Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A journey

Growing up under apartheid, my life was governed by two factors. On the one hand, as a family living in the heart of Xhosa-land in East London, it was impossible not to be struck again and again by the inhumanity and brutality of apartheid. So we devoted a lot of time and energy into combating apartheid through the Progressive Party and its successors. At the same time, my three brothers and I were caught up in that nefarious web called military conscription. It was either a case of go to the army or go to jail. There was no End Conscription Campaign to help us decide, so in the end we were forced to succumb. Both facets of my life have been comprehensively covered through drawings I did at the time on this blog, but I came across a miscellany of photos, photocopies and a special document which, in a way, encapsulates the era.

I might have run this earlier, but it is a small claim to fame. This appeared on the front page of the Daily Dispatch around 1978. It was taken at a National Party election rally at a time when political tensions were very high. I was an art student avoiding the army and had worked for five months on the Dispatch straight out of school - under my childhood hero, editor Donald Woods. In 1977 Woods was banned as part of a massive clamp on newspapers and anti-apartheid organisations. This was about a year after the 1976 Soweto uprising.

Also in the late-1970s, by brother Ian was alone at our family home in Bonza Bay when a shot was fired at the house with a shotgun. No one was hurt, but it was clear the security police had our number. We were active members of the PFP Youth, and I had been a regular writer of letters to the editor of the Dispatch attacking apartheid. Ironically, Ian had just recently returned from a stint as a conscript on "the Border".

We didn't keep these clippings. Fortunately, an old family friend, Anne Marais, from up the road, had them in a scrapbook and she gave us photocopies. This was me during my final-year exhibition at the EL Technical College in 1978.

Fast forward to November, 1987, and suddenly change is in the air. I was among the horde of journalists at the PE Holiday Inn when, under increasing international pressure, the National Party released Robben Island prisoner Govan Mbeki. I'm the dude on the left, taking notes. Mbeki's release really was the beginning of the end for apartheid. Directly behind Mbeki, on the left, is Bill Krige, another veteran PE journalist, while behind him is George Luse, one of the many freelance black journalists covering the dying days of apartheid.

On a personal level, this for me was the nightmare envelope. No, I'm wrong. This was in fact just the opposite. Let me explain. When I received a slip informing me I had a registered letter, that was the nightmare. Then I had to sign for my call-up papers at the post office. I was kept "entertained" by the SADF from July, 1979, till the early 1990s. And it was this ominous-looking baby which ended the nightmare.

The back of the envelope reveals its source - my beloved PE regiment, where I had applied for "non-combatant service" after refusing to carry a rifle.

And inside, a notice informing me my days as a conscript were over.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Familiar faces

Between 1992 and 1994, I was reporting on the EP Herald in Port Elizabeth, and during that time I made sketches of various characters, many of them on the city council, which was in the process of negotiating a new dispensation with leaders from the black community.

I can't place this old woman, but rather like the drawing.

The oke on the left with the hooded eyes is the then National Party mayor, Koos Nel, while the old guy on the right is Graham Young, a former mayor, who was a member of the Democratic Party.

Another prominent DP councillor was Flip Potgieter. Despite being Afrikaans, he was one of the most progressive DP members and would later join the ANC.

I've mentioned this old Nat councillor before on an earlier posting, but his name now eludes. I know there is a road named after him in PE. Such is fame.

I remember this profile as that of a guy called Brian Wasmuth, who I think was with the PE Chamber of Commerce.

This round-faced dude I can't place.

On occasion I did the odd court sketch for publication.

This isn't an exact likeness, but I'm fairly sure from the pose that it is Lourens Schoeman, who was night news editor on the Herald for many years in the 1990s.

The inimitable pose of Patrick Cull, veteran parliamentary correspondent on the Herald in the 19880s, 1990s and 2000s.

Tanya Keeling was news editor's secretary in the late 1980s and 1990s on the Herald. I was surprised, while working in the UK in 1990 and 1991, to discover that she had married Mr Cull, whose former wife, Cleonie, was a fine arts lecturer at the then PE Technikon.

This takes us back to 1985, when I was on the Evening Post. It is an interesting historical picture, taken by Mike Holmes, who is still at Newspaper House. Note the old editing system, called Atex. I'm the dude with the tired shoes and ridiculous moustache. The others are (from left) Cathy Schnell, Jane Cunningham, Kevin Udemans, and Sharlene Clayton. I wonder where they are today? Notice that Kevin is trawling through a file of clippings in the pre-digital library era. The black-and-white photo would have been developed by Mr Holmes in our darkroom. It has been cropped, using china marker, for use apparently in a feature on the editing system which was carried in the Weekend Post. Back then - and the system was used through until the mid-1990s to late 1990s, when it was replaced by the Tera Goodnews editing system - we sat at desks sans computers. Only once we had our story would we find a terminal, log on, and do our thing.

This girl with fly-away hair also resembles Tanya, or Tanga as she was sometimes known.

I can't be sure who this was, but he has all the hallmarks of a seasoned journalist in terms of posture and pose.

Inevitably, I would end up listening to a bit of jazz somewhere.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Back in the RSA

By early 1992 I was back in a much-changed South Africa, having arrived in the UK just over a month before FW de Klerk's momentous February 2, 1990, unbanning of the ANC. Working on the Eastern Province Herald in Port Elizabeth again, I covered primarily the transition at local government level which echoed that going on at a national level.

Codesa, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, was the big thing on our return to SA. A transitional government was in place and, while the ongoing battle between the ANC and Inkatha continued bloodily, there was also much hope for a relatively peaceful transition to democracy. I kept this fax, which includes the Codesa logo, for the little drawing.

Back then it was still very much "die Universiteit van Port Elizabeth". Today it is the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

This was done in the early 1990s and perhaps reflects the mood surrounding the ongoing violence.

Oh and back then, as the text on the right just shows, we also had water shortage problems.

This guy looks set to celebrate the advent of democracy.

And suddenly, with key apartheid legislation scrapped - including Group Areas and Separate Amenities - everyone's culture was welcomed.

The one-city negotiations basically saw the National Party and ANC sparring, with the Democratic Party acting as a sort of referee. The old City Council coat-of-arms would soon give way to something reflecting the new dispensation.

This has no obvious political message, but few can blame the guy on the right for his close scrutiny.

Satour was very much a product of the National Party, and the little guy here seems to be bending over backwards to be accommodating.

A few more quirky characters from my subconscious.

And another.

When Charles Garai became mayor, he was delighted. But of all the councillors and officials I interviewed, he was probably the most wary and suspicious of the media.

Sign of the times. This I kept for the drawing, but it shows this family were quitting SA just as the ANC was about to take over.

No this is not on its side - check out the little oke on the right. The OPVBK was the Afrikaans for the EPSFA - EP Society of Fine Arts - which has since reverted to its original name, the EP Society of Arts and Crafts.

Mandela's long walk to freedom seems to be suggested here.

But who were these spooks, lurking on my page?

A semi-abstract lion-like shape.

The PE Municipality had a wealth of skilled staff, including this guy, Dazeley.

More names above a strange beast.

And Target Kloof was again in the news as an accident site.

Hey look, everyone's upside down but me.

Don't check me out, ek se.

Not P van Wyk, but rather PW Botha.

Reading between the lines.

Alan Zeiss was another top PEM official who was none too trusting of the Press.

And water, again, was high on the agenda, with a serious drought afflicting the bay around this time.

These little figures share space with the name of Rocky Ridgway, a former Democratic Party councillor and businessman.

Angles on fax paper.

An African connection.

More PE names to conjure with, including John Rushmere and Jonathan Mercer.

And more: Rick McKiever and Anton Vlok. Who was John Gibbon?

The little figure here seems to sum up the radar which PEM senior official Carl Fischer had for the media.

Back from the UK, I was delighted to have a few dealings with that country's consulate on my return as the UK started to resume ties as SA moved towards democracy.

I put this on its side so the figure, bottom left, could stand naturally.

Pity I bent this thick bit of card when storing it.

A hatted hipster.

Reggae music, mon.

John Price was another guy in the news in the 1990s.

The calculations were clearly too much for this little fellow.

And this guy got tied up in knots.

Echoes of Guernica.

Shadow man.

Mossel Bay assumed greater importance with the Mossgas oil-from-gas project.

Face on fax paper.

More fascinating figures.

Who was Mike Watson?

The trade union Numsa has its heart in motor city PE.

This was the logo for the old PE Technikon, now incorporated in NMMU.

Lord of the Rings.

How well have old institutions like this one kept going in the new SA, I wonder.

Access to information.

The Algoa Regional Services Council (ARSC) was a short-lived body ahead of the integration of local authorities.

Another face in the crowd.

And another - nothing unusual about either of them.

And another.

And, yes, another.

A chameleon, perhaps?

Two very tiny creatures.

Jenny O'Rourke was the mayor's secretary for decades.

I see this refers to Ahmed Kathrada, who was a contemporary on Robben Island of Mandela.

A trifle phallic, this phella.

Tube, tunnel, landscape?

Concrete flame.

A tiny sculpture to end.