The Taxi Bulletin

Robert Mugabe in 1991. Taken by myself.

Robert Mugabe in 1991. Taken by myself. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Taxi Bulletin

I have been off news in recent days,  I watch but there’s a certain part of my brain  that sort of refuses to pay attention.  But luckily my current mode of transport brings me news in the most unexpected ways.  This is news as heard from a taxi driver, two old women in the first front row. A die hard  Orlando Pirates Soccer Club fan in the front  (riding shot gun)who is later replaced by another die hard Alex man.  Destination:  Johannesburg Bree Taxi Rank From: Kliptown Soweto.  Atmosphere: late afternoon  Metro FM is  on the dial and  Eddie Zondie is playing his Sunday Ballads from  Whitney Houston to Mariah Carey softly in the background . Sad Love songs in Short. Taxi conversations like this one are rare, so I put together a little News Bulletin for you. Enjoy 🙂

Good Afternoon, In the headlines…

Orlando Pirate fans stoic despite defeat

The country’s youth is doing amazing things!

Warning;  If you’re afraid of rats, don’t live in Alex

And finally President Jacob Zuma is a stubborn man

Good Afternoon  – your top TAXI story this hour……

An unknown taxi driver says Orlando Pirate fans are brave, because they continue to wear their team  jerseys and colours  despite their loss against Kaizer chiefs at the weekend.  A man sitting shot gun at the front of the taxi almost jumped out of the car following this statement screaming, “if you are a true fan, you will continue to wear your colours, whether you lose or win, a true fan dies with his team.” He said causing the two old women sitting behind him to roar with laughter, they consoled the young man in the front seat saying pirates did put up a good fight in one of the most watched games this season.  The taxi driver told him to make a bet next time if he is so loyal to his team, put his money where his mouth is. The pirate man replied that he has mouths to feed, and that look now he would have lost money to buy food for his children had he place a bet for  Pirates.  He asked to be dropped off at a nearby a tree. The taxi driver obliged.

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A working man from Alex has announced that a boy from his neighbourhood, his next door neighbor in fact has killed his mother and was later arrested for his crime. He told the sad news to two old women sitting at the first front row of the taxi, after he asked one of the women why she was already eating lunch en route to work in Johannesburg, “what will you eat later” he asked. “I will drink tea” the woman replied and they all  agreed that they should spoil themselves  with KFC (chicken) once in a while just as  a treat, as children nowa days often take the money to buy a new  popular drug called  Nyaope.   The women were shocked at the  mans’ horrific story. The taxi driver commented that the Children of today are doing   AMAZING things. Wonders, he keeps saying. The man from Alex encouraged by the growing interest in his story  added more details saying  “ apparently he suffocated his mother, who is a known alcoholic and a person living with  3k-three kicks or S3 a new synonym for HIV/AIDS.  After he discovered that she was no longer breathing he tried to resuscitate her with water, but she was already gone, he continued.  Police found him crying next to his mother’s body. Hmmm hmmm the women shook their heads in Unison.

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Don’t even dare to live in Alexandra Township north  of Johannesburg if you’re scared of rats warned an unknown driver of a taxi from Kliptown to Johannesburg this Sunday afternoon. The taxi driver claims that rats in Alexandra Township North of Johannesburg are like people they just look at you.  The taxi driver’s comments caused the two elder women sitting behind him to laugh heartily like old friends at the taxi driver’ description of the rat infested township. A man from Alex sitting next to the taxi driver disagreed, saying Alex, arguably the oldest township in Johannesburg, is truly the place to be. He said despite the rats – once you live there you won’t want to leave.   Swerving his car to the left the taxi driver told his passenger that in Alex – rats are not scared of people they just look at you and move on with their business bringing the elder women to tears with more laughter, but the man from Alex kept saying, Alex is the original township, the women must come there, at least they can have a piece of land. The taxi driver replied that it’s true, we all come from Alex, but if you’re scared of rats don’t live in Alex.

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And finally……Two elderly female passengers travelling from Kliptown to Johannesburg say President Jacob Zuma is a stubborn man. “He has umuti (medicine/ behavior)of  Mugabe so what are we going to do”?  They recently asked on their way to work. They were referring to a possibility that South African President Jacob Zuma may refuse to step down as president of the country when the time comes and like Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe continue to contest elections after almost four decades in power.  Zimbabweans will go to the polls this week. However  the man from Alex refuted their claims, saying that though he agreed that the President is a stubborn man, he refused to believe that  South Africa would allow him to stay in power beyond a third term. If he is not doing the right thing, he added, he will be voted out. The elderly women were not convinced.

That’s all the news we have from the Taxi.  Thank you for reading.

Which TREE? A love-a-tree Question

Deutsch: Apfelbaum

Deutsch: Apfelbaum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FAMILY TREES:  THE APPLE and  The  BAOBAB

I recently accepted an invitation for coffee with a photographer who singled me out from a crowd of mourners last year during  South Africa’s iconic photographer Alf Khumalo’s memorial service.  It was a moving service – and he was moved by my intensity and unkept (afro) appearance. We got a little carried away talking about photography and if one can be taught how to take a “good” photograph, is it  training, hard work or a more serendipitous event?

Soon it was morning and we walked to a local fish and chip shop in Klipspruit –Soweto to buy Amagawinya ( fat cakes) for breakfast.   While waiting for our order, I noticed a beautiful, weathered tree and took a picture of it with my mobile phone.  The image grew and much later reminded me of my own family tree.  One on  which I sat watching people come and go from my home in Phefeni  Orlando West,  in my early years of life. It was an apple tree.  My favourite. I would watch as the afternoon maroon and gray train coaches hummed past, spilling hurried workers like ants back to their homes from work.  My grandmother would be one of those, an  unexpected visitor perhaps  would be walking down the Phefeni station steps towards my home I would imagine. And then I would wait in anticipation for the black painted corrugated iron gate to loudly announce a new comer.  Relatives would see me climbing down quickly from the tree to embrace them and pose my many questions while peering through their bags for a treat.  Strangers would be observed curiously from the tree.  Never approached.

After many years   I returned to the home of my ancestors, and found that my favourit tree had been severed. A  short –sore –stump now the only reminder of my best childhood memories.

It is said that  it is common practice for  some  African families to bury the umbilical cords of their newborn children under or near  their family trees. This symbolic planting plants their roots firmly in the ground with the hope that the children will never forget where they come from once all grown up.   A part of them would always be buried there, calling them back to their home.  Of course I asked why the tree had been cut and the answers were not satisfactory for me – though very legitimate for those relatives in whose care the tree had remained.

The pain was not far from losing a beloved family member. I started thinking with my photographer friend through what, if anything, that means for me.   Perhaps a part of me had died with that tree? Perhaps now my soul is looking for a new place on which to plant it’s roots ? Perhaps there is no such thing as a  home in a physical sense – home is where the heart is.   My heart is in my chest, so naturally I carry home with me where ever I go right?

It is interesting to note that Apple Trees are said to be the first fruit-trees in known history to be cultivated – for mass production. They are said to be an import from Europe and Asia. Colonisers brought the Apple tree to Africa – it is believed – along with the  it’s Euro-Christian religious mythologies.   The great fall.  Adam and Eve the first humans to inhabit God’s paradise , according to the Bible, ate  the forbidden fruit – an Apple from an Apple tree – and were made naked and punished to a life of hard labour and suffering as a result.

So while I am pained by the trees’ loss I now think ( after mourning it for so long) that perhaps it was for the best.  Because there is another tree – The Majestic Baobab tree –  known as  the TREE of LIFE among Africans. Not only is the Baobab the national tree of Senegal my home away from home. Some of the oldest Baobab trees can be found right here in South Africa, and the oldest in my paternal  ancestry home of Limpopo province.  It is said to be the tree of life because is it larger than life, and has a life span of over a thousand years, its healing properties are immense – its fruit is said to have the some of the highest concentration of  vitamin C more than that found in citrus fruits.  It can be used for shelter, it’s leaves are can be eaten and are as good as spinach, it is hallow and has been used as shelter etc from time immemorial.  Scientists are catching on the hype of the Baobab, and are calling for more research to be done, from cosmetic products, to medicine  Imagine being born of such a tree?

The tree of life indeed, not a bad trade-off at all I imagine.