Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 6-9-77
I am lying in the sun, waiting for my flight to Perth the day after tomorrow. With a bit of luck this letter will be on the same plane as my good self. Qantas finally managed to get me on the SAA flight after all sorts of talk of staying over in Mauritius or flying via Bombay etc. They must be sore at having to give away their passengers. Strange how the stretch has suddenly become too long after all these years. Poor overworked, underprivileged pilots.
Soon after I left letter no. 12 at the Zimbabwe ruins to be posted, we raced unarmed and unprotected down the road for several hours to Beit Bridge (the convoy never caught us up) and crossed the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River into "the Republic"; then on excellent roads and freeways to JHB after a cold night in the mountains. First Blankes/Nie-Blankes signs and sullen blacks with downtrodden air. In JHB, EO had booked us all into a D,B&B (boarding-house) joint at R 3.50/day (=$A3.50)! It's worth it.
I did my duty right away and went off and spent an afternoon and dinner with the Evanses - kindly as ever, but she is just shuffling around looking as though she could snap in two at any moment, and he was more reactionary than ever: "the West's pressure has united the country as never before behind the godly Mr Vorster. Pik Botha much admired. The government has done all it possibly can to help the bantu, whose behaviour, after all, is barely human [perhaps if they were treated like humans...?]. The commies are behind all the unrest. Petty apartheid is practically done away with. The blacks themselves don't want to mix." [So why all the laws to prevent it?]
Apart from the exacerbated "bunker mentality", I find the country (at least on the surface) a good deal improved in the last 3½ years. There are fewer black/white entrances, and the blacks are undeniably better off economically than in the rest of Africa (even MLE pays his illiterate gardener R4 for a day's work - and is still called "master" by him). We had a long talk in Swaziland to an intelligent black Joburg hospital worker who explained that the daily humiliation of petty apartheid continues, even if not officially (shops refuse to serve her, etc.) As Mrs E. says: "Oh, you just couldn't have them live in the same house - you know, their odour permeates everything."
The country is rightly united in resisting terrorist and other hypocritical pressure, but for the rest is very troubled and unhappy. Every page of the newspapers is devoted to the race problem. There has been a lot of criticism of the new constitutional proposals because they do nothing for urban blacks. But at least here in the park a black man and a white man are playing chess (and the black man is winning).
I got together with some people from the truck to share expenses and we rented a car for 6 days and did 1900 km down to the Drakensburg Mountains in the Orange Free State, on the border of Lesotho; then to Durban and up the beautiful Natal north coast (beaches as good as NSW central coast) into Swaziland (delightfully friendly people), where we watched 3000 young girls dancing in Independence Day celebrations; then back "home" to the Transvaal. In Swaziland we stayed two nights in a very comfortable igloo-like rodavel.
Your letter arrived on 29 August. Sounds like a stupid sort of regular strike that nobody will notice too much. In Italy it's very hard to tell when the posties are on strike and when they are not!
EO organised a delicious braai (barbecue) for us the other day at one of their employees' homes. The S.A. habit is to drink wine rather than beer on such occasions. Very good wine is to be had for R1/litre.
Supposed to arrive Perth 0455 Fri a.m. Doesn't seem worth bothering with postes restantes in Aust. Will probably reach Sydney early Oct. J.
Just a line to let you know I made it to Oz c. 0500 this a.m. When I get my body to figure out what time it is, I may go looking for some wildflowers. Staying in YHA. Perth is very pretty, friendly, but prices are absurd in this country. J.