Dispatches: Reading the Reporter
In KwaThema on Gauteng's East Rand, news and memories merge at Sis Poppy's speakeasy.
'Who has seen this week's report? Zakes, do you have it?"
That would be Sis Poppy asking one of her select clientele at her classy speakeasy in KwaThema, near Springs, if they had bought that Friday's edition of the local weekly, the African Reporter, which nobody ever calls by its proper name.
It has not much news, this rag, yet it is bought and read faithfully by Sis Poppy's people. It did not take me long to understand why.
You see, at under 40, I am the youngest regular at this place. The youngest, before me, was a fellow who recently turned 52. Many are either ambling towards 60 or are over that age. A few old timers are in their 70s. I mention this detail because it explains this keenness for the African Reporter.
All these people were victims of the apartheid policy of forced removals in the 1960s. They were moved from Payneville and the old Brakpan location and settled respectively in what are today the KwaThema and Tsakane townships. But they formed close-knit communities.
A typical conversation between these people may start like this: "Do you know that Magudulela boy, Isaac, the medical doctor whose family used to sell firewood in the old township?" And the interlocutor will ask: "Are you talking about the Magudulelas of 10th Avenue?" "Yes, you know them exactly. They were proud, but anyway, Isaac is gone; he was buried last weekend. They say it was announced in the report last week, but I forgot to buy it."
And then somebody will add that in that same report it was announced that old man so-and-so is also gone. "Did they say when is he being buried?" will be the inevitable question, followed by the equally inevitable talk about how the people they know are going.
It is a ritual. Pretty soon, that powerful emotion, nostalgia, will pervade Sis Poppy's cosy home, until somebody breaks the collective reverie with a rhetorical question: "But why don't we go back and reclaim our lost plots?" A gloomy silence will briefly descend on the house after that piercing question. Then somebody will say: "Ah, let's drink, people, even though I will soon leave you guys because I am attending Ma Joyce's funeral tomorrow."
"Hau, Ma Joyce?"
"Yes, Ma Joyce who was married to that fellow who used to own many taxis ... what's his name?"
"No, I see him, that tall gentleman who was a snazzy dresser?"
"Yes, it's his widow we are burying tomorrow. It was in the report last week. Did you not see it?"