Gross Injustice

Basil (2)

Primary school Basil

When the law is not there to protect you and is blatantly unjust, is it okay to take it into your own hands?

My friend, Basil, who grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, as a person of colour, recounts this incidence of gross injustice in his adolescents in the 1960s.

Basil’s desire for wanting more out of life than South Africa’s apartheid government threw at him stems from when he was a boy. He took on a paper delivery route to financially help out his family as well as squirrel away a bit in his post office savings book.

One day, on his paper run in a “White” area, a teenaged white boy about Basil’s age, came charging after him knocking him down and giving him a beating for the simple reason that Basil was a different colour. Adding insult to injury, he flung my friend’s newspapers in the canal. Basil limped home, dejected, battered and bruised lamenting to his mother what had happened.

As the days passed, anger welled up in Basil bubbling just below the surface.

A couple of weeks went by when Basil saw his perpetrator coming to one of the shops in the “Coloured” area. “Man,” Basil said, “When I saw that boy, I just saw red. He was now in my territory and it was payback time.”

Basil tore into the White boy, leaving him black and blue when he was done. He was duly arrested and taken to the local police station to which his mother was also summoned. Basil knew the white police chief very well. In fact he had played with his children.

He explained to the commander what had happened to which he replied, “But you can’t take the law into your own hands. I’m sorry, but I have to punish you because you broke the law. It’s illegal for a Non-white person to hit a White person.”

Basil was told to bend over so that the seat of his thread-bare short pants tightened over his buttocks. The police chief sent the bamboo cane whistling through the air culminating in a painful landing on the boy’s rear end.

Basil’s mother was a fiercely proud woman. When they got home, behind closed doors she lashed out at her son. “Why did you go beat that boy?” she shouted at Basil. “Our family never had anything to do with the police, up till now. Here I am being dragged out to the police station. How could you embarrass me like that? What must the police think of us now, eh? And what will our neighbours think, you getting in trouble with the law, eh?”

Although Basil felt badly that he had disappointed his mother, inwardly he felt good about meting out justice for himself, even if it meant taking the law into his own hands.

Book Review: Philida by André P. Brink

I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s history ties into my memoir, An Immoral Proposal. Andre Brink is an iconic South African author.

Barefoot Whispers

In 1832 at the southernmost tip of Africa, slavery continues to toil a seemingly impossible battle. Slaves at the Cape work the vineyards, build their masters’ coffins, knit their winter-wear, raise children – and sometimes, when their owner’s wives can’t or won’t, they bear them children.

Slaves are barefooted. Shoes are for free men.

Slaves are not buried in wooden coffins, but in an old shroud. Coffins are for free men.

Philida, a cheeky slave girl who has endured beatings and borne four children her owner’s son refuses to acknowledge. His promises of buying her freedom prove fruitless and she makes the journey to lodge a complaint against him.

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????“He is here, our own; we have made him; we cannot wash our hands of him. When from under the beetling eyebrows in a dark face something of the White man’s eye looks out at us, is not the curious shrinking and aversion we feel somewhat of a consciousness of a national disgrace and sin?” (Author, Olive Schreiner, 1923 quoted by Dr. John Western, Outcast Cape Town)

A brown-skinned man, in Kiersten Dunbar Chace’s award-winning documentary film, I’m not Black, I’m Coloured – Identity Crisis at the Cape of Good Hope,  made this statement, “The only sin is the colour of my skin.”

Ms. Chace capsulates the history of the mixed race people allowing each to voice his/her own struggle with racial identity in South Africa’s complex history.

????Under the apartheid regime, the Brown people, were legally classified as Cape Coloureds. During the anti-apartheid struggle, younger “Coloureds” aligned themselves with the Blacks, unofficially reclassifying themselves Black. When the Black majority government came into power they told the “Coloureds,” “No, you’re not Black, you’re Coloured!” The story of the “Coloureds” has been that of perpetual marginalization.

Over centuries “Coloureds” have been demeaned and demoralized by the way others (particularly whites) regarded them – “a national disgrace and sin,” outcasts, half-breeds – not fit to be given a place in society.

My book, An Immoral Proposal, explains the struggle I had growing up with these attitudes. It took me over thirty years of being in an emotional “no-man’s land” to come to terms with my racial identity – and it’s still a work in progress.Brown People

It was an enormous boost to my self-esteem when in 1985, at my citizenship ceremony together with many others, Judge Kasurak of Windsor, Ontario, told us that on that day we became Canadian citizens, not second-class, not black or white, but Canadian citizens with the same rights as a native Canadian. I could finally shed the “Coloured” label in my adoptive land.

I hang onto Martin Luther King’s words in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Read All About It!

P1060207 - Copy (545x1024)The downside of self-publishing is that I have to be my own mini Random House – doing just about everything from writing to marketing to the technical computer stuff – all a learning curve for me that takes a frustratingly long time.  It’s difficult enough when your energy levels are normal, but it’s a drag when you have CFS/ME and you go at tortoise pace.

For instance, I’m a week behind getting my memoir on (through CreateSpace) as there are corrections to be made by my book printer provider. I don’t have Indesign, so I can’t do them on my computer. So I’m dependent on hearing back from them and when they can do the corrections. Self-publishing sure ain’t for the faint-hearted!

For my friends down under, making the book available online to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa requires yet another hurdle over which to jump.

I have about 400 paperbacks in stock for anyone who wants a copy. Email me at and I’ll send you a pay-upon-receipt electronic invoice hosted by Paypal where you can pay by credit card. Give me your mailing address and my book will be on its way.

Postage from Canada to the US is $7.60, AUS and NZ $15.20 and S. Africa $15.20

Book price is $15.95 CAD

An open letter to Julius Malema

This is South Africa’s present fate, politically speaking. Nice piece of satire by Ben Travato

BEN TROVATO – Durban Poison

Dear Right Honourable Excellency Julius Sello Malema the First, Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Ruler of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of Colonialism in Africa in General and South Africa in Particular.

Or, in the parlance of the common people, heita Juju! Having said that, there shall come a time when political scientists will want to add an ism to your name. You need to drop a vowel. Malemism is easier on the tongue than Malemaism, which sounds more like a tropical malaise than a bona fide ideology.

People have been coming up to me and saying, “Who is EFF?” Sometimes they say, “Who the eff are you?” but their kind is best ignored. You put it rather nicely in your manifesto: “The EFF is a radical, leftist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement with an internationalist outlook anchored by popular…

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Conception of a Memoir

sample 3 My baby is finally in the delivery room!

I’m talking about my memoir. My project two decades in the making, feeling rather like a twenty-year pregnancy. Its conception began in South Africa culminating in the makings of a fairy tale of sorts. He, being the Prince and I the Pauper coming from opposite sides of the track. Our love story plays out against the backdrop of apartheid in 1974.

When I conceived the notion of undertaking such, I approached it as a novel because it was the safest mode to go. I felt I, the narrator, could hide behind the characters. I thought I’ve got a vivid imagination and it would be like playing with the paper dolls I created as a child – over a hundred paper dolls. I thought writing my story as a novel would be like playing with my paper doll family, each with its own personality and history. I’d breathe life into them and I’d simply take off from there.

Trouble is, my story is not a fantasy and facing the truth was simply too painful. So, in my re-ordered world, I set my family in a Pollyanna world with nice clean characters. But I wasn’t making any progress. It was like pushing a wheelbarrow covered in a tangle of spider webs uphill. The plot was garbled and the characters static and lifeless. Having no compass and not thinking clearly about what it is I really wanted to say I came up with the title On the Other Side of the Fence.

My story isn’t one-dimensional, it has multiple themes and working those out in a novel was a struggle. Along the way I changed the title to Ham’s Daughter that still did nothing for the book. The whole project limped along in fits and starts leaving me quite frustrated and dejected.

Emotionally I wrestled with sensitive subject matter in parts of my story leaving me quite exhausted and depressed. Over the years, I kept putting the project on the backburner while working through these emotions. You can’t force a butterfly from its chrysalis before it’s ready to hatch and soar, just like you can’t rush the process of healing.

Naming it yet again, Under the Woodstock Bridge, I carried this ‘baby’ with me from country to country – England first, then Canada and the United States – all places I had lived. From the US, I took it to the ends of the earth – New Zealand! Read what happened in my next post.