The one, and the other

This is a story which I must record, with my two lieutenants here. Should they remove their shirts you will see that their bodies are battlefields, maps of the wars of Apartheid. They tried to kill me once. In the process the one shot the other in the mouth, while the other buried a spade in the back of the one. They look the worse for wear now, it is tough to hold down your drink, no to down your drink full stop, if there is a hole between your gullet and the back of your neck just below the base of the skull! Having such a war injury also makes it difficult for you to hold your own in a conversation. The other is of course a real pain in the back – I was lucky that they did not inflict those insane war wounds on me, their intended target, but on each other instead. I will relate the story of how I came to be here in this lunatic place.
I cannot talk for long though, seeing all of you assembled in this hall, the rejects of our country’s experiments with weapons of mass destruction and war. You are truly a gathering of wrecks and cripples. My voice tends to gradually turn into a whisper so that although it is my duty to address you, my talk will gradually become a whisper, and fainter still it will disappear like a long road into the distance… Like the road I travelled on to get here, past the Verwoerd dam towards the mountains in the east. I think they are called the Maluti’s and as my voice tends to give way to a gravelly whisper so the tar road gave way first of all to potholes and then to a gravelly corrugated sand road, dusty and sweaty. So I will need a translator – no someone who can relay my whispers to you the rejects of Apartheid. You can be someone without arms, or legs so long as you have a voice, you can be horribly deformed so long as you have a head with a mouth in it. You may be blinded so long as your vocal cords vibrate and your tongue and lips are able to move. For although there are some parts of us which are disabled, we all still have parts here and there which are able, and we should use at least until we are finally dead.
Your various deformities are so gross that you all seem comical. Yet, the system that turned you into the monsters that you are must be exposed for what it did to you, the world must be informed of your hidden existence, and how you came to be hidden here in a remote valley where once they tested nuclear devices. As we drove our landrover through the gate, me and my two lieutenants, once bitter enemies I must remind you, we were surprised that the regime had abandoned this place, and all of you with it.
We raced up the access road, I pointed to the abandoned pillbox, the rusted crooked boom gate, deformed like many of you, and lying grotesquely to one side. Here the road was in good condition once more. Excellent roads announcing that we had arrived at the secret which the terribly bad roads tried to hide. Like my voice will also improve should any of you gawping at me madly – at least those with eyes – offer me a glass of water. But I am afraid of drinking your contaminated water, will I glow in the dark? We passed the cemetery on the way, and noted that many hundreds died here on this battlefield of science – the regime’s brightest, brainiest, cleverest all lying in neat rows, having worked with uranium I wonder if their bony dicks are all erect and glowing in the dark, so many soldiers on parade before the Orange White and Blue!
We also raced up the runway of the landing strip, wondering at the hint of aircraft landing and disgorging dozens of political VIPs, red-faced turkeys from in-flight Jack Daniels – “slow brewed in the age old tradition”, did this drink of connoisseurs or “Klippies and Coke,” the infamous CCB coffee, contribute to human rights abuses, torture and disappearances? Did these beverages oil the gears of malicious, murderous thoughts?Clucking turkeys come to inspect the progress on the work of Apartheid’s final solution – the Atom bomb. 1988 vintage, careful that you do not suffer a stroke! I am not the most qualified individual to talk about this, as all of this nonsense came into my head as part of a tortuous nightmare… which caused me to beg for water to wet the highway of my throat and to smooth the corrugations of my vocal chords.
We raced past the graveyard; we raced up the runway with its faded markings no longer visible to the keen eyes of the pilots of our souls flying high in the cold southern Maluti air. We raced past the barrack like asbestos walled laboratories, a self imposed Auschwitz for Apartheid scientists. No wonder many of you suffer an asthmatic wheeze. How could you the brightest and brainiest to walk the windy lanes of Van der Stel’s famous bush allow yourself to land up here where the enemy is not a visible terrorist with a struggle name using his spear for the people but the very materials you were working with, invisible to the eye yet deadly, sentencing you to a slow death for your crimes against humanity?
I came here by a tortuous route as my two lieutenants hunted me down, a white fugitive in a black struggle! A white chess piece moving on the black side of the board against his own king and queen, hoping to get the pawns of both sides to rebel and overthrow the ruling classes. I drove my Bohemian blue combi as fast as I could up one rusty street of Alex, sweaty, keeping a nervous eye on the Ratel chasing up behind me, I did an insane turn on two wheels into a side street, and rushed into a geriatric looking home, shouting “Mama the boers are chasing me, maybe they will drive pass and miss the fact that I am hiding here…”
But, you were already there and in that house I could not touch you, your spell was great and you recovered miraculously from any wound I could inflict. I ducked and dived, “I floated like a butterfly, I stung like a bee!” but still you came, my efforts made no impression. I thought of Dr Ribeiro and his wife in Mamelodi, gunned down in the small front yard of their double storey home, a house that could not hide amongst the thousands of matchboxes. I ran, I cowered, I crawled and still you came. Then the spell broke and I grabbed one’s arm with the 38 special revolver in the hand and swung him round so that the spade of the other got buried in his back, I then twisted the hand with one’s revolver into the mouth of the other and the shot rang out, leaving me with a deafening zing in the ears. I could see bits of teeth and flesh and bone fly from behind the other’s neck just below the base of the skull as the bullet made its exit.
And now I am here with my two lieutenants, I am not sure that any of us are still alive, but should these two take off their shirts you will find the battlefields of Apartheid carved into the wounds on their torsos. I will call the one Cuito, and I will call the other Cuanavale – just so that we may always remember them – lest we forget.


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