Opinionista Gushwell Brooks 28 May 2013

Once upon a time in a town called Kleinfontein

Fairy tales are steeped in fantasy, a world designed and dictated by delusion. ‘Delusion’ is the operative word here, as I take you into the delusional world of a little town near Tshwane called Kleinfontein - a place where my Afrikaans mother tongue is not sufficient to guarantee me residence.

There was once a mostly democratic, mostly non-racial, little country at the bottom of the world called South Africa. Her people fought long and hard for all people, of all colours and languages, to live, love and associate with whomever and wherever they liked.

Some went to prison, some died, others crossed the borders and fought guerrilla wars, but when they made up, kissed and hugged, the vast majority lived in harmony, especially when one man lost 27 years of his life, but led them with reconciliation and love in his heart.

But as the years went by, and disease, violent crime and poverty became the new enemy, things changed. Some felt that others were less healthy than them, committed more of the crimes; others felt that those very different from them were far too rich and hadn’t paid for the sins of the past.

The inhabitants of the democratic country grew suspicious and wary of each other, returning to their old ways. They chose the things that stood out most: the tan of one’s skin and the language you spoke and the God you prayed to, as a determinant for why they didn’t like each other. Those from beyond their borders had it even worse, being hailed as fire-breathing dragons trying to pillage the country’s jobs and women.

Soon the suspicion amongst South Africa’s people grew to such an extent that they lived behind tall walls, with lawns guarded by big dogs, beams that would trigger alarms and electric fences that could fry a sparrow. Some grew even more suspicious, seeking out those that looked like them; spoke their language and prayed to the same gods and lived in little towns, together to the exclusion of everyone else. One such town was Kleinfontein.

So the rest of South Africa, those who thought that a mostly non-racial and mostly democratic country meant that such societies no longer should and could exist, started asking serious questions. But their questions were met with disdain by those of Kleinfontein. After all, they felt like those that chose to live behind closed, gated communities for safety and security concerns were no different from them. Only residents and the visitors of those residents and people that visited and worked for said residents could gain entry to these secure, gated communities.

They weren’t hurting anybody, they were merely a self-sustained community that chose to live amongst those they were most comfortable with; those like them. But then a squire of the ruling overlord stepped forward and descended deep into the subterranean vault, there where the ancient scrolls of the law of land had been left to lay and gather dust. Kgosientso Ramokgopa was this young squire’s name, and he fought cockroach and large hairy spider alike to retrieve the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, usually ignored and forgotten by the ruling overlords.

This time he applied his mind and rightfully so, and after much study and deliberation stepped forward, sword drawn, and said that he would storm Kleinfontein’s mighty wall and dismantle the segregated community brick by brick. For the supreme law said, very clearly, that although you could choose who to associate with, you could not arbitrarily exclude others on the basis of their race, gender, religion, sex or sexual orientation. You could not move to a town, or establish one and say that only purple, bisexual men, who all believe in the fairy below the lake, could live in that town. Even if no-one else wanted to live with these purple, bisexual, fairy below the lake believing men, they still could not simply exclude others.

The people of Kleinfontein huffed, puffed and snorted in anger. “Dis my reg!” they yelled.

The overarching problem with these South Africans, all of them, including those of Orania, Ventersdorp, Kleinfontein and wherever else, was that as much as they were trying to integrate and live in harmony with each other after 350 years of segregation and subjugation, they still looked very different to each other, spoke different languages and prayed to very many different gods.

They tried to build this thing called a “national identity” with groups of people referred to as Bafana, Amaboka, and even Amakroko-kroko, all the while trying to preserve their own individual languages, customs, culture and traditions. Of course there was nothing wrong with this: their motto was unity in diversity, but one thing that they could not decide on was what they were first – South Africans, Christians, gays, coloureds or Kaizer Chiefs supporters?

Nonetheless, our brave young squire held his mighty sword, the Constitution, aloft and charged the walls of Kleinfontein, straddling his silver steed, South African decency, and crushed the walls with one swift and mighty blow. But lo and behold, rather than turning the residents of Kleinfontein into remorseful, embracing, intgrated South Africans, they became bitter, certain that the people outside of Kleinfontein had it in for them.

So too did the remaining integrated people of South Africa turn on their squire, marking the inequalities that plagued this mostly free, mostly democratic, mostly non-racial republic of ours. The squire was soon vilified, called a bully who asserted the will of his master overlords, using the Constitution when it befitted them.

The trick he had missed all along was that it was too late to clamp down on these exclusionary communities; these exclusionary communities should not have been allowed to germinate in the first instance. The squire and his overlords could not rule a unified nation if race, culture, language and religion and the preservation thereof was used to constantly divide an already divided people.

So he won the battle, but lost the war, as more and more people grew ever more suspicious of those so unlike themselves. And as the years went on, more walls rose and as these walls grew tall, more Kleinfonteintjies mushroomed. Soon, no one lived happily ever after. DM



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