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Poignant humility of the Afrikaner

   23 March 2018   l   Johnny Masilela    l   Views: 72   l   32 days ago  


Yes, I am from the Class of ’76, which hurled stones at police patrols in protest against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at black schools.

I was also detained for a while at Kompol Building, after the police found me working at the coalface of unrest as a reporter for the now defunct Rand Daily Mail.

But that does not — and cannot — mean I harbour some form of bitterness against Afrikanerdom, let alone the “skop, skiet and donder” manner through which members of the Security Branch treated me.

As a casualty of the self-same political uprisings of 1976, I walked the pavements of downtown Pretoria, looking for work — any kind of work.

On the third floor at the Simon van der Stel building I chanced upon a bearded Afrikaner gentleman going by the name of Bernardi Wessels.

The man was more interested in a plastic carrier I had with me, containing politically-charged titles from the Heinemann African Writers’ series.

We got talking and there and then Bernardi paused to think for a while, and declared he wanted to train me as a newspaper reporter, triggering the beginning of my career at the Pretoria bureau of the Mail newspaper, as a cub reporter.

I have fond memories of, among other reporters, the mischievous Joubert Malherbe, who at the height of racial segregation, hoodwinked many restauranteurs to allow me in on the pretext I was of Swazi royalty.

At the Pretoria News my career blossomed under the guidance of senior editors such as Cor Uys.

I remember working on the story of a downtown barber, who in my view, had genuinely refused to accept black customers because he had no expertise of the shorter kinky hair.

Cor was having none of it, arguing that hair was hair and the barber was just being downright racist. And that is how I lost the argument with the urbane Afrikaner, Cor Uys.

I joined the Pretoria News after being head-hunted by the editor, the late Deon du Plessis, who at one time sent me to the United State cities of Colombia in Missouri, Chicago in Illinois, and also Boston in Massachusetts.

Deon had elevated me to join a selection of the seven finest journalists nationwide for the study tour of the US.

In recent years I was head-hunted by two Afrikaner ladies, namely Keina Swart and Bea Emslie, to join Die Pos/The Post family as editor of The BEAT title.

Words fail me to describe to you our collective emotions, on the occasion of a recent gala dinner in the Parktown suburb of Johannesburg.

  • Johnny Masilela is the reigning Caxton Excellence Awards Best Columnist of the Year




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