(First published on Facebook Aug 31 2009)
Sent off to cover Julius Malema at the Equality Court. Continuation of hate speech complaint about the woman who laid a rape charge against President Jacob Zuma. Not looking forward to it.
Anyway, there’s very little traffic on the way to court – oh, there’s no taxis in what 702 diplomatically called a decision not to work, made by taxi drivers grumpy about a new bus system.
I make my way to my secret parking behind the court. Drive down a bus lane by accident and don’t get fined – things are going well. My secret parking is packed – the friendly grandpa waves me to the next derelict backyard with its hastily painted “R10 parking” sign – also full. I follow a car guard, reversing against traffic in a side road and when it becomes clear he wants me to also reverse down a main road in the direction of Joburg Central Police Station I kick the car into first and drive forward.
An old man carrying a see through bag of some unspeakable looking stuff waves me into his spot. It’s a junkyard with car bodies and a dog straining at its leash, with some of the unspeakable contents of the bag strewn in front of the dog for breakfast.
With junkyard dog on his hind legs barking at me and a man hanging washing on a balcony nearby I see a sign on the plastercast wall in front of me: “My car is your car”.
Am I giving my car to the old man’s chop shop or does he take his R10 a shot trade very seriously?
No time to think about this – got to get to the only plug in the court room.
The Star has beaten me to it, but bless her heart, she’s a mac girl, and uses a two pin plug so has brought an adaptor. 702 and I share the power.
The Equality court is in a forgotten room of this beautiful court building. Once abandoned oversized furniture has been squashed in so there is only one way in and one way out of the vast bench with the table pressed against the opposite wall. Letting someone else in is like disembarking from a crowded taxi when you were in the back seat – everyone out, then everyone back in.
Julius Malema’s lawyer starts speaking. Fuck, I can’t hear a word he is saying. Everyone out so that I can get closer. Everyone back in again. I sit on a chair next to Julius. Someone arrives who I assume is his advocate and I am waved away by Julius. I sit on the floor behind Julius surpressing granny-like feelings of entitlement to The Chair. He’s not the advocate but the treasurer general and he’s quite obsessed with his cellphone.
The hearing drones on, Julius has a power nap – the blue powerade he brought not giving him a boost in the pre-summer heat. I don’t know how I’m going to file because my laptop is on the other side of the room and seven people have to move for me to get to it.
Eventually, I get my phone passed to me and I go out to file in my other secret place – the parole office where you share sunshine and cigarettes with garrulous chainsmoking supportive mums aunts and sisters waiting to see their family members from behind the bars of the parole office. They have an extra plug behind the water machine is how I found this place. They smoke up a storm and ask for the time while you self consciously dictate your piece while everyone is listening while discussing family drama.
By now the ANC aunties have arrived. The men are low key and slide through the door, but the aunties have this desire To Be Heard as they support Julius.
Outside the court two protests are underway. The Youth League with posters “hands off to our president”, the Sonke Gender Justice People advocating against silence about rape – each trying to outsing each other – each with a bakkie parked on the pavement. Pity the noses aren’t facing – it could have lent a handbags at dawn quality to the moment. This is good – opposing points of view being heard – if you stand somewhere in the middle. Everyone has forgotten to bring a vuvuzela and attempt to remedy this by rolling up their posters that say things like “Hands off Malema” and then blowing through them.
The cops shuttle between the newly launched bus stations around the corner and the court protests.
One woman, with Jacob Zuma’s picture pasted onto her earings, and an exquisite Xhosa traditional outfit gets a bit carried away – shouting about money and Malema being persecuted and why do women set themselves up for rape by walking alone at night? A policeman moves me gently back on to the pavement – so that I don’t get run over by one of the new buses. Write the news. Don’t be the news.
I walk over the road to a nice looking office establishment that has patches of grass. I want to file an adjournment piece – it looks quiet and I can sit.
The security guard pounces and says No Loitering – ha ha ha – how funny. I start picking up my stuff and it’s not fast enough for him – he points to some cctv and wants to know if I intend giving him any trouble.
I phone my story through while resting up against the spikes built into what would have been a perfect seat opposite the court. The leaguers, armed with bright pink ice lollies end up sitting next to me and I get filing shyness again. The gender people are having nice looking chicken lunches dispensed from the back of their bakkie, theirs and the league’s posters resting on the pavement. Reminds me of my history teacher’s lessons on the Anglo-Boer war – everyone stopped for tea every day. He may have made that up.
My notebook has run dry and my other one is in my other bag. I set off to find one from the multitude of supermarkets. They appear to only sell hair products and airtime so eventually, I’m all the way down the road in the opposite direction, with a laptop flapping in the breeze in downtown Joburg, at a place called Charlie Parkers that has every hair braid and hair thingy imaginable. And school exercise books. Six South African ront and I get one of those big school hard cover books. I didn’t have enough on me for a bulk pack of brightly coloured hair squeegees at four ront because I’m saving up for a bottle of water bought at the next shop with its impressive display of extremely cheap and glittery watches.
The concertina-like Rea Vaya buses shudder past with police escorts and me and a couple of reporters and photographers now waiting for the court to reopen admire them, and the passengers have the look of royalty about them, albeit squashed royalty because the buses are packed. There was even a white person in one. Julius would have been pleased. There is also an armed policeman. See earlier comment about cross taxi owners.
Then things go a bit pear shaped. During an adjournment, the auntie with the JZ earings starts going on a bit, the people around her agree in that way you hear in movies with gospel church scenes – uh huh yeah – and, fired up, she leans on one of the vast tables and wants to know if the network wants money and it all gets very noisy and hot while another auntie with Bennie Boekwurm glasses starts demanding an answer for where swine flu came from. Huh?
The magistrate returns and just sits. She doesn’t say anything, just looks out at the court. We think we’re all in trouble for the bout of rabble rousing. The silence and staring continues. The Star and I are whispering what’s going on? The Star suggests that she is cross. Eventually, the magistrate breaks her silence – technical problem with record capturing, can’t carry on without a record. Completely oblivious. Same magistrate arrived late for the hearing apparently because no one told her the court, heaving with people, was ready for her.
The network’s lawyer complains about the outburst, which involved much pointed shouting at the journalists and lawyers. 702 reporter had bravely thrust her mike in front of the cross auntie earlier and is trying to edit her clip and file her piece hoping she won’t be set upon.
The magistrate orders the court cleared of public excluding reporters. The Heathcliff-like dude in the brown leather jacket next to me doesn’t move. I have wondered about him – he is expressionless throughout, very occasionally flicking his eyes over my copy, (me trying to not cover the text with an arm because that would seem rude), and apologising for bumping the computer.
Case postponed and I almost concus a reporter trying to pack up to rush outside for Julius’s statement.
I see Heathcliff later on the back of the Corsa bakkie that Julius and nine others mount for a post-court speech. So he is a bodyguard. You can hear the car’s suspension gasping and whistling as everyone gets on to the back. I’m tapped on the arm by a kind man I met in the pouring rain at the ANC’s Polokwane conference. With water dripping off our noses he explained how revolutionary songs get updated for the politics of the day and I remember how he and a group of his friends sang and toyi-toyied, water splashing everywhere to demonstrate the new songs. He gives me a business card – he’s a larney in a branch now. We hug and ask after each other’s health. He’s also part of the inner circle here and his young face is beaming.
The speech itself is almost drowned out by women passing cellphones over for a picture of him, and then delighting over the picture but I hear something about colonising through NGO funding and mickey mouses. Sonke is singing up a storm a few metres away and the league’s secretary general is re-readapting the “touch a woman” slogan – you touch Julius you touch 640,000 Youth League members etc. Last week it was you touch Caster (Semenya) etc. The top brass leave in cars that were parked on the pavement for them. Earlier, on the other side of the court people were being pulled over for driving in the spanking new bus lane.
I go back to my junkyard. I’m going to miss my yoga class, be late collecting Jasmine etc.
About three men are sitting in a circle with another dog that’s not on a leash. The junk yard dog gives a half hearted bark as I go to my car. It’s not on bricks. Thank you sweet Jesus. The grandpa bids me goodbye at the gate, wishing me well.
Kevin fetches Jas (thank you) and I get home finally. She has stood on a thorn and there’s a plaster disaster because I had them all in my bag (the one under the vast court bench). But she’s ok. Her and Zenzi are covered in poster paint and they start playing ball in the lounge – happy shrieking baby girls – and I don’t shout about them breaking stuff. Just another day in Jozi.