Cry my beloved Country – Alan Paton 1948
I have found it difficult, this time, to write about this Home. It was easy to write impressions and feelings of the other countries – I had no emotional history with or high hopes of them.
But South Africa – the country of my birth, the place I still think of as home.
This visit is painful –
Of course there is the usual ‘craziness’ of this country- driving off the freeway at Turfontein on a Sunday morning I am confronted by Bakkie (read ute) stopped diagonally across the exit – no wheels ; just sitting there (not sure for how long past or into future 😂) so that if one wasn’t concentrating (well actually if you weren’t concentrating you wouldn’t have made it this far on a Jhb road 😂) you too would find yourself stopped on the exit; with your nose (bonnet) well dented.
The story of trying to leave the airport where lifts fail, ticket machines won’t take your money and at each attempt to pay increases the amount due by R20😜
until my parking ticket was R175 instead of R25 and still it refused my money or card and finding someone interested enough to help!
The garage attendant still offers me a broad grin and happy conversation; the beggars still crowd round my car each time I stop anywhere and now the faces are truly our rainbow nation whereas in the past they were monochromely dark.
Woolworths still tempts the eye as it has always done with an array of food like I have never seen in Oz.
You still have to stand in line at the post office and bank forever and you don’t ever want to have to query a rates or lights and water bill – none of us will live long enough to get it resolved 😜
But now there is something more. As I sat in church today Alan Paton came to mind. I haven’t read that book since I was at school – don’t really recall the details – but again I hear people
‘Crying for their Beloved Country’
This is a country in pain –
a country whose leader will let his people sink, drown ,die; All his people to preserve himself.
A country that seems to be turning on itself – youth destroying universities -their vehicle to economic freedom
Black students attacking the very white students who fought for their equality : the most violent threats that I won’t repeat, made to fellow students.
Respected public figures being muzzled, charged on vague accusations.
There is a groaning and a feeling of ‘end times’ that is immensely sad and frightening.
And then there is the ‘normality’ of life which continues, as it must, I suppose. The conversations around our tables go back and forth, concern, shoulder shrugging, hope, despair.
And, as an ‘outsider’, sitting in on this I remember a very old movie : Ship of Fools (1965) and a line from it ; Rhulman, “There are one million Jews in Germany, are they going to kill us all?”
And I’m not sure why it comes to mind, but like Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country – something in me has shifted being here this time, and I can’t find the optimism and joy I used to see.
Add to that the severe drought –
this country feels like it is in pain –
real gut wrenching pain