Sunday, February 9, 2014

Some People are more People than other People

The People’s Trail
Some years ago Kaartman wrote an article for the ‘Argus’ about the Muizenberg–St James Catwalk, one of the prettiest and most accessible-to-all walks in the whole of Cape Town. It wasn’t the article itself that got me into trouble, it was the title given by the Argus sub-editor, ‘The Trail for the People’ [see blog post at Maps for Afrika].
It turned out that the then-Head Honch of the Table Mountain National Park [hereinafter ‘HH’] had in his infinite wisdom opened the Orange Kloof–Disa Gorge path [it leads up the back table of Table Mountain] to a select group of people. Sorry, should be People, with a big P. He’d called his path the People’s Trail, and now here was that damned reactionary Kaartman misleading the public by referring to a very different path as the ‘Trail for the People’.
Don’t get me wrong. I have always supported, with every fibre of my being, the political change in my country that was sealed in 1994. I absolutely agree that the massive injustices of the past should be addressed – and certainly not fiddled with and exploited as the present governing party is doing. I agree with a level of affirmative action, and I think it was a great idea to open up a very specially-beautiful path so that groups of previously-disadvantaged South Africans could be introduced to Table Mountain, a natural Wonder of the World. The path was originally intended to be used exclusively for such people [the project has since largely collapsed], and HH, bossman of the Park, named it ‘The People’s Trail’.
Now I know that in his own favourite political party, the SA Communist Party, HH is considered to be a Stalinist. Perhaps that’s the reason why he adopted the false, misleading and cynically inappropriate language of his political heroes. We all know what the People’s Democratic Republic of this and the Democratic People’s Republic of that has meant for the real people, in modern history. Calling a trail designed for exclusive use by anyone ‘the People’s Trail’ is not just cynically and linguistically incorrect, it’s just plain stupid [and probably unconstitutional too!]
However, my three-map set of the Table Mountain National Park is officially approved by Sanparks, so doubtless HH thought he exercised some authority over me. I was duly summoned to his office at Westlake. 
I went like a lamb, thinking that the meeting was about an entirely different matter. I was completely unprepared for what followed. HH was tight-lipped as he offered me a seat. He then launched into a verbal attack the likes of which I have not had from anyone since I was a school boy [army sergeants used to shout at us National Servicemen, too, but that was merely funny]. Puce in the face and with spittle-flecked lips, HH demanded that I retract the article [recall an entire edition of the Argus?] and publish a public apology!
Well, I didn’t think I had to put up with this kind of bullying rant from an hysterical man who was half my age and who had plainly mislaid a lot of his marbles, so I turned my back and walked out. He was still shouting, in front of his whole staff, as I drove away.
I fully expected a childish form of revenge, like a retraction of approval for my maps, but events happily took a different turn. A few days later the Kaartmans were bidden to an event at which the Minister of Tourism was to be present.
Widely known as the Last Fat Nat, Marthinus van Schalkwyk was of course the previous bride-to-be who jilted the DA at the altar, anticipating Ramphele by some twelve years. He took his apartheid-party, the Nats, into the ANC instead, but most of his followers in fact preferred the DA; from that very day the ANC’s support has steadily waned, while the other guys have tended to increase theirs.
But I digress. Moments before the Minister wobbled onto the podium we were recognised by a lady who happened to be standing there next to – you guessed – the Head Honch of the Table Mountain National Park himself. Before his very eyes she, the wife of an old acquaintance of ours and the mother of a couple of Mrs Kaartman’s school pupils, swept off the stage, planted a large kiss on my cheek and proceeded to smother Mrs K with loving and super-friendly hugs n kisses.
HH recognized us too, of course, and he stood glued to the podium with glaring eyes, flinching at every hug. The lady, her affections duly disbursed, returned to the stage where to our surprise she stood firmly at HH’s side, her fingers unexpectedly entwined in his. As we later learned from two ex-colleagues of HH who were also in the crowd, it turned out that the lady and HH had both recently abandoned their respective husbands, wives and children and were now sharing the same sack, so to speak. In front of his very eyes HH had seen the reactionary bastard who had turned his back on him and walked out on his maniacal tirade, being kissed and cuddled by no less than his brand-new squeeze.
We never heard any more of the matter and, happily, HH has long since gone away to bully people somewhere else. Even more happily, the People’s Trail still leads from Muizenberg to St James, and it’s open to all people, both the big P’s and the little p’s.
The HH and his squeeze could also try it some time, if they’re still a number.
Or even if not. After all, it’s open to All the People, whatever lusts they might harbour. 

Kaartman, February 2014 [the ‘Month of Love’?]

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