Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Since living here I've driven past Berg-En-Dal more times than I can count on both my hands and both my feet. To my shame I've never stopped. Mostly I've been too focused on my destination rather than the journey. Also, from the road, the memorial's quite an ugly looking one. Another little lesson impressed home many times before don't judge by the cover, because it was well worth exploring.
Perhaps I stopped there this morning because my nerve ends are raw, bleeding, at the hideous pall that has bleached colour, and snuffed out lives, across our land and brought shame on our nation; because my head is spinning and my stomach churning with what it means to be South African.
Because our soil, from centuries, is soaked with blood and hatred I possibly stopped there to, unconsciously, pay homage to those who've lost their lives here, no matter which side of the pitch they played on.
One can't help noticing it's prominent, on the right hand side of the road when travelling along the N4 / Maputo Corridor from Belfast to Machadodorp - this stark, sadly now rather run-down Anglo Boer War memorial. It's dedicated to members of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek Polisie who were killed (on August 27, 1900) during the bitter six-day battle of Berg-En-Dal.
This battle has often been described as the last set battle (before entering, in full force, the guerrilla war phase) of the South African War (18991902). The British, having already taken Pretoria, were adamant to get the Boer thorn out of their side forever (and their pride intact again) and capture the then Eastern Transvaal.
I was for most of the time the only visitor there, able to soak in the isolation and the peace, also to enjoy the magnificent winter-veldt views, for as far as I could see, over rolling 'berg' and 'dal'. But then I have to confess my surprise at finding, maybe 25m on the far side, a smallish and simple in contrast stone pyramid memorial as tall as me.
Called the Rifle Brigade Memorial, it's a replica of the original memorial which was demolished in 1970 to make way for the adjacent Berg-En-Dal one. It was funded by the British War Graves Committee of the National Monuments Council and the South African Soldiers' Graves Association. I don't think many know about it, and I've never seen it mentioned.
Imagine my further surprise to find my name carved in shiny black granite among the other dead: Rifleman C.King of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade (dog tab number 2928) killed on 27 August 1900....
Although I'm a South African with (give or take a pint) equal amounts of Afrikaans and English blood, I like Socrates consider myself a citizen of the world ("not of Athens or Greece"). Having been a rifleman once before in my lifetime (with "C King" embroidered in black on dirty brown) I will never again be brainwashed into fighting for a country... they're the idiotic constructs of even more idiotic politicians.
As you can sense, I have some bitterness with roots digging as deep as 20 years ago, when white boys like me were forced into an army and brainwashed into fighting for my country against all sorts of "gevaar"... "rooi gevaar", "swart gevaar", "roomse gevaar"... "you-name-it-gevaar". That was the tail end of another senseless war that lasted 13 years and cost many lives... of South Africans (whether black or white), South West Africans, SWAPO. And some Cuban lives too. But mostly African lives... like in the last two weeks.
Right now I have severe patriotism challenges... maybe call it "patriotism gevaar" that I'm fighting.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
and watch the sunrise,
following the mountains
to where they touch the sky,
out of the vastness,
the depths of the sea,
and to think for a moment
the point of it all is to make much of me?
because i'm just a whisper
and YOU are the thunder....
(the meaning of mpumalanga, the province where i live, is 'place of the rising sun'. i live here, on the very edge of the escarpment, in awe, humility and in a state of perpetual anticipation)