tv France 24 Mid- Day News LINKTV November 19, 2013 2:30pm-3:01pm PST
in those small farms. you know the way it is with us men. when an old man dies, there is always that service at home, another service at the church, another service at the graveside. all the priests present that day selected one phrase from the bible. [speaking african language] "we are all going home one day." but my moment was at the graveside, when they gave a chance to a lay preacher. he was a very tiny man, with a thin trimmed moustache. he wore one of those double-breasted suits, which -- wore. and every time this man called upon the lord, he had a wonderful gesture for me. [speaking african language] this reminded me of my kieri days. standing next to that little black coffin, he started by saying, "here lies jacob." that was the old man's name. here lies jacob at the age of 101 years old.
here lies jacob at the end of the road. this man with his bare hands, he has built the highways, the tunnels, the bridges of this country. and with his bare feet, he printed all those footpaths running through the bush and farms. here lies jacob at the end of the road. he said to those mothers squatting next to the grave, with their eyes solemn and the veils on their faces, he said, "wipe your tears, my sisters. "lift up your veils. stand up. "stand up, my brothers, and let us all sing. "let us sing because jacob, at last, is a better man." he hasn't got our troubles, he hasn't got our problems because jacob, at last, has reached home. that's the home for the black man, is when they dig a hole to bury him, is when they press our face against the cold earth and we smile with our teeth out. that will be the only time we will be happy, brother, is when we are dead. let me do you a favor.
have you ever been to sky's place? come with me. i'll do you a few shots there. let's go drown our sorrows at sky. let's go drink ourselves to death. that's the only time that black men can be happy, is when he's drunk. sky's. sky's place. hey, nowetu, when i mention that name again, i get a headache. such would be your surprise, nowetu, if you had seen me at sky's place, only it was not just cold drinks being served, no, but first-class booze. and it was not mrs. teron's serving, no, but a certain wonderful and beautiful lady called miss nkonyemi. and it was not just sizwe, your husband, seated there, no, but mr. bansi with all the most important and lovely people new brighton has ever known.
and we left sky's place, nowetu, with mr. buntu at 12:00 midnight. i'm taking you home. come. hey, wait here. i just want to pee in that corner. - okay. - don't move. if you move here, those thugs will grab you. right? how can you find
jesus christ in a dutch reformed church? that sizwe, that sizwe is a bloody fool, i'm telling you. he's leading mr. bansi and mr. buntu astray. i know my way around this place, and i'm going to moor him if i find him-- you can't bullshit. come. let's get out. there's trouble there. only me in trouble, my friend. i said there's a dead man there. yeah? he's lying flat on the ground. i peed him wet. i thought he was a heap of rubbish. i look again, he's dead.
listen, we must get out of here before the policeman come. - come, this... - okay. - this side, man. - mr. buntu. what? let's report that to the police station, my friend. police station? this time of the night? two drunk men, one with a wrong dom book. we both walk right inside the police station. "sergeant, there's a dead man." lock them up. they killed him. i know those bastards. -
okay. - come. - okay, mr. buntu. - what now? - mr. buntu. - what? let's carry that man home, my friend. jesus christ, we walk up and down with a dead man. we don't know who killed him. the policeman asks, "who killed this man?" "we don't know, sir." not a bloody damn. i'm going home now. - okay. listen, mr. buntu. - what now? - mr. buntu? - eh? then let's report that man to his home, my friend. and how do i know where that bloody dead man stays? how do you expect me to go back to that corner, ask a dead man, "where did you stay before?" don't be bloody stupid. you say you don't know, my friend. how will i know? - mr. buntu. - what? you see this, my friend?
that dead man's dom book is going to tell you, my friend. that dead man's dom book, like this dom book of my dogs, i'm telling you, my friend. you want to put me in real kak tonight, wena. i don't want to put you in shit. my friend, i'm not trying to put mr. buntu in shit. that dead man's dom book, like this dom book of my dogs, it knows its english. big words, "endorsement. report back. don't come back." sizwe bansi wants to come to port elizabeth, my friend. this dom book says, "no." sizwe bansi wants to come and work in port elizabeth. this dom book says, "no." sizwe bansi wants to bring his family to port elizabeth. this dom book says, "no." people, it was never like that when they introduced it.
they called it a book of life, happiness, joy, you can't get lost. but look what is happening to me with this dom book. this dom book is getting me mixed up. i'm getting mixed... [speaking african language] he was a handsome chap, this man, robert zwelinzima. - group, xhosa. - yeah. tribe, fingo. - yeah. - bergerskap. briskop? no citizenship. in the case of a native who is not a south african citizen, n.i. number, bantu population register. warning, it is an offense for any person-- where does he stay, my friend? hey, look. this dead man is one up on you. he's got the right stamp in his book and the work seeker's permit.
okay, my friend. right stamp or wrong stamp, just look for his address card. okay, section b. that's it. 46 mendi road, new-- [mutters] section 1. - huh? - you know what that means? - section? - he was a lodger there. - look, if you're not married-- - i know. they don't give you a house. you must screw around until you get married. then they put you on the waiting list. - oh, yeah. - yeah. it wasn't this house. they kicked him out. let's see. 52 medala street--the same kak. hey, i'm not going here. - where? - you know where this man stays? - where does he stay? - single men's quarters. [speaking african language] hey, hey, listen. i stay at 50 mapija street. any man can show you
where mapija street is. number 50, right on the door, right? that single men's quarters is a hell of a big concentration camp with a string of houses like train carriages, 12 doors in each carriage, 6 men behind each door. so what, mr. buntu? you want us to go there this time of the night, knock at those thousands of doors, wake up the whole bloody compound?
does robert stay here? that is... we don't have to do that, my friend. i'm not trying to do that. listen, this is trouble. it's no trouble, mr. buntu. we've got nothing to do with this man. don't say that, mr. buntu. hey, i'm taking this book back. - buntu. - what? and you will do that with me, too, my friend. if -- stabbed at night and left me there, buntu, would you just pee me wet and leave me, buntu, your own friend, buntu? i wish i was dead, buntu. i wish i was dead because nobody cares a
damn about me. what's happening in this world, my friend? who cares for who in this world? who cares for me? what's wrong with me? i've got eyes to see. i've got ears. i've got a head to think good things. am i not a human being? look at me, my friend.
i've got arms. i'm strong. i can run with a wheelbarrow full of cement. am i not a human being? look at me, my friend. i've got a wife and four children. how many children does he make? what makes me different from him? am i not a human being? am i not a human being? am i not a man? i'm a man. - hey. - i'm a man. - hey. let me see your book. - what? let me see your reference book. are you a policeman, buntu? for christ's sake, let me see this bloody book. buntu, take this book, my friend. take this book and read it carefully, buntu, and tell me what it says about me, buntu. does this book say i'm a man, buntu? does this dom book say i'm a human being, buntu? this dom book, my friend, wherever you go, it's dom book.
you go to church to sing good hymns. you've got to carry a dom book. you go to town to buy food for your family. you must have a dom book. in your own house with your children, this dom book must be in your pockets. and even when you die in hospital, this dom book must be there. dom book, yer, this is a world of dom books. come. yer.
eehh, yo yo yo yo. uh-uh. i, i won't. - this is the chance. - i, i won't. i-- this is your only chance. i still say no, buntu. what's it mean, buntu? - that means sizwe bansi... - is dead. i'm not dead, buntu. ah, shit, my brother. let us burn this book. sizwe bansi disappears off the face of the earth. and that man you left in the street, buntu? tomorrow the policemen pass that goner. they see the dead man, run his pockets, they won't find this book. three days in the public mortuary. nobody identifies him. pauper's burial. and what then, buntu? i contact my friend, norman at felt & textiles. i tell him about you, robert zwelinzima, my friend. the white man looks at the book. who does robert zwelinzima looks like? you. who gets the job? you. and what about that shit at the labor bureau, buntu? you don't have to go there. this man has the right stamp in his book and the work-seeker's permit. once the white man signs it, you can stay in port elizabeth. i don't want to lose my name, buntu.
what you bloody mean, you don't want to lose this book. you like this bloody book they gave us well. i say i can't lose my name, buntu. all right. after all, i was trying to help you. i've got my book and i'm staying in port elizabeth. robert zwelinzima takes this book, he's got a job at felt & textiles. sizwe bansi picks up this one. he walk 150 miles to king william's town. you better start walking. you go to be there yesterday. - buntu. - don't bloody bullshit me. buntu. i told you they're coming back again. if they find you here, you'll be back in that crowded train. take an advice from me, friend. walk the 150 miles, there's a lot of sightseeing in that. buntu. you get a bloody lot, man. go join your wife. she's there in king william's town out of job. your children are out of school. - buntu. - join them. the whole sizwe bansi family is on leave for life. that's what the bloody white men want. sit down with your ass in the ciskeian border, cough your lungs out. that's the way to king william's town, man. - walk. - buntu. i said get out of my house. - buntu. - what?
what about my wife, nowetu? buntu? what has your wife got to do with this? her loving husband is dead, buntu. so she's going to marry a better man. - who, buntu? - robert zwelinzima. you, man. ay, buntu, how can i marry my wife? who am i, buntu? robert or sizwe? please, i'm mixed up now, buntu. leave the rest to me. as soon as your wife gets here, i will introduce you to your wife. no, buntu, my children. their father is sizwe bansi, and they're registered as bansi at school. are you worried about those children? are you worried about yourself? are you worried about your bloody name? you, my brother, with this book and that stamp, that job at felt & textiles, at least can make this world a little bit brighter for your children. no. i'm afraid, buntu. how do i get used to robert? how do i live as another man's ghost, buntu? ghost? wasn't sizwe bansi a ghost? - no, buntu. - wasn't he? - no. - when that bloody white man at the labor bureau grabbed you by the collar, what did he see when he looked at your face? a man with dignity and respect
or another dom book with an n.i. number? isn't that a ghost? walk to the white suburb, that little child says to its mother, "mama, look at that boy. isn't that a ghost?" all i want you to be is a real ghost if that's what they want us to be. be a bloody ghost, man, if that's what they've turned us into. why can't you be a spook? spook the lot of them to hell. suppose you try my idea? suppose you take this book and you get that job at felt & textiles? friday, 3:00 in the afternoon, it's pay time. roughcasting, section c, non-skilled laborers, one line. the white man sits there with that big box full of the wage packets in line. he picks up the first one, "john kani." "yes, sir." pay packet over. "thank you, sir." he picks up the next one, "winston ntshona." "yes, sir." pay packet over. "thank you, sir."
he picks up the next one, "fats bhokolane." [speaking african language] pay packet over. [speaking african language] he picks up the next one, "robert zwelinzima? robert zwelinzima." yes, sir. pay packet over. open it. open it. 5, 10, 11, 12, 99. 12 rand, 99 cents a week. your wife, your children, rent, food, clothes, school fees, school books, school uniform, your tax, your life, your future. saturday morning, man in a blue overall. 12 rand, 99 cents in the back pocket. he walks straight to town into main street, sales house. ah, he walks in, the salesman meets him. "sit down, my boy. sit down.
"you've come to buy a suit? "ah, just a deposit, "the rest of the balance in six months installments. "you must pay every month, my boy. "we shall send you statements to remind you of your balance. "let me take your name and address down, "so that we can send you a calendar "during christmas holidays. what is your name, my boy? your name?" robert zwelinzima. where do you stay? 50 mapija. where do you work? feltex. felt & textiles consolidated spinning mills, ltd., s.a. how much are they giving you there a week? 12 rand, 99 cents. 99. what is your reference book number? n.i.? n.i. number? n.i. number 3811863.
burn this number in your head, my brother. burn it. this is more important than your name. the white men will never ask for your name, but always this number. never forget it. you heard me. never forget it. - n.i. number, three. - three. - eight. - eight. - one. - one. - one. - one. - eight. - eight. - six. - six. - three. - three. again. n.i. number? - three. - three. - eight. - eight. - one. - one. - one. - one. - eight. - eight. - six. - six. - three. - three. n.i. number, my boy? 3-8-1-1-8-6-3.
sunday morning, man in his white suit from sales house. he looks smart, so he must go to church. he picks up the bible and the hymn book. down grattan street into dora road. right inside the church and there stands the priest on the pulpit again. [speaking african language] - amen. - i warned you all. - hallelujah. - your time is up. amen. - beware-- - hallelujah. lest the lord visits the earth. - amen. - the books, the page. - hallelujah. - your names are not found. repent. before it is too late. repent. will all those that have not yet handed their names for the burial society remain seated, please? may i have your name, my brother? address? your reference book number? n.i.? your name, my sister? address?
your reference book number? v/f. your name, my brother? your name, sir? robert zwelinzima. address? 50 mapija. n.i. number? 3-8-1-1-8-6-3. sunday afternoon, he walks out of the church a saved man. the congregation waits outside. everybody is happy. may the lord bless you, brother bansi. we are happy you belong to the call of the lord at last. amen. hallelujah. he walks down the street. may you stay within the right side of the laws of this country. jesus christ will see to that as well. amen. hallelujah.
[speaking african language] three steps from his date just before he opens it, suddenly police. clean that face. your name? - robert. - address? mapija. - where do you work? - feltex. passbook? now, have you got this reference book? - yes. - now, do you? come. - have you got the bloody book? - yes. sergeant, throw him in. oh, hold it, sergeant. [whistles nervously] what -- do you vote for? sebe. hey, your boss must sign this book every month. this bloody book must be signed every month. now, where's your tax? where's your tax? [mutters]
all right, buntu, i will try. that's a man. that's my brother. if you want to stay alive, you must try. but if i try, buntu, sizwe bansi is dead. what about robert zwelinzima? what about the man? i peed him wet until i realized it was all that was left of a man. he's alive. it's a bloody miracle. robert zwelinzima is alive again. look, my brother, if somebody were to offer me some of the things i wanted most in my life and will never get, some of the things that make me and my wife happy just in exchange for my name, buntu, you think i wouldn't swap? are you sure, buntu? yes, if it was me alone to think about, if i had no responsibility, no one to care a damn about. yes, my brother, i'll be prepared to keep my name
and pay that price with a little pride. but if i had a wife i loved, wasting her life, 150 miles in -- in the bush. if i had four hungry children waiting for me, their father, to do something about their lives, no, sizwe. robert. oh, yes. robert, nomen, sizwe, mangi, busi-- to hell with your bloody name, man. to hell with that name, if in exchange for it, you can get a piece of bread in your stomach and blankets in the winter. all right. swap those photos and return the dead man's book. you can keep your name if it is important to you. have your name back, man, if it means your bloody pride. but next time, next time, the bloody white man calls you john, don't turn back. it's not your name, don't say "ja, boss." next time, next time the bloody white man calls you a boy, don't run up to him and lick his ass like we all do.
turn back and face him, "white man, i'm a man, not a boy." quit bluffing ourselves, my brother. listen, i'm not saying that pride is not a way for us black people, but all i say is shit on our pride if only we're bluffing ourselves that we are men. we are men, my brother. we are men. you just remind me of my father's hat. you're just like the old man's hat, a special navy blue stetson hat, wrapped in a plastic bag to keep the dust off. my father puts it right on top of the wardrobe. god help the children who so touch it. sundays, he puts on his diamond black suit, the only suit he puts on when he goes to funerals of relatives. then comes the special hat. as my father walks down the stairs, me and my mother, we watch him through the lace curtain, and both we say, "there goes the man," my father. as he walks down the stairs, down the street and that bloody big policeman stops, and the white man shouts again, "come here, boy."
off comes that hat. boss, mein herr. is this what you call pride? is this what you call pride? take mine and give me bread for my children. understand me, brother. you know, robert zwelinzima, that man i left stinking in that dark corner. if there are ghosts, his ghost is smiling tonight. he's a brother, man, just like us. you know what his ghost is saying? "good luck, sizwe. i hope it works." for how long, buntu? how long? for as long as you stay out of trouble. trouble will lead you to the police station. at the police station, they'll take your fingerprints. your fingerprints will be sent to pretoria, where they line our names, numbers, faces and lives in the big book. and your name, sizwe bansi, will be kicked out again,
and that will be the beginning of your troubles, brother. buntu, do you know what you are saying? you are saying a black man must stay out of trouble. it's impossible, buntu. our skin is trouble. you said you wanted to try. i'll see you in the morning. good luck, my brother. i hope it works. so, nowetu, for the time being, my troubles are over. christmas, i'll come home. in the meantime, buntu is working out a plan to get me a lodger's permit. if i get it, you and the children can come here in port elizabeth.
spend the money i'm sending you carefully. if all goes well, i'll be sending more and more every week from now. i do not forget you. your loving husband, sizwe bansi. one more time, robert. come. hold it. robert, smile. smile, robert. smile. ay! witnessing human beings forcing another human beings to spend their whole lives in spiritual and physical traps and cages leaves us with a feeling of outrage and fear and helplessness.
paul laurence dunbar, a man not too far removed from the days of slavery, understood this feeling of entrapment. and he wrote a poem called sympathy. i know what the caged bird feels, alas! when the sun is bright on the upland slopes; when the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, and the river flows like a stream of glass; and the first bird sings and the first bud opes, and a faint perfume from its chalice steals, i know what the caged bird feels!
i know why the caged bird beats his wing till its blood is red on the cruel bars; for he must fly back to his perch and cling when he fain would be on the bough a-swing; and a pain still throbs in the old, old scars and they pulse again with a keener sting i know why he beats his wing! i know why the caged bird sings, ah, me, when his wing is bruised and his bosom sore, and he beats his bars and he would be free; it is not a carol of joy or glee, but a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,