Mhambi has been redeployed.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Democracy is sacrosant (2)

This article continues from Democracy is sacrosant (1).

Hippiedom was rife in Hillbrow. Narcotics inspector Fanie had allot to do. But sometimes Fanie had help from zealous citizens. In 1970 on the 10th of October - Krugerday - there were to be a rock festival in Milner park, Hillbrow. Mhambi got some snippets of stories and pics of Hippie Hillbrow on the excellent 3rd ear Music website.

Hillbrow 1975 Photo - Glyn Griffiths (Used without permission)

Now the name of the venue for the concert - Milner park - certainly could not have endeared the Hippies to their attackers. (Lord Milner was the racist English Administrator who instigated the Boer War, oversaw the concentration camps, banned Afrikaans and was a self proclaimed British race patriot.) But is was the terminity of the takhare (longhairs) to organise a rock festival on Kruger day, (heroes day - named after President Kruger who fought the British in the Boer War), that really got their backs up in the first place.

The fact that the festival flier, was only written in English says allot about the divisions at the time.

Neil Big Mac MacCallum was at Milner Park that day helping out.

"The only reason I went down to Milner Park that night was to pitch my relatively complicated tent for Abstract Truth to hang out in. We chose a spot near the back so that the boys could have relative privacy to get up to whatever it was they needed a tent for in the first place.

Everybody was fashionably stoned so I unpacked all the tent stuff and laid it out while everybody else stood around giving expert advice... Slack-jawed, stoned-out people stood and took it all in. I suddenly started moving backwards rapidly. Two HUGE buggers had me by the arms and were running as fast as they could towards an open gate at the back of the stadium. My feet didn't touch the ground for the first hundred meters.

We (they) were running at full tilt through an advancing crowd of young men carrying pick handles and other blunt instruments. I thought I was going to be taken out into the dark show grounds and beaten to a pulp. As we went through the open gate I saw a security guard standing by, watching the fun.

HEY! HELP ME, MAN! He just laughed. He had obviously opened the gates for the hit squad in the first place. What do you ous think you're doing? We're just going to take you to Pretoria and give you haircut, they reassured me. They were gawe ouens. So I wasn't going to die!

I engaged my captors in conversation in Afrikaans, which surprised them. What was this all about? You people were warned that Helde Dag (Kruger Day) is a sacred day for us Afrikaners and still you are having your Pop Festival. We have decided to teach you a lesson you'll never forget. We are going to cut off your hair and make a man out of you."

An Afrikaans newspaper article tells about the indignation Afrikaans students felt that the rock festival would be held on this important day.

Now, here another Mhambi secret. I know this modus operandi and the motive - this must have been students from Sonop, at the University of Pretoria. It's the residence Mhambi went to, and I too was as a first year, in 1990, a proud owner of a pick handle, which I named Corpus delicti (Latin: object that inflicts damage). For a while I was ready to defend the honour of Sonop against all and sundry. Still, for all my loyalty Mhambi was asked to leave Sonop, because I refused to cut his hair.

But back to Neil's story:

We pulled into the Fountains parking lot. There were a lot of people waiting there for the raiders to return. Ours was the first car back. The driver got out of the car to report to the ou manne. A crowd came over to the car. You ouens promised to look after me, hey! Don't worry! I was worried.

A guy called Herman opened the driver's door and leaned into the car. So you're one of the Communists! He slapped me in the face as hard as he could. I didn't feel it. I became aware of the fact that a part of me was observing this madness coldly and dispassionately...

Herman dragged me out of the car and delivered me to the waiting mob of children. My abductors, to their credit, they did try to intervene but to no avail... I was grabbed by my arms and legs and my backside was positioned to offer a tempting target. A guy started whipping me with an army belt. He worked really hard at it. I still felt no pain and even started laughing at the absurdity of the whole situation. This infuriated my abuser. Eventually, the blows became more and more feeble and petered out. Soutpiel, jy's 'n taai moerskont! (Englishman, your a tought cunt.) I presumed that this was meant as a compliment, coming from a divinity student and all.

By this time other cars with other victims had arrived. Haircutting was in progress. All of us longhairs, about eight in all, were pushed down to the ground in front of some cars that had their lights on. My hair was hacked off by a number of people brandishing scissors.

A festival - Pic: 3rd Ear Music

But the festival wen't on. As the 70's drew to a close the Hippies dissapeared but Hillbrow remained and increasingly became a space where all South Africans could escape the strictures of the Nationalist's rule. It and surrounding areas like Braamfontein and Yeoville became home to record labels, book shops, theatres, publishers, clubs, including gay-clubs.

While Hillbrow had a crass glamour neigbouring Yeoville was the home to a community of intelectuals, artists and discontents. It was here at BaPitas where you came if you wanted to buy your first acid, and it was here at places like Tandoor where you could play pool against very stoned but deadly accurate Rastas. It became the hub of a vibrant counter culture that defied all that apartheid stood for.

It was in Braamfontein that the Weekly Mail opened their offices and down the road was the Vrye Weekblad. The two weeklies were a powerful twin barrel searhlight exposing the activities of murderous security forces.

Venues like the Black sun provided a platform for political music. It was here that the brilliant mucician from the East rand James Phillips (aka Bernoldus Niemand) played. Soon Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel came to share a flat in Hillbrow in the 80's, and like Leonard Cohen in New York, got laid in Hillbrow's own landmark but seedier Chelsea hotel.

It was here were they plotted the acent of their Voelvry movement - an up yours to the nationalists in their own language. Here in Hillbrow they held their first gigs, and where people like Ryk Hattingh (author and founder of Loslyf - the first Afrikaans porno mag) upon hearing music like Gee jou hart vir Hillbrow - wept "vat dit weg, vat dit weg." (Take it away - the Nationalists and all they represent that is).

Reshada Crouse, a friend of author Rian Malan decribes bohemain Yeoville in a recent article in the UK Observer:

Just down the road was the first block of flats in the whole of South Africa to have mixed couples. 'It was like New York in the Sixties,' Reshada says. 'Everyone was partying, great decadent fun.'

Yes, Hillbrow and Yeaville had its crime, but it was an utopia of sorts. Most significantly in the South African context, Hillbrow and it surrounds were multi-racial.

Democracy is sacrosant (3)

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1 comment:

Mike said...

At least I didn't give my pick handle a name, and left Sonop a little earlier than you did... although I did jump without being pushed! I remember often getting into hot water myself about the long hair issue. Once told a 'senior' that I did not require his (short, back & sides) hair style to suit my personal preference - why should I cut mine. Somehow he didn't appreciate the merit in my argument and I was rewarded with a proper dose of violence. Strange, very strange.