chatting in the mall

‘But he is a good, kind man. We come from the same town, so I know him. You know, whenever there’s a funeral he organises a bus for the township people because the graveyard is far from the township. And once a year, or more than once a year, he buys a whole cow and we cook it and eat it together.’

‘A cow for who?’

‘For the people in the township. For the blacks.’

‘So you are saying, he is a good man?’

‘A very good man. You know the only thing I would say is, don’t get him on to politics. Talk politics with him and he goes really funny. He gets angry. He gets mad.’

‘But you think he’s not a racist then?’

‘Agh! He doesn’t like having a black president, that’s all. Never mention Nelson Mandela around him. That makes him angry. But he’s a good kind man. He has black girlfriends, you know that?’

‘Really?’

‘Oh yes. Several.’

‘So does he have mixed-race kids then?’

‘No. I don’t say that. I say he has black girlfriends. He’s had several. He likes black people. He’s got nothing against us. It’s just politics. And look, I know he was in prison for a bit, because he beat a man up. But you know what they say in our town, in Ventersdorp?’

‘No.’

‘The man was trying to break into his house, trying to steal. So he beat him up. And then he was sent to prison, for a long time, for doing that. And now he can hardly walk, he’s like a cripple, all bent over and limping.’

‘Who? The man who broke into the house, or Terre’Blanche?’*

‘The thief! Yes, he beat him up very bad.’

‘And that hasn’t made you dislike him?’

‘No! As I told you, he is good to us, to the township people. He pays for our buses, and buys us whole cows to eat. He’s a kind man. We have no problem with him. He is like my next-door neighbour. I grew up next to him. My mother named me after one of her Afrikaner bosses, a lady, that’s why my name is Afrikaans. But you can see I’m completely black. And she killed herself.’

‘Who?’

‘The boss. She went to the bridge with her dog, and jumped off it. So I got her name. But there are white racists here. Sometimes people come into the shop and they won’t talk to me. A woman came in the other day, with her grand-daughter, an old Jewish lady. And the grand-daughter looked at me and said, Don’t say hello to my nana – she doesn’t speak to blacks. I was so upset, my blood was boiling, my ears were bumping, I couldn’t say anything. She said it twice. And then they left the shop.’

‘But it’s getting better here, isn’t it?’

‘In South Africa? No!’ she laughs. ‘People are more racist now I swear. You can tell the really racist ones easily because they always talk about it, they always talk about how they like black people. My boss always talks about how she likes black people and how, in her old job, her old career, she only mixed with black people. That’s how I know she’s a racist. And when I ask her about that video, the one in Bloemfontein, she tells me what her brother thinks, not what she thinks. So I can tell she’s a racist.’

* Eugene Terre’Blanche is, note, a poet, and – I’ve been reliably told – a playwright.

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