Written by my brother, Blaine, this story is a metaphor of the new South Africa. In the mould of Animal Farm by George Orwell, it showcases a very real South African conundrum and fear.
Today’s Sunday Times headline
To be clear, what South Africa requires is greater participation in the economy by the black majority. Nonetheless, executed without forethought, it will foreshadow a whole raft of unintended consequences as today’s Sunday Times reveals [12th February 2017].
Thriving Limpopo farm left derelict after minister helped his mates take ownership
Minister of Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti helped his buddies procure a R97 million farm in Limpopo, even though neither had any agricultural experience nor any ancestral claim to the land. By Ezra Claymore –
A report by the Sunday Times has exposed a pretty shady little – and by little we mean pretty f*cking big – deal between land reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti and a Luthuli House comrade.
Nkwintini had helped Errol Velile Present and his partner Moses Boshomane, neither of whom had ancestral claim to the land or any agricultural experience, by introducing Present – who had been on the hunt for a piece of land – to head honchos in the department.
Eight months later, the Bekendvlei Farm in Limpopo was bought by the department of land reform for R97 million and handed over to Present. The newspaper reports that senior government officials had fast-tracked the deal, bypassing departmental procedures to make it happen.
The ink had barely dried on the deal, when minister Nkwintini – who admitted to getting R2 million out of the deal – gave a speech at Present’s wedding.
A little while after the two took ownership of the farm, the money had run out and 31 workers could no longer be paid, the farm became run-down and wages to the rest of the staff weren’t paid for five months.
As part of the land handover, present was given an additional R30 million for salaries, machinery and infrastructure development, but is didn’t take long for things to go South. 3 000 heads of cattle worth R18 million was quickly sold off and farm equipment and machinery started going missing.
The Story of an African Car
I was born on a dusty little farm and lived there my whole life. It was always a beautiful and safe place for me – a place where I wanted for nothing. In the mornings and nights, food was placed in bowls for us and we could eat till our tummies were like overstuffed wors. It wasn’t very tasty, I suppose, but our coats were sleek and we grew up strong, well, perhaps not me so much. We did not fear the man who put out the food so much but Mom taught us to respect him. When he came with the food she would become all obsequious and demure, never meeting his eyes. He was our king, our ruler. We soon learnt to behave like that too as we were cuffed once or twice when we got too boisterous and milled around him, jumping up and down. Mom also taught us to protect him and we would snarl and bark at strangers and make mock attacks, scaring the bejesus out of them. It used to be such fun even when we were whipped for barking at the wrong people.
And so we idled away the months of our youth. Sometimes Dad would come home and we would all sleep together for a few nights but then he would go away again to his other families. We would be very sad but a sure way for us to shake off our sadness was if a car would come riding down the road. We couldn’t get outside the fence, but that was OK as our land was quite big and we could chase them for quite a long way on the inside. It was exhausting but tremendous fun. After it had gone, I would gaze wistfully after its rooster tail of dust and imagine myself inside that rattling belching beast whizzing past my friends whilst they vainly tried to catch me.
Every now and again a car, which I eventually got to know as a bakkie, would stop outside. The gate would be carefully opened and the Man would walk amongst us until he found who he wanted. He would talk with the King for a bit, pass over some paper and the chosen dog would be taken out to the bakkie to be tied on to the back. If it was one of my brothers or sisters, I would be very sad but Mom knew how to cheer me up and she would tell me stories of how my brothers and sisters had got all fat and lazy now that they owned their own bakkies and didn’t have to chase after them anymore.
And so we all got older. Dad came home for a while and soon I found myself with some more brothers and sisters. Happy times all over again as I taught them everything that I knew until they were gone too. Eventually Mom got too old and fat and Dad didn’t come and lie with her anymore. I kind of miss him. Mom, on the other hand, was quite relieved and she was content to just lie in the shade and gently pant away her ever shortening life.
One morning I woke up and knew that something was terribly wrong. Normally Mom would be snuggled up behind me, keeping me warm. Today she was sprawled out and was as cold as the early morning earth. They fetched her later that day, threw her onto the back of a bakkie and drove off. I chased that bakkie as hard as I could until the end of the fence and then I sat down and howled. I howled for Mom and I howled for all my brothers and sisters that had disappeared. And even more, I howled for myself from the depths of my soul. I had lost my anchor.
From that day forward I took to patrolling the wire, patiently, endlessly. I would hear the distant shussing carried on the wind and I would tense myself in readiness. As the car or bakkie appeared around the corner I would start running, barking at the noisy devil. It was wrong. Life seemed so easy for those in their cars. They weren’t stuck in this dingy dusty farmyard with nothing to do all day. As each day went by I became more resentful and I determined to set things right when the first opportunity arose.
Nothing much happened until one day no food was put out in the morning, nor again that night. The next day people and their cars started coming around and before long they started carrying things away. I knew that farm so well that they never did find me in the hole that I had dug under the shed a long time ago. After a few days, all the commotion stopped and it was just me left.
When I was very sure that I was alone, I ventured out. I found some scraps of food and continued my exploration. There were many new smells that I could not identify, but most remarkable of all, the gate had been left open. I tentatively took a step outside and looked around. Silly me, I admonished myself, why are you so frightened. This also belongs to you now. For a while I proudly walked up and down outside the fence and looked inward. That was my past. I resolved never to go back. I also resolved to own a bakkie.
I slept that night in a little hollow that I had found on the side of the road and woke up hungry and stiff. But my resolve didn’t weaken. Eventually I heard that faint shussing sound and sprang into action as the bakkie careered around the corner. I chased it like I had never chased anything before but it got away. I tried mightily twice more that day before I realised that I must do things differently. I must be patient. That night I was terribly hungry and thirsty from all my chasing and so I broke my resolve and slunk into the farm to scrounge. I found enough to keep me going but I realised that I couldn’t continue like this. I had to own a bakkie and then I would ….
And then I could ….
I don’t know, but I think I wouldn’t need anything else. It would make everything right.
Some days later my patience was rewarded. A bakkie stopped outside the gates. I tensed my lean flanks and waited. The door creaked open and a man stepped out fanning his sweaty brow with a beaten veld hat. I knew this man. Many times in the past he had come to the farm and sought out the best of us. He was heartless and we feared him with his peremptory tones as he strode amongst us, pointing here and there with his cane. He would unnecessarily tie the dogs on too tightly on the back of the bakkie when he drove away in a cloud of dust and a clatter of stones.
But still I waited. He looked around and up and down the road before venturing away from the bakkie. This was my chance. I bunched up my haunches and sprang out. I bared my teeth at him and growled as I charged. He ran around the bakkie but I reversed direction and caught him out. This was a game he couldn’t win. I had spent many years running after bakkies while he had been sitting in them. He was no match for me. He swiped at me with his cane but I was too quick. Why had we always feared him? He was a pathetic old man with bandy legs. Why did we think he was a colossus? Maybe Mom had taught us so. Well she was long gone and today I had learnt that he bled just like me and my brothers. He had misjudged me and had come too close in his arrogance. My flashing teeth had taught him wisdom. With a new found respect for me he slowly retreated and I advanced, stiff legged, snarling, sneering. He tried to feint a few times around me but soon gave up. Slowly and inexorably I pushed him away from his bakkie.
Eventually he realised my plan. “Alright, vat die fokken ding!” and jamming his veld hat on his head, he turned and marched off in a swearing huff.
I returned to the bakkie and walked around it, inspecting it and smelling it. It was mine. A thing of beauty. At every wheel I carefully smelt for the presence of others and accurately overlaid their smell with my own. I jumped up on the back and saw the ropes that were used to tie the dogs on. Not for me. I put my paws on the cab and peered over the front. Hmmm, nice view. I put my feet on the sidewall and peered into the distance. Hmmm, nice view – and it’s all mine. I jumped down and hopped into the cab. It stank of the old man. It would sort that out later with a bit of piss I thought.
I sat where he normally sat, just behind that round thing. I did what I had seen them all do. I put my paws on the round thing but nothing happened. I tried to move it like I had seen him do, but my paws slid off.
Fuck! I need opposable thumbs!
Nevertheless, I sat there a long time revelling in my good fortune until I became hungry and thirsty. I jumped out but as I turned for a last look inside, I bumped the door and it closed. Oh dear. After trying to scratch it open without any success, I wandered off and after a long search managed to find some food that wasn’t too rotten. There was also a bit of water stuck in a discarded tractor tyre from the last rains. By now night had fallen and I made my way out to my bakkie.
I crawled under the bakkie and curled up in a little ball pretending that Mom was behind me as I always do. I said my little nightly prayer to Mom and told her about my good luck that day.
I told her that I had a bakkie and a roof over my head and so she didn’t have to worry anymore. Life was going to be just grand. I’m sure I felt her snuggle a bit tighter behind me.