Tales of the Revolution

The year was 2002. There I was in Cape Town, alone in my room at Forest Hill in Mowbray, studying theories of the revolution and perfecting my own., when a voice on the radio caught my attention.

I recognised the voice so I turned it up. It was a friend of mine, Faizel. There was commotion in the background so I had to listen closely. He was saying: 'The police are shooting at us! There are women and children here!'

I jumped out of bed. I couldn’t hear the whole story, but I could hear gunshots in the background and I got the gist of it.

The people in Mitchell’s Plain were trying to stop the City from shutting down the water supply, and the police were attacking the people, who had put up burning barricades on the road.

A kind of nervous panic gripped me. Then a wave of shame washed over me. Oh shit. The revolution had begun. And it found me still in bed. At 10h00 in the morning.

What to do? My friends and the children are being shot at. Got to do something. After a few minutes of pacing around in my small room. I came up with an idea. It wasn't great. But it was an idea. Call on the students for help.

I ran up to the upper campus. I ran up the steps past the statue of Rhodes, past Jameson Hall and up to the Student Union. A few minutes later I had forced my way into the studio and onto the student radio.

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember the look on the face of the blonde girl on the other side of the mic. We seemed to be living in different realities, but I was determined that she should understand the reality beyond the relative safety of campus life.

I said something to the effect that, today that the police have chosen to open fire on women and children who are fighting for water rights, marks a turning point in the history of our struggle.

Here we draw the battle lines. We won't stand back. I reminded the students listening of Sharpeville. I promised that we will not forget this day, that we will fight back. And I stormed off.

By the next morning I had calmed down a bit. I went down to the community library in Mowbray to get the news. Sure enough, who do I find there?

Yes, Faizel and his possé of community fighters. I'm glad no one was killed, but they look bruised. One shows me the huge gap where his front teeth used to be, a policeman put his boot.

There's work to be done though, no time to feel sorry for ourselves.

There's a woman on the phone, there's trouble in the township. They need help to stand their ground at Sanddrift. Faizel rises from his newspaper while listening to the woman on the phone. His comrades get up too, as if instinctively understanding his intention. It's time to move.

I get up too. Hopeful, excited, fearful. Today I go to the front line to do my duty by the people. Done with these abstractions and theories. Today I go to join my friends in the fight.

Faizel gives me an amused, knowing smile as they turn to leave. I can see that though he is still young the hair around his temples is silver. He has a heavy responsibility weighing on him.

You can’t go with today J. It’s too dangerous,' he says calmly, like an older brother.

I sit down again. Even the toothless guy was smiling widely, as if he thought it the funniest thing ever that I was planning to go with.

The woman with the red hair just shook her lovely locks. She didn't say much, but looked a bit suspiciously at me with her beautiful eyes. I was wondering what would happen if we were left alone for an hour.

Perhaps she was wondering if I'm crazy. The look she gave me as they were leaving was clear though. It said, 'This is dangerous work. Leave it to the real revolutionaries.'

I felt both disappointed and relieved, like a man who has just missed his own wedding — or a severe beating in this case. I noticed my friend was armed only with a few books that he took with him.

'Next time comrade,' one said as they left.

'Next time,' I answered, without a clue to the size of the dragon that lay in waiting.

Written by

Writer, reporter, activist

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