Tony got a job at Legends Restaurant in Rosebank. He had advertised himself as, “Willing to do anything; cook, wash dishes, sing, dance on the tables,” The owner liked that. His wife was due to have a baby so he gave Tony the day manager shift. It was perfect. He could work all day and spend the evenings with his new fiancé.
It took him a while to work out the bus route. It sounded so easy but he kept missing the bus. In his desperation he climbed onto the “blacks only” bus not realising that he had. There were lots of smiles of appreciation from the passengers. They weren’t used to seeing white people on their bus.
South Africa wasn’t doing so well. We were at the peak of our dark apartheid years. The townships were erupting. People were being necklaced* and schools were being burnt down. Prisons were bursting at the seams, mostly with political prisoners. The ANC had been operating underground for years and their struggle was fierce. Nelson Mandela seemed to be our only hope.
Tony went in and out of Alexandra Township for 6 months sharing his story in the schools. One day he was in our little blue VW beetle, making his way through Alex. He almost drove right into a burning barricade and an angry mob. He pulled the handbrake, spun around and took off in the opposite direction. We were still living right on the border of the township and the gun shots got more frequent and one night, a brick came through our window.
Our black brothers and sisters way out numbered us white people, but we ruled. They lived in their townships and weren’t allowed to live in ours. We lived apart in every way; separate schools, churches, buses, movies, shops, parks and park benches. Everything about it was wrong and we felt the need to make things right.
Malcolm Du Plessis brought his musician friends with him to Waverly. A band called Friends First was formed to encourage reconciliation of the races. Nic Paton, Steve McEwan, Joe Arthur, Victor Masondo, Lloyd Martin,Vuvu and others sang and danced out the message all over South Africa. Some of their songs were banned from the radio but they kept going. They put a documentary together called, “Another friend in another city,” encouraging whites and blacks to make friends with each other. It was a demonstration of reconciliation and the love of God across the massive racial divide. It was sent to 10 Downing Street and Reagan’s cabinet. Their response was, “You have given us more hope for South Africa than any of your politicians.” Those were radical days.
Some of our young men refused to fight the racist war that was being fought on our borders. They became known as conscientious objectors. They were given menial tasks and their lives were made miserable for being unwilling to fight.
“Prophets” were predicting a blood bath, but we lived and demonstrated as best as we could the “new” South Africa.
Even in our darkest and most dangerous time, we held onto the hope that South Africans could be healed.