Stories and Traveltips

ID #5155

Sweetness and Stanley Moyo, Randpark Ridge, Randburg, Gauteng, South Africa.

After returning home from the USA in 1979, I purchased a smallholding (plot) in John Vorster Road, Randparkridge, Randburg. A pretty thatched cottage had been built on the western boundary which nestled below large beautiful trees. These included several large olienhout (indigenous olive) trees which, because they grow so slowly, must have been hundreds of years old. In addition, there was a large camphor tree, a pine tree and two very large and productive avocado trees.

Because of the altitude on the Highveld, frost can be severe on cloudless winter’s nights. However, because of the protection afforded by our little grove of trees, I was able to grow all sorts of beautiful but sensitive plants around the house. A borehole and storage dam was used to irrigate the area with overhead sprays, particularly during winter. The kikuyu grass lawns grew rapidly under such conditions so I purchased a small Yanmar tractor and mower which I used to mow the extensive lawns, enabling me to keep the place neat and tidy.

During the next few years we raised a menagerie of animals on the plot including sheep, cattle, Border collies, chickens, goldfish and Koi fish, geese, a pig and so on. Wildlife included the occasional ringhals (spitting cobra), hedgehog, mongoose as well as some special forest and plains birds such as paradise flycatcher, coucal, grey lourie, etc. The experience left an indelible impression on both myself and my children and we were happy there. Unfortunately however, as soon as they started going to school it proved to be impractical and I reluctantly sold the property to developers and moved to Bryanston.  Before we moved however, we hired a maid called Sweetness.

Sweetness is a Xhosa from Cradock who is married to Stanley, a Matabele from Bulawayo. She is a remarkable woman in many ways, without much formal education but with a strong personality, an indomitable spirit, and a lively sense of humour. While kind and compassionate, she took no nonsense from anyone. On one occasion, while we were away on holiday (vacation), she and her sister arrested a man trying to break into my garage. Apparently they overpowered and sat on top of him until the police arrived. She was the star witness in his trial in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, where it emerged that he is a hardened criminal who had committed several serious crimes in the past. As a result of Sweetness’ testimony, he was found guilty and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Moral of the story: “Don’t mess with Sweetie Pie”

While big and strong, Stanley is, on the other hand, as quiet and gentle as a mouse. On the day of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, I received a message to phone home urgently. On doing so I was told that Stanley had been arrested by the police and was being held in the Honeydew Police Station. So instead of driving home I went directly to the Police Station to find out what was going on.

Arriving at the Police Station I asked to see Stanley, only to find him sitting on the floor behind the counter in the Charge Office looking much the worse for wear. He told me that he had been sitting on a kerbstone outside the Randpark Ridge Pick n Pay when suddenly a police vehicle filled with young white policemen arrived and, without provocation, started to beat up Stanley and his friends with batons. As evidence, he pointed to several lumps on his head. Then they dragged him to the vehicle and, when he resisted, beat him up again. Apparently during the course of the struggle Stanley bit one of the policemen, enraging them further. Eventually they drove him to the Police Station and threw the book at him, charging him with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, drinking in public, causing a public nuisance, etc.

After Stanley explained what had happened, the black officer behind the desk in the Charge Office gave me his version of events. However, having known Stanley for several years, his interpretation sounded most unlikely. Firstly Stanley never drank in public or anywhere else for that matter. Secondly he was never a public nuisance. Lastly he was meek and mild rather than violent. My scepticism was reinforced when I overheard the black officer talking to a colleague in Zulu, from which I gleaned that justice was not being served in this instance.

My suspicions aroused, I asked to see the officer commanding the station. They ushered me into an office and introduced me to a Majoor Buys who was clearly ill at ease. I said I had heard that Stanley had been arrested and charged. He repeated what the black officer had told me. I replied that I had known Stanley for several years and simply did not believe his version of events. To which he simply shrugged his shoulders and said there was nothing he could do.

I immediately contacted my lawyers and, on Stanley’s behalf, counter-sued the Minister of Police – in this instance Adriaan Vlok, the man who later apologised for the dreadful things that he did during Apartheid by washing the feet of several high-ranking ANC members -- for wrongful arrest.

As usual in such matters, nothing happened for several months, during which time Stanley was released on bail awaiting trial.  It seems that Buys and his goons, apprehensive and unable to withstand the uncertainty of the impending “New South Africa”, decided to take matters into their own hands. They drove around Randpark Ridge beating up and arresting any blacks they could lay their hands on, one of who happened to be “Stan the Man”.

After several months I was informed by my lawyers that the Minister of Police had agreed to drop all charges and was willing to pay all expenses if I would, in turn, drop our counter-suit. It seemed silly to continue because Adriaan Vlok was no longer the Minister of Police – he had since been replaced by President Mandela. So I reluctantly agreed to drop all our counter-suit.

In other words, we had won a pyrrhic victory. But there is a moral to this story. If one is unwilling to stand up in defence of one’s freedom, don’t be surprised when someone in power tramples all over them. And if you don’t believe me, ask President Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for the same reason. The change in government brought about welcome relief from the crushing power of the State (and its minions like Majoor Buys) during the Apartheid years. Incidentally I was later informed that he resigned from the police to become a security guard somewhere. I am not sure whether or not this is true but, if it is, good riddance. In addition, as one might expect, Sweetness and Stanley were most appreciative of my intervention in the matter and, slowly but surely, our two families grew closer and closer together. It is interesting how hardship brings out the best in people.

Alan McIver

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Last update: 2014-05-14 01:47
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.4

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