2. Caroldene ‘Dene’ Bailey: We’re not moving
Caroldene is my second contact person in Hangberg and, like Ranka, she is actively involved with the ANC. Born in Wellington in 1955, Caroldene moved to Hangberg at the age of nine with her family, because her father found work as a fisherman at the harbour.
She is a short, round woman with a jolly demeanor. At first glance, one might think her a fairly contented human being. On the day of our first meeting, however, a bizarre incident occurred – one which I feel serves to represent the hurt and paranoia that emerged in her life during apartheid, and with which she still lives today.
After fetching Caroldene from our meeting-point one rainy morning, I asked her whether she would like to have our interview over coffee. She agreed and suggested that we make our way over to the Engen petrol station where they serve take-away coffee. Finding this idea somewhat in conflict with my middle-class instincts, I offered to take her into the village to ‘a nice spot’ where we could chat in peace. Little did I know – the town centre turned out to be the least peaceful place for her that I could have suggested.
When we arrived in the Hout Bay village centre, it was pouring with rain. Not wanting Caroldene to get wet unnecessarily, I got out the car on my own to see whether there were any restaurants that were open, since it was still fairly early in the morning. I spotted, through the window of one of the nearby establishments, a roaring fire in what seemed to be a cozy café. Feeling that I had found an appropriate spot for us to chat, I jogged back to the car and asked Caroldene to follow me.
“Are Coloureds allowed in there?” she asked me, very matter-of-factly as she climbed out of my 1995 Fiat Uno. I giggled nervously, brushing her comment off as a bad joke. When we got to the front door, however, the sign (which I had not seen) read ‘closed’. Caroldene remarked, “They always do that, the Whites.”
“Do what?” I asked, now sure that she wasn’t joking.
“Pretend that a shop is open and then turn over the sign when they see you are Coloured.”
A wave of emotions washed over me: Shock, humility and a strange kind of embarrassment. Every time I feel that this country is making progress, is moving on from its past, every time that I feel I can be part of the change, something like this hits me and I am hurtled back to reality; forced to remember that, in the midst of our transformation, we are left with more brokenness, more bitterness than we actually care to admit.
Caroldene’s mistrust regarding the motives of Whites in general and those of the DA specifically, crops up again, not long into our interview. We settle down in my car, in the parking lot of a nearby petrol station, coffee in hand. I try desperately to put her at ease after the coffee shop incident, and launch into my prepared questions as quickly as I can.
“Can you tell me about the two pieces of land that the City has bought for new housing in Hangberg?”
“Yes. All of a sudden there is land available for houses. There wasn’t land available when they wanted to move people to Blikkiesdorp and Atlantis. All of a sudden there is land available! Do you know why? To get votes for the DA! I’m sorry to say… Don’t get me wrong… I love people, but I don’t have respect for Helen Zille, Patricia de Lille, Len Swimmer or Dan Plato. They never had one meeting in Hangberg that I know of. So I don’t respect them. Any of them.”
I feel both frustrated and suspicious, and am secretly torn between wanting to understand this woman who is clearly scarred by her past, and wishing I was spending my time with an apparently more reliable source – perhaps one that would remember that the DA has, in fact, held numerous meetings in the community. I try, however, to put my apprehensions aside and let her continue.
She pauses for a second and looks down. “Sorry to say that about them, hey.”
“No, that’s fine. You can say what you feel,” I respond, the journalist in me overriding my thoughts.
“No, because you are White and I am Coloured. And I have to say that to you.”
Her confession leaves me baffled. The only way I can make sense of her apology to me because I’m White is that she has perhaps associated all of the above people with ‘Whiteness’, or with apartheid – even de Lille and Plato, who are Coloured.
“But Patricia de Lille is Coloured and fought in the liberation struggle,” I challenge her.
“I know,” she says. “She had an iron fist in the Pan African Congress. And all of a sudden, she jumped to the Independent Democrats, and then to the Democratic Alliance.” The disappointment in her voice is almost tangible.
I struggle to hide my surprise. This is a woman who has, for 34 years, supported the ANC – an organisation that fought for democracy and national unity for decades. Yet, she despises people of her own colour just because they are affiliated with another political party. I am left confused and mistrusting of her version of the ANC, yet fascinated by her theories.
She tries to explain further, but suddenly interrupts herself and goes off on another tangent. “But it’s their fault! Can Helen Zille put back the eyes that the police shot out? She cannot! She gave them permission to do so, her and Dan Plato. I was even on the Internet. They shot me! Me and Barry [Mitchell]! ‘We deliver for all?’ They shoot us all!” She is so excited that she hasn’t touched her coffee, or the biscuit that she has held in her hand for the past twenty minutes. “But next time, I will be ready. And you can record that- next time I am ready for Helen Zille and her team.”
“In what way are you ready?” I probe.
“You know what? I want Helen Zille to come here, to Hangberg. But I know she is scared. To come in and say, ‘break down your houses or we will send in our army’ is wrong. They will kill her this time.”
Death threats. I instinctively double check that my Dictaphone is on, suddenly feeling very important.
“What do you mean, ‘our army’?”
“The metro police are her army. They are like gangsters – they have no feelings. No remorse. But we have an army, too.” Her voice drops to a whisper, “We have an army too, and I’m going to say this very softly, but we have Umkhonto [we Sizwe]- the people’s army. So, she must think twice before sending in her army again.”