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Ben Trovato

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Angola’ Category

Happy birthday, you candy-assed Croc-wearing nut-munching End Conscription Campaign poltroons

Ben TrovatoThe End Conscription Campaign turned 25 this week. Happy birthday, you candy-assed Croc-wearing nut-munching poltroons. It’s because of you that the communists are in charge today. If you hadn’t been such blubbering jellyfish all those years ago, we might never have been exposed to Jeremy Cronin’s poetry or Blade Nzimande’s unlovely countenance.

Whose damn fool idea was it to call for an end to conscription? Whoever brought the bong, I suppose. Far better to lie around getting lekker goofed than pick up a rifle and go on patrol so that our women and children might sleep safely in their beds at night.

You were at home hitting on our girlfriends while we were leopard crawling through the Kavango flushing out terrorists in defence of democracy. Okay, maybe it wasn’t democracy. Maybe it was capitalism. Or something else. I don’t remember. Anyway, that’s not the point. Our government would not have sent us to the border – which shifted between Oshikango and the outskirts of Luanda, depending on who was in charge that day – unless there was a damn good reason for it. Obviously that kind of information was classified, so it’s understandable that most of us still don’t know why we were there. Maybe something went wrong because in the end Swapo controls Namibia and the ANC is in power here. That might have the plan all along. Our is not to question why, ours is but to do and die. Siener van Rensburg said that. Or saw it coming, anyway.

Following orders was something I grew up with, unlike that floppy-wristed bunch of ECC pansies who probably drove their parents to drink with their pseudo-intellectual prevarications. “Henry sweetie, please be a darling and tidy your room for mummy.” Henry, 28, hadn’t left the house since he finished school. When the military police came looking for him, he hid in his toy box. “No mummy, I won’t!” shouted Henry. “Given the transient nature of matter, it makes no sense for me to tidy a room that will simply untidy itself within the space/time continuum. It’s basic existentialism, mummy! Why does nobody understand me?”

When I was told to tidy my room, I was give 10 minutes. For every minute I went over, I received three lashes to my bare buttocks. And I had to thank my mother after every lash. The clean-up operation was followed by a thorough inspection and God help me if the corners of my bed weren’t sharp enough to cut myself on or if my socks were folded in such a way that the square of the hippopotamus failed to equal the sum of the square of the other two sides.

I wanted to go to the army more than my parents wanted me to go, and they really, really wanted me to go. I have always had a thing for men in uniform – not the thing that the jumper-wearing members of the anti-conscription brigade had for each other – but a different thing altogether. You wouldn’t understand.

Spending five months at a stretch in the operational area with men who looked like me, talked like me and thought like me helped me to shape my identity. We were the men on the ground. We weren’t flying around in gay little fighter planes like the moffies in the air force. Nor were we messing about in boats like the girls in the navy.


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