Go and con­sci­en­tise the whiteys

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Paddy Harper voices@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twitter @Pad­dyHarper1

Thurs­day. Fe­bru­ary 2. Dur­ban’s air­less. There’s a threat of rain in the sky, but it only thick­ens the belt of hu­mid­ity hang­ing like a hood over the city. I’m do­ing my best to keep still. The slight­est move­ment – even a deep breath – and there’s a river of sweat pour­ing off my bald dome.

It’s been an aw­ful week, one of those where sur­vival de­pends on an abil­ity to put one foot in front of the other and keep plod­ding on. I’m bat­tling to blot out a world gone mad. It’s hard. Don­ald Trump is a fas­cist and is prob­a­bly go­ing to kill us all, un­less he gets im­peached. Quickly.

I push Trump, Ger­rie Nel and Gaut­eng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu into the fur­thest re­cesses of my brain and try to fo­cus on the job at hand. It’s just as de­press­ing. An­other text­book scam, 1 000 peo­ple laid off at Rain­bow Chick­ens, two pre­dom­i­nantly white wa­ter sports clubs fight­ing over con­trol of the Dur­ban’s pris­tine Vetch’s Beach on the 26th an­niver­sary of the un­ban­ning of the lib­er­a­tion move­ments. Like I say, it’s been a tough week.

My mind starts to wan­der. I can’t help it. For some rea­son I start think­ing about Strini Mood­ley, some­thing I tend to do when things get bleak.

Strini was a founder of the black con­scious­ness move­ment, a bearded po­lit­i­cal gi­ant who, leg­end has it, lay on his bed read­ing a book dur­ing a visit to his cell in Robben Is­land prison by apartheid “jus­tice” min­is­ter Jimmy Kruger.

Strini was a play­wright, jour­nal­ist and thinker of note. Strini saw no con­tra­dic­tion be­tween his In­dian eth­nic­ity and his black­ness, or our friend­ship, de­spite my white­ness.

Strini was my bra, a ram­bling, gam­bling, drink­ing man with a mas­sive gen­eros­ity of spirit, who taught me that you could be a whitey with­out be­ing an ass.

Strini was a cat who would tear you apart in an ar­gu­ment (in a philo­soph­i­cal sense), gut you and leave you ly­ing on the floor and then take you home for a plate of roti and beans, and a good couple of whiskeys.

Strini and I used to share the front seat of a Valiant taxi from the Leopold Street rank to Mar­itzburg ev­ery Monday. One day in 1986 I plucked up the courage to ask Strini what was the best con­tri­bu­tion I could make. Strini reck­oned I should f*ck off and leave him alone and go con­sci­en­tise the whiteys.

Strini pulled no punches, whether you were his bra or not. The man was like that.

Strini pulled no punches, whether you were his bra or not

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