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Borderline Language Print E-mail
Written by Kristien (Mostert, van Woenssel) Massie   
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 16:58

During the latter part of December 1966, I had word by telephone from a cousin in the Western Cape to say that my mother, who had been ill for some time, had undergone an operation to remove gallstones and had been diagnosed with cancer.

Despite the then not so sofisticated treatment, this phone call let me know that she was on death's door as it were. So what to do to get down there - no flights as we know them today, rail ... impossible from Zambia to the nadir of Africa. Nothing for it but to go by road as fast and safely as we could.In those days we also required a Triptique. For those not familiar, it was a three sectioned car document scrutinised and torn off bit by bit at each border post. We managed to get away within a day or so including my eldest son of just over 3 years and my younger a mere 3 month old.

Exiting Zambia wasn't a problem. The fun started at Beit Bridge. Remember these were still the old apartheid days. There we came across two, small of stature, white men. They were very much in charge, epaulettes bristling on their shoulders. Cocky springs to mind. As we proceeded to complete all the necessary formalities in English, they spoke among themselves in Afrikaans loud enough for us to hear and, presumably not to understand. I cannot repeat what they called us from 'north of the border' except to say it was very, very offensive.

I bided my time, my husband legged it because he could sense what was coming and with all the papers in my hand ... I let rip!! I didn't shout, I maintained perfect cool control. In this manner and in Afrikaans, I let them know that I had understood every word they'd uttered. As I spoke, their tanned faces turned puce - bypassing the tan very nicely (and much to my satisfaction). This will let you know the severity of their embarrassment and their discomfort - no, their cringing - being the more correct. The spectacle of these two who now faced me was indescribable.

The excuses poured forth interspersed with profuse apologies. I took no ultimate pleasure from this but felt it a very necessary thing to do. My exiting words were that they were a disgrace to South Africa and I had a mind to report them to the highest authority. What a front for the country! Talk of rubbing salt into the wound but they deserved such a ticking off.

When we finally returned to Zambia, leaving South Africa was as easy as slipping on soap in a shower. They had tipped their counter parts off to give us VIP treatment. This however was the least of our concerns. I just hoped that they had learn't some lesson - do to others as you would wish to be done by.