Chapter One – A Blast from the Past
Goal! Siphiwe Tshabalala, the South African international winger had fired a left-footed drive across the body of Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez to put the host nation into the lead in their 2010 FIFA Group A match at Soccer City stadium on the fringe of the Soweto township, outside of Johannesburg. For those at the stadium, the moment would be carved into their memory banks forever.
However, unlike the 84 490 fans who were able to witness the moment first-hand, many took the other option and enjoyed the game on the television screens in fan parks, pubs and lounges across South Africa.
Black and white people galvanised as one. Not even the 79th minute equalising goal from Mexico’s Rafael Marquez could dampen the spirit as the match ended 1-all.
Bafana Bafana, as the South African men’s senior football team are known, could play with the best.
At the far end of the bar counter inside the Vosloo Grill in Jorissen Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria, nineteen-year-old bar lady Lindiwe Buthelezi shared in the moment. She wasn’t a huge football fan but one day she would be able to tell her kids all about it.
Wearing a white dress with shoulder straps and a friendly smile, Lindiwe was certainly not difficult on the eye. Her tall, slim model-like figure and brown eyes was enough to catch the attention of most young men. However, there was much more to Lindiwe than just her looks.
The Mamelodi-based girl was a first year law student at the University of Pretoria. In the dark days of apartheid, very few black students, indeed girls, got an opportunity to study at what had been a tertiary Afrikaner stronghold.
The times, however, were changing fast. apartheid had effectively ended in 1990 when the African National Congress’s iconic leader, Nelson Mandela, was released from prison after 27 years by South African President F.W. de Klerk.
His release brought in a new dawn for black South Africans. Previously, there looked like there was no future for anyone who did not have the correct credentials – a white skin.
The Vosloo Grill was packed to capacity as a mix of black and white people celebrated Bafana’s result. Blacks and whites were mingling together discussing football.
Black and White?
No man! In the past, blacks and whites certainly did not mix and even if they did, the blacks discussed their favourite sport being football, while rugby was on the tongues of the white Afrikaner.
Of course, Lindiwe and her friends were the new generation. They had heard stories of how brutal the apartheid regime’s South African Police were against black people, but were they really as bad as the black elders said it was?
No, it was worse. Any black person who stood up for their rights during the heart era of apartheid in the turbulent 1960s, 1970s or 1980s, was jailed or simply disappeared off of the face of the earth.
“Another drink, chomi (friend)!” requested the young Lerato Chuene to Lindiwe.
“The Friday night crowd at Vosloo Grill is always great but today is something else.”
Lerato gazed at a group of young black men standing about two metres to her right. Like Lindiwe she was single and available, but the difference between the two girls was that Lindiwe was more focused on her law studies when she was not serving drinks at the Vosloo Grill.
Lindiwe had set a goal to end the year with an 80 percent aggregate while Lerato was quite happy to dip in just over the 55 percent mark. Lindiwe was eyeing a prosperous future in law while Lerato had discovered that there was more to life that just studying.
The sound of vuvuzela trumpet blasts could be heard in the street outside as excited fans got into the World Cup spirit.
Lindiwe tapped her neatly-painted fingernails on the bar counter to try and attract the attention of Thabo, the head bartender, who was rushed off his feet with the influx of the customers requiring drinks following the football match.
“Do you think it was that bad?” asked Lindiwe out of the blue.
Lerato looked at her.
“You mean the service here at the bar?” joked Lerato.
“No, I meant South Africa in the apartheid days,” explained Lindiwe.
“I mean, we keep hearing how brutal the system was against black people but it is so hard for us to imagine. Had this been the 1980s, you and I would certainly not have been allowed into this Sunnyside bar, or the University of Pretoria law class.”
Lerato shrugged her shoulders.
“Where do these apartheid thoughts now come from?” questioned Lerato.
Lindiwe sighed and stepped on the bar foot rail with her right hand in the air to try and catch the attention of Thabo.
As her foot slipped from the rail, her body dropped ten centimetres to ground level and she caught sight of three black young men looking at Lerato and her.
Lerato also noticed the men looking at them following which the males immediately changed their focus in a bid to pretend that they had not been staring.
“Aren’t you the popular one, chomi,” remarked Lerato, who herself wasn’t too difficult on the eye. A good fifty centimetres shorter than Lindiwe, Lerato had slightly rounder hips and larger breasts than her friend.
“What do you mean?” asked Lindiwe, in pretending that she never knew what her friend was talking about.
“7-o-clock,” responded Lerato, as she tried to let her friend know of the direction where her admirers were seated.
Lindiwe glanced at the three men again and then turned her face to Lerato.
“I don’t cradle-snatch,” said Lindiwe as both girls burst out in wild fits of laughter.
“I don’t know, chomi,” said Lerato, with tears of laughter in her eyes and with her right hand placed over her aching ribs.
“I always thought of you as the perfect sugar mommy type.”
“Very funny, sisi (sister),” said Lindiwe, as she wiped some laughter tears from her face.
Finally, Lindiwe managed to attract the attention of Thabo, the barman, and soon, she passed an ice cold cider across to her friend.
“Seriously, sisi, I mean, if we were in the mid-1980s now, we would probably be living in a shack in Mamelodi, possibly both pregnant with the neighbour’s children,” said Lindiwe.
“Remember, Malome (uncle) Josiah who lived next door to you in Mamelodi East when we were growing up?” teased Lerato.
“Malome Josiah? Oh, you mean the one with no teeth?”
Lerato giggled before taking in a sip of cider.
“He always pleaded poverty but I heard he was worth quite a bit when he died,” said Lerato, as she wiped her cloth across the counter in front of Lindiwe in typical bar lady style.
“You could have been a rich ragadi (aunt) now.”
“Oh come on, sister, but now that you mention it, we really don’t know how blessed we really are sitting here in 2010,” summarised Lindiwe.
“If the Nationalist Party had kept Nelson Mandela behind bars for another ten to twenty years, we would hardly be studying law at the University of Pretoria.”
She had been friends with Lindiwe for over fifteen years and knew how the young Buthelezi liked to go down memory lane.
One of the young black men who had been eyeing Lindiwe made his way over to the bar to get another beer and accidently spilt what was left in his beer glass on to the blouse of Lerato.
“Ekskies, sisi (sorry, sister),” said the well-built man.
“Hamba, man (go away, man),” retorted Lerato as she wiped her blouse with a tissue.
Lerato wasn’t born with the patience that Lindiwe had which probably explained why she battled to find a long-term boyfriend.
Lindiwe was different. Unlike Lerato, she was not looking for a long-term relationship. She saw her life as stepping stones and right now building a future was more important than men, marriage and kids.
Lerato placed the tissue down on the bar counter and instantly pulled her hand away. It was almost as if the bar counter had heated up a few degrees Celsius. She touched the counter again and speedily withdrew her hand. Yes, something was definitely up.
Above all the noise in the bar, she could make out a slight humming sound coming from the bar counter. Was there a fridge underneath the counter? However, fridges aren’t hot!
Before she was able to refine her thought a popping sound was heard followed by a flash of light so bright that it flung most of the customers to the floor.
Lindiwe Buthelezi felt the world spinning in front of her eyes. She could make out that she was wearing that white dress with shoulder straps, but was forced to then close her eyes as her head thumped with pain. Moments later, she managed to open her eyes again and the pain was gone. It didn’t take long for her to work out that she was inside the Vosloo Grill, but things were different. The Wi-Fi router which had stood next to the cash register was gone. Also missing was the DSTV satellite decoder which had been behind the bar.
Where was Lerato? Was Lindiwe going mad? The young law student lost consciousness and the next thing that she could remember was awakening in a hospital bed.
“Bafana Bafana,” she muttered.
“What is a Bafana Bafana?” asked the black nurse who was checking her blood pressure.
Lindiwe tried to sit up but the strain on her body was too great.
“Where is Lerato?” she asked to the nurse.
“Who is Lerato?” questioned the nurse.
“Is there World Cup football on television?” asked Lindiwe.
The nurse must have thought that the young patient was losing her mind.
“South Africa can’t play in any World Cup sport because our country is suspended due to apartheid,” explained the nurse.
“Where am I?” asked the law student.
“You are at Pretoria East General Hospital, sisi,” said the nurse.
“It is a good thing that the paramedics got you here when they did.”
Again, Lindiwe tried to sit upright.
“Lerato!” she screamed.
“Who is Lerato?” asked the nurse.
Lindiwe fell back on to her bed. She needed to rest and regain her strength, doctors’ orders!
“DSTV,” said Lindiwe, as she wiped her hands over her eyes.
“What?” said Nurse Gugu.
“MNET,” mumbled Lindiwe.
“Oh, yes,” exclaimed the nurse.
“Let me switch it on for you.”
“Try the SuperSport channels,” requested the patient.
“What, Ms Buthelezi, MNET only has one channel. They just launched last year in fact.” (normal people will only say last year, and not the year in number)
Lindiwe’s eye sockets stretched to the full. What was going on here? Did the nurse just say that MNET launched last year, or were they both or just she going mad?
Lindiwe tried to gather her thoughts.
“Are you a Nurse or a Sister in this hospital?” she asked to Gugu Molepo.
The nurse laughed.
“Us blacks will never be Sisters,” she said.
“The apartheid government will make sure that we get the bare minimum in terms of rights and opportunities. Maybe, twenty years from now, if Mandela gets out, things will be different.”
Lindiwe shook her head viciously.
So Mandela was still being held captive by the Nationalist Party government, thought Lindiwe.
At least the nurse’s comment indicated that Nelson Mandela was still alive so that was a good thing.
Again, Lindiwe wiped her hands over her eyes. What was going on? Apparently she was in 1987, but people knew her name?
How did she get from 2010 to 1987?
“You seem quite interested in the news, so should I change the MNET channel to the SABC news for you?” asked Gugu Molepo.
Lindiwe nodded gracefully.
Without waiting on Lindiwe’s response, Gugu changed the channel on the television set.
The face of South African President P.W. Botha immediately appeared and his words hit home.
“I am not prepared to lead white South Africans and other minority groups on a road to abdication and suicide,” said the country’s No 1, while standing at a podium in Pretoria.
The Groot Krokodil (the Big Crocodile), as Botha was known, was in top form, waving his right index finger to get his point across.
“As soon as Nelson Mandela renounces violence and undertakes not to start violence in South Africa, government will release him,” Botha went on.
A cold sweat broke out down the face of Lindiwe.
What was going on here? Who was this Botha character and why was Mandela in jail?
Moments later, another white politician in a suit appeared. His surname was also Botha, and who went by the nickname of ‘Pik’. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was addressing media after the convention in Pretoria where his boss has delivered the key note address.
The Minister was being questioned on the South West Africa issue.
South Africa still currently governed their northern border neighbours, but there was international pressure for South West Africa to become an independent country.
The South African government were weary of the communist Cuban support for Angola, just north of South West Africa, and would not give independence to South West Africa until the Cuban troops had returned home.
“No”, thought Lindiwe, this was all wrong. Her mind raced as she battled to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Then she folded back the top sheet on the bed and tried to get from the bed to her feet.
“Don’t do that,” shouted Gugu Molepo, as she rushed over to help the patient.
“You are still on a drip and need to preserve your strength.”
“Ausi, please help,” said Lindiwe as she collapsed in the arms of the nurse and passed out.
Clearly, the spirit of Lindiwe Buthelezi was battling to come to terms with how South Africa used to be.
“Everything will be fine, Sis Lindiwe, everything will be fine,” said the nurse.
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