Shantytown Removal

In honor of the Day of Reconciliation, we present this work by one of the most legendary voices of the South African conflict.

Modikwe Dikobe
South African
b. 1913


I shall never forget that winter morning
A rainy November morning
They dismantled our shantytown
Mindless of sleeping souls
Fast asleep as of anaesthesia.

Unforeseen convey headlights
Heading to our shantytown
Motionless as of a ghost
Returning to its grave in early morning.

Morena! I thought I was dreaming
At the bank of the Klip River
Sprawled on the bank; demobbed soldiers
To demob our peaceful camp
In the name of human rights
In the year of the allied nations.

O! Merciful Lord
Am I sleeping in the open
As in Lombardy estate
In that year of the King’s visit,
Or is it a repetition of demobbed soldiers
On the banks of Canada stream,
Or just a deranged mind?

A stinking lavatory hole there,
A heap of rubbish here,
A stray dog there
It’s all that is left.
In twice a big town
Housing a thousand souls
With its own administration.

I, alone, with a wife and child,
Am left in this ruin
Once, the pride of my administration,
Whipped away are those
Who vowed: ‘We stand by our leader’
Left in the mercy of the documents.

Powerless, hopeless, I lead nobody
I am unfeathered
Left wingless
South, West, we are being driven in circles
Spanning in confusion
A mine dump, head-gear, mine column, a lake,
A river bend; seamlessly flowing
Not as I saw it on demobbed day.

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