Go and conscientise the whiteys

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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.

Follow me on Twitter @PaddyHarper1

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