About Me

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Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
I am a white African. Contradiction in terms? I think not. Sometimes my blog will be serious; sometimes sad; sometimes irreverent; sometimes witty; always my truth simply written.


I wrote these stories a few years ago.  Hope you enjoy them.


The gods were pissed off. Sipho Ndlovu, also known as Hotshoes, knew this instinctively whilst the blood surged through his veins and pounded in his brain as he somersaulted, helplessly, along the length of the train. It wasn't so much his life that flashed before his eyes in those moments as the last few months of living on the edge. Dicing with death daily, he had spent months learning the deadly ukudlala istaff.

It had started when Khumalo introduced him to the life-threatening activity. They had met six months earlier on a sunny winter's day when they were both bunking school. Khumalo, who was in Grade 12, was AWOL and Sipho, who was in Grade 11, had slipped away from his Soweto school during the mid-morning break. He hadn't studied for his biology test and had decided to sit on the pedestrian bridge at the station and watch the passing trains until it was time to go home to the small three-roomed house in White City, Soweto. Then he would nonchalantly pretend he had been at school all morning and his mother, who believed all his lies, would happily ask him about his fictitious day.

It was fate that Khumalo happened to be on the bridge at the same time that morning. Khumalo was plucking up the courage to engage in a spot of train surfing before going home. Despite all his bravado Khumalo always needed at least an hour to gain enough confidence to participate in the death-defying ukudlala istaff.

"Sawubona," Sipho greeted Khumalo, having been taught by his mother that it is always polite to acknowledge an older person first, even if that person appears to be one of your peers.
"Yebo, sawubona."
"What are you doing here on the bridge?"
"I'm watching the trains. I want to do some surfing in a bit."
"Surfing? But there's no sea here." Sipho was offended when Khumalo burst out laughing.
"You're a stupid one," Khumalo chuckled. "I'm talking about train surfing. Surely you know what train surfing is?"
"No." Sipho sheepishly kicked at the cracked concrete walkway. He felt ignorant beside this older boy.
Khumalo patted a spot beside him on the cold concrete. "Come, let's sit here against the railing and I'll explain to you what it's all about."

What it was all about was high-risk thrills: dodging pylons, high-voltage cables, and bridges whilst one stood on the roof of a train coach. Jumping off a moving train and then leaping back on again. Hanging beneath a speeding train, with the rails and spinning steel wheels mere centimetres away. Trusting that the gods would be merciful and kind whilst one deliberately taunted them to be cruel. Believing that one was a god oneself, and therefore totally invincible.

Before Sipho started surfing he was a fearful individual, but somehow train surfing imbued him with boldness that he had lacked his entire life. After the first time, when he literally wet his pants, he was mockingly known as igwala, or coward. But it wasn't long before he became known as Hotshoes because of his prowess on the roofs of the trains. He could weave and dance on those trains better than Michael Jackson did on the ground. He was poetry in motion. Everybody said so, particularly the girls. The girls really liked Hotshoes, oh yes-sir. Portia Ndlovu had even hinted that she would surrender her virginity to him if he could surf non-stop from Jo'burg to Soweto under a train. Though her virginity was suspect, he had been in training for that marathon surfing session for the past month. If he were to slip, even a fraction, while clinging to the undercarriage of the train, it would be Avalon Cemetery for him. Sometimes, when feeling morbid, or particularly heroic, he even allowed himself to picture the scene with professional mourners weeping and wailing and rending their clothes as hundreds, possibly thousands, of people attended the funeral to help devour the slaughtered beast.  Not because they knew him or particularly loved him, but because there would be food and drink for anyone attending, for that is the African way.

Sipho was exhilarated for the first time in his eighteen years of life: truly alive, enjoying every moment of his reckless self-endangerment. The admiration, awe and even disgust of those who knew of his pastime made him feel six feet tall instead of only five-foot-six. Sipho was a man amongst boys. He was a god. He was invincible until that moment when, in an unexpected summer downpour, his foot slipped on the sodden coach roof and he lost his balance momentarily. Arms spiralling wildly, he flipped over backwards. Once. Twice. Then, like a rag doll, he was tossed over and over and over again, his body carried forcefully along with the wind whistling across the top of the No. 9323.

The gods were pissed off as they tossed him over the side of the train. Sipho, the faux god, had not cheated death this time.

In honour of Hotshoes, the best train surfer in Jo'burg and surrounds, his fellow surfers performed death-defying stunts on top of the buses carrying mourners to the cemetery in Soweto. They were gods. They were invincible.

(All rights reserved.)

Meaning of Foreign words
sawubona                         I see you / hello

Yebo, sawubona                   Yes, I see  you too
ukudlala istaff                   train surfing


Rainbow Ride

Always the exuberant salesman, Elias Msibi pranced around the front of his taxi, his broad smile flashing dazzling Colgate stars at the white woman sitting on the bench at the bus stop.

'"Allo, Ma. Why you not use the taxi? The municipal workers they are on strike, and the bus she is never going to come. Look," with a flourish he opened the sliding door on the side of the battered Hi Ace and gestured expansively into the already overcrowded interior, "plenty of room for you and all your amaCheckers."

The woman was hesitant, but the smiling passengers were already moving up to make a small space available for her on one of the seats. Still she wavered, but she had been waiting an eternity for a bus that seemed determined never to arrive and the midday sun was hot. The deal clincher was the fact that Elias had already deposited half her packages on the floor of the taxi. With a resigned smile and a quiet thank you she allowed herself and the rest of her parcels to be handed, unceremoniously, up onto the nearest seat of the taxi. She managed to squeeze her middle-aged bulk onto the already full bench. As the door slammed shut she collapsed against it, praying like hell it wouldn't burst open and splatter her and all her groceries over the road.

Elias ran around the front of the taxi and leaped into the driver's seat.  With barely a glance in his side mirror he pulled the vehicle into the traffic, happily oblivious to the squeal of rubber on tar accompanied by the hooting of numerous irate drivers he left in his wake. He glanced back over his shoulder.

"Fare," he shouted.

The white woman scratched in her handbag and produced a small denomination note that she fluttered helplessly in the air. She had no idea what to do with it.  Someone took it from her and passed it to someone in the next row of seats who then passed it to someone in the front seat. Thus the cash made its way to Elias who, with only an elbow on the steering wheel, simultaneously negotiated the traffic and counted out her change before returning the coins via the same route the note had taken. All the while the taxi more or less maintained its course down the middle lane of traffic.

Today was one of Elias' special days, with one full load after another. Everything was going just great and when Elias was happy, his passengers were happy. He prided himself on running a respectable taxi where people could enjoy the trip. Where they could talk to one another, or catch up on much needed sleep, without being deafened by the boom-boom music which was becoming the hallmark of so many of the modern taxis operated by the younger generation of taxi driver. When he was alone in the taxi, which was very seldom, he would turn the volume on his radio up, but when he had passengers, conversation was the order of the day. Part of being a good taxi driver was having an understanding of people. Elias prided himself on being a student of human nature.

Take the white woman. She was obviously not South African. No middle-aged South African woman would get into a black taxi. Not if her life depended on it. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same and nothing much had changed since the ANC became the governing party. At a guess he would say she was probably from England or the States. On second thoughts, she was unlikely to be from England. In the black townships it was said the English were even more racist than South Africans. He had heard some shocking stories about the way that they treated their domestic workers. He once heard of one who had been fired because she kept forgetting to put the madam's newly washed panties at the bottom of the pile of underwear. Eish! Yes, he thought, as he zigzagged masterfully between three slow-moving vehicles travelling in two different lanes, she must be American or European. Probably European, judging by the way she was dressed. The Americans he had met were more fastidious with their dress than the Europeans and this woman wasn't a flashy dresser. He'd had middle-aged European women in his taxi before - real European women, not the Blankes version of the Apartheid era.  Those European women had been quite comfortable with new experiences.  In fact they relished them.

"Where are you from?" he heard a male voice query. Glancing over his shoulder, Elias realised that the question was addressed to his white passenger. When no response was immediately forthcoming the question was repeated, somewhat disrespectfully.  Ha, he thought, as he saw the white woman prepare to respond, let's see how good my guess is. The other passengers grew quiet as if they too were eager to hear the answer.

"Well, I live in Jo'burg now, but I was born in Kimberley. I grew up on a farm there." Elias almost forgot that he was in control of a motor vehicle. The voice had a strong South African accent. Kimberley! Kimberley, Northern Cape? The taxi swayed more than just a little as Elias overcompensated on a bend in the road.

"Here in South Africa?" another voice queried. Elias could sense that this passenger was as flabbergasted as he was. Lots of young white South Africans used the taxis, particularly in the period leading up to the 1994 elections, but they were either trying to save money or make some sort of a statement.

"Yes. Kimberley. There where the Big Hole is. You know, where all the diamonds come from." Once again Elias looked over his shoulder and the taxi veered a little more crazily than before. With a start he decided that it would be safer if he monitored proceedings via the rear-view mirror, a concept foreign to him.

"Have you always lived in South Africa?" this from a plump young woman holding a chubby baby on her lap.

"Yes. I've never been out of the country. My father had a business in the town and we lived on a farm until I was 16 years old. Then we moved to Jo'burg. Your baby is beautiful. Is it a boy?" When the mother nodded proudly she said, "He's so fresh!" and all the women in the taxi burst out laughing, and she laughed with them. In the rear-view mirror Elias could see that it was a big wide smile that made her eyes sparkle like the diamonds she spoke of in Kimberley. This woman is strange, Elias thought. What does she know about fresh babies?

“Are your parents South African?" another voice interjected.

Yebo, Elias thought, her parents are foreigners. That's what makes her different. The majority of White South Africans adopted thick derogatory accents when talking to blacks - talking down to them - as though they were incapable of understanding the normal accents of the whites of the country. This woman didn't do that; she spoke to them as though she was speaking to her peers.

"Oh, my parents are South African through and through. My ancestors fought in the Anglo Boer war. My maiden name is Terreblanche." There were a few muttered comments in the taxi. She laughed "I was raised an English speaking Terreblanche, but still a Terreblanche. Thank goodness a woman can change her surname when she gets married, hey? Imagine having to live with a surname like Terreblanche today. People would think I was an AWB supporter!" She laughed infectiously and, like his passengers, Elias couldn't help but laugh with her.  He liked this woman.

"Who do you support?" this time a slightly menacing male voice spoke from somewhere just behind Elias. He was startled by the question and jerked on the steering wheel, causing drivers of cars in the immediate vicinity of the taxi to blast their hooters angrily as the taxi veered briefly out of its lane. Please God, don't let me have a racist incident in my taxi. Please Nkosi. He risked a glance over his shoulder again. The woman was smiling gently.

"That is personal. I will tell you that I am not a right winger, but other than that I am not prepared to discuss my political beliefs." Her voice was quiet, yet firm.

"Aren't you afraid to ride in this taxi?" the man just wouldn't leave well enough alone.

"Afraid?" She was genuinely perplexed. "Do you mean am I afraid to be in this taxi because you're all black and I'm white?"

"Yes." The voice didn't sound any less menacing to Elias who, once again, glanced fearfully in the rear view mirror.

"Of course not. We're all just people aren't we? Anyway, the only thing I'm afraid of in this taxi is his terrible driving." She pointed an accusing finger at Elias and gales of raucous laughter rocked the taxi. Elias was offended. He had a valid driver's license, which was more than he could say for many of his fellow taxi drivers. Once the laughter subsided there were no more questions, just general bantering and chatting allowing Elias to concentrate on his driving whilst he nursed feelings injured by the woman's negative reference to his driving ability.

“Next corner, please.” The woman’s voice instructed him to stop.

At her stop outside a primary school, he hopped out and assisted her from the taxi with her many parcels. After sliding the door closed, he exchanged a few brief words with her before getting back into the taxi. As the taxi pulled away there was much waving of hands, sala kahle and hamba kahle. A definite sense of camaraderie prevailed. Elias was pleased.  He ran a good taxi service with happy and contented customers.

"What did you do that for?" The man with the menacing voice snapped.

"What did I do what for?"

"Why did you open the door for her and help her out with her parcels? You never do that for our women."

"Hau, Suka!" many indignant voices were raised against the man with the angry voice before Elias could respond.

"She was a nice someone." A strident female voice interjected.

"Yebo, we don't mind that he helped her. She had a lot of parcels." Another added. "Must she think we are all rude like you?"

"She is a racist. Like all whites. The blood of the settlers runs deep in her veins and runs in the veins of her children and her childrens' children. They smile at us while they steal our land and deprive our children of their heritage." The malevolent voice was shouted down from all corners of the taxi and finally subsided into disgruntled silence.

"Who is the racist now?" Elias wondered as he manoeuvred his bright red taxi in and out of the lanes of traffic.

The woman watched from the top of the steps that led down to the playground as tiny   Grade 0 students erupted joyfully out of the various classrooms into the midday sunshine. She smiled as a little body launched itself up the concrete incline at breakneck speed before propelling itself into her outstretched arms.

"Careful, sweetheart," she cautioned as she bent down to embrace the boy in a welcoming hug, "one of these days you're going to trip and knock your teeth out!"

"No I won't, mamma." His confident smile flashed dazzling stars before he puckered his little brown lips to plant a smacking kiss on the pink mouth of his adoptive mother.

(All Rights Reserved)

Meaning of Foreign words / slang

Blankes  - whites
Eish – Exclamation of  astonishment
Fresh – big and healthy
AWB – Afrikaaner Weerstands Beweging – a rightwing political movement
Nkosi – God
sala kahle – stay well
hamba kahle – go well
Hau – Hey
Suka – Go away
Yebo – Yes


  1. Hello Tannie

    What a super great are a real artsy fartsy!

    love it !

  2. Hi Martin. Thanks for visiting. What do you like about it? I think it is S-O boring compared to what other peeps do...