Well, things have progressed since last year. The building of the hotel of sixteen floors is now well underway. The neighbour will soon be another great tower in Luanda’s increasingly unbeautiful baixa. And while we wait for the tower to grow, we continue to suffer. The problem is the ‘prazo’: the deadline. It must be finished by the end of 2009 in time for the African Cup of Nations. I have been told, The rooms have already been rented out, every single one! It has to be finished, it has to be finished.
Which is why the work continues every day and every night, around the clock. No one stops working. The banging, the hammering, the pouring of cement, the hooting of the crane – that never stops, that never stops – and the shouting and relaying and communicating of the builders on site. Up a bit! No, down a bit! No, up a bit! But usually we do not understand, for they are speaking Mandarin. They work every day, all day and all night. It never stops. And we never sleep. The banging, the hammering, the shouting, the hooting of the crane. Even ear plugs fail to block the noise. The vibrations penetrate. The mosquito net shivers.
Where are the Angolans? They were too slow, said someone. In fact, he said, We are too slow, the Chinese are faster, so the bosses said Chinese must be brought in to ensure the work is finished to deadline. So the Angolans were dismissed, or sent to another project. The Chinese are faster, he said, because they don’t have families here, and so they don’t have funerals, or sick children, or wives, or aunties to look after. They just have to work. And they all live together – so they can come in and go out and come in and go out in one minivan. The Angolans live in homes, so they take taxis to their particular homes. This costs more, and they Angolans find it hard to find transport late at night. That costs more. So the Chinese are brought into work instead.
And I heard someone shout about South Africa, I heard someone say If you aren’t careful, Angola will go the same way as South Africa! But no one understood because the shouting was not in Mandarin. But the tension is there. The dislike. The confusion. Between the Angolans and the Chinese. Whilst the people at the top – the socios – set deadlines and rub their hands together. Who are they?
Someone said, The Portuguese! Someone else said, The Angolans! It is both, said another. It is Edifer and Gema… Some of them are bizneiros, said someone, Some of them were, but all of them are making more and more and more money. Which is why the noise never stops – even on International Labour Day and International Child Day and even International Hypertension Day.