Monday, September 27, 2010

Political by chance

Working on the Evening Post, and then from about 1987 on the Eastern Province Herald, I had to deal with both sides of the political morass. On the left were the extra-parliamentary organisations, especially the UDF, while on the right we still had to report the activities of the government of the day. This meant, at local level, the white Port Elizabeth City Council and its two subsidiary coloured and Indian "management councils", as well as the black local governments. That was a key story, because the Ibhayi Council, for instance, was rendered inoperative by the UDF-led campaign to make areas "ungovernable".

My doodles, kept because they show the hand of a trained artist, by coincidence also feature names of some of the key players of the late 1980s, such as, in this case, Saki Macozoma and the Rev Frank Chikane.

This sheet of note paper I kept for this rather fun drawing of a woman.

On the back of the above drawing was another drawing, then a few notes, which reveal the nature of the struggle at the time. Here, for instance, someone said that we "can criticise elections as such", adding that this could be done "so long as (it is) not a call for a boycott". Indeed, under the strictures at the time, I think it was illegal to call for a boycott of these mickey-mouse elections, as it was to call for people not to do military conscription. However, it seemed we could "report on boycotts, strikes and stay-aways". At the top I noted that the "police moved in with batons at Wits".

A plane flies past a curiously shaped cloud in this strange sketch.

Behind was a page of notes from a Northern Areas Management Committee meeting in which a Mr Redcliffe was quoted. I can't recall his first name, but these were people who were linked to the Labour Party, which had thrown in its lot, for a while, with the National Party.

I remember this as a Mr Bhana, from Malabar, who was part of the Indian Management Committee. I kept this invitation for the way I had doctored his photograph.

The fax was introduced some time in the early to mid-1980s, and the paper had a wax-like quality. Here I did a couple of images at the base of a fax from Mossgas, which at the time was preparing to establish its off-shore drilling rigs near Mossel Bay. The construction of part of those rigs in PE provided at least some hope that we weren't to become "the ghost on the coast".

I enjoy this female, haloed figure, drawn around the mythical chimera of a "non-racial, democratic SA".

On the back of this page were these notes, which are also of some interest. It seems someone from Azapo had phoned about fears that screenings of the film based on Donald Woods and Steve Biko, "Cry Freedom", would be "dealt with by means of explosions". Indeed, there were several minor incidents of incendiary devices set off in cinemas where the recently unbanned film was screened in the late-1980s. I remember being at the then Kine Park in Rink Street to interview people who had just seen the film when the security police arrived and confiscated the reels. I think the film was banned again.

I really enjoy this figure, who shares the page with "names" including Alan Zeiss, who was the estates officer, or suchlike, on the PE Municipality. Mr Chait was, I think, an academic at the then University of PE.

The crazy face on the left looks out over the name of Graham Richards, who at the time was a prominent lawyer, and possibly already a city councillor with the Progressive Federal Party. He led the campaign for the lifting of beach apartheid, and in the early 1990s joined the ANC, later becoming the town clerk of the newly integrated council.

Another quirky face above more places of some significance. In these days, police and ambulance reports of crimes included the race of victims. So here we have a "black male" murdered in a hit-and-run incident taken to Dora Nginza hospital, where he was DOA, or dead on arrival. A "black male" also sustained back injuries in Njoli Square.

The face was probably the first thing I drew, then I turned this into a picture of Pope John Paul II, who was pope from 1978 till 2005. For many he was a symbol of the inevitable victory by the forces of democracy in central and eastern Europe over communist rule. Throughout the 1980s, a similar struggle to what happened in SA was being waged, primarily in Poland, but also across the Eastern Bloc. It is no coincidence that the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communism happened just before South Africa's own liberation from apartheid rule. I suspect FW de Klerk was delighted to know that his most-feared enemy, international communism, was on the retreat everywhere except China and Cuba. Oh and within the ANC's alliance partner, the SA Communist Party.

This totem-like figure in an open landscape was why I kept this page. But what was behind it?

Hard to read my scrawl from back then, but I see this is quoting Allan Hendrickse, the Labour Party leader, with references to Group Areas legislation.

Another of my fun figures, behind which lurked more political reporting.

Here are two names who came from opposite sides of the political spectrum, though both were Afrikaans. Alie van Jaarsveld was a councillor and Nat organiser, while Flip Potgieter was a PFP councillor (later ANC) and UPE academic.

I spent a lot of time in the latter part of the 1980s exposing just how unsuccessful the local government elections were. This seems to be a page of figures about some elections in Motherwell, a sprawling township on the city's outskirts.

A hirsute character alongside the Department of Culture, with John Price again in evidence.

Here you'd have to turn the page on its side to see the man's face, but the car heading off into the sunset is drawn around the words, "End of Oct". Notice the acronym CPA, which was the Cape Provincial Administration. Each of the four provinces had a second tier government, much like today's provincial legislatures, but I'm sure far more effective and less wasteful. But, of course, they were whites-only.

Yes, back then Port Elizabeth was proudly a city on its own. The elephant seemed to fit nicely, since we are so close to the Addo Elephant National Park.

I remember when Anton Vlok was made director of the PE Chamber of Commerce in the late 1980s, Patrick Cull joked to me that he was related to our notorious minister of law and order, Adriaan Vlok. The same surname, but their politics were poles apart.

Another figure of fun on fax paper, with the fading names of small towns about which I would probably have been inquiring of some government official about election results.

Another odd-face drawing on a horse racing page - the only legal form of gambling at the time. But on the back was a far more interesting face.

Die Groot Krokodil himself, PW Botha, executive state president of the Republic of South Africa. I see the story bemoans the fact that the SABC was being used as a government mouthpiece. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The Eastcape Training Centre opened in the 1980s, and this is drawn on the back of one of their complimentary slips. Nic Boraine, son of my former PFP boss, Dr Alex Boraine, has become increasingly prominent.

There is a poignant element to the upside-down note below this drawing. It refers to Wayne Mitchell, a PFP youth leader and student at UPE who later worked for Van Zyl Slabbert's Institute for a Democratic Alternative for SA (Idasa). I remember, around 1987, when Wayne told me in confidence about a trip to Dakar that Slabbert was arranging to enable prominent South Africans to meet leaders of the ANC in exile. I could not reveal anything about the trip for fear it would be jeopardised. Today that trip, in July 1987, is seen as having been a pivotal moment in the move towards a negotiated settlement. Tragically, Wayne died in the early 1990s - in a car crash, I suspect.

Here another of my figures looks across a list of stories, including about a hunger strike, another involving the then Democratic Party's Bobby Stephenson and Dr Zach de Beer, a Conservative Party meeting, and work on the Brookes Hill development.

Another bit of figurative fun.

But on the back is revealed a complimentary slip from Delta Motor Corporation, which was formed following a management buy-out after General Motors was forced to disinvest in about 1986. Part of the results of the disinvestment campaign was that Ford quit PE, only for it to later relocate to Pretoria. Ford, which returned about 1994, later opened an engine plant in PE. GM later also reinvested in its PE plant.

Another figure and more election results, including Ibhayi, the failed local government for the black townships of PE.

I rather enjoy these images on a press release from a trade union monitoring organisation.

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