SENSITIVE READERS COULD FIND THIS POEM HIGHLY DISTURBING.
The Askari lost his service pistol. A negligent act.
His screams and pleas fell on cruel ears as the commander and his men took turns kicking him
kicking kicking kicking
until he was dead. Or so they said.
Only one, concealed in the shadows, was spared
from participating in the brutal murder. He cowered, hiding in the dark,
hiding hiding hiding
as the team grilled meat over open coals.
Hoarse from cheering, they became noisier as the liquid gold
caressed their throats, easing their vocal chords. Drinking heavily
drinking drinking drinking
their tongues loosened as they reminisced.
Cool night air became saturated with the sounds
of nocturnal animals and drunken chatter and, above it all, the sickening smell
sickening sickening sickening
that wafted from the open fireplace beside the braai.
A smell haunting and repugnant, as the Askari,
burned burned burned
his skin and his eyes and his genitals
cooking cooking cooking
in an impromptu cremation.
Ashes to ashes.
He no longer hides in the shadows but he still has to
swallow swallow swallow
breathe breathe breathe
to stop the horror that rises in his throat threatening to erupt in thick, warm fountains at the mere mention of the word ‘braai’.
Tragically this poem is based on fact. Askari is the Arabic, Urdu,Turkish, Somali, Persian, and Swahili word meaning "soldier". Braai or braaivleis is the name for a South African barbeque. Vlakplaas was a farm used as a base by the ‘Death Squads’ of the apartheid regime in South Africa. The commander in this poem is a man referred to by many as ‘Prime Evil’. His name is Eugene de Kock. In an attempt to get indemnity, he confessed to his 'politically motivated crimes' at the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. He was granted indemnity for a few ‘politically motivated acts’. For the rest he was convicted to 212 years in prison.
The only fiction in this poem is the man hiding in the shadows whom I introduced in an attempt to illustrate that not all white South Africans supported what happened during the apartheid era. Also, by far the majority of us had no idea what was truly happening in our country.