Sunday, November 15, 2009

Community Relations in the Kloof

It did not take long for us to realize that there are some very serious community issues in the Kloof. It was probably on the first or second night here when we were roused by the sounds of drunken squabbling and swearing on the street outside. Now, we are in danger of getting used to it. It happens on weekends mostly, when people are not working. Men and women stagger home, often with babies strapped to their backs, little toddlers screaming after them, howling for attention and being ignored.

I wanted to do something, but as usual its that 'what to do' and 'where do I start' thing that paralyses one, as well as being that dreaded 'overwhelmed by the hugeness of the problem'. So I did nothing and the weeks passed.

Word spread of my community development past, and I also asked questions about what was being done and by whom, the usual answers came back - not that much and those that were doing something felt that they were only touching the tip of the iceberg of the problems. Two of these people arrived at my door at 7.30 on a very rainy winters morning. I had sort of told God that if He wanted me to get involved in some way He would need to bring it to my door. So He did, and me still in my pyjamas!

As a result of that meeting I now sit on the Community Police Forum for the Langkloof. i went to the first meeting with my Social Worker friend who rather surprised me by proposing me as Vice - Chair! I was even more surprised when I was voted in! I guess I was suspicious - 'these people are desperate' I thought. My photo appeared in the local freebie newspaper, as usual the tallest, blurred in the back row.

It had been a while since I was on a committee and I had to remember procedure and get the handshakes right and quickly control my shocked glance when a black member called me 'madam' and I forgot it was procedure...

To date to record for lateness for a meeting is 2 and a half hours and I have pitched twice in one day for a meeting only to have it postponed and then postponed again and then postponed to the following day! I confess I apologised, anyway I was my daughters birthday and maybe it was postponed again..

I try not to be impatient or disillusioned and I am determined to believe that change will come about. Turns out we have a police station under serious investigation, an acting Station Commander who leaves me and others astounded by his antics and sheer incompetence.

But I remain inspired and, I must confess highly entertained. Its good to be the only whitey often, picking up stompies of Xhosa conversations, limping through my own bad Afrikaans - although all business is conducted in English. Its good to hear of the insurmountable problems and issues that the poor grapple with on a daily bases and resolutely decide that surely something can be done.

I am often taken by surprise, like when the local Councillor arrived, collapsed in a chair and a second later the meeting was disrupted as a loud cellphone ring (Brenda Fassie) emanated from the depths of her bosom. We all paused and stared as she groped into her cleavage and fished out a rather large and old cellphone. Sitting next to her I glimpsed her cover picture - was it her in huge white framed spectacles? The meeting resumed. And when the meeting ran hours over time and the police produced trays of clingfilm wrapped cold meat sandwiches, scotch eggs and friend spring rolls. I guzzled about ten little spring rolls, tired, frustrated as I was, but they tasted so of South Africa that I guess, after that, I feel I can swallow anything.

No comments:

Post a Comment