Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mpumalanga Unrest: "Ons is fokken moeg!" (We are fucking tired!)

Emthonjeni township, Machadodorp: "We are fucking tired of poor service delivery," is what the few hundred community members protesting outside Emthonjeni were chanting in my face as I barely stood my ground - despite, quite honestly, my insides turning to water.
This was on the barricaded and burning R36 (between Machadodorp and Carolina) earlier today.
I had driven slowly around barricades as the police quickly retreated back to Machadodorp for reinforcements; I had to know what - in the community's eyes - this was all about.
But what I experienced right then was pent up anger, literally spat into my face (I felt the spittle on my cheeks); I was, suddenly, the enemy. (My thoughts included - 'Just how many journalists have died in identical situations...and is it worth it?')
A pen, a spiral-bound notebook, my camera, and an earnest face prepared to listen might have helped me this time.
Also my back was against the wall, this time an impenetrable and writhing circle of chanting human beings.
Then, thank God, one woman in the crowd screeched out my name - "Charleseee...!" - and ran me into her arms. This was always-smiling Gloria from Seattle Coffee at Millys on the N4, who had served me great Cafe Mocha's on countless occasions.
"He's a journalist, he's a friend," she screamed back at the crowd.
That was the turning point... in my favour.

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