(The name of this blog is an old South African trade union slogan.)
I didn’t know Vernon for long. We worked together at the Labour Research Services in Salt River, Cape Town. He was my first proper boss. It was my first proper job. And I will never forget him. He was one of the “unseen” heroes who fought Apartheid. Walking those roads in the township with the police around him. Just another guy who did the right things at the right time. An incredible person. And incredible man. He treated me like no other did before him. He left an impression on me that still lives with me today. He died in a freak accident. But he saw the change that he fought for so long. I know he died a happy man. With Sahra with him. He knew love.
I think of him often. I went looking for him on the web today. And found nothing. Vernon. You are not forgotten. Sahra, I know you will never forget him. He lives in your heart and he lives in your soul. I know I am no great poet. No. I am not a poet. But I wrote this for you when you died. For your funeral when us “comrades” got together to remember you and celebrate you. Together for you one last time. The poem wasn’t good back then and it is no better today. It brings no justice to who you were and to your memory and legacy. But this is all I have to offer. It’s meagre, but this is for you Vernon Rossouw. So that your memory can live on in virtual space.
Can I call you comrade
‘cause you had the soul of a worker?
Should I call you comrade
‘cause you had the fire of justice in your heart?
Must you have a togetherness in the struggle,
or must you share a lifetime of experiences
to be called comrade?
We never had.
We never shared such times.
No talks on the revolution.
No sharing of lives.
Not even little things like soccer games or beers alone.
You’ve never been to my house,
I don’t even know where’s yours.
Can I call you comrade?
But you took me for who I am
… a boertjie.
You never judged me on my language, colour or culture,
or even on the miserable history of my people.
When we spoke you made me think and reflect.
When you were there we shared a commonness.
But now you are gone
and I will never know what could have been.
You are not comrade,
You are my brother.