“Ayshh” said Evans a tobacco coloured man in his mid fifties. His arms were bowed in the boxing stance though his boxing days days had long since gone. His chin tucked in, eyes side ways on, in answer: “Apartheid” He twitched as if flinching a punch. Evans lived longer under apartheid than in freedom.
He was talking of the “loaded gloves” of apartheid when he was South African Junior Lightweight Champion 1972 – 78. “look at me now” he says with a wily smile circling his glass of gin “none of these guys would believe that I’d ever smoke or drink.” His friends nod ruefully. “But they still call me Champion. They still respect me”. And they do. And it is not difficult to see why.
But “Apartheid” the utterance of the three syllables disintegrated all pretence and the stage was set. Khulu the retired media man took centre stage in the garden “Ey but we couldn’t talk like this” He shook his head raised his eyebrows “we couldn’t talk like this.
Evans interrupted “you’d see a man sat like I am now ey. And…” Evans paused and cocked his head “he’s dead.” Then Bisas “There was a hippo specially commissioned to pick up random dead bodies shot by them…. The Ingulubay.” Khulu chipped in to resume his central spot “Inglulbay means pigs”.
Evans picks up again his voice reaching higher pitches “we’d be jailed for talking like this in the garden. We had to have a pass from the police to visit each others house Ayssh”. I have heard similar stories from men of similar age in Northern Ireland and Eritrea. The stories and laughter are the shipping lanes transporting truth the continents of past to the Newfoundland of present – and we continue into late afternoon in the simple garden of a five room in Meadowlands of Zone 4 of Soweto on October 24th 2011