In the interest of balance, having first visited the Lesede cultural village for an entertaining evening of tribal dancing, I had a night out at an International beer festival to get a feel for Afrikaans culture. I even chatted with a local who had visited England “I got to the hotel and the staircase was so narrow and the room so tiny that the next morning I had to check out and fly home”. Being English I am often asked about the status of royal babies, fortunately a lot of people in bars will not waiver from their opinion that I must be an Australian and follow-up with detailed comparisons of the size and mode of attack of the two continents respective insects and reptiles.
The festival was billed as international on account of the tins of Guinness stacked in the bar fridge, but the main draw was a live performance by top Afrikaans band The Van Coke Kartel. My lemonade was locally sourced. The set featured tracks from the breakthrough “Skop, Skiet en donder” (Kick, shoot and thunder) album and its more reflective follow-up ”Wie’s Bang” (Who’s afraid) as in “Wie’s Bang vir Virginia Wolfe”. “Skop, skiet en donder” is apparently a slang phrase used to describe any activity which is lively and somewhat primitive. Enough said of the evening.
Crime or the fear of crime is another topic that crops up when talking with Afrikaans. Judging by the walk from my cottage in Sterkfontein to work they are very afraid. Most homes in Afrikaans areas have at least three dogs guarding them, large imposing gates and electrocuted fences surround their grounds. Armed security guards patrol the streets in these areas day and night in pick up vans.
The robots (traffic lights) at the main road mark the boundary between Sterkfontein and the township of Munsieville. In the day, robots are locations where hawkers and those looking for casual work hang out. Very occasionally someone looking for a handy man will stop and offer cash in hand in return for a days’ work. I’ve never seen a hawker make a sale, which is surprising as many times when travelling I’ve thought if only there was somewhere nearby where I could buy a pith helmet, balloon on a string or an inflatable rubber duck. At night, particularly in towns, most drivers try to avoid stopping at all at lights. Thursday in Sterkfontein is bin day. This draws scrap dealers from Munsieville who get up early before the official collection to trawl through the contents of the bins left on the verge outside each house. No rubbish collections are made in the township.
News from England is limited to the odd snippet in the papers, I was proud to hear that an audience had pelted Rhianna with chips after she turned up on stage two hours late. The concert was in Manchester so the crowd must have been very angry to let go of their chips. One local story I’ve followed is Kentucky Gate. A member of parliament has been exposed for racking up expense claims for over £3,000 pounds per month on fast food. The University of Cape Town Children’s Institute’s October Child Gauge report noted that despite the expansion of social grants and the introduction of school-feeding schemes, around 2.5 million children in South Africa still go hungry. Protests against poor delivery of government services are frequent. The government often responds by reminding its citizens that they must not rely on them alone to provide and learn to also help themselves. It seems the government is setting a good example in this respect.
In my cottage I am lucky to have satellite TV but the available news channels are limited to China Central TV, Russia Today and Al Jezeera, this does however mean that, as well as being alerted to the failure of this year’s Asian onion crop, I am frequently reminded that I should not throw stones as Britain had/has a big and not always positive role in shaping modern Africa. The UK too has had its share of expenses scandals such as one MPs claim for the cost of draining the moat at his country estate. I also remember that the highlight when I worked as a student bin man in posh Henley of Thames was sifting through the collected rubbish at the tip for discarded treasure. One big difference though was that the bins were on the same side of the fence as the dogs.