Thomas thinks about 1986


On the 5th of November this year, when I got home from work I saw two ‘laities’, with painted faces and wearing women’s clothes. When I looked again, I saw that these ‘laities’ were my nephews.


I thought these children had really gone mad at last. Then I remembered that it was Guy Fawkes Day. My nephews were very happy because they had collected a few cents.


One of them said: “Uncle, please give us money. We want to buy our mother a Christmas present.” I remembered suddenly that Christmas was just around the corner. And 1986 was about to end.


I went inside the house and I sat on the sofa. Then I started reading my newspaper. I read about eleven-year-old Bongani who was shot by some people hiding in a bus. It was a very sad story.


I also read about the young boys and girls who are in detention. The story said that they are going to spend Christmas in jail. I started thinking about my nephews. What would I do if one of my nephews was detained?


They are too young to know anything. But children of their age are in jail. I thought to myself that this year was not a good year for many children. In fact 1986 was a bad year for many people.


At the beginning of the year many parents were happy that their children were going back to school. And many workers were very happy about joining COSATU. I was happy that I had just bought a beautiful sofa. And I could sleep on it at any time.


But even on the first day of 1986 there was fighting. People living in Moutse were attacked by the Imbokotho. Since then more than a hundred people have died. They were fighting against Kwa-Ndebele getting ‘independence’ from South Africa.


And in the townships there has been no peace. In many areas people are scared. Vigilante groups started all over the country. In Moutse there was the Imbokotho. In Tumahole there was the ‘A-Team’ and in Durban there was the ‘Amabutho’.

But the worst fighting was in Cape Town where the ‘witdoeke’ fought with the ‘comrades’ and 20 000 houses were burnt down.


The government said it wanted to stop the “black-on-black violence”. So they declared the new State of Emergency. 20 000 people have been detained since then.


Newspapers cannot write what they want. And at Learn and Teach we struggle — not knowing what we can write and what we cannot write.


The State of Emergency did not stop people from fighting back. More than fifty townships all over the country stopped paying rent. They say they want rents people can afford — and they want the army out of the townships. More than 20 people were killed in Soweto when the police tried to evict people for not paying their rents.


This year workers have suffered too. Gencor fired 22 000 mineworkers from their Impala Platinum Mine. For these workers 1986 meant living without work or food. 177 miners were killed at Kinross Mine when a fire started underground. 177 women became widows and many children were left without fathers.


Many factories have closed. The bosses say that they are not making enough money. And many workers have lost their jobs. They have no hope of finding new jobs, like the workers in Port Elizabeth. More than 70 schools were closed this year. The D.E.T. closed the schools because the children were boycotting classes. The children say they want ‘People’s Education’.


In Soweto the school children who wanted to write exams were chased and stoned by others. At one school some students who were writing their exams said the question paper was too difficult. So what did they do? They tore up their question papers and went home. They said the D.E.T. was testing them on work they had not done.


Some things were better than last year. For example, we sold more magazines than last year. I would like to say thank you to all our readers for buying the magazine. And also for reading my column.


A new newspaper, The New Nation, was born. And the UDF had it’s third birthday. CUSA and AZACTU came together, to start a new federation of trade unions. I wish them good luck in their struggles.


Many things happened this year. But what will happen next year? Will the students go back to school? Will more people lose their jobs? What about the rents — will people pay or be evicted?


There are more questions than answers. And I look at my nephews and think that they do not know anything about these questions. All they know is that they want to buy their mother a present. And they want me to buy them presents.


They want to play. And they hope that one day they will have cars like their uncles. And maybe one day, their young friends will come home from jail. Well, they are too young to understand.

I just hope that things will change next year. I hope the government will change its mind and its laws. Maybe they will end the State of Emergency. Or maybe they will listen to the people of our beautiful country.


But for now, I say, have a good Christmas. Maybe use your holiday to think about the questions that face us all. Maybe you can find the answers to our problems.

Heyta daar. See you next time.

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