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An honour to be there

Parties are always nice. They are even nicer after a long and difficult struggle. A victory is a good feeling. It tastes very sweet.

So we did not mind the cold wind biting our ankles and the rain falling lightly on our heads. We were with the brave people of Driefontein and it was a pleasure and an honour to be there.

They were having a party because they were opening their new clinic. This clinic has taken a long time to build. Stop, start, stop, start. And all because the people of Drie­fontein were not very sure what was going to happen to them.

For a long time the government has tried to get the people of Drie­fontein to leave their homes – and to live happily ever after in one of the backyards they call a homeland. It was the same old story. They said Driefontein was a black spot.

But the people of Driefontein have owned that land since 1912. It is their home and they know no other. They fought to keep it.

The government tried all kinds of tricks. They even built a big dam and told the people to pack their bags before the dam floods. But the­ people were not scared of the water or the government either. They stood together and they were strong.

And when you talk of the struggle of Driefontein, you must talk of Beauty Mkhize and the women of Driefontein. They were the ones who led the way. They were the ones who knew the meaning of unity.

And then in August this year, Ben Wilkins from the government went to the people of Driefontein. He threw up his arms and told the people that they had won. The people knew it was time to get the clinic built.

So you can see, the party on the last Saturday of September at Driefontein in the Eastern Transvaal was a special kind of party. And a party it was going to be. Plenty to eat, and a little some­ thing to drink.

The visitors started to arrive from early on. They say that old Moses Zulu from Entombi was the first to arrive. He got there at four o’clock in the morning. He likes a good party and he doesn’t like to miss a thing.

And then the visitors didn’t stop coming. They came from here, there and everywhere. They came from nearby Kwa-Ngema and Daggaskraal. They came from eNkangala and from Johannesburg. Some people from Mogopa and Mathopestad, who are also fighting for their land, came from far to be there. The people of Driefontein are short of many things in life. But they aren’t short of friends.

And then the party started. Lots of choirs, lots of singing. And the Driefontein brass band blew away on their shiny – clean horns. And the little children marched around with their little leaders spinning their little sticks. Old men danced by themselves and shouted their thoughts from the side.

And in between, there were lots of little speeches. The· people of Driefontein had a lot of people to thank. Many people have helped them in their struggle. And to a few special friends they gave gifts. Like to Aninka from the Black Sash, who is loved like a true sister.

And the photographers click-clicked. Most stood in front of the choirs. But ours, bless him, likes to stand behind. Ask him why? Just getting a shot of the conductor, he will quickly say.

Then at long last it was time to eat.


On Sunday morning Driefontein was quiet again. The party was over. There was just one last thing to do. They planted a tree.

The tree was planted in the spot where a much loved man and leader died. Saul Mkhize was shot dead at a meeting on Easter Monday in 1982 by some young, out of control cop. Victory tastes sweet. But sadly, the price is never cheap .


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