1976 – A Country Re-Imagined (Part 3)

It seemed so surreal, the words coming out of the dining room radio. My family and I were huddled around it in a tense silence, stunned. As if he could tell that we were struggling to comprehend what he said, the announcer on Radio Freedom, in an anguished voice, repeated, “They said it was an attempted escape from prison. They killed him! They killed Mandela!” My sister went into hysterics. I remember how her cries sounded like a distant echo as my body went numb. The whole township let out a collective groan. I could here grief stricken screams from streets away. Yet, the grief was not for Mandela, he was only a man, among many. The cries were not for the ANC, it was merely an organization. The pain was that of a pregnant woman who had struggled
to conceive who, suddenly, feels the warm flow of blood oozing from between her legs and sharp pain in her stomach, months before she’s due. We knew something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.

I stayed home in my back room for the whole day. I’m not sure why but I was not ready to face whatever it was that was happening to us. I could here sporadic shouts and things breaking in the far distance. After having not slept the night before, eventually I passed out.

I did know that that night there would be a lot of messages to deliver. I went to Bab’Gumede, collected a backpack filled with letters and I headed out. The streets were strange that night. There were more people than usual. Milling around for no apparent reason. People just looked lost. But what was even more eerie was the fact that there was not even a single police car anywhere. Not even a helicopter. “They’ve locked all the gate in all the sections. They’ve locked us inside”, I overheard someone say.

Once in a while walked passed small groups of comrades. There was something hostile about them. But I would just hurry past. I was in Section C, walking along the wall that separated it from B. I could here some scurrying noises from the other side of the wall. Strange noises but no voices.I scaled the wall and peeked over the top to see what was happening. I saw a large group of about 50 people standing behind a small truck, with its headlights were turned, a few meters from the wall. They all stood in silence and were carrying all kinds of weapons including unlit petrol bombs. The truck was facing the wall and I happened to be directly in front of its path. None of
them noticed me peek over the wall. I was still confused as to what was going on when, suddenly; the truck’s engine started and lights came on brightly, nearly blinding me. The truck’s engine revved loudly and I knew, instantly, that it was going to come straight for the wall, straight at me.
I leapt from the wall, landing awkwardly and nearly twisting my ankle in the process. I got up and started running towards the street opposite the wall, which was lined with shops. Behind me I had a loud crash as the truck from Section B plowed into the wall into Section C. The
crowd erupted into shouts and chants as they made their way into Section C through the gaping wall. I ran passed the shops, confused and scared, not even sure where to run. I looked back and saw that the crowd was also sprinting behind me. As I turned to face forward, a hand came out from one of the passages in-between the shops and yanked me inside.


* This story, although influenced actual event, is purely fictional. All due respect is given to those whose names are mentioned throughout, their families and friends.