‘Election Night 2000′
George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the U.S.A – according to FoxNews, anyway – on the
antiquated television set of a dancehall in a favela of Rio de Janeiro.
Len’s finger lifts a rusted blind and he peers out the window. Outside, down the road, a convoy of
buses head down toward the club.
Bass begins to throb, sexy and menacing. He takes a long drag from the blunt between his
A convoy of buses rolling through township dust. SOWETO, South Africa. 1976. School kids and
placard-waving activists disembark and head towards a school.
Streams of chiselled young men and Giselle-like women, early teens and older stream past me,
Lenny and the camera crew, and into the hall.
The activists are confronted by a cordon of apartheid cops. German Shepherds straining on their
leashes. Guns gleaming in the sunlight.
A revolver is slammed down on the cloakroom counter. Its owner reluctantly hands it over. A
truly honest soul checks in a stun grenade. The cloakroom clerk disinterestedly shrugs and makes out a receipt.
The revellers head into the club. We set up our cameras. The dancefloor is cleared. On
opposite banks stand two tribes.
There is a tense stand-off between the cops and the chanting activists.
The massive statue of Christ the Redeemer watches over us.
“Welcome to the Big Show…”
Four revellers – a guy and a girl from each side – step forward onto the dancefloor. A
brass-knuckled punch is thrown.
A teargas canister silently loops through the air. The crowd surges forward, unafraid anymore.
The intended target of the punch dodges it. The game is on. To the beat of themusic, the other
revellers begin to square up, each picking a partner, a target.
A schoolgirl rushes ahead, distancing herself, for a moment, from her comrades. A rubber bullet is
A punch connects. To the beat, combat is joined.
Mayhem as bullets and dogs and batons and dust and teargas swirl amidst the choking township
The battle on the dancefloor swings into full effect. Girls on roller-skates surge in with knives
The famous black and white snapshot of Hector Pietersen, mortally wounded, being rushed to
“This shall be the birth of our free nation…”
Behind a corrugated iron shack, two schoolboys dressed in khaki school uniforms stand. One holds
a Molotov Cocktail in his shaky hands. His friend asks,
“Mandla, what are you doing?”
Mandla lights the firebomb. Nonchalantly hurls it towards the armoured vehicles
“Sparking things off…”
This is the story of another of us Struggle kids. It’s also part of the series ’9 Dances Of Struggle, Vice and Ghosts.” Names and certain situations have been fictionalized.
So The Kid was there.
He was there in Soweto.
16 year-old kid on the streets on his way to class on June 16.
To be fair, The Kid was no model student.
As soon as shit hits the fan him and his crew head straight to the
local bottle store.
Loot the shit outta the place.
The Kid downed his first bomb of Smirmnoff on June 16, 1976.
See, for all the tragedy and the glory, we had two actual choices,
militarily when up against the Apartheid Machine
Blow the shit outta planes miles high in the sky over foreign lands
Arafat and crew.
Or. Take back the streets of home.
Make the townships ungovernable.
Make ‘em our areas.
The establishment wouldn’t be welcome here.
The greying hair is being scratched furiously now.
You’ve just slapped this schizo’s paw from your ass and he’s saying, Oh Kid.
If only we’d met then, dear boy.
The guy was a terrorist, Kid.
Don’t be fooled, ma comrade.
“Mandela was a terrorist.
Sat up there on that stand and preached communism.”
Crazy Hair looks bored as he purses his lips
“So we gave him 27 years to think about it…”
You’ve found yourself at this refuge 4 the lonely the and lost, mostly
broken down men, like yurself, now.
Guys – like Gary the DJ ex-cop who who was there in Soweto.
Guys like Marx, rehab escapee thinkin’ about making a run up North to the wilds
Mustachioed Inspector Cleauseau over there – his wife fleecing him outta
his final savings.
Slip off your sandals and tip-toe past burn-outs, aslumber.
Make you way to the back, to your nest.
The fluorescent light’s still on.
Slight ‘neath your covers.
Wring off your blue jeans.
The cot above you vibrates to the rhythm of the furiously masturbating AIDS volunteer
You bury yourself under your quilt.
All that remains of you.
Is a naked hand, reaching for light.
Henry, the stroke victim in the top bunk opposite yours stutters that
tomorrow’s Sunday, you should come join God’s choir.
The fluorescent bulb goes silent and the guy above you explodes into his
In our shared darkness, the room calms itself and begins to breathe in sync with the
science of sleep.
Sleeping with ghosts, us all under the covers now.”
“What happened is that the gangstas were the only ones to be able to handle the cops.
We killed pigs that day, there were SABC cameramen but between our mobs and the
Cameras got stolen…
There were many more dead on both sides than were shown.
As per usual the Regime thought that they could suppress things quickly.
But things had spiralled.
We’d moered them, given them a fucking black eye.
And the kids who died that day – they are heroes to this nation, J, no doubt at all –
but the guys who burnt the cops. These were gangsters.”
On the way back home that day everything was engulfed in smoke.
As I crossed the bridge to my part of town, I saw dead school-mates, unarmed.
Their faces half-blown off, gnawed by cop dogs.
And next to these dead school kids lay the occasional black or white man,
in police – and especially military fatigues.
Their throats slit.
Burning tyres around some of their necks.
My brother’s shoes.
I recognized my brother’s shoes.
He was months away from graduating.
He was better than me.
I joined Umkhonto the next day.
The Party was banned and – after what had transpired – nowhere to be seen.
The guys who signed us up were the same gangstas who’d moer’d the boers.
It was crazy times to be a kid, J.
They guided us through Lesotho, sometimes Mozambique or Botswana, Angola.
We traveled there in smart hijacked cars which were untraceable.
Because that what’s in demand over the border.
And on the return trip, our tyres were bulging with Mandrax.
‘Cos that’s what’s in demand down South.
The drugs are always quick cash in SA.
And cash = guns.
“Sanctions – busting.”
One Good Cop throws up his hands.
Smith and the Rhodesians had Unilaterally Declared Independence to avoid a hand over
to black power.
The world had cut us off.
Men like Trevor, were the guys who kept Rhodesia ticking.
He’s sardonic, resigned as he bows his head, chin in hand.
“And these new sanctions blockades from the same people who did
it to the previous rulers, who do you think, J? our present chiefs turn to for
“Comrade XXXX has been accused of
with the partner of Comrade XXXXXX…”
TK smiles, grips you, holding you back. Stage. He wants you two to hear
for yourselves what you’re getting into.
Not that either of you can no longer pontificate, nor object.
Given your own, uh-hmm, circumstances…
You’ve spent 14 million Rand on this friggin’ shindig.
2 X the price each of your homes.
Minus that piece-of-shit Mazowe barnhouse.
+++Kid’s love affair with the Cape Property.
From which she’s now fled.
An ole’ fogie named Richard Armour – with a name like that how the heck wasn’t he
playing for our side? –
“Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long. Has been concerned with left or right
instead of right or wrong…”
As the futures of the revolution bare their (admittedly) pert buttocks.
For bald eagles from the media, you turn to TK
“So this is what’s going to win it for us?”
The weariness, as J’ll point out.
Which The Kid ran away from.
All you can do is grip the laaitie’s designer shoulder pad, giggle, though you don’t really
This was your play Ruben, you’ll never remind the kid.
And then. Smile. Re-assure. With humility
“This time, Ruben. This wins it for us. This time, I guess…”
PLUS THERE WAS ICE-COLD KEGS OF BEER OVERFLOWING THE FINEST.
PUSSY THIS SIDE OF THE LIMPOPO. E-I-S-H!
And then there’s Rock ‘n’ this 20-something kid on stage who’s name also started with
AND the bloody mines thing.
Which we’d all fought for.
Which was always part of the plan.
“You’re doing this because of this girl aren’t you, J?
“Made a promise…”
“And Trevor knows you’re writing a book about it?”
“You’re writing a book about politics and sex and crime?!
That’s a sure way to get shot, esse!” : Bull.
The Kid spent most of the 80′s drunk and high and a foot soldier in the armed struggle.
He lived the high life, he has this great story about him and
Brenda Fassie in Libya.
Gaddafi had a thing for Brenda and flew her and the crew over for an arms deal and a
Muammar surrounds himself with these hijab-ed female commandos concealing
sub-machine guns made by his sworn enemy.
Brenda’s high as a kite and Gaddafi’s introducing his distinguished music guest
and Brenda grabs one of the concealed commandos and
lofts up the gun, like a trophy.
Guns are being aimed directly at this crazy, beautiful South African’s head,
but all she wants to do is. Dance.
And so, Muammar obliges.
In golden rays of sunlight, the Mad Dog of the Middle East and the Wild Girl of
South African protest song.
As sixty-thousand Arabs look on.
It all catches up, you know?
Funnily enough, when you returned to Banksy’s next time round, the Sopranos was on.
The epic saga was heading into it’s death spiral and there was Christopher being
smothered out by Big Tony’s love to Van Morrison doing Pink Floyd
“The child has grown
The dream is gone…”
The Kid managed to dodge the law all through the struggle.
Hosted guys like the current Prez, strategized with guys like my dad, took
his orders directly from
The Kid was no hypocrite.
Saw himself as a thug, fighting a war.
Got picked up time and time again – once, and this is how small the circles run –
by XXXX XX XXXX, head of hit squad CCB (Citizens. Co-operation. Bureau.)
and cousin to…u guessed it
Uncle Trevor XXXXX XX XXXX.
Anyhow, The Kid always turned down legal help from the Party.
Stood up for himself to expressionless grey old white judges.
And got off. Every time.
So, on the Soprano’s reality’s setting in.
The final showdown looming.
Tony’s crew is decimated and as he lays in bed, shotgun in hand,
the quote by the same guy who raged against the dying of the light.
Plays is in his – and my – mind.
Something about the ceremony of innocence, lost or something.
The blood-dimmed tide…
The Kid’s Struggle came to an end on the day he’d fought for all his life.
You’re having to be held up as they guide you to the voting booth.
So this is the day.
This is the day.
Your first vote as a Free South African.
Yet in this moment of triumph. Ultimate.
You can’t even make out the letters on the form.
But, still, you’re determined to have your say, in this new booze-rayed Nation.
But it’s all just so bloody blurred.
You finally manage an ‘X’ in a box, clearest.
They found you collapsed in that voting booth.
In your hand is gripped the culmination of your Struggle.
With an X, your vote etched for the Party of Apartheid.
You’d voted National Party.
Before passing flat-out,
“Collateral damage…” The Kid smirks, strolling off into that dusty Yeoville eve.
“Perhaps I Was Addicted To The Dark Side…”
Images play silently on a large Sony Trinetron T.V. screen. The ticker at the bottom of the screen describes the latest details relating to the images being viewed
The L.A. Riots.
Rodney King’s lips mutely ask why can’t we all just get along?
Reginald Denny steps out of his truck on live television. Helicopters circle – closing in for the money shot – as a brick violently knocks the blood red cap off his head.
The three of us look up from the plush green velvet couch we sit on. Beside the television, J carefully slides a shiny black vinyl record from its angry-looking sleeve.
“THIS IS THE NEW SHIT…”
A group of school kids – me, Sizwe, Rock included – are lined up at the edge of manicured green lawn on a sports field at Saints’.
An LAPD cop, mirrored Ray-Bans ‘n all, tracks a rioter through the sights of his high-powered assault rifle.
Us school kids dig the spikes of our running shoes into the white chalk of the starting line.
Aforementioned LAPD cop is being tracked down the stubby barrel of MAC-10 sub-machine gun.
The Sports Master holds up a starter pistol.
J places the shiny black disc into a vintage phonograph.
The solid wood-cased speakers of J’s sound system stare out at those gathered in his oak-panelled office – or ‘THE LAB’ – as it will come to be known in legend.
The stylus arm rises. The vinyl record begins to spin as the needle hovers over it.
The cop’s finger makes contact with the trigger as the stylus head gently drops down. Soft crackling.
The needle finds the record’s grooves and spins towards sound.
Then the cop squeezes the trigger.
The starter pistol lets off a “POP!”
The sound of gunfire. From a cop’s rifle, as the MAC-10 bursts into life.
NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police” gets the race started. Again.