Way back in 1976, when I was in Standard 6, (yes in those days they were called standards so get over it and move on), I had my first ever brush with the law.
But let me take you back a few months prior. You see, as a child I suffered from severe asthma and at one stage was in a coma for nearly 3 weeks, with machines basically breathing for me, well thats what my mother told me, because |I don't remember a damn thing. My entire life was spent either at doctors rooms, hospitals or with my mom sitting at my side listening to my breathing. Goodness, talk about being sidetracked.
After coming out of hospital at the tender age of 13, I went back to school to catch up on lost work. It was September 11, 1976 (why is that date so familiar), we arrived at school only to find it flooded. Some fool had blocked off the doors and left all the taps running resulting in flooding of the downstairs building. While the senior guys were busy cleaning, we continued studying and playing cricket. Being quite naive we did not notice that police vans were arriving outside the school. There was some really stupid South African rule which stated that "where 3 or more people were gathered, it constituted towards overthrowing the government". Now we had a very small school (St. Thomas High in Port Elizabeth) with only about 350 students at the time, creating a very easy target for our local policemen. They brought out their loudhailers and promptly started shouting at us over the fence. The older students started shouting back and then all hell broke loose. My good friend (Eddie Davids) and I ran for cover when the cops came running into the school, brandishing R1 rifles and batons. All I could thnik of at the time was they were going to take my school books, remembering that it was exam time. We hid in the one classroom but wanted to get our school books so crept out of the classroom. We gently peeped through the door to see what was going on. Most of the students were on rounded up by the police and ushered to the centre of the tarmac where police were surrounding them with guns. We realised then that there was no way that we were going to get to our books so decided to gt back to our hiding spot. Just as I turned around there was a policeman with a rifle pointed at my left eye. My shattered nerves, I think I wet my pants.
We were duly ushered onto the same tarmac as the rest of the students and marched towards the bright yellow vans, which we called taxi's. I think that they shoved 50 of us in each taxi and took us to the Algoa Park police station. It seemed like hours that we were in that hot van outside the police station. The Priest and nuns, I was at a Catholic school forgive me, were trying desperately to get us released but to no avail. We were ushered into a huge quad where we were fed oranges and dry brown bread. It was a long day with the greatest challenge being to get to the toilet. The other criminal prisoners found this whole exercise quite interesting and it must have been like watching fish in a fishtank, there was no television at the time okay. Firstly the criminals got annoyed because we were in the space during the time that they were allowed out for their one hour break. Then they could'nt get to the toilets because we had to go. Because it was a males only prison the prisoners had to go in and clean the toilets for the girls which pissed them off somewhat.
My asthma started playing up and later that evening my dad got a call to come and fetch me and had to pay an admission of guilt fine of R30. My dad was very proud of me for standing up for my rights, but gosh, I had no idea at that time what the hell had happened. It was only when going back to school the next week that I sat listening to the senior guys talking about the situation that I started thinking politics.Suddenly Nelson Mandela, Allan Boesak, Govan Mbeki had become my heroes. I listened with keen interest as to what was was being said, formulating my own thoughts and getting more and more politicised. My life was beginning to change and every document that I could lay my hands on that was banned was in my house. I needed to know what was happening and what had to be done. My high school career was then filled with boycotts and conversations about overthrowing the National Party government.
Being a shy and introverted young person helped keep me in the background and out of harms way when the cops came looking for instigators. But when I got home I was angry. I wanted to make a difference in the fight and was determined to do so. I never read books, only political documents and was soon filled with information that most 13 year olds could only dream of.
After reading all of this stuff I just typed I realised that I have not yet made my point, but will get to the next instalment soon. Dont blink, I will be back later in the week to continue the saga.