Wednesday, September 8, 2010

PFP people

I worked for the Progressive Federal Party, under the national leadership of Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, from late-1981 till mid-1984. From our office in East London, we attempted to win parliamentary seats across the Border. Here are some of the personalities I sketched while there.

Di Knott was the party secretary for several years. Here, drawn on the back of a canvass card, she taps away on an old manual typewriter.

Another drawing of Di Knott typing away, this time done on a green card which, due to the absence of a punched hole, I recall as having been used for our set of master cards. These were the cards, kept in different polling districts, which never left the office, but were updated from the canvass cards, which in turn were kept in street bundles.

Using pencil this time, I captured Di Knott using what today seems like an antiquated phone.

Another pencil sketch of Di Knott at work.

The office in Devereux Avenue was visited by many a left-leaning personality, including this woman, whose name escapes me, but I believe she was prominent in the local Black Sash.

Another of the elderly women who would help out at the PFP office.

I can't recall where I did this drawing of famous Daily Dispatch editor Donald Woods, but since it is on a canvass card it must have been in the office. Woods's name was in the PFP members' book, and he had a stop-order with the party, contributing substantially to its funds down the years.

Who was Donald Card? Notorious in the 1960s for his role as a member of the Security Police, for some reason he had become a close friend of Woods, and in fact helped him to escape into Lesotho after Woods was banned during the crack-down on the media in 1977. Woods, who was under house arrest, escaped into exile in England.

For us young PFP-ites, Donald Card was proof that people raised to believe in apartheid and even work for its security police, could change and support a non-racial society.

One of the older men who helped out in the office, possibly a friend of former Selborne Primary principal Bunny Stevens, who was regional chairman of the party for many years.

Another view of possibly the same character in the earlier sketch. I have yet to find another stash of sketches of PFP personalities which includes a not-too-flattering one of Bunny Stevens. Hopefully they'll crop up soon.

A youthful Ian Bentley, my eldest brother, who was chief regional organiser for the PFP in the Border region in the early 1980s.

Who was this black South African? I can't recall, but clearly he too was drawn in the office.

Another African visitor. Under the Political Interference Act it was actually illegal to have mixed-race political parties at the time, but the PFP constitution enabled it to sign on people of colour whose membership was somehow held in abeyance until change came.

Could this be Mike Mitchely? And is that how you spell his surname?

A political party office wouldn't function without copious cups of tea.

Another back face at the PFP office, although I suspect this was drawn from a photograph.

Known in those days as Gatsha Buthelezi, the Inkatha leader had fairly good relations with the PFP down the years. It makes you wonder why the IFP, Bantu Holomisa's UDM and sensible sections of Cope don't all join up with the DA/ID alliance in a real attempt to take on the ANC.

I kept this page for the drawing on the back, but as minutes of a meeting, it makes quite interesting reading.

The other side of that page of minutes, with a drawing not of W A (Bunny) Stevens, but another of one of the elderly PFP stalwarts.

The party did seem to appeal increasingly to young, disillusioned youths, like this guy who joined us.

A quick sketch of Di Knott.

And Di again, on that famous old phone.

One of the party helpers, taking a break.

And what it was really all about. A cross-section of black people's faces sketched near the party offices in Devereux Avenue.

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