blow shears two thirds of her marble face away, leaving, Martin notices, just her mouth, tightly closed in a ‘we are not amused’ expression. But the crowd certainly are amused. Each councillor – the few opposition members turned down an invitation to participate – gets an opportunity to strike at the statue, which is soon nothing more than a pile of stone and dust. Even as this is happening, another group has entered the adjacent Main Library and is knocking out the stained glass windows. Before long, another fire is set and within minutes flames are soaring into the sky. Across the road, the Anglican Collegiate Church of St Mary the Virgin beckons.
‘With the foundation stone having been laid in 1825, the church was first opened for worship in 1832. It was used temporarily as a garrison during one of the Frontier Wars in 1835. In 1895 it burnt down, but was rebuilt the same year, with arch-enemies President Paul Kruger and Cecil John Rhodes contributing financially.’ Telling Martin and Veronica this is a large, elderly man who says he used to preach in the church, many years ago, before the state officially recognised Islam as the official religion and made being a minister a rather tricky profession. ‘It is interesting to note,’ he says, apparently unfazed by the destruction of the library nearby and the increasingly belligerent crowd, ‘that one of St Mary’s stained glass windows dates from the fourteenth century.’
Wow, thinks Martin. How can this old guy be so calm in the midst of all this turmoil?
As if reading his thoughts, The Clergyman says: ‘They can burn down our churches, young people, but they can never destroy the love that God and his son, Jesus, have for their people.’
He stands, unflinching, as a mob of people knock him over then pour through the open doors of the church. Before long, this building too is razed. Yet still the crowd are not satisfied. Nearby is what was once the Donkin Reserve. They have saved the pyramid for last, Martin reasons. With dusk turning the clouds in the west a garish pink, the crowd, their energy seemingly relentless, toyi-toyi up the steps and onto the reserve, not far from where Nick and Patricia earlier fled from the now-flattened Opera House.
Standing alongside the 1861 lighthouse, Nick had told Martin that throughout the colonial era and even under apartheid the Donkin pyramid was a unique visual symbol of the city of Port Elizabeth. But The Minister is not impressed. ‘This self-indulgent monument to one man’s wife is a fine example of colonial extravagance at its worst. Who do you think laid these stones? Indigenous workers, of course – no doubt at the wrong end of British rifles. Unfortunately, because their workmanship was so good, we have again to rely on the ever-accommodating offices of the Defence Force. Stand back please comrades, so that we can finally see the end of Elizabeth and Rufane Donkin’s infamous folly.’ As the crowd moves away, a series of blasts rip around the base of the pyramid causing the entire construction to rise up momentarily before collapsing in a heap. Martin observes, lying amidst the wreckage, the twisted remains of an iron plaque, one of two which for so long had been affixed to the sides of the pyramid. The only words visible from Donkin’s eulogy to his wife are those telling of a ‘husband whose heart is still wrung with undiminished grief’.
But if Martin and Veronica think the day’s events are over, they are in for a surprise. A cry comes up from the harbour precinct, and is taken up by those still milling about on the reserve. ‘The biggest candle in the world! The biggest candle in the world!’ they scream, many convulsed in laughter. What on earth are they on about? wonders Martin. He doesn’t have to wait long to find out. Someone has set fire to the ground floor furnishings of the 51,8m-high Campanile, built in 1923 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the British Settlers. The flames have eaten away all the woodwork within the stone structure – whose foundation stone was laid in 1901 by Prince Arthur of Connaught – and now Martin can see just why the iconoclasts are calling it ‘the biggest candle in the world’. Having climbed its 204 steps, the flames are now pouring out from the top and, in the growing gloom, it does indeed resemble a giant candle. As the building itself starts to crack from the heat, there is an almighty din as the 23 bells, each weighing several tons, plunge through the blackened core and smash to the ground, fifty metres below. Then, as if in slow motion, the tower collapses on top of them in a cloud of red dust.

The approach to Fort Frederick (1799), with a South End church behind.

Cora Terrace, built from 1856.
Chapter 18
On the late news that night, Martin and his parents watch transfixed as similar scenes of jubilant crowds destroying buildings and monuments around the country are screened. The Esteemed President, who personally attended the destruction of the Voortrekker Monument, is shown celebrating and dancing with, among others, the former wife of the late Saintly President. A celebratory ball, the newscaster says, is to be held later that night at Sun City. Delegates at the latest three-week sitting of the Pan-African Parliament (Pap) have been invited to attend the festivities, which are expected to last the entire long weekend.
A survey of Metro Four by Martin and Nick the next day reveals that the destruction was not confined to those buildings and monuments Martin saw attacked. At least six churches were gutted, including the 1866 St Augustine’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. Cora Terrace, an 1850s row of seven townhouses, was also attacked, but only windows were smashed. Similar light damage was caused to other colonial-era residential buildings, including the terrace of Victorian houses in what was Donkin Street, built between 1860 and 1880.
At the metro council meeting the next day, The Executive Mayor is presented with a special award in recognition of his leading role in the national iconoclastic programme. He is given R1-million and a giant framed portrait of himself, which will hang inside the City Hall which, paradoxically, was spared – despite being built between 1858 and 1862, at the height of the Victorian era. It was restored after being gutted by fire in 1977, which possibly exonerated it.
At Sun City, the chairman of Pap – nicknamed ‘Pap wiel’ by those still brave enough to joke about these matters – announces that the private sector in each of the member nations will be called upon to double its funding of the parliament in the coming year.

The Hill Presbyterian Church (1863).

Grey High School (1914).
Chapter 19
Martin knows he is a coward. Having earlier made a weak attempt at alerting people to the importance of retaining the country’s past through the preservation of its old buildings, he is now aware that when it comes to the crunch he is utterly powerless.
Or is he? It is Veronica – who under apartheid would have been classified as falling somewhere between the advantaged and disadvantaged groups – who draws his attention to a student and civic group that seems to Martin to offer a glimmer of hope.
Strolling around the Metro University campus the next week, she tells him about the Port Elizabeth Action Committee (Peac), which, she says, deliberately uses the colonial term for the city so despised by The Party. And, operating underground on the university campus and in suburbs and even townships across the metro, she tells him the organisation has been growing rapidly in recent months.
Peac, she says, is part of a larger umbrella organisation, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, which is linked in turn to the New Torch Commando and has echoes of the United Democratic Front, formed in the early 1980s to fight apartheid.
‘Because there is even less freedom of assembly today than there was under apartheid, the organisation has not been able to hold massive rallies and launches,’ she tells Martin. ‘But I can assure you it does exist.’ Veronica, who has only been seeing Martin for the past few weeks, having for months ignored his existence on campus, enthuses about the MRD and its local affiliates. ‘My father is heavily involved in the metro and provincial structures of the MRD, which has one basic aim: to restore democracy to our country. While many MRD affiliates are civic organisations from the townships and are therefore comprised largely of formerly disadvantaged people, all agree that the regime has gone way overboard and now threatens to plunge our country into civil war. Ironic, isn’t it,’ she says, ‘that even township bodies like the PE People’s Civic Organisation and the PE Women’s Organisation should be against a government which on the surface appears to represent their interests? But it must be remembered that many of these organisations had close links to the Christian churches which have suffered greatly at the hands of the regime. It is not that they have been outlawed, simply that the restrictions on worship prevent them getting involved at all in anything socio-political. This goes against the basic raison d’etre of Christian churches which, especially under apartheid, fought steadfastly for political and human rights for the people.’
Handing Martin a brochure, she goes on: ‘This is a copy of our basic demands, which we are disseminating around the country, with the secret launch in a few days’ time. It will all be done through our network of underground cells. We will be flooding the land with anti-government literature. Look at these demands: 1. Scrap the clauses in the constitution which allow for any form of discrimination. 2. Accept the principal that all people in our country are entitled to equal treatment before the law, irrespective of their historical background. 3. Restore immediately the rule of just law, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of movement and freedom of religion. 5. Release all political prisoners and allow the free return of exiles. 6. Hold free and fair elections under the auspices of the United Nations. 7. Scrap immediately the Extension of Property Rights Act and end all threats to forcibly remove people, no matter their historical background, from their homes or farms.’
Martin can’t believe it. Not only does he not believe that a movement with views so similar to his own has been mushrooming in the dark all over the country, he also can’t believe that it has happened without his even hearing about it. And even more encouraging is the fact that it is not a campaign run by the formerly advantaged for themselves. ‘I have always believed that it is from among the ranks of the formerly disadvantaged that the true leaders of a new democratic movement must come,’ he tells Veronica. ‘Because, in the end, it is in the interests of all of us that major civil disruption is averted. It is in everyone’s interests that the economy function properly and that we see massive, sustainable economic growth, so that the hopeless unemployment situation is turned around. Finally, it is in all our interests that we retain good relations with the major economies of the world. It makes no sense to alienate the United States, the European Union and other democracies. And this decision to align ourselves exclusively with Islam may seem like a good idea to protect us from global terrorism, but I believe it is very short-sighted. Moderate Muslims have repeatedly stated that they have no truck with the suicide bombers and kidnappers who, they add, operate in complete contempt of the Koran.’
‘Oh Martin, I’m so glad you’re seeing that there is some hope. I know this movement is perhaps too little too late, but at least it’s happening. We were too slow to prevent the destruction of colonial buildings, but I believe what people saw occurring in that wave of violence has galvanised them against the state. Senseless destruction motivated purely by hatred for perceived historical repression doesn’t wash with most people. They see it as on a par with punishing the Germans today for what Hitler did seventy years ago. Particularly upsetting for most people is the way all the goodwill and reconciliation that characterised the early years of democracy has been undermined and replaced with policies that sow division, distrust and hatred.’
‘But where do I fit in, Veronica. What can I do to assist?’
‘Martin, I think you are well equipped to produce for the MRD a piece outlining just why the present mood of anti-colonial retribution is so destructive and ill-conceived. Once you’ve written it, it will be forwarded to the leadership of Peac and of the provincial MRD, who’ll include it in our nationwide campaign.’
‘I’ll tackle it tonight. I also hope you’ll introduce me to some of the movers and shakers in the organisation. I know it will be dangerous, but I need to know who I’m dealing with.’
‘You will, Martin. Starting with my father.’
That evening, Martin takes himself off to the dying doctor’s home, where he knocks out the following piece, based in large part on clippings he has of some of his father’s articles, before he was effectively barred from writing anything anti-government in the media.


People of this country. In the wake of the latest lunacy perpetrated by The Party, which has destroyed a large section of the historic fabric of our towns and cities in recent weeks, let us consider why this whole campaign is so utterly wrong.
Colonialism is a fact of life. It happened. For those of you too young to have received a history lesson – given the nature of the new school and university syllabuses – allow us to enlighten you about the real facts of our past.
Of course the advent of Europeans in Africa was a wrench and an upheaval for the indigenous population. After the arrival in the Cape of the Dutch East India Company in 1652, European settlement in the country was slow, reluctant. Gradually, Dutch Trekboers spread eastward and into the interior. Ancient tribes like the Khoi and the San were displaced from their traditional land, where they had lived nomadic lifestyles for thousands of years.
But this was part of a global phenomenon. Europeans were the intellectual leaders of the world from the Middle Ages and particularly since the Renaissance. Despite the Inquisition of the Roman Church in 1616 forcing Galileo Galilei to recant on pain of torture, this great astronomer’s revolutionary idea that the earth is not the centre of the universe had widespread ramifications. It liberated people’s thinking. The idea that the earth and the other planets orbit the sun and that the sun and stars do not, as was always believed, circle the earth, had a profound effect. The early navigators had feared falling off the edge of what appeared to be a flat earth. Now it was clear that the world was round, like the moon and sun. How people did not fall off, the mystery of gravity, was only discovered later by Isaac Newton, but suddenly European explorers felt emboldened to seek out every corner of the globe. Naturally they went in search of riches, of gold and silver, but Britain, in particular, was home to a growing scientific community and with each exploration came advances in mankind’s understanding of the world and its peoples, fauna and flora. The scientific revolution, or age of enlightenment, coincided with these many journeys of discovery and settlement, imperialism and colonisation by European countries, and has continued unabated ever since.
It is a hard fact that the modern world is based on and relies upon the scientific work done by these pioneers over hundreds of years. That they were largely European and later Americans, is purely a quirk of history. It does not alter the fact that this spreading of knowledge, often as we readily acknowledge for the unaltruistic reasons of exploitation through slavery and the rapacious quest for gold and other wealth, did occur. It was a global process of conquest and entailed the imposition of foreign ideals and inventions on people, many of whom still lived feudal lives. Africa saw the worst of the slave trade, both by Europeans and Arabs. Indeed, while much of the guilt for slavery was placed on the Europeans, it was the Arabs who were still plundering central Africa for slaves in the 1860s and 1870s, the time of Livingstone and Stanley, many decades after Britain had outlawed slavery and was hunting down its perpetrators.
Africa went through centuries of upheaval, as did most of the colonised world. But those days are over. Independence came to African countries from the late 1950s, with South Africa the last to get majority rule in 1994. But, while it was natural that there would be a visceral hatred among the indigenous populations for their colonisers, we believe it the height of short-sightedness for demagogues like Mugabe to exploit that seam of resentment for political gain. Instead, forward-thinking states are looking at the broader picture. Taking stock, they are saying: yes, we suffered at the hands of imperialism and colonialism, but we also benefited. And this is particularly true of our country. Sure the British and many others besides, got very excited when diamonds and gold were discovered in 1867 and 1886 respectively. It was what the explorers had long been after. King Solomon’s mines did exist – slap in the heart of what would become the Republic of South Africa, at Kimberley and on the Witwatersrand, in the Boer republic of the Transvaal. The development of the mining industry spearheaded the eventual industrialisation and infrastructural development of the country, making it the most modern on the continent.
But the first real major colonial settlement occurred many decades earlier, with the arrival of the 1820 British Settlers in Algoa Bay. With about 4 000 souls arriving initially, plus a further 1 000 during the course of that year, the presence of so-many ‘first world’ citizens on the very edge of the sprawling amaXhosa tribes must have been one of the most amazing interfaces between Europeans and tribal Africans in history. Certainly the amaXhosa would have had dealings with the trekboers, farmers of Dutch descent who had been farming in the Eastern and southern Cape for generations, stretching back into the early part of the seventeenth century. Yet these Dutch farmers had become isolated from the great scientific strides that were being made in Europe, particularly with the Industrial Revolution, which England embarked on around 1700, fifty to a hundred years ahead of any other country.
Three very different civilizations, therefore, bumped into each other in the Algoa Bay area from about 1820. The British brought with them modern concepts like freedom of the press, freedom of expression and of the individual, the rule of law and democratic governance, impartial courts and a welter of scientific and agricultural advances. And, more importantly, the settlers did not simply settle at Bathurst, where they were initially sited, and stagnate. They moved around southern Africa. Some took ships back to Britain and returned with new ideas and immigrants, some farmed with marino sheep and others established the town of Port Elizabeth as a major centre of international trade. And, once allowed to do so, they traded wherever possible with the amaXhosa. Of course the three cultures clashed. The Boers, fed up with British demands that they free their slaves, trekked inland to escape British rule. The amaXhosa waged regular wars against the settlers over about a hundred years, before finally accepting, grudgingly in the late nineteenth century, that the reality of colonial settlement was here to stay. They adjusted and, with the help of missionary education, many of their finest and brightest became clergymen, teachers and doctors.
Of course, men being what they are, exploitation continued in the twentieth century, especially after union in 1910 between the vanquished Boer republics and the Natal and Cape colonies following the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The indigenous majority were excluded and, after 1948 with the imposition of apartheid, were further discriminated against – at a time when the rest of the world was increasingly granting indigenous people their civil and political rights. But after a brave anti-apartheid struggle, liberation came in 1994.
The Party inherited a state which, while in many respects dysfunctional due to decades of sanctions, had a superb infrastracture and was to all intents and purposes a modern, western-style state. The new leaders were happy to take control of a population within whose ranks were top-rate entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, doctors, philosophers and numerous other skilled people – the collective product of 350 years of European influence in Africa.
This is a fact, fellow citizens.
Yet we now want to erase this reality from our collective consciousness. Already the state has destroyed many of the fine buildings and monuments dating from that long era of colonial development. Now, in a move bordering on genocide, it plans to forcibly remove millions of people – the so-called previously advantaged – from their urban homes, some of them no better than houses in the more upmarket former townships, to the squatter camps. They want to repeat the mistakes of Zimbabwe and drive commercial farmers who are members of this group from the land.
We say this attempt at social engineering is immoral and will be politically and economically devastating to our country. We urge the global community to act now to apply the maximum pressure, through sanctions and the threat of armed intervention, to force the state to change its ways and heed our demands.

We greet you in the name of our just struggle.

The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy

Martin had not thought, when he set out writing this piece, that it would become an essay. But now that it is finished, he believes it is just what the doctor ordered.
‘When last,’ he asks Veronica when he gives her the printed-out pages the next day, ‘did our people read stuff like this? For so long now we have been fed the politically correct views of commentators and analysts too afraid to rock the boat. I hope your dad and his colleagues will be able to use this, because I believe it is the truth. We are in the post-post-apartheid phase. The old arguments about the legacy of apartheid and redressing the wrongs of apartheid no longer hold true. This regime has had long enough to uplift the masses and it has failed abysmally. The poor are poorer than they’ve ever been, unemployment is rife and Aids is decimating impoverished communities around the country. At the same time, an elite from within The Party gets fatter and richer by the day as they gorge themselves on an every-shrinking cake.’
‘Thanks for this, Martin. I promise you it’ll be given the sort of serous attention it warrants. Now, I suppose, we should get off to our first lecture of the day.’
Martin is delighted. Not only has he found a soul-mate, someone who shares his deep-felt political beliefs, but he also thinks Veronica may be ‘the one’ on that other, more personal front, which has eluded him for so long. He invites her to come around to his home that afternoon to listen to some music he has from the Sixties and Seventies. He has decided not to tell his parents about the new movement. He does not want to place them in danger. Veronica agrees to meet him later.

Detail of the Cenotaph (1929).

The Horse Memorial (1905).
Chapter 20
Martin’s folks are out. His dad will be at work till midnight and his mother is attending a lengthy bible class at her church. He has the house to himself. Veronica arrives around 5pm, having taken a later bus than the one he took. Despite a long day at the university, she is still looking stunning, he thinks, as he puts on some water for tea. They repair to the lounge where he surprises her by putting on a vinyl long-playing record. She has only seen these in pictures and has never heard one played. The record-player, as it is called, is over 30 years old, and the music is accompanied by a crackling sound. Martin explains that the arm which he has placed on the album has a tiny diamond-tipped needle at the end through which the vibrations obtained from the grooves of the album are relayed to an amplifier. A very rudimentary form of reproduction compared with the latest digital devices available, she has to agree with him, however, that analogue reproduction, as it is called, does seem to have a bolder, more wholesome sound than that achieved digitally. Perhaps it has to do with the crackling noise, which makes it sound less clinical, more human.
She is engrossed as he plays her a cross-section of albums from his father’s extensive collection, starting with early works by the late, great Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and even the blazing guitar of Jimi Hendrix. While all this ‘education’ is going on, Martin is receiving an education of another kind, as Veronica allows him to explore those alluring parts of her anatomy with which he has hitherto not become acquainted. He knows the dangers of Aids, having had this drummed into him by his parents since he can remember, so will not even think of allowing matters to reach a point of no return. He has no condoms in any event, and does not know if she is on a contraceptive pill. But for now it is pure bliss just to be in Veronica’s warm embrace, to kiss those tender lips, to feel the curve of those alluring breasts. All politics is forgotten.
Until there is a sharp rap at the door. Martin is startled and alarmed. Could it be an over-assertive beggar? They have regular visits from beggars desperate for a few rands which they usually end up spending on booze, if the smell on their breaths is anything to go by. Begging has become a professional pastime, with the streets lined by people brandishing clever posters explaining why they deserve favour. Once a week, when households put out their black rubbish bags for collection by the municipal refuse workers (when they remember), a stream of down-and-outs take it in turn to rifle through them for anything they might make use of, whether old, rotting food, or broken kettles and toasters, or rags of clothing. The knock is repeated, more loudly.
‘Open up! Security police!’
Oh hell, thinks Martin. This is it. The have come to get him. He looks at Veronica, her clothing still dishevelled as she sits beside him on the couch. She just raises her eyebrows as if to say, I know nothing about this. And he trusts her implicitly. He gets up and opens the door.
‘We are arresting you on charges, already proven, of having conspired to overthrow the country by force. A document written by you, which we received today, has been added to a similarly seditious piece you wrote a few months back on the so-called 1820 settlers. While the first was enough to arouse our suspicions, this latest document, evidently aimed at promoting an organisation which, thankfully, does not exist, has confirmed for us that you are a danger to state security.’
The man addressing Martin is short and stocky, aged about 40, with close-cropped hair. He is from the previously advantaged group, although the policemen with him are all from the formerly disadvantaged group. The man seems to be their leader. An obvious, and all too common, case of someone selling out his community for personal gain, thinks Martin sadly.
But the most alarming aspect of this sudden intrusion for Martin is the implication that if they have obtained the document he gave to Veronica just that morning, she has betrayed him. Or maybe she passed it on to someone else and it was seized. Maybe her father betrayed him. Or perhaps she has been conning him all along. The cop says there is no Movement for the Restoration of Democracy. But can he believe him? These thoughts race through his mind as they frogmarch him down the steps. He has to believe that Veronica did not betray him. He looks at her and she seems totally flustered. He shouts to her as they drag him to their car: ‘Please tell my folks. Find out where they’re taking me and bring me some clothes, toiletries. I love you!’
With that the two police vehicles are driven off, Martin wedged between two burly plain-clothed policemen. He knows the days of court cases after political arrests of this nature are long gone. As he feared, they are heading out of town. The St Albans prison looks like his new home. Notorious as a detention centre in the 1980s under apartheid, it is now the key place for re-education programmes run by the Co-operation Ministry.
Martin is almost relieved when, having removed all personal items apart from his clothes and shoes, he is bundled into a single cell. He has heard horrific stories of jail rape and sodomy by Aids-infected prisoners. Hopefully, as a political prisoner – or re-education subject, as the authorities will call him – he will not be forced into a cell with common criminals and their notorious gangs.
He lies down on the hard, metal bunk – and thinks about Veronica. ‘I love you,’ he told her. But what if she betrayed him? No he can’t even think along those lines. Yet he must. He must find out how that document got so quickly into the hands of the police.

Inside Fort Frederick (1799), looking towards the entrance and the magazine, left.

The Edward Hotel (1908).
Chapter 21
Martin is initially surprised at how uninterested his captors seem to be in him. For the first two days he sees no-one except the warder who brings him his food. His parents have been informed of his whereabouts and, while not being able to see him, have been allowed to bring him a few personal items.
On the third day he is taken to a sparsely furnished office where, to his surprise, a female member of the security police awaits him. They are left alone by the warder, and the door is left unlocked. Where, he wonders, are the other political detainees. She can see the question in his eyes before he even poses it.
‘You are alone, Martin. Sure there may be a few others out there who think like you, and we do get them in here from time to time, but it is such a small minority I don’t know why we even bother. Although, I suppose your type could cause us problems if left to your own devices.’
‘And what of Veronica?’ he asks.
‘As you might have guessed, she’s definitely not on your side. Shame, poor boy. Did you love her? Now isn’t that tragic? Your first lover and she turns out to be your enemy. Can’t be very good for your self-esteem can it?’
Martin eyes this woman, with her broad mouth, attractive eyes and trim figure. Dressed in a nondescript suit – it’s hard to tell if it’s a uniform or civilian clothing – he estimates she is about 45. Not your archetypal interrogator by the look of her, but she certainly knows how to knock your confidence. Nick is still not sure who to trust. Veronica had sounded so convincing when she told him about the MRD. How could she possibly have made that all up? And his treatise on colonialism – surely she couldn’t have passed it on to the security police so quickly.
Again, The Interrogator reads his thoughts. ‘Yes we have your piece on the virtues of colonialism, Martin. Quite naïve, if I may say so. Also dangerously off-track. You should know by now that The Party will not tolerate such thoughts. And to think that you planned to disseminate that bit of poison among the populace, like a nasty virus, causing people all kinds of anxieties. Martin, we can’t allow that sort of thing, can we? Now you are not here to be hurt or tortured. Your cell, what we prefer to call your accommodation, is not five-star, by any means. But you have to admit it is comfortable, and the food’s not bad. If you co-operate with us and give your full attention to what we are going to teach you, then you are going to enjoy ever-increasing privileges. The better you learn and change your ideas, the better things will become for you. But I need total commitment from you to the cause of The Party’s policy – the only political philosophy that can successfully manage the sharp disparities in our society.’
‘Did Veronica betray me?’
‘Betray is too strong a word. Let’s say she has tried to save you from yourself. She is one of our best-trained operatives. Once you handed her the document, she passed it on to our chief agent at the university, your history lecturer. The Professor, you probably know, was a key member of the United Democratic Front in the 1980s. Despite being a member of the previously advantaged sector, he was a prominent leader in the liberation struggle, and was himself detained for many months by the apartheid regime. Now, as a just reward for those years of persecution, he has the chair of history at the university. It is the ideal place for us to have an operative, since history seems to attract mavericks like you, who still latch onto a past which cannot and will not be resurrected. We in The Party find it the worst insult that a young member of the previously advantaged group can repay our generosity by behaving like you do. We, who were prepared to forgive the previously advantaged when our people were crying out for revenge. Yet the likes of you come along and kick us in the teeth. Do you not think that is simply bad manners? I see the cat has your tongue. Anyway, in the days and weeks, maybe months and years ahead, you’ll be getting to know me. We’ll discuss what went wrong and hopefully, in the end, turn you into a respectable citizen who is appreciative of the opportunities he is being offered.’
‘You mean opportunities like booting us out of our homes, denying us jobs due to our formerly advantaged status, stifling our freedom of expression?’
‘Now, now, Martin, don’t get upset. I’m going to help you deal with all these issues and show you why The Party is right and you are wrong. In fact, just like when we were at school, I’m going to ask you tonight to write me out some lines. All you have to write is the sentence, The Party is always right, 10 000 times. At the end of it I want you to believe it. Or else you might find yourself repeating the exercise. Oh, and don’t worry about Veronica, she wasn’t at all interested in you – you know, other than as a subject.’
The rest of the day, and the next three, Martin is left alone in his cell. He paces the five-metre square room, again and again, mulling over whether Veronica really was his betrayer, or whether this is all part of a complex process of disinformation. But why did she hand The Professor his article? Martin has known all along that he is a good Party man, who happily sprouts the gospel according to Big Brother. But Veronica?
Martin is a quick learner. One thing they can’t take from me is my inner soul, he thinks. I’ll pretend to go along with them, but keep reminding myself that I do not believe in what I am being told. It isn’t easy, he finds as the weeks pass, because The Interrogator turns out to be a master at manipulating his emotions – especially where Veronica and his parents are concerned. He has refused to implicate his parents in this, or the dying doctor. When they ask about his abortive trip to Zimbabwe he says simply, and truthfully, that he wanted to see the country and that his great aunt, whom he had not seen for years, had agreed to put him up for a while. No, he knows of no-one called Peter and had not intended to meet anyone by that name. The only Peter he did know was his uncle, who died many years ago. But for now, he assures The Interrogator, he wants to recant his previous beliefs and apply for membership of The Party. He has seen the error of his ways and hopes he can contribute to the spirit of ubuntu in the township to which his family will be moved under the Extension of Property Rights Act.
The Interrogator reports to her superiors that the subject seems to be making progress. But a test is needed to prove his allegiance. Just three weeks after being arrested he is released and given instructions to monitor his parents’ movements and to report on a daily basis on their activities and who they meet.
On arrival back at his parents’ Cotswold home, Martin is given a warm welcome by Nick and Patricia. He tells them little about his incarceration, except to say that it was due to some misunderstanding about a piece he wrote for his professor.
That night Nick says he is worried about their son. ‘That spark of life he always had in his eyes seems to have been extinguished. What have they done to him?’ The next day Martin announces that he will be reporting for military training. ‘I’m looking forward to serving my country,’ he says.

The Prince Alfred's Guard memorial (1907).

The Cenotaph, detail (1929).
Chapter 22
The Ambassador and High Commissioner meet again over lunch. Their demarche to The Esteemed President, approved by their governments and dispatched to him via the Foreign Minister, has borne no fruit. Indeed, they haven’t even had the courtesy of an acknowledgement of receipt, let alone a reply.
But now the US envoy believes he has some hot news for his British counterpart. ‘The Secretary of State informed me today that our ambassador to the UN will be proposing that the General Assembly adopt a wide range of punitive sanctions against the Azanian government.’
‘Yes, obviously I have heard as much from our Foreign Office, Mr Ambassador. I have to admit that this was at my suggestion.’
‘Always one jump ahead, aren’t you, High Commissioner? Anyway, I happen to agree wholeheartedly with you on this. Of course you know that we stand to be ordered out of this country, along with our legations?’
‘It’s a price we have to pay,’ Mr Ambassador. ‘We need to send a very clear message to this government. Enough and no more. It is all so tragic and unnecessary. I mean, unlike Mugabe these guys aren’t even faced with electoral defeat. It’s as if their greed for absolute power has made them so drunk they don’t know when to stop. This absurd plan to drive middle-class people from their urban homes cannot be allowed to happen. We know they have tried to justify it by claiming it will add to the diversity of communities and spur on integration and so on, but the bottom line is it’s a stepping stone to genocide. You cannot dress up this sort of social engineering to make it look good. It’s evil and it stinks.’
‘Absolutely, High Commissioner. We do not need another Bosnia here, or another Rwanda. I know many in the world have little sympathy for the previously advantaged in this country, but we also know that these people have, by and large, accepted change and want to make a success of their lives under majority rule. To now throw that trust back in their faces is a disgusting act of betrayal by The Party. The Saintly President must be turning in his grave.’
‘Well, Mr Ambassador, from what I have gathered, the UN should back this sanctions package, despite the normal antis and abstentions. It helps that similar measures have already gone through the European Union. While trade sanctions, the sports and cultural boycotts and the oil embargo may be quite effective, I think the arms embargo is going to be the hardest to implement. We all know this area of commercial intercourse is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, as Churchill once said of the Russians. It is almost impossible to police. Every ship entering an Azanian port, or plane landing at an airport will have to be monitored. And we simply don’t have the ability, capacity or inclination to do that much policing.’
‘But, High Commissioner, as with the apartheid regime, I think you’ll find the mere fact that the regime is isolated and that its lines of credit are increasingly cut off will, like a hanging the next day, tend to concentrate their minds rather more than we have seen of late.’

The corner of Ivy Terrace and Alfred Terrace.
Chapter 23
The pro-sanctions lobby couldn’t have asked for better timing. A day before the big vote on the issue, widespread rioting rocks communities across Azania. Symbols of the state such as government buildings and even schools are attacked by desperate mobs of poor people. For the first time since the dark days of apartheid, riot-control policemen are armed with live ammunition.
With the World Food Organisation and other UN famine relief bodies and NGOs denied the right to operate in the country, starvation has become a growing problem. The state has prided itself in its ability to feed the nation. But, even though most pensions and disability grants are now again being paid to re-registered Party members, they are finding that there is a dire shortage of such staples as bread and maize. Uncertainty among commercial farmers, not to mention poor rains, has seen the wheat crop yield this year plummet from the average two million tons to less than half a million. Similarly, this year’s crop of mielies, the staple of most rural communities, will be under a million tons – down from the average of two and half million.
In a report on the crisis, the High Commissioner reads that the state does not have adequate foreign reserves to pay for the massive imports that are needed. And what food aid does arrive, such as that airlifted in by USAid, is immediately commandeered by the Food Ministry and distributed among The Party’s preferred recipients. USAid, as a result, has decided to suspend future deliveries indefinitely.
The biggest shock for The Party, however, comes when thousands of poor people invade an upmarket shopping mall in Metro One’s Sandton district. This is a favourite haunt of The Party elite, where leading members of the government can be seen on any weekend sipping their coffee after a serious bout of shopping. Now there is a running battle between state security operatives and young rioters, mostly Aids orphans dressed in rags. Tables in the numerous coffee shops and cafes in the mall are overturned and supermarket food halls are raided. In a statement on national television hours later, The Esteemed President says the security services unfortunately had no option but to use lethal force as members of the public were in mortal danger from what he terms ‘a group of poor people driven by the hidden agenda of enemies of the state. I regret to announce that in the ensuing fracas, twenty-seven people were shot dead and over fifty injured. A further seventy were arrested and will be relocated to a series of concentration camps the state is in the process of establishing in the Free State. Here, anyone who resorts to violence against the state will be held indefinitely until such time as the situation calms down. These measures are being taken in terms of the emergency regulations under the Public Safety Act. We trust, comrades, that you will give us your full support in suppressing this blatant attempt to undermine our sovereignty as an independent state.
‘While on the subject of our sovereignty, I would like at this point to draw your attention, comrades, to the planned imposition of sanctions being orchestrated by the United States of America and Britain. To these countries, and all those who support them, we say: You can go to hell! We will not be intimidated by imperialists bent on our destruction as a democracy. For too long western nations have meddled in the internal affairs of African countries. We have our own Pan-African Parliament which only this week passed a resolution supporting us in our earnest endeavours to redress the legacies of colonial and apartheid exploitation. These are the people we listen to, our African peers who know what we have endured. Again I say, to hell with western imperialism!’
Watching this latest diatribe on national television, the High Commissioner realises now is the time to start packing her bags. Can one reason with someone so unreasonable? she wonders. One irony she finds difficult to fathom is that the biggest internal threat to the regime seems to be coming not from the previously advantaged, but from the masses of destitute, previously disadvantaged people. People who remain disadvantaged, and who happen to be in the vast majority in the country. The big fear here, of course, is that if they should gain power, their leaders would probably be even more militant and extremist than the existing regime. Yet, she thinks, at least they will represent the majority – for a while anyway. This present regime has become a minority regime in its own right, very much like the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. Comprising a few percent of the total population and ruling with an iron fist – and a widespread and insidious secret police service – the Party’s elite is barely distinguishable from those of the socialist states of pre-1990 Eastern Europe.

Terracotta details at the Prince Alfred's Guard memorial (1907).

Alfred Terrace with the Hill Presbyterian Church (1863), right.
Chapter 24
As the UN votes overwhelmingly in favour of sanctions against Azania – despite opposition by many but not all African Union states – so The Esteemed President is joined at an emergency mini-summit of non-aligned states by his staunchest allies, Cuba’s newly exiled leader and the son of its founder, as well as the presidents of Libya, Zimbabwe and North Korea. Also present at the former Union Buildings are two men who have been sought be western anti-terror agencies for nearly 15 years: Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan’s former ruler, Mullah Omar. With the West threatening to tighten the sanctions screws through a sea and air blockade unless the state immediately backs down on its threat to remove the previously advantaged from their homes nation-wide, The Esteemed President is holding a council of war. He is advised by his militant comrades that attack is always the best form of defence. With US warships and aircraft carriers steaming across the Atlantic and from their strategic island ports in the Indian Ocean, it is just a matter of days before the country will be in a state of siege.
It is at this point, when all looks hopeless, that The Esteemed President tells his friends that he has a nice surprise in store for the US and UK ‘bully-boys’.
‘Remember how this country, in the early 1990s while still under the apartheid regime, announced to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it was destroying its entire nuclear capacity? Everyone said what a wonderful example was being set for the rest of the world. Well, as the party which was set to inherit the running of this country, I am afraid we did not let that programme run right through to completion. As part of our negotiated deal with the apartheid regime, it was agreed that the most advanced and well-hidden arsenal of medium-range ballistic missiles would not be tampered with. Indeed, as part of our government of national unity agreement, we all signed a pact of secrecy. But ever since then, our nuclear scientists have continued developing this offensive capacity. We now, I am proud to tell you, are in possession of hundreds of missiles, each armed with a thermo-nuclear device and capable of striking an enemy target up to 3 000km away.
‘Our surveillance planes are, at this moment, monitoring the movement of enemy warships and aircraft. But we’ll bide our time, and only strike when we can exact maximum damage on the enemy. Comrades, we don’t expect to defeat the Americans. But we’ll get in the first telling blows. And, should they then decide to invade and occupy our country, they will discover that the guerilla war we wage against them will make their experiences in Iraq and the other countries they have occupied in recent years seem like a childish sideshow.
‘I shall now issue an ultimatum warning them not to venture anywhere within our territorial waters or they will face the wrath of an aggrieved Africa. Comrades, are they in for a shock when we blow their entire fleet out of the water with a few well-directed A-bombs!’

Historic houses on Havelock Square.
Chapter 25
Martin is caught up in feverish activity as the military steps up its training programme ahead of what he is told is an imminent invasion by the US and Britain. He is based at a training camp on the outskirts of Kimberley, and is astounded at how rapidly the country has gone on a war footing.
But he wonders what chance this third-world army, far weaker than it was under apartheid, hopes to have against the mightiest military force in the history of the world. Yet he knows The Party will use all its powers of coercion and indoctrination to persuade the people they are fighting for a just cause and that, when the time comes, the great military power that is emerging in communist China will come to their rescue. While that is the line The Party is feeding the military and hinting at in its television statements, he also picks up from talk he overhears among the senior officers at the artillery school where he is based, that China are unlikely to lift a finger to help. They are, frankly, no longer a communist state. While democratisation has been a slow process, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this is the route the giant will take as the country’s economic liberalisation continues apace. Already the US is China’s main trading partner, followed closely by Europe. They know on which side their bread is buttered. They also will not risk embroilment in a global war with the US simply to bail out a renegade regime on the tip of Africa. That was Cold War behaviour and has no place in the modern era.

The Grey Institute (1859) on the edge of the Donkin Reserve.
The entrance to Fort Frederick (1799).
Chapter 26
After bidding his non-aligned comrades adieu as they head off to Sun City for a spot of relaxation, The Esteemed President summons his cabinet to a special pre-war soiree at the Union Buildings. Also present are his senior officials, along with the heads of the army, air force, navy, police and the security police. These are men and women he has gone through decades of struggle with, both in defeating apartheid and later in building the new democracy. He addresses them:
‘Comrades, as you know, the enemy is at our gates. This was a war we could not avert. We implement our policies according to our consciences as Africans, and this is the thanks we get from the so-called civilized world. We will give these invaders a bloody nose, that’s for sure. As to the post-war era – for we cannot hope to win – that is up to our cadres on the ground, in each and every metro and township.
‘Before any shots are fired, however, I must inform you that you have all been well catered for. Five Airbuses are parked at the Hoedspruit airbase, fully fuelled and ready to depart. Some of you may feel it is your patriotic duty to see out this war from our high-tech bunkers, built with such cunning in the heart of the suburbs we so kindly plan to cleanse of their previously advantaged populations. We have not had time to implement this philanthropic policy. Too bad. What it does mean, however, is that any ordnance directed at our leadership and their families must first penetrate the surface shields provided by people our enemies, I am sure, will be rather reluctant to kill. Many of them do, after all, have links with western states, especially Britain.
‘For those who, like myself, will not be sticking around to the bitter end, I think you’ll find the passenger airliners to your liking. With Nigeria willing to welcome us, I think we can look forward to a comfortable retirement. I estimate that between us we have siphoned off at least R200-billion into various Swiss bank accounts over the past five to ten years. This should be enough to make us welcome in most reputable countries. Are there any comments? No, good, then it’s time for those who are staying to get even with Uncle Sam and his mates to share a final toast or two with the rest of us, before we get the hell out of here.’

The Donkin pyramid (1820) and the top of the Campanile (1923).

Inside Fort Frederick (1799).
Chapter 27
The first cruise missile launched from the USS Enterprise, stationed east of Madagascar, could not have been more accurately directed. Fired shortly thereafter from ships set back thousands of kilometers off the Azanian coast and guided by invisible satellites, another dozen cruise missiles have other equally well-chosen targets in mind.

The Edward Hotel (1908), detail.
Chapter 28
The Esteemed President’s soiree has degenerated somewhat into a drunken orgy by late evening. The banquet tables – arranged outside the building where, in 1994 the Saintly President was inaugurated as the first democratically elected leader of the country – had groaned under the weight of pheasant, venison, prime fillet and caviar, along with a colourful array of cakes and puddings. Now bottles of champagne, many half empty, litter the area as the assembled party of dignitaries looks eastward. The large star on the horizon seems far too low and far too bright. Maybe it’s the effect of the drink, one of them says. Then they realise the light is approaching, rather than simply twinkling away mysteriously in the darkness of space. The next moment the missile pounds into the front amphitheatre of the Union Buildings. It is the ultimate iconoclastic event.

Fountain in the Pearson Conservatory (1882).
Chapter 29
Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar weren’t at the soiree, or even at Sun City. Old hands in dealing with the hated US, they knew things were getting a little too hot for comfort. You can go so far, but in the end discretion is the better part of valour, they reasoned.
As the missiles, none of them carrying nuclear warheads, strike home and decapitate the regime, marines are parachuted in from giant troop-carrying planes dispatched from aircraft carriers. Key installations, including the television centre in Auckland Park and border posts, are taken without the slightest sign of resistance. Indeed, wherever the Americans go, they receive thunderous applause.
In a minibus taxi heading north at a rate of knots totally disproportionate to its state of ill repair, the turbanned Osama and his friend know that they need to reach the border with Zimbabwe before daylight. A quick swim across the Limpopo and – with a little bit of luck and their extensive network of al-Qaeda connections – they’ll be in a safe hiding place before the US forces even realise they had almost been within their grasp.
They park the minibus on the river bank, not far from the Mugabe Bridge border post, and plunge into the chilly water. A littler further down the river, three crocodiles are alerted by their splashes, and inch slowly into the gently flowing current.

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The Hill Presbyterian Church (1863) seen from the Donkin Reserve, which was proclaimed in 1820.

St Augustine's Cathedral (1866).