SOUTH AFRICAN JOURNAL
I HAVE just paid my first visit to South Africa, where 1 was the guest of Mr Dawie Le Roux, the National Party MP for Uitenhage. The arrangement was that I could go where and see whom I wanted. This was strictly adhered to, except that 1 was not allowed to see General Janie Geldenhuys, the army chief. Here are ex- tracts from the journal which I kept.
Monday, 1 February My SAA aeroplane approaches Johannes- burg. American journalists making this flight usually report in tones of outrage how many white people's swimming pools they can see from the window. Well, there certainly are a great many swimming pools.
An advertisement in the Sunday Times of Johannesburg says: 'EXCITING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY. RAPE! MURDER! THEFT!
The Rolls-Royce of Perimeter Security. STILETTO SECURITY SPIKES. VICIOUS, un- climbable, ornamental and effective peri- meter security.' It seeks a sales agent.
Johannesburg is almost completely free of beauty. In arrangement, it resembles New York, in appearance Tel Aviv.
After lunch with Stephen Robinson, our contnbutor and the Daily Telegraph's cor- respondent in South Africa, I pay my first call. It is to Prakash Diar, an attorney at Ismail Ayob and Partners on the 27th floor of a tower in Commissioner Street. He is a quiet, thin Indian and he is defending the people known as the `Sharpeville Six'.
In the summer of 1984, a mob murdered the black deputy mayor of Sharpeville. Six people have been convicted for his murder and are to hang unless there is clemency.
The Roman Catholic bishops of South Africa have claimed that the murder was not murder because it was part of the anti-apartheid 'struggle'. As well as being morally repugnant, this statement — mad- dening to the government — can only harm the case of the Six, which, as Prakash Diar explained, is simply that there is no decent evidence against them.
To uphold their convictions, the appeal court had to resort to the doctrine of 'common purpose', which means that you can be guilty of a crime, even though you did not actually commit it, if you were part of a group that intended to do it. In this case, the court held, in effect, that people were guilty of murder who not only did not do the killing, but were not even present when it took place.
I asked Mr Diar if there was a rule of law in South Africa. He said there was, but, grow more disillusioned by the day with our bench.'
A guest at dinner with Stephen Robin- son explains the Johannesburg buses to me. They are no longer segregated, but they retain the old colours on the front which designated racial segregation, so those who still do not want a mixed bus can avoid it at a glance.
Tuesday, 2 February I hired a car and, after accidentally circum- navigating Johannesburg twice, drove to Pretoria. My host was Dan Neser, a senior advocate, and we ate pickled fish in the Pretoria Club. Mr Neser's ancestors came from Antwerp in the 18th century. The first in South Africa was an herbalist or quack. He bought emaciated slaves from the market, fed them up and then sold them for a great profit. 'My aunts say that he was acting only out of humanitarian motives,' Mr Neser said wrily. He told me that many of his more verkrampte friends now want an all-out fight with the blacks, believing they can defeat them easily.
I am shown the town. At the Union Buildings by Herbert Baker (almost as grand as his work in Delhi), a voice calls after us 'Baas, baas.' It is a middle-aged black, 'Baas, I am a Christian.• I have had no work for 15 months. Life is very hard. I can be a house painter: let me do some work for you.' Mr Neser gives him ten rand (£3 in direct exchange, but buys much more) and his telephone number. Our tour ended with the Voortrekker Memorial, which English-speaking South Africans do not want one to see. It is on a hill above the city. Outside, it rather resembles a pre-war wireless set, although the approach is dramatic. The visitor walks up and finds himself inside a stone circle of covered wagons carved in relief, a laager. The interior of the memorial itself is spacious and grand. The friezes round the walls tell the bloody history of the Afrikan- er, harassed by the British and by the black tribes, trusting in God and searching for a Promised Land. At noon on 16 December (the anniversary of the victory over the Zulus at Blood River), a shaft of sunlight enters from a hole in the roof and strikes a commemorative stone.
Dinner in Johannesburg with Tony Bloom, the chairman of Premier Milling. Mr Bloom has caused a sensation by announcing his emigration. As I waited in the foyer, the black doorman asked whose car I expected. When I told him, he said, We can't lose that man. He has the right kind of politics.' The Blooms live in a grand suburb. Tony's pretty wife, Gisela, is the daughter of Rommel's chief of staff, making his an unusual marriage for a Jew. Dinner is excellent. The wine is French, the con- versation anti-government, the pictures on the walls expensive, Gisela's elder daugh- ter just down from a career of radical politics at the University of Cape Town. There are four indoor servants. Here are the easily mocked South African liberals. But it strikes me that without men as clever and cosmopolitan as Tony Bloom the country is much the poorer, literally and metaphorically.
Tony says he is leaving because his business opportunities will not grow, not because of political despair. He says it reflects badly on the country that his leaving or staying should be such an issue.
Wednesday, 3 February Rising at five, I fly by small propeller plane to Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Natal. It is hotter here and wetter, close to the Indian Ocean.
At the airport a girl working for Avis offers me a lift into town. She turns out to be from Leicestershire. She came here three years ago for a week and decided to stay. Nothing, except anxiety for an elderly mother, would take her back to England.
6 I find a pile of cardboard shields, presumably for use by the Sunday school' Pietermaritzburg is an English city. There is a large statue of Queen Victoria, good public schools and public buildings. Here the bishop, Dr Colenso, denied the doctrine of eternal punishment. For this his superior bishop, Dr Gray, excommuni- cated and replaced him. But the judicial committee of the Privy Council upheld his appeal and so two rival Anglican bishops ministered to the diocese of Natal for many years. Colenso's cathedral is now super- seded by a hideous circular brick affair.
In the old church, which stands empty, I find a plaque erected a couple of years ago by the local synod. It attempts, in the weasel words of such bodies, to reconcile the irreconcilable. Gray is praised for his devotion to the Church order and faith, Colenso for his achievements in Biblical scholarship, 'cross-cultural' fields and 'so- cial justice', the two involuntarily united at last. How they would have hated it.
In the organ loft are monuments to men of Natal who fell at Isandlwana, the catastrophic defeat of the British by the Zulus in 1879. Next to the monuments, I find a pile of cardboard shields, presum- ably for use by the Sunday school.
Outside my hotel, I was surprised to be stopped by a white beggar. He was quite young and had come from Richard's Bay looking for work. I gave him five rand.
In the bookshop I buy South African magazines. There are several for the black yuppie. One is Tribute, a 'tribute to black excellence'. Another has the headline
`HUSBAND'S TESTICLES FOUND ON ROOF'.
Lunch with Richard Steyn, editor of the National Witness, the oldest paper in South Africa (founded in 1846). We eat at the imposing Victoria Club, joined by John Conyngham, a sub on the paper, and Khaba Mkhize, who edits the Echo, a local supplement to the Witness which concen- trates on black affairs, telling readers, for instance, how to build their own timber- framed shack. Khaba's is the only black face in the club, but it seems to excite no attention or disapproval.
The centre of Pietermaritzburg is utterly placid. But at present the city is one of the most violent in the world. More than 400 people have died in the township since September, because of fighting between the supporters of the United Democratic Front and those of Chief Buthelezi's In- katha movement. The view seems to be that the police are standing aside and letting Inkatha do what they want. Neither side appears able to control its own people. The UDF 'comrades' are often freelance, so are the Inkatha 'warlords'.
Khaba drives me into the townships. My first reaction, I must admit, is of amaze- ment at how attractive they are. Even the squatters' houses (in places not designated for black housing under the Group Areas Act) are pleasant compared with so much that I have seen in India, and many of the houses are almost luxurious. They have their own gardens and are well set out on beautiful hills. During the day, all is peaceful. At night there is mayhem.
First we went to Khaba's house — a comfortable bungalow with a gigantic stereo system — and he changed from his jacket and tie into red baseball hat, red tee-shirt and red shorts.
Then we set off. The townships under UDF control all have names of countries which support the ANC: we visited Mos- cow, Angola, Zambia and Libya. We drove to a point where the KwaZulu homeland borders Natal. Houses on the frontier had been burnt out as the factions struggled for mastery.
Khaba said that the present trouble began because Inkatha felt threatened by UDF strength and imposed itself too hard, driving many neutral people towards the UDF. Chief Buthelezi had alienated local residents by telling them that their people did nothing to help fight the British in 1879.
On our way to Taylor's Halt, a car shot past at great speed. Khaba explained that was the local Inkatha chief who now always drove so fast, being frightened.
Khaba's explanation of the complexities was witty, clear and fair-minded. In his writing, he simply tried to report what is going on and to help end the violence.
Later that evening, I learnt that Khaba is under constant attack from different black factions who have no time for journalistic impartiality. He has been threatened. Merely keeping to the facts requires con- siderable courage.
At dinner with the Steyns in the lovely hills above the town, people talk about Tony Bloom's departure and about the possibility of their own. Every English- speaking South African considers leaving, I get the impression, though most reject it. Thursday, 5 February John Conyngham collected me from the hotel at six. With him was George Mkhise, the doorman at the Witness. George is a very large and jolly Zulu, rather like a good Cambridge head porter, but with African zest added to overflowing. We set off for the battlefields of the Zulu war.
John's family came out in the middle of the 19th century and were farmers and soldiers. John's parents sold up, emigrated and then came back. He is not sure what he wants, not quite at home in Britain or Africa. He has published a novel on all this called The Arrowing of the Cane which deserves to appear in Britain too. With our Paul Scotts and J. G. Farrells, we forget that there are far more English in South Africa than ever lived in India, and their story is rich.
We drove through New Hanover, a small German enclave, through Greytown and crossed the Tugela river into Zulu territory proper. 'Very baad place', said George as we passed areas where there had been recent faction-fighting. In these vil- lages, unmarried Zulu girls are bare- breasted, the married women wear mag- nificent circular head-dresses. The coun- tryside is exhilarating — hilly and rugged, but also green and open.
Approaching Rorke's Drift we caught sight of Isandlwana, scene of our bloody defeat. George chanted the name under his breath and looked proud. The hill rises rocky and steep out of a high plain. John said the British had believed that Isandlwa- na meant a little fist but in fact it probably meant the second stomach of a cow. George had no opinion about this.
Rorke's Drift is still a mission and now has a small craft shop. There are little traces of the buildings from which fewer than 100 soldiers fought off Cetewayo's 20,000 and won 11 VCs. A black boy asked me to carry a churn of sour milk for him (`to make cheese') and we struggled across the scene of former carnage in the hot sun.
We drove round to Isandlwana. The site is pleasantly free of rubbish and 'inter- pretation centres'. A few cairns mark the sites of mass burials and small memorials are dotted about.
John who is learned in the history, explained to me how a large detachment of the British went scouting far away, how, in their absence, the Zulu impis came over a nearby hill, how they encircled the remain- ing British, how they killed nearly 900 men, taking no prisoners, and how one man climbed to the top of Isandlwana, fired till he ran out of ammunition and then threw himself off the hill rather than be killed by assegais. The Zulus slit the belly of every dead man, believing that, if they did not do so, the souls would haunt them.
We climbed to the top. John wore his national service army hat which has a sewn-up slit called a 'virgin'. The virgin must be worn at the back. New recruits to the army do not know this and are mer- cilessly teased. John served in South West Africa, a period, he said, of tremendous boredom. From the summit we could see the eight miles along with the few survivors fled to Rorke's Drift.
We picnic in the forests an hour away. George won't eat the tuna sandwiches. Zulus believe that the fish is a form of snake. In the villages through which we travel George is often greeted. He is a sort of petty chief in his area an much re- spected.
After this day I understand John Con- yngham when he says that he would always long for the sights and smells and sounds of Africa if he left them.
Friday, 5 February From Maritzburg's airport, I catch my own aeroplane (just the pilot and I) to Ulundi, 6 By the time the sun was high in the sky, there was no white man left alive on the field 9 seat of Chief Buthelezi's government of KwaZulu. The great man will not see me, perhaps because of Stephen Robinson's articles about him in The Spectator, and I am to see his lieutenant Dr Frank Madla- lose, national chairman of Inkatha.
A glorious flight across the hills of Natal, and we land. Ulundi (where we eventually got our revenge for Isandlwana) has a smart airport, a smart legislative building and nothing else. In the airport is a portrait of Chief Buthelezi and a slogan Great men talk about ideas Average men talk about events Small men talk about people which makes me a small man indeed.
One of the great distinctions in South Africa is between 'African' and 'European' time. Put simply: black men are always late. Dr Madlalose is an hour and a half late. He has flown from East London and restored himself on the morning flight with something to drink.
We sit in air-conditioned comfort.
I ask about the troubles in Pietermaritz- burg. Dr Madlalose launches into a tirade against the 'Western liberal press' which, he says, always supports the ANC. 'As Mr Winston Churchill said, liberals are the people who "would like to placate the crocodile in the hope that it will eat them last".' Inkatha cannot justifiably prevent their own people in the townships from defending themselves against attack.
Violence, says Dr Madlalose, will not succeed against apartheid: 'Anyone want- ing to fight the South African government I think must have his mind read. But, as one of your writers says, "Beware the entrance to a quarrel, but being in bear't that th'opposed may beware of thee".'
Deciding to stir things a little, I said, `Well, if anyone knows how to fight it is you Zulus. Yesterday I saw what you did at Isandlwana.'
Dr Madlalose's eyes lit up. 'My grand- father was there', he said, 'he was too young to fight, so he carried mats for his elder brother who was a warrior. My other grandfather was in the native levies. He advised the British to retreat but the stupid British — excuse me — the stupid British said he was a coward and ignored him. He mounted a horse and shot two Zulus and escaped to Rorke's Drift.'
Dr Madlalose got more and more ex- cited. He shouted the orders of the Zulus going into battle: arun! Rrrun! Your king does not want you to walk away'. Then he remembered talking to a veteran of the battle in the 1930s — 'Excuse me, I must say this in Zulu', and he began yelling and chanting. Then he translated, raising his hand as he spoke, 'By the time the sun was high in the sky' (hand lowered, body beginning to sway and dance) 'there was no white man left alive on the field.' Dr Madlalose grinned: `So you see, Mr Moore, I still am able to laugh sometimes.'
Returning to Maritzburg airport, I was driven to the hotel by an Indian. 'Mrs Thatcher is a very strong woman', he told me. I have now heard this remark from taxi drivers in five continents.
To the police station to meet a Major McDuling. He has all policemen's instinc- tive mistrust of the press and is nervous. Like his British counterparts, Major McDuling loves verbal obscurity: 'We've had an ongoing conflict situation since September as such'. He explains how difficult the townships are to police, and denies any favouritism. I ask about vio- lence reaching white areas: 'Yes, that is our gravest . . . er . . . one of our big worries'. I do not feel I am learning much and I do feel that Major McDuling would be more alarmed if 400 white people had died on his patch in four months. There is a creepy satisfaction that blacks are killing one another.
I call on Richard Steyn at the Witness and join a meeting from the UDF/Cosatu. The delegation — five whites, one black is earnest and seems genuinely worried. There is something paradoxical in their asking a regime which they reject to uphold the law, and they sense this. They want the security forces to conduct a `surgical-type operation' against the In- katha warlords, none of whom, they pro- test, has yet been arrested. One of their team is a yuppie New York lawyer, incon- gruous against Richard's English calm and the passions of the black faction-fighting. He says, vehemently, that there must be a ban on an Inkatha rally at Dindi on Sunday. A message arrives that the ban has been imposed: the New Yorker looks disappointed. Behind the delegation's moves is the half-admission that they can- not control their 'comrades'.
Next week: The Cape and back.