At the bottom of my street every Monday, on the nursery school drive, a phalanx of ragged beggars rummage through green wheelie bins outside a Tudor-style housing complex. I slow down at the stop sign and press the requisite button on the car’s console. Bent at the hips, African men rummage for calories and chucked-out crap to add to their swag before the garbage truck arrives. The guy with the dark-glasses is a pro. You see him everywhere, neat and bustling. Most of the others come from the children’s park they’ve taken over. It’s hand to mouth for them and whoonga in between. Like a conjurer, a young man finesses an improbably long pole from the bin. Rationally, it’s hard to begrudge them their messy survival. One or two, though, fail to avert their eyes. Like the one producing the wooden pole. He hears the locks knocking shut. This offal is not enough. I’m pretty …
Van der Walt
originally published in Le Monde Diplomatique, October 2013 I stood on the side of a street with a new name. Van der Walt has become Lillian Ngoyi; a veldkornet erased for a comrade. Sleek busses drone by. A taxi double-parks without couth. Dark-green shade-cloth ripples up and down in puffs of air over scaffolding twenty stories high. Below, pedestrians politely side-step each other. The Soil’s song Inkomo, clogs the intersection. Winter hurries everyone up just a little bit. Inner city Pretoria has a pleasant human press about it at home time. Office-workers, soldiers and shoppers scurry past fruit and vegetable stalls, past take-aways, weave and dread salons, curtain and linen shops, mini-meds and stores selling ‘fashion’ in the form of Italian shoes or light-wood furniture.