I get off the public combi taxi on the one corner I always use on my way from work I am pulling behind my trolley of tool boxes, the makeup and brushes that I used that day with my children in Bruma.
One block over and I see people running, many, all of them ...
Running up the roads in the direction opposite direction from where I am walking,
I ask what’s happening, then, as I turn, the crowd shifts direction and swerves off in to another direction as something further up starts to happen.
All shops are closed; the sidewalk vegetable sellers are packing as fast as they can some leaving merchandize behind ... Boxes are rolling in to the street. People are barricading themselves behind closed gates and are moving up to the rooftops and flat windows where they can get a birds eye view of what is happening in the street.
A caravan of cars shots past, some of them armored vehicles with shotgun yielding cops riding gunshot through portholes in the roof ... blue lights flashing. The cars with 4 men in the back seat 3 seated in the front squashed up against the windows with dark glasses, all of them also with pump action guns sticking up black and menacing ...
A woman is standing there crying in absolute terror, just crying and talking to nobody in particular as people stream past ...
A group of Pakistani men pile in to one car as they pull the shutters down to their shop, I get the feeling that they saw all this before somewhere, the old Mercedes is low on its tires ... , Some guys, not willing to give up their drinking are massing up behind padlocked gates still yielding their pint beer bottles in hand, the atmosphere swinging back and forth between terror and entertainment.
For some people that is what it is.
I now see a group of young guys, young men, of 18, 19 years on a sidewalks edge.
As spark shoots invisible between them, from standing perfectly still all turn in one synchronized movement towards one man that is standing 2 meters away, and they start to beat him up rhythmically taking turns without a sound, not from them not from the man that is getting beaten upon. One attacker is smiling, the others faces are a blank ...
I do not feel to watch, there is too much cruelty and nothing I can do without getting turned upon as well. It is all happening at once. To much is happening, to much to take in and I push off with people running past in all directions.
A Police car shoots past revving as it goes, its siren scattering people out of its.
A woman is running with a baby on her back and a bag of groceries in her hand.
I turn off Rocky Street at the corner opposite the publics’ swimming pool.
to start up towards home, my trolley rolling on to its side every few steps as its wheels hit potholes in the road ... Everything is covered in dust, dust from the sands used in reconstructing the neighborhood, let’s make us look good, a major wave of plastic surgery is taking place ...
That rates and taxes are getting out of hand and nobody can afford them is another story ...
As soon as I turn the corner a new wave of panic sweeps palpably in to everybody around me as a new wave of people makes it around the corner I had just turned.
A woman with a toy size pug dog on the back seat of her car asks me what’s now as she is reversing out of her parking space.
She is away before I can answer, not that I have any answers ...
I ask a man what’s happening and he says shots are being fired, a man was just shot; he says that a Nigerian man just got shot. He is a South African, in his sixties, he says why are they shooting, we are all brothers, he asks me, he is almost begging, we are all brothers aren’t we he asks and I say yes, he speeds off shouting where is the police? And the police? Where is the police?
I pass our police station.
I see the usual police cars parked around half off and half on the sidewalk ... the usual number of cops are standing around outside, one is leaning over and talking to a colleague that’s sitting behind the wheel of his car laughing up at him. The usual number of people is standing around on the opposite sidewalk waiting to hear from people picked up and held inside. The woman that usually sits opposite the station selling sweets and cigarettes on-one from the overturned oil drum is gone.
My street is mostly lived in by foreigners ... People are not walking along the sidewalks on my street; they are standing around outside their houses ready to bolt. My cell rings and it is Nicolas telling me that he cannot come to our meeting, there is a marauding crowd of shouting stick and ax yielding teenagers burning cars outside his flat ...
I have no idea what the coming night will bring, if our street will be next. People are looking at each other differently. Nobody knows who the attacker will be or who will be the next victim.
As I am digging my pockets for keys outside my home a grandmother walks by with her groceries and I say stay safe. She says thank you.
This is a new day, the day after.
Children are playing on the street outside as I listen to the news of fighting all over Johannesburg, of another man that was set alight by a shouting crowd. Journalists are being targeted same as the police. The Police is fighting back with rubber bullets but there is not enough of them to fully make a difference. I am now hearing how cops loaded a badly charred man on an impromptu stretcher of sheets and carried him out of the township under cover of a low flying battleship.
Refugee centers are sprouting all over town. Some run formally and some just sort of spontaneously happening under bridges and trees. What is generally forgotten is the fact that every refugee is another you or me cough in another circumstance.
“Act’s of God” as horrific as they are can be understood:
This nonsense ... NEVER ... It is beyond comprehension ... I hear shouting in the distance ...
It is now 4/41 pm
Indivar Dell Bilenko
See also Swami Narayana aka Malibu,
working at a Air Base in Irak,
See also Swami Frank,
a Sannyas in New York after the 9/11 disaster
helping as a red cross driver