Monday, 8 July 2013

The Beginning (13)

I broke the week before. I suppose everyone has a breaking point. Once again it was oxygen, I could not breathe properly, my asthma was giving me hell, I had tried to hide it, but the high altitude, cold highveld air combined with the millions of Jacaranda trees in bloom in Pretoria meant it was a living hell for my lungs.

One morning I woke up and I could not breath, every day was a hell by now and I just knew I was not going to make it. I did not hesitate, I asked Wayne to lock me in my Kas which was a small metal stand up cupboard about 4 ft high and 2 feet wide, I just managed to fit in all squashed into a little ball. Wayno just looked at me and did it, no questions asked. He locked the door with a padlock from the outside and left me there. I have always had a fear of small dark spaces, but my fear of not breathing was bigger. At roll call Wayno told the corporal I had gone to the sick bay and that was it.

I sat motionless in the pitch dark in the smallest of spaces for about 6 hours before they came back and Wayno let me out.
It had been a hell session, the platoon was dirty, sweaty and everyone was smashed, I had escaped, no one said a word.

I needed that day, it saved me. I recovered from the asthma attacks and regained my strength, when my chance came, there was no standing down I took it with both hands.

It was strictly forbidden to take any photographs of any of our training, these were all smuggled out under pain of severe punishment, there are not many about, my kas is on the left in the photo, it was a pretty dam small metal box.

The Beginning (Wayno`s words)

I can't remember how it was that I got to share a bunk bed with Clyde during basic training, but man was I glad I did.
A suntanned, fit, focused and very genuine guy became my friend.

I had, and still have a healthy respect for anyone born and raised on the Bluff. I had seen enough fights and agro to know that they were not to be taken lightly, even saying that though, Clyde surprised me.

It began by an offer of a free weekend pass to anyone prepared to volunteer to box in an inter company boxing tournament. It was a huge affair with a real boxing ring, all the top brass invited, and all the troops supporting. It was something the entire camp could be excited about and look forward to in the bleak boring days of basic training. 
Experience as a boxer wasn't needed or asked for, just box your best and win or lose, a weekend pass was yours.
Clyde and I volunteered.. I withdrew within minutes on hearing I would be boxing a Transvaal champion. Clyde continued unwavering. In the days leading up to the tournament I realised I had completely misjudged him. We had stood guard together in the early morning hours taking turns to sleep, stolen food from the canteen together, marched, run, trained, sweated, slept, polished, cleaned, laughed and shared so much real concrete stuff I honestly thought I knew him.

But when he climbed through those ropes into the ring I realised he was much much more than I judged him to be. He boxed like a champion, absorbed punishment like a sponge and stood toe to toe with a determined Dutchman. He fought with everything he had, it was only then that I realised that win or lose he was going home with his surfing prize. 

May I add that in our company we had springbok and national surfers, but their hunger to surf obviously wasn't as strong as being prepared to get bloodied in the ring. Clyde was undeterred, unwavering and fought for his waves.
I saw an entire army camp change in the way they dealt with Clyde. All the troops and the ranks were sure to greet him now and I could see the respect in their eyes, a respect not easily given. In our platoon he was a hero, we were all very proud of him, and still to this day that boxing match defines the way I see Clyde - a passionate, calculating, totally focused, tough, resilient and an absolute lover of the ocean and surfing that transcends pain and reason.

Wayne Symington. (PS Corp 1984)

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Beginning (Wayno)

I first saw Wayno in the mad scramble to find a bunk mate on that first day of basic training back in 84, he was from Durban, blonde and we just seemd destined to be together. We never ever had a drama , we were there for each other 100% we cruised through those tough days, he was on the top bunk I had the bottom. We stuck togther through thick and thin, we were untouchable.

Fate works in strange ways, we are friends for life, in 6 months we forged a bond that can never be broken, when we finished army we all went our own ways, I did not see Wayno much I was in Europe, but on the biggest emotional decision I ever made in 1993, ten years after we first met. After not seeing Wayno for years, he was the first person I saw, sitting on the wall at Snake Park beach.

Of all the people in the world to see that day at that exact moment it was Wayno. The perfect person to have a chat to at such an important time , at that exact moment, it was him, who was just sitting there on the wall as if he was divinely sent to be there to help me through those few dramatic moments.

I had had just taken the single most important call of my life and Wayno was the first person to know.

He has kindly written a few words and will be the first person to have a some space on The Tokolosh Diaries.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Beginning (12)


If for some crazy reason you ever made the drastic mistake of calling your R1 rifle your gun, this would be your immediate punishment. While holding your rifle out in front of you with one arm you would have to grab your dick with the other hand and shout this lovely little tune out just so you never ever were so silly as to confuse your penis and your rifle ever ,ever, ever again.

Gotta love the army, those little buggrs weighed 4,3kg and you could hold it for a while but it was always just a question of time before your arm tired and then you would be punished for being weak. 

Fuckin lunatics, gotta love being a soldier, did I mention the blue stone they put in our coffee, Fucking lunatics.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Beginning (11)

No one died in our training intake, but the rumours were always floating around about the guy who committed suicide on the intake before ours in the showers, the guy who shot himself while standing guard one night.

It was the accidents that would be the culprit of most training deaths. Johnny put a bullet into the tree next to me one night while we were standing guard, it was freezing cold and we were shivering and bored stiff, the 3rd hour was always the worst, the end and a warm bed seemed still so far away.

There was a real threat of being attacked on guard at night the ANC was very active by 1984, we were instructed on how to handle our weapons handed live ammunition and sent out to defend our base camp in the middle of the minus 4 degrees winter Pretoria nights.

Only Johnny knows why he cocked his Rifle pointed at me and pulled the trigger. I know he was messing around but the bullet thudded into the tree right next to my head.

We were in big big big trouble, I got off as I was the one who got shot at, Johnny was not so lucky he got a solid chunk of time in DB (detention barracks).

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Beginning (10)

I have been thinking about this a lot the last few days as my son has just gone off to summer camp.

Imagine sending your kids away to summer camp, knowing that the monitors might just kill a couple of them and it would be ok, no problem, no questions asked. It is all for a good cause.

You know they are going to be abused both mentally and physically, for months until they are no longer the children you knew and they most probably never ever will be the same ever again.


Well folks that’s what actually happened and no one even doubted it one little bit.  The night before I left, we all went out for our normal family Friday night meal out, I remember it like yesterday we went to the Chinese Restaurant in the 320 West Street building had a nice night out and the next day I jumped on the train and off I went, no big deal.

I guess propaganda can do that, the systematic programing of the whole countries thought process. I know I did not even blink an eyelid, I knew that I was not going to be one of the statistics, there were way weaker kids than me, they would go first, or so I thought.