One day last year, when I got home from work I saw two ‘laities’. They had painted faces and they were wearing women’s clothes. When I looked again, I saw that these ‘laities’ were my nephews.
I thought these children had really gone mad at last. Then I remembered that it was Guy Fawkes Day. My nephews were very happy because they had collected a few cents.
One of them said: “Uncle please give us money. We want to buy our mother a Christmas present.” I remembered suddenly that Christmas was just around the corner. And 1986 was about to end.
I went inside the house and I sat on the sofa. Then I started reading my newspaper. I read about eleven-year-old Bongani who was shot by some people hiding in a bus. It was a very sad story.
I also read about the young boys and girls who are in detention. The story said that they are going to spend Christmas in jail. I started thinking about my nephews. What would I do if one of my nephews was detained?
They are too young to know anything. But children of their age are in jail. I thought to myself that this year was not a good year for many children. In fact 1986 was a bad year for many people.
At the beginning of the year many parents were happy that their children were going back to school. And many workers were very happy about joining COSATU. I was happy that I had just bought a beautiful sofa. And I could sleep on it at any time.
But even on the first day of 1986 there was fighting. People living in Moutse were attacked by the Imbokotho. Since then more than a hundred people have died. They were fighting against Kwa-Ndebele getting ‘independence’ from South Africa.
And in the townships there has been no peace. In many areas people are scared. Vigilante groups started all over the country. In Moutse there was the Imbokotho. In Tumahole there was the ‘A-Team’ and in Durban there wasthe’Amabutho’.
But the worst fighting was in Cape Town where the ‘witdoeke’ fought with the ‘comrades’ and 20 000 houses were burnt down.
The government said it wanted to stop the “black-on-black violence”. So they declared the new State of Emergency. 20 000 people have been detained since then.
Newspapers cannot write what they want. And at Learn and Teach we struggle — not knowing what we can write and what we cannot write.
The State of Emergency did not stop people from fighting back. More than fifty townships all over the country stopped paying rent. They say they want rents people can afford — and they want the army out of the townships. More than 20 people were killed in Soweto when the police tried to evict people for not paying their rents.
Last year workers have suffered too. Gencor fired 22 000 mineworkers from their Impala Platinum Mine. For these workers 1986 meant living without work or food. 177 miners were killed at Kinross Mine when a fire started underground. 177 women became widows and many children were left without fathers.
Many factories have closed. The bosses say that they are not making enough money. And many workers have lost their jobs. They have no hope of finding new jobs, like the workers in Port Elizabeth.
Some things were better than in 1985. For example, we sold more magazines than we did in 1985. I would like to say thank you for supporting us. Also for reading my column.
A new newspaper, The New Nation, was born. And the UDF had its third birthday. CUSA and AZACTU came together, to start a new federation of trade unions. I wish them good luck in their struggles.
A lot of things happened during last year. But what will happen this year? Will students go back to school? Will more people lose their jobs? What about rents? Will people be evicted or will they pay?
There are more questions than answers. And I look at my nephews and think that they do not know anything about these questions. All they know is that they want to buy their mother a present. And they want me to buy them presents.
They want to play. And they hope that one day they will have cars like their uncles. And maybe one day, their young friends will come home from jail. Well, they are too young to understand.
I just hope that things will change this year. I hope the government will change its mind and its laws. Maybe they will end the State of Emergency. Or maybe they will listen to the people of our beautiful country.
And then maybe we will live happily. But for now, I say, “Have a peaceful year. And remember this year, is the Year of the Homeless. I hope all the people in Crossroads in the Cape, ‘Mshenguville’ in Soweto and everyone living in shacks, have a better year than last year.”
Heyta daar. See you next time!