BEASTLINESS

‘…hardly any Jews!’, The Matabele Campaign 1896, Colonel R.S.S. Baden-Powell, Methuen, London, 1897.

 

The British in Africa seem always

to have verged on the comical. There was

BP chasing a Matabele girl

through bush. He was ahorse, she on foot.

In tranquillity, he sketched the scene – the girl

bare-footed and -breasted, himself at a

gallop – for publication. She escaped –

but Rhodesia was made safe for Cecil,

the continent for Aids and exploitation.

Jingoist,

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THE VALLEY OF THE AMARICI, KWAZULU-NATAL, APRIL 2006

Elijah is our guide, Michael our mentor –

Mandla and Mbuzeni – old enough

to have needed ‘white’ names.

 

“They are not tourists”, Mbuzeni explains,

as we meet healers, dancers, wedding guests.

He is politely disbelieved.

The expensive camera appears to betray us.

‘‘They are big people,” begins Mandla –

an old woman interrupts, speaking to me:

“Hey, Mister Man, what do you want?”

I explain, try to reassure. “I have worked

in the gold mines,

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WHO LAUGHS LAST

At Tatton Park, Cheshire – where herds of red and fallow deer

graze studiously beneath the take-off path

of Manchester Airport and are seemingly deaf

to climbing Airbuses and 737s – the so called Tenants’ Hall

was previously the last Lord Egerton’s private museum,

its four walls adorned with mounted heads of,

for example, wildebeest, giraffe, black rhinos, lions –

all killed by Maurice himself.

 

In the ‘20s, with the Tatton rents keeping the jackals,

as it were, from the door,

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KLIPTOWN, SOWETO – APRIL 2010

Thunder wakes me, rolling over the townships,

then the suburbs south of the city, and eastward over the veldt.

 

Heavy rain falls suddenly, bouncing off the vehicles

in the secured, hotel car park.

 

The Klipspruit, which flows passed the vast,

abandoned gold reefs, will have risen, inundating

the shacklands, their improvised shanties,

dirt streets and hard won gardens –

and I think of the rain falling on the newly paved

Walter Sisulu (erstwhile Freedom) Square,

the other side of the railway tracks.

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CECIL AND PRECIOUS

 

RHODES MEMORIAL

Rhodes Memorial, Cape Town, © Sylvia Selzer 2009

 

‘Equal rights for all civilized men south of the Zambesi!’

Cecil Rhodes

 

I

 

Apparently, he loved the view from this spot –

the north east slopes of Table Mountain – indeed,

owned much of the foreground. The sycophants

of Cape Town built, with granite quarried

from the mountain itself, this monument –

with Doric columns and arcades (which he

so revered,

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