From the book: Side by Side by Helen Joseph

The first anniversary of the Soweto shooting, 16 June 1977, was to be commemorated at St Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg by a twenty-four hours' vigil, organised mainly by Barbara Waite. The programme for the twenty-four hours was highly imaginative and, for a cathedral, very unusual. It was not to be the customary denominational vigil of silent prayer. Its purpose was to give people of all faiths, of all denominations and of all races a venue and an opportunity to remember and pay tribute to all who had suffered and died in the struggle for truth, justice, freedom and peace in South Africa.

It was to be a vigil of tribute and it drew an enthusiastic response from political organisations and people of all races, particularly young black people. There were to be addresses, poetry and play readings, choirs and instrumental music throughout the twenty-four hours. The vigil was to begin and end with requiem masses for the dead, celebrated by the Bishop of Johannesburg. A tall candle would bum at the high altar for the whole twenty-four hours while the Black Sash would maintain a continuous stand of two women in front of it, wearing their black sashes. Below the candle would be the names of those who had died in 1976, those in detention or in gaol and those known to be banned or banished. There would be just one vase of flowers sent by Winnie Mandela, to be given the next day to the mother of Hector Peterson, the first schoolboy to die from the police bullets.

At the Witwatersrand University there was to be a mass meeting of commemoration at noon at which Helen Suzman, Bishop Desmond Tutu and I were to address the students. I was to address the people at the cathedral vigil at midnight.

On the eve of the vigil, the Minister of Justice warned the Bishop of Johannesburg that if there were to be any speeches at the vigil, the magistrate would stop the proceedings. The police had instructions to take action immediately if the minister's warning was not heeded. Both the Dean of the Cathedral and the Bishop immediately refused to preach if others could not speak and the Bishop decided that the vigil must be silent throughout.

It seemed that the vigil had been dealt a cruel blow. The element of spoken and sung tribute, such a vital part of the whole concept, had been destroyed. Yet the flame of the candle burned steadily on, the women of the Black Sash stood in motionless silence. Throughout that day and night, there were always forty or fifty people, black and white, kneeling in silent tribute and prayer. The dignity and the meaning of the vigil had not, after all, been touched.

I was at the opening mass of the vigil and remained there for a few hours until I came home to complete my address to the students. My midnight speech for the vigil had of course been discarded.

At half past eleven that morning one of the students phoned to tell me that all campus meetings had been banned for three days. At twenty minutes to twelve he phoned again to say that the ban did not actually take effect until midday, the students were already assembled in the Great Hall ”” could I get there in time to speak for five minutes before twelve o'clock? Fortunately Use Wilson, Bram Fischer's daughter, was at my house with her car and we drove at top speed to the university. I reached the platform with almost five minutes in hand to a great welcome, except for some boos from one comer of the hall. That was a new experience for me, but I was not altogether surprised, for I had already heard of an ugly act of vandalism on the campus. Some of the students had planted hundreds of black crosses on the campus lawns that morning in commemoration of the young Soweto dead. These had later been set alight with petrol and the crosses were burned ”” the work of right-wing students.

I spoke for five minutes; there was no time for more. Then the students sang, "We shall overcome" and, as the meeting closed, exactly at noon, remembering the boos, I gave the clenched fist salute of the liberation struggle with a defiant shout of “Amandla!" (Strength).

I returned to the Cathedral for the rest of the twenty-four hours, moved yet saddened, by the complete silence. The night hours passed very slowly for all of us. Most of the clergy and the whites went home for the night, except the gallant team of Black Sash women and the few who provided a continuous coffee service up in the Tower Room. Some forty black people had remained for the night, mostly women; they had brought blankets against the cold of that June night. They had come from work and would go back to work the next morning. At intervals during the night some would go up to the Tower Room for coffee and perhaps a sort of nap in a chair or for companionable talk amongst themselves, sometimes to sing part of those weary hours away ”” up there where they would not be heard.

The Cathedral itself was so quiet, so still, only a few lights burning high up in the roof, and the great candle, growing shorter as the hours passed, two women always standing beside it. I wondered whether the minister realised what he had done. He had killed a part of the vigil but he had totally failed to destroy its spirit. The very silence filled that great cathedral, poured out of the open doors into the dark night.

At five o'clock the next morning the black people began to sing, very softly, in quiet defiance. They sang hymns in lovely harmony; they sang for the last hour of the vigil, but the silence and the singing were each part of the other and it was a fitting end to an unforgettable night. I stood with Barbara at the door when it was all over and we had blown out the candle. It had not been as she had planned it, and we were still disappointed at the Bishop's insistence on total silence, but we both knew that the vigil itself, silent or sung had proved indestructible.

The press coverage of my brief speech at the university and the Amandla salute aroused right-wing anger. There were a couple of death threats the following morning. "We're coming tonight to kill you, you communist bitch!" . . . "We'll bomb your house tonight!" with sundry obscene abuse. I telephoned the Norwood police and met with the usual lack of comprehension and just a vague assurance that the night patrol would be told to "watch out". I found out later that one of my friends had sat outside my house in his car until one o'clock the next morning, but he saw and heard nothing. This is a problem for all of us who are subjected to telephone threats. Should we ignore them on the assumption that nothing would happen on the night of the threat? ... Yet some day it might . . . who knew?

The Suppression of Communism Act of 1950 had been renamed the Internal Security Act and its scope had been extended to cover, not merely suspected communist activities, but also those which "endanger the security of the state or the maintenance of public order". Its new name did not make the Act any less sinister or far-reaching and it made it even easier for the minister to ban organisations or persons.

In October 1977 these extended powers were invoked in the banning of seventeen organisations together with some of their officials. They included the multiracial Christian Institute, which, together with the South African Council of Churches, was keeping the banner of the struggle for justice and freedom flying in the Christian church. The bans also covered every black consciousness organisation.

The minister declared that the banned organisations, persons and publications had been a threat to the maintenance of peace and security. He had acted on the report of a committee consisting of a magistrate and two other jurists, but the banned organisations and banned people never saw those "factual" reports which in reality amounted to secret trials at which the accused could not appear. For good measure, the widely read black newspapers, the World and the Weekend World, were also declared illegal, despite their enormous circulation ”” or perhaps because of it.

I saw a haunting press photograph of Theo Kotze, Director of the now banned Christian Institute, my Cape Town friend, in whose house I had so often stayed. He was standing in the doorway of the Institute. The photograph showed him flanked by two young policemen in full camouflage uniform. What for? To outlaw a Christian institution, did they need to appear in this garb? Was Theo, this gentle but determined minister of the Methodist church, so dangerous?

One policeman had the grace to bow his head, even to look ashamed, but the other was sharing a joke with a triumphant grinning constable in the background. Theo himself had just been served with a banning order, his life and work destroyed by a stroke of the minister's pen. I should not stay again with this warm, hospitable friend, for now Theo could not communicate with me.

In February 1978 a date was at last set for the hearing of our appeal against our conviction for refusing to answer questions about Winnie. Judgement was reserved but I was suddenly aware that I really had a possible four months' gaol sentence hanging over my head and the other three, Barbara, Jackie and Ilona, had far worse to face. There was no way of assessing the chance of any of our appeals succeeding and there would still probably be some weeks before we should know our fate. Nevertheless, I began to expect a telephone call, hour after hour, day after day, with a feeling of relief when each afternoon was over and I knew I could hear nothing until the following day. Then at last I heard that judgement would be given the following day, 13 April. Only a couple more days and I might well be in gaol for four months.

I decided that I must say goodbye to all my friends, so I telephoned, bidding them come to my "judgement party" the following night, although I did not yet know whether it would be a celebration or a "going in" party. I knew the next morning. My sentence had been reduced to two weeks and Barbara's from a year to two months. Jackie and Ilona had been acquitted because our defence counsel had discovered a flaw in the prosecution's case. I was delighted for them, but anxious lest they should be charged again and have to go through a repeat performance. I remembered what the prosecutor had said in my case, "I can bring her back again and again . . ."It seemed to me that there was no point in appealing further. The judge had upheld the conviction though reducing the sentence. Seeing that our stand was one of protest against any compulsion to make statements and become state witnesses, I felt that to appeal further would weaken our stand on principle.

Seventy of my friends crowded into my house for that "going in" drink with me, bishops and lawyers, priests and politicians, people who had already known gaol and bans, and those who hadn't, the young and the old, they were all there. Most of them had to stand for there wasn't room for sitting and it was gay, the way I wanted it to be, the way I wanted to go into gaol. Barbara was away on holiday at the time and would surrender herself to serve her sentence a little later.

Exactly what I was supposed to do next was not clear. I did not want to sit at home and wait to be taken into custody. I knew that I should have to report to the magistrate's court in Bloemfontein, so I arranged to drive down there on the Monday morning with some friends (provided I wasn't picked up by the police in the meantime). We should meet Zeni and Zindzi Mandela in Brandfort on the way, having a "going in" lunch at an "international" hotel in Bloemfontein where we could all eat together and then I would report to the court and surrender myself. Fourteen days still seemed an unbelievably short sentence. I took a few books, the Oxford Book of English Verse, which a friend lent me for the occasion, a modem translation of the Bible and a couple of devotional books.

Zindzi and Zeni were waiting for us on the Brandfort Bridge as we arrived (and so, we discovered later, were the security police, watching I suppose to see whether Winnie would join us!). Zindzi brought a huge knitted stole in ANC colours, black, gold and green, for me to wear for the occasion. Ilona joined us for lunch, as she was visiting her parents in Bloemfontein.

I reported to the court office and found a policeman at my elbow. "Come with me," he said, but I protested that I must first bid my friends goodbye and went back to them. They were standing together a little forlornly, not knowing what had happened to me, but there they all were, Zeni and Zindzi and her boyfriend, Ilona and the two Little Sisters of Jesus, Iris Mary and Valentine, my friends who had driven me down from Johannesburg.

There was laughter, and hugs and kisses, with the policeman still at my elbow until I was suddenly without my friends and on my way down to the dark cell below the court. My personal possessions were first taken from me and then returned when I was transported in the prison van to Bloemfontein gaol, where my reception was neutral but not unfriendly.

I was of course a strange phenomenon to the young wardresses, an old woman who had chosen to go to gaol rather than make a statement against a friend. I was taken to a cell, better than I had expected, far different from those dreary dingy cells high up in the rafters in the Pretoria gaol in 1960. Here there was a window, which could open, even if barred, but I could see black women prisoners moving around in a courtyard. There was even a private loo in one corner ”” that was something I had not known before in gaol. I went to bed quite soon after lock-up time and slept peacefully on a rather hard bed, with sheets, which were as usual too short for the bed, and enough blankets.

I was almost disappointed to discover the next morning that I was to serve my sentence in Klerksdorp gaol, about halfway between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein.

As I was driven into Klerksdorp gaol, high and forbidding, one of the newest prisons, I looked anxiously at the gigantic, monolithic concrete fortress. My spirits dropped as I clambered up three flights of noisy, steep iron stairs, holding rather desperately onto my issue of prison clothing, bundled together with my bag under one arm, grasping the iron railings with the other. I arrived at the reception office, panting, breathless and thankful to be allowed to sit, for prisoners usually stand. I was glad that with my papers there was a certificate stating that I had had a serious heart attack two years before and was under medication. I didn't fancy traipsing up and down those stairs very often.

The officer in charge of the women's section was young, cool, kind and serious. I discovered that I was the only white woman prisoner in the gaol. There were fifty or sixty black women serving sentences whom I never saw at all. Klerksdorp was in fact mainly a men's gaol and the women's section was tightly sealed off, a little world on its own. I, too, was tightly sealed off from the black women prisoners.

My cell was obviously part of a section specially designed for white women and it was like nothing that I had ever imagined a cell could be. It was light and bright and the afternoon sun was streaming in. I stood in the doorway and asked unbelievingly, “Is this for me?” There was a loo and a washbasin behind a three-foot dividing wall, windows, long and very narrow, from floor to ceiling, but the slit window of the top half could be swivelled open to let in the sun and the air. They looked outwards, beyond the gaol, right across the prison grounds to open country. The cells were high up, on the third floor and I had the feeling of being in a tower, like the Lady of Shalott, looking down on the passing world below, except that the only human life for me to see was a black convict labour gang working, m the prison grounds.

Lights went out at eight o'clock so I had to learn to sleep early and long. I woke before five in the morning to watch the eastern sky slowly lighten and redden until the flaming sun came up on the horizon. For me that would mean that another day and night had passed. Yet I was not unhappy there. I could read and after a few days I had some wool and could crochet. All the same, it was a strange, sterile existence. My home and my life in Johannesburg faded away, although I thought very much about my friends.

As I came to each new experience, I thought of Barbara. How would the plain heavy starchy food affect her? I could not imagine her slim elegant figure, her tailored clothes exchanged for the loose heavy overdress, nor that classic head atop the tan jersey. For me it was all so much better than anything I had hitherto experienced in gaol. For her it was all going to be so much worse than anything she had ever known or imagined.

I thought very often of how my pink skin had made me better off as a prisoner. I could not doubt that black conditions had improved in the gaols in some ways over the years, just as white conditions had done but the gap was still there and whites were still far better off.

When I was discharged, the officer came outside the gaol to see me off, saying, "I shall miss you," very sincerely. Thinking of a possible re-subpoena and a longer gaol sentence, I laughed and replied, "Don't worry ”” I'll be back!"

I returned to a gay, friendly welcome from my friends, but I wondered when the telephone calls would begin again. The day before the judgement there had been a particularly nasty one. Gaol had given me relief from this and I had felt secure in that cell, high above the world, the danger locked out.

As I had anticipated, the security branch were soon on my doorstep with a subpoena for a repeat performance. I must appear before the Bloemfontein magistrate again on 1 June, to answer questions relating to two alleged offences by Mrs Winnie Mandela on 27 September 1977 ”” the mixture exactly as before.

I accepted the subpoena in silence and they went away. I began immediately to make plans to go to Bloemfontein and to face gaol again. I thought I should handle it alone this time to save legal expenses. There would be no point in noting an appeal against the inevitable conviction. It had all been argued before and we had lost our case.

I was astounded a few days later to learn that the Attorney General of the Free State had dropped the case against me on account of my age. It seemed incomprehensible, for I was only a few weeks older than when I had gone to gaol. Although I was of course very relieved for myself, I was nevertheless very unhappy at being protected by age and thus levered into a more favourable position than Ilona and Jackie and Barbara.

I knew that Barbara had not been able to adjust to gaol conditions that it was a continuous traumatic experience for her. It had not been so for me and I knew how fortunate I had been. I knew, too, that for me there never could have been any other way and never would be. It raised a question; however, to which I do not think I have yet found the answer. How far can you be held responsible for the sufferings of another? To some extent my example of not retreating from a principle had been followed. Barbara had taken her own decision, very courageously, but I could not escape from the thought that I had helped to bring this suffering on her.

Ilona and Jackie had also been re-subpoenaed, had again come before the Bloemfontein magistrate, refused to speak and this time had been sentenced to three and four months' gaol respectively. They had appealed against the severity of their sentences and were once again in that strange limbo of waiting for their judgement.

They were still waiting as Christmas approached and it seemed that they might still spend it with all their friends, but on 29 November, the judgement was given and they had lost. Their sentences were upheld and they had to go into gaol, not to Klerksdorp, but the Pretoria Central goal, where they were subjected to very harsh conditions and discipline. They were even kept in solitary confinement, separated from each other completely, for the first six weeks.
I knew that Joe Morolong's banning orders were due to expire in 1978 ”” the third five-year restriction. It had been inhuman, this confinement to within a mile and a half of his father's little house in Ditshipeng Reserve, a desolate semi-desert area in the Northern Cape Province. That was by day; by night, Joe's radius of movement was reduced to a little over fifty yards. During these fifteen years of his bans, Joe and I had not been able to communicate with each other.

We had been companions on that long exciting tour to find the banished people. We had both been put under stringent restrictions, but mine had ceased seven years ago. Would the Minister of Justice sentence Joe to yet another five years of that hell of desolation? I was in a state of both hope and dread as the third five-year banning order expired.

For the first few days, my hopes rose, for there was no report of any renewal of his ban, but on 4 April, the tragic news was published that Joe had been murdered five months previously. He had been found dead in the veld with a stab wound in his back. That is all that was ever known of the death of Joe Morolong. Today he lies buried in the place where he existed for fourteen and a half years of that living death, the man who had chosen to stay in South Africa.

Joe had been a laughing companion on our tour, but his laughter must surely have died during those lonely years. Photographs had been published from time to time of the stark isolation of Ditshipeng Reserve. Did the minister ever see them? Or did he ever care to know what he had done when he imposed those three five-year banning orders, one after the other, on Joseph Morolong?

I went to Pretoria a few times to attend the trial of eleven African men and one African woman on charges of ANC activities, training for guerrilla warfare and sabotage. Six were found guilty and on the day of sentence the court was crowded with whites, unlike all the other days when only the families and a few friends came there.

Security was always very strict at such trials and I often had the contents of my handbag examined. Once a policeman used his dog against us as we stood on the pavement to wave to the prison van as it drove the accused back to gaol. The dog was an Alsatian, as police dogs usually are, and I felt outraged that such a beautiful animal should be used for such a purpose. I had my own dog Kwacha in mind, but I knew that the blacks who stood with me to face that policeman and his straining dog did not share my view. To black people an Alsatian is a police dog, to be hated and feared on sight.

Some of the whites who crowded the court on this occasion were recognisable as security policemen, but there were other whites there too, and a few white women. All were grim-faced, expectant; they had come to hear a death sentence and to exult over the condemned men.

There were not many friends, wives and mothers, yet they had to fight their way into that crowded courtroom to hear the fate of their men. Two young women had married their men in prison during the trial. Would they be widows before they were ever wives? Their husbands were young men in their early twenties and it was for them that the state had demanded the death sentence. The judges, however, did not sentence them to death. Those waiting whites were disappointed.
Anger was clearly to be seen on their faces as they left the court.

These two accused, Naledi Ntsiki and Mosima Sexwale, had made moving and inspiring statements from the dock before they were sentenced, not knowing whether they would live or die. They had declared their loyalty to the ANC and their adherence to the Freedom Charter. "As I look back," Naledi had said. "I cannot honestly say that I believe the decisions I took which led me to this position were wrong ”” what I regret most was that it was necessary and inevitable that these decisions had to be taken." As he went down the steps from the court to the cells to begin his eighteen years in gaol, I caught Sexwale's eye and he smiled at me. I blew him a kiss and the police had to restrain a white man from assaulting me. The next day, I would be seventy-three and I wondered whether I should still be alive to see these men, young and old, when they completed their sentences. Yet that did not matter, for they would live, not die. They would survive to be free again, whether it took the long years of their sentences or whether freedom came to South Africa before then.

In June, after I came back from gaol, the telephone calls started again but now more obscene than threatening, and only one, which said, "We'll kill you tonight." I was becoming almost indifferent to them and they had little more than a nuisance value, until a rock the size of a tennis ball smashed through my sitting room window which, like my bedroom, faces the street, though sheltered to a great extent by shrubs and trees.

It seemed that the missile was thrown from the street, as Kwacha had not been alerted, as I am sure she would have been had anyone climbed over the gate. I called the Norwood police and although fingerprints were taken and the rock taken away for examination by the police, I knew that it was unlikely that I should hear more of it.

Press reporters came the next day and while they were at my home the usual telephone calls started, threatening and abusive. I called one of the reporters to the phone to take the third call. What he heard was, "You dirty old bitch, we're coming tonight to cut your throat!" When the reporter asked who was speaking, he was told to “ . . . off!” I assured him that this happened from time to time and felt satisfied that he had actually heard the threat.

No one can dispute a broken window and a rock, but I sometimes wondered whether people really believed me about the telephone threats. Until the reporter took the call, I had no way of proving that they had actually taken place. Once a woman telephoned and seemed quite pleasant until I asked who she was and then she said, "just another white who wants to break your communist neck".

Hoax harassment soon followed. I was amazed at the ingenuity, which avoided repetition. A man came to collect a non-existent piano and another came for a garden roller, both of which I was supposed to have advertised for sale; there was a glazier to mend an unbroken window, paving stones for a garden already paved. Then a new, more sinister, macabre type of hoax. I was telephoned by a supposed hospital doctor to say that a friend had met with a motor accident. I was suspicious this time and asked for a number to call back, but when I did so there was no such doctor. The following day I had a call beginning "This is the government mortuary here..." I put the receiver down quickly. An hour later, a small closed van arrived at my gate with two men in white overalls. They said they were from the mortuary and had come for the body. That afternoon there was another call, "We're coming tonight to cut your throat, cut your throat . . ." screamed at me in a rising crescendo.

Nothing of all this really prepared me for what was to come. At midnight on 15 August I woke startled, to the deafening sound of gunfire and heard glass shattering in my sitting room. Kwacha only whimpered, she did not bark and I think the gunshots must have hurt her sensitive dog's ears. I heard a car engine start up and a car drive away. I thought there might still be a gunman lurking around so I did not want to switch on the light and become a target. I crawled across the floor to the telephone, only to realise that I did not know the police flying squad number and would have to put the light on to find it. I thought about that for a bit, sitting on the floor in the dark, then crawled back to put on the light.

I waited and nothing happened, so I got myself onto my feet and went into the sitting room. I saw that almost every pane of glass had been shattered and there was broken glass everywhere. Only when the police arrived did I venture out to unlock the gate.

There was really nothing they could do except take a statement and scrabble around on the floor looking for bullets. The damage had mostly been done by a shotgun, except for one bullet, which had gone through the glass pane of the front door and then through the wooden sitting-room door to lodge in the jamb of the bathroom door. I was thankful I had not been in the line of fire.

The next day there was first a call at midday, "What a pity! What a pity!" and then at three o'clock, "Next time you won't be so lucky!" Then, "Helen, the next one will be between the eyeballs." At four o'clock, "Are you insured?" and late that night, "What sort of wood do you want for your coffin?" A day or so later . . . "What about a date with death? Twelve o'clock is the time", and then a little later, "Tonight I'm coming to cut your throat, you old bitch."

For the rest of that year, there was little beyond obscenity, but 1979 brought more sinister telephone calls. "We're going to wipe you out... It won't be like last time, we'll do a proper job this time." On 8 February, at the usual time, 12.30 a.m., when I was not yet in bed but the curtains were drawn and the gates padlocked, I heard three ear-splitting blasts. This time I knew what they were, but I didn't hear any glass shattering, so I hesitantly looked into the sitting room but saw no sign of any damage. I made some coffee, put out the lights and went to bed. I did not fancy going out onto the verandah to investigate any further. At half past six the next morning I went out and was shocked to find a bullet hole in the wall only inches away from my bedroom window.

When the police came, they found a second bullet hole, this one in the roof just above the bedroom window and also two empty cartridge cases outside my front gate, which established that nine millimetre bullets had been used. Yet I knew, as before, that the gunman would not be traceable, nor would the perpetrator of the telephone calls. The police suggested that I should obtain an unlisted telephone number, but I could not agree to this, for it would mean cutting myself off from the many visitors passing through Johannesburg, often strangers to South Africa, who wanted to see me.

Only a few calls followed this renewal of attempted violence, mainly laughter or just silence, repeated at intervals during the night. Then one, "Helen, don't go out tonight, we're coming with bullets."

Part of the horror of this protracted persecution and especially the shooting was the realisation that I was actually so hated by other human beings as to make all this possible. A few friends were experiencing similar incidents sporadically, though not actual shooting, except of course the dreadful assassination of Rick Turner, who had opened his window late one night to investigate a sound on his verandah. He was shot and died in the arms of his young daughter.

I never met this brilliant young industrial sociologist who had lived his house arrest with courage and undimmed commitment, but after his tragic death, his wife Foszia became a very close friend. Whenever I went to Durban to speak at a meeting I stayed with her. I stood with her at Rick's grave one Sunday and loved her for her acceptance of this tragedy and her determination that life must go on.

In my case I found it hard to accept that these attackers were actually would be assassins. Who were they? Yet Rick Turner was dead and I could not totally dismiss the possibility that even in my case it was attempted murder and not just intimidation.

Concerned friends urged me to build a high concrete wall, but I could not bear the idea of living behind it. Nor could I tolerate any idea of leaving the home where I had lived for more than twenty years, the little square house with the wooded garden, which meant so much to me. Where would I go? Once I started to run, where would I stop? To share my home on a permanent basis, so as not to live alone, was equally unacceptable. I wanted to live alone. I had chosen to do so. I felt reluctant even to have casual visitors now, because I did not want to expose others to possible danger.

I realised, however, that I needed some form of protection and finally settled for a two-inch thick sheet of bulletproof perspex across my bedroom window. It gives me a feeling of security, even when I think I can hear a car stopping outside my house. I have become unconscious of it in the daytime and of the ugly need for it. I frame it in tall potplants and sometimes it reminds me of Prinsloo's face, framed in the Brandfort privet hedge.

Telephone calls increased in number at the end of the year, but hoaxes diminished, except for one outrageous and utterly incongruous incident. Two young men came to my door one evening to tell me that they had come to install and operate a discotheque for my party ”” as ordered by me. Anything looking less like a venue for a discotheque party than my quiet little home and this old lady at the door can hardly be imagined. I tried to convince them that I had made no such order, that it was a hoax. But they were now two very angry young men and angry with me because they had refused another order for that night for which they would have been paid R100. They did not want to accept my explanation about the hoax because they could not understand how it had happened. It did not make any sense to them and they had lost 100 rands.

I tried to explain my political position to them and that only made things worse, for they could not see why they should suffer financially because I had stubbornly opposed government policies and actions ”” which they themselves probably supported. I had to concede certain logic in this argument. If I had not been who I was, this would not have happened to them. It was all rather unreal.