Special Courts

(This is an extract from my book “Rough Justice” which records some of my experiences in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe during and after the liberation war. –Available on Amazon)

Part of the strategy for combatting the war against terror, was the establishment of Special Courts, which travelled into rural centres to try offences against the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act.

Offenders were people who carried arms of war – active terrorists; gave aid and support to terrorists and / or failed to report the presence of terrorists, which were capital offences with a mandatory death sentence  upon conviction.

The death penalty was a very strong part of the judicial armoury in Africa up to the 1970’s. As was corporal punishment – a light cane for juveniles and a heavy cane for adults.

sten gunJudges’ Clerks were required to act as Chauffeurs and Bodyguards for our Judges and we were issued with Sten guns, 45 calibre sub machine guns, produced in WW2 for 2/6d, which usually jammed after the second round.

The best part was driving the big Mercedes Benz car merited by the judge.

The administration of Justice was very swift, with most of the accused admitting the facts, notwithstanding the mandatory death sentences and despite the efforts of their appointed defence barrister.

On one sad day we passed the death sentence on four people: two in Inyanga in the morning and two in the afternoon in Umtali.gallows noose

After the accused were found guilty, it was the duty of the Judge’s Registrar to address them were as follows:

You have been found guilty of the crime of contravening the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act by giving support to people bearing arms against the State: do you know of any reason or have anything to say as to why sentence of death should not be passed upon you?”

My repugnance for what we were doing grew after one dignified old gentleman replied: “My Lord, when a man bearing a rifle tells me I must report anyone who carries weapons who comes to my village or I will be hanged, and then later, another man also carrying a rifle tells me if I report his visit I and my family will be killed, what must I do?

He was duly sentenced as the Act required, but I know the judge recommended clemency. That evening was the only time I saw a judge get drunk.

He resigned after that.

In fact, most if not all mandatory death sentences which did not include murder or acts of violence were commuted to life imprisonment and these people were released on independence.

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Slaughter in the night

(This is an extract from my upcoming book about working on the mines during the South African struggle.)

“Mama ….. Mamie … Ma…”

I covered him with a blanket. Then he died.

Still young, his innocence and lack of survival instinct had left him sleeping in his room, where the killers found him. In keeping with custom, he was stabbed and sliced by all his attackers, in order to bind their silence by joint guilty involvement.

His arm hanging by shreds of skin, he was left to bleed to death; his killers slinking away at our approach. We were just in time to hear him die. I wished afterwards that I had knelt and pronounced words of absolution – many Sothos were Catholics.

Ghostly groups of hunter killers slipped away through the early dawn mist and tear gas remnants. We called for an ambulance.

The ambulances were busy – 14 men had died in this senseless, hateless violence which set workmates at each other’s throats because sides had to be chosen. Many were injured in these crude, clumsy clashes with iron bars and bricks from torn down walls as weapons.

Amongst the casualties, who didn’t die, broken ankles were the main injury, sustained leaping out high windows to escape the hunter killers who slunk through the night seeking victims … anyone from the other side.

Most bodies were mutilated with multiple wounds, many clearly in sleeping attire, some still in their rooms.

As it became lighter, two factions formed, kept apart by armoured security vehicles and a SA Police unit with a mounted machine gun. 3000 men lined up facing each other about 50 metres apart.

They were divided along ethnic lines, those who teta – spoke with clicks, mostly Xhosa, armed with sabres and iron bar spears, facing the rest, predominantly Sotho, with some Shangaan, Swazi and Tswana, wrapped in blankets, mainly armed with cudgels and bricks.  Trees in the hostel had been stripped of branches and a 12 foot brick wall had been knocked down and the bricks taken for weapons.

 

The Happy Hookers Fishing Club

(This is an extract from my upcoming book on my years at Vaal Reefs Exploration and Mining Company – most of those 14 years were pretty rough; but there were some happy times too)

Maurice (James) and I and Denis Simpson started talking about a fishing trip to Henties Bay in Namibia. We constituted a fishing club and soon had an eager group planning the trip. Henties was on the West Coast in Namibia and was renowned as a fishing mecca.

Bossie Boshoff, Peter Turner, Alistair Barr and Andries Oberholzer were some of our fellow hengelaars – some were quite serious about fishing, others were mainly there for the beer (no names, but you can guess)

Most of us were amateur fishermen, but enjoyed the associated conviviality and the 4000 km round trip across Botswana and Namibia was a great success – some of us even caught some fish! Maurice and I were also keen bird watchers.

We were joined by Bushy Going from TEBA (the mines employment bureau) which was a major coup. TEBA had fully equipped and serviced manager’s houses in very remote areas of Southern Africa and we managed to visit 3 of the most exotic and exciting of these camps.

Shakawe was on the banks of the Okavango River, near the Caprivi Strip.tigerfish                carmine B eaterThere were boats, wonderful tiger and bream fishing and a rainbow array of birds and wildlife.  There were also crocodiles and hippos…

That trip alone deserves a separate book.

Kosi Bay was situated in a kwaZulu Natal reserve about 200 metres from the Kosi Bay estuary – the only house for miles. We caught no fish over 3 days!

narina-trogon.jpgPafuri is a private rest camp at the northern tip of the Kruger National Park where the Narina Trogon was spotted.

Peter Turner’s family had a house in Morgan’s Bay on the Transkei Coast.fresh-calamari.jpg    We caught only one fish between the two cold fronts that passed over dumping rain by the ton.

We were forced to eat our bait (squid/calamari) – quite good actually! (although our powers of discrimination were somewhat diminished…)

These fishing trips entailed many planning meetings and conviviality and provided great stress relief, during quite tough times.

Going back to Africa

I must confess to mixed feelings now.

It has taken some time to get to this point. Nearly twenty years in fact.

This has been quite a sudden realisation; not so long ago I wrote a poem about returning my spirit to Africa, where I grew up and where 10 generations of ancestors are buried:

Journey

Like a boomerang, we go forwards to go back

to our hearts home where our mum’s wombs rest.

From light to dark and smooth to shoddy.

People simple but direct, not so friendly.

But it’s the home of our heart and soul,

darker Africa, so far and so near.

The warm people now despondent

about unrealised comforts, leached away by lazy overlords,

Maybe blamed on us, who give, build and take.

 

Where I die, twirl a thorn twig,

catch my ghost and take it home,                                         

like a boomerang, back from where we came,

to the bosom of the family we left.

Then maybe I will rest.

 

Now our near family is here, not there. Without a doubt, feelings are mixed.

But now I feel as if I am leaving home, not going home.

I am happy and sad.

(The picture is a twig from the Umlahlankosi tree that can be used to carry the spirit of the deceased from the place of death to a new resting place).

The magic of Edward Lear

One of the sweetest things happened recently: our daughter confessed that  she always associated Edward Lear’s poem: The Owl and the Pussycat with us, her Mum and Dad. The connection had been made via two photos of us dancing: one at a school dance and the other at our wedding.

It is a wonderful poem with delightful images of traditional love rituals.

pea green boat

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”

Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl, 
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?”

 They sailed away, for a year and a day,                                 piggy ring
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?”
Said the Piggy, “I will”
turkey marriedSo they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

by light of moon

Serendipitously, I quoted from Edward Lear’s Jabberwocky in my wedding speech which I related as my father’s advice on getting married:

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! 
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun 
      The frumious Bandersnatch!” 

 

We must never discard the magic interwoven in our memories nor disregard the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

 

It’s a topsy-turvy world we live in

Do not for one moment think that the Establishment exists for your benefit or that the government or the opposition or doctors or bankers are right.

 

Check the facts – make your  own mind up.

 

With that as a theme I reviewed some articles I had saved and these are a few quotes that I found thought provoking from an article called Intolerant Liberals by Tucker Fitzgerald 

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”Isaac Asimov

Do not accept everything you are told by the Man:

There is no such thing as an outright political lie. Instead there’s distortion, exaggeration, misrepresentation,deception, half-truth and overstatement. The assumption is that the risk is worth it.

Because democracy isn’t the only value we hold. We don’t accept the 51% enslaving the 49% by popular vote. Because Hitler was brought to power by a democratically elected government. Because American slavery was legal.

lenin deception

The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

Gary Kasparoff

Now  – getting closer to the point I want to make:

More people are recognizing that the economic paradigm that guides our global system today is deeply misaligned with a thriving future.

The Neoliberal economic system is a cultural construct. It has a particular history and espouses a cogent set of core beliefs, social values, and organizational practices. There is a narrative coherence to notions of “freeing” markets from regulation, letting wealth “trickle down” from the coffers of the rich, and a “rugged individualism” that pays too little attention to the social factors that shape economic outcomes.

Joe Brewer

Soreefersmetime last week Queensland news was filled with the successful busts by police of numerous marijuana growers who had rented suburban houses and converted them to grass growing hothouses. A number of serious statements were made about these heavy criminals.

 

There have been over twelve million cannabis arrests in the United States from 1996 until 2013.

35.6 percent of 12th graders in US and 67% of medical students had used marijuana during the year prior to a recent survey

Also last week, I received an article from an investment advisor heavily tipping investment in marijuana projects listed on stock exchanges.bank of ganja

The United States Marijuana Index (a stock exchange index) has jumped from a level of 48.39 a year ago to the current level of 70.83, an increase of 46%

Enjoying a growth rate of 77% over the last few years and an estimated 700% growth rate by 2018, it’s bigger than corn, bigger than cotton, and bigger than wheat.

In fact, according to UN data, it’s valued at about $142 billion. To put that in perspective, the global coffee market is valued at about $80 billion per year.

Possession and cultivation are Federal offences but lawful in over half the states in US. It will be totally decriminalised in Canada next year. Possession is lawful in South Africa and Netherlands. Medical marijuana can be lawfully prescribed in Australia.

Now how about that for a disconnect in values?

I am not a recreational user (yet), but I may well become an investor.

How does one reconcile that with being a law abiding citizen?

 

And just to see if you are awake and did read this to the end, I have included a quotation which should make most of my African readers grin.

This is a gentleman’s affectionate description of his donkey:

“most fokkin fency-schmency blerrie fokkin perd on the whole of the Cape-Flats, eating epples from fokkin Woolwurths.”

donkey grin

Random Views

 

“Democracy is popular because of the illusion of choice and participation it provides, but when you live in a society in which most people’s knowledge of the world extends as far as sports, sitcoms, reality shows, and celebrity gossip, democracy becomes a very dangerous idea.

democracy

Until people are properly educated and informed, instead of indoctrinated to be ignorant mindless consumers, democracy is nothing more than a clever tool used by the ruling class to subjugate the rest of of us.”

– Gavin Nascimento on Collective Evolution

desperate pol

 

Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favour of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.

Marshall McLuhan

Now this is an attractive thought!

A representative who is a server (pun intended) that:

  • will be fully informed on all relevant information, legislation and current affairs
  • cannot deviate from principle, without electorate approval
  • can consider rationally every submission made by electors, evidence in committee and Parliamentary utterances and vote in accordance with his electors’ wishes
  • can attend multiple meetings in hologram simultaneously
  • is not subject to suspicions about national loyalties
  • is not distracted by things politicians should not be distracted by
  • is not corruptible
  • does not need expenses

We need to find better ways to rule ourselves – people are just too human and unreliable!

well thought out pol

You’re the nigger, baby

(Watch the video)

James Baldwin puts the finger on racial epithets. So sad that the lesson hasn’t been accepted in the US yet, let alone the rest of the world.

all same

In the meantime, we hope that somehow or other, control over the big, nasty toys is removed from the nasty little boys.

us korea