1914 January

Themba was sure he would be shot if the landowner saw him frantically digging up the red soil with his bare hands. He had to bury his dead son before the first light so that his soul can join Themba’s ancestors in Ukugoduko (home). The spirit of the dead would be a wandering soul if not interred before day break he had been told. The dark new moon night, as dark as his skin, thankfully, camouflaged him. His wife stood standing, smothering her cry with the baby’s inert body.

Earlier that week, the law, the infamous one that denied ownership of land to the black, had asked them to vacate their meagre patch where they grew maize and wheat. With a sick child on tow, they were evicted from their land.

Ashamed that he had laid his dear son in a stolen soil, he was seen crying for days together

***

Donna felt the arid Karoo valley sped past her as she kept her vehicle at a steady high speed. She wanted to go up further. But her modified station wagon meant for transporting sheep, wouldn’t budge beyond that.

The Radio screamed, ‘Spending yet another week of 1998, at the top, here’s ‘Force fed hatred by Pothole’. She switched off the Radio. She did not care for the South Africa’s star heavy metal band or their violent lyrics.

Later that day, she would wish she had kept that Radio on. She would wish she had heard that there were stray incidents of farm attacks around Janesville. She would wish she had heard a politician calling out to his countrymen, ‘dubul’ibhunu’ (Shoot the Boer!).

***

1960 March

Lizzy Chabeli loved her Mealie Pap, especially when her grandmother made it creamy with dollops of butter. Lizzy did not care for its poorer version, phutu, boiled with just water that her mother made often. She woke up late that day and went in search of her grandmother to ask for some.

Her neighbor, Motsumi, told her that her grandmother was at Sharpsville police station protesting against Pass law, the law that required all black folks to carry their identity tag. The law also stated that the purpose of their presence in a place should be endorsed in the passbook by the employer, usually the white master.

Around 1, when the 11-year-old reached the Sharpsville police station, the crowd had swollen and she could not find her grandmother. It was then that she heard the first round of submachine gun being fired at the crowd of black protestors who were dangerously armed with stone and rocks. The last thing she remembered before falling down was a searing pain in her lower abdomen.

***

The engine droned and the landscape was monotone of dirty yellow and with nothing to distract her, Donna’s mind went back to her stepfather’s words, when she informed him, that she would be shifting to a small farm in the Karoo, a year ago.

‘Why are you going there for? Give it some time. You will be plundered right here in Cape Town. At least here, you can get to the hospital faster’, he sneered. His English sarcasm never entertained her.

Her stepfather was a physician on tenure at the leading hospital in Cape Town and he had a nasty contempt for anything South African. Donna’s mom, like many whites, wanted to get out of the country for good especially after the election of 1994 and coincidentally her stepfather was in a dire need of an arm candy.

Donna was given a hint that she could join them in England if she wanted. Her mother did not burden Donna with her love. At 27 years, Donna was free to stay if she felt so. Donna knew she could never leave South Africa. This place was all that she knew.

Swerving her wagon into the side roads, she found her herself at the gate of her modest farm.

Donna honked to be let into her farm. It was 2 in the afternoon and she heard her sheep’s incessant bellowing. They should have been out, grazing at the veld now. She was surprised Odwa, her hardworking farm help, had not let them out. She opened the gate and after hastily parking the vehicle. She let the ewes and rams out of their Kraal. She filled the heavy troughs with water,

After a hurried tea in the porch of the unpretentious square building that she called her house, she went on to check the wire fence bordering her 10 acre-farm for breach. Last week she lost a ewe to a jackal.

A good hour later, she was back at her porch, in the cane chair, exhausted.

1976

‘If we must do Afrikaans, will Voster do Zulu?’, cried H Ndlovu as he joined the protestors who were fighting against forcible learning of the language Afrikaans in the schools. This was to make the blacks more employable and curtail their subversive ideas, their white benefactors argued.

But to blacks, it was blatant scorning of their culture, a way of ridiculing, dumbing down of their traditional oral culture as primitive.

After a winding march, the protesting high school student crowd ended at Orlando High school. Understandably, Machine guns were used to disperse the 2000 strong protestors. 23 died, including the 15-year-old Ndlovu. But it was just a mere rounding off of the actual death toll that might have crossed hundreds.

***

Odwa never took a day off without informing her. Donna liked this 20-year-old conscientious boy with whom she shared tea and occasional braai.(roasted meat). While setting up the farm, he had worked as hard as Donna and helped her negotiate with the local labour. Today was Sunday and only he was expected to show up to tend to the sheeps.

She turned on the Radio.

‘…..putting Janesville on high alert. Herbert De Vriers had been shot twice on the neck killing him instantly. Sue De Vriers was found unconscious with drilling wounds to her legs and arms and a plastic bag stuffed in her throat. The doctors had recommended for airlifting her to Cape Town for further intensive treatment. The Janesville Police Chief has reassured….’

The pit of her stomach turned. Mossberg 500 flashed before eyes. She called her neighboring farm owner. Wedging her cordless phone between her shoulder and ears, she began to clean her shotgun.

Dry rub..dry rub…

Hello, yeah, Chris. It’s me, Donna.

Brush muzzle …..Brush feed ….

Yeah, fine…been out all Morning.. ….No I am fine really…… I would crash at yours tonight…… Yes, on my way.…….after the ewes are locked away….. as early as possible……bye.. yes bye .. no worries..

Oil rub.. oil rub…

Load 5 …combat load 1…total 6…..Never dry run. Patrol load at 5.

Donna was at the porch in 15 minutes. The sheeps had to be put back in the Kraal.

Just then she heard her gate swing open. There he was, Odwa.

Was he here to help her? The fleeting relief gave way to panic when she saw a group of men following Odwa.

Should she fire a warning shot? That would scare them away.

She felt her hands tremble when she pointed her shotgun at Odwa.

He startled momentarily but continued to proceed towards her, while the other men ducked for cover.

If she trained it on others, Odwa would reach her in a couple of leaps.

Should she fire? Should she fire at Odwa?

***

While lying at the hospital’s emergency ward, brutalized and raped, Donna momentarily gained her consciousness.

No, She could have never fired at Odwa, she thought, before slipping away.

***

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***

Sarveswari Sai Krishna

Written by Sarveswari Sai Krishna

The author wishes to write like J M Coetzee, cook like Nigella Lawson and earn like Beyonce and at the end of the day, not look like something the cat dragged in. If wishes were horses...