Another late night shift at the restaurant where I worked had come to an end. The books were balanced and I was ready to go home when Mike, a waiter I was friendly with, asked me if I’d like to go to Joseph’s place with a couple of other colleagues for a few drinks. Joseph was a barman and a really kind person, often giving me a lift back to my bedsit after my shift as he hated the idea of me walking home on my own in the early hours. Being a newcomer I was more than happy to accept the invitation just so long as I could get a lift home afterwards. No problem.
An hour later we were in Joseph’s tiny, but cosy, kitchen in the southern suburbs sharing a few cans and a pretty decent Malay curry and laughing and chatting and exchanging stories and jokes. The atmosphere changed abruptly when there was a knock at the door. It was 2 am. Mike looked up at Joseph and raised his eyebrows questioningly. Joseph shrugged his shoulders and made his way to the front door. Whilst he was gone Mike told me to keep quiet and let him do any talking. I asked him what was the problem.
The date, 1974, was the problem. The country we were living in was the problem.The fact that Mike and I were ‘white’ was the problem. The fact that Joseph was a ‘Cape Coloured’ was the problem. The fact that we were in a designated ‘coloured’ part of Cape Town was the problem and visiting a house that by law Mike and I were not allowed to be in was the problem.
What would have happened to me had that knock at the door belonged to the security police I will never know. Thankfully it was a neighbour who had seen the lights on and who wanted to join the party.
14 thoughts on “No Problem”
1974 was an awful time for a person of colour to live in South Africa. The police were as zealous as Hitler’s Gestapo to enforce those laws. We were just extremely lucky we didn’t get caught and got the hell out of there!
Your story brings to light the very real threat to ‘persons of colour’ and their friends in SA in the 1970s. Jude, I’m so glad you didn’t get arrested. But I love how it ended…’no problem’…and so the party continued on I assume, although no doubt a little more restrained under the circumstances Having not lived through times such as these I cannot understand what it must have been like and can only imagine, so thank you for sharing the link to your story with me Jude, to help me better understand the reality. Our elderly neighbours tell us incredible stories of their life in one time Rhodesia and how they escaped their ‘five star prison’ with barely anything for a new life in the UK xx
A sobering reminder of a different time, Jude. I can remember attending anti-apartheid demonstrations in London, and never really imagined it would ever end down there.
Best wishes, Pete. x
A chilling story, Jude. I can’t imagine living in an environment like that 😕
This story is so well told, Jude! I love it. What starts as a simple story about an innocent gathering of friends opens up to a much bigger story about the race relations in a country during a certain time period. And I love the title and use of “no problem,” interspersed with the repetitive use of the word “problem.” No problem, yet it was a problem, or could have been! This is excellent. Thanks for sharing. I’ll link it to my next prose post on the 26th. 🙂
How sad to think that people lived in fear like that. Great telling of this story, Jude.
What a great piece of writing. I love these glimpses of Young Jude and her daring. I’m very glad you’re being prompted to write such wonderful stories.
Well this is a rewrite of a post done several years ago which got little attention. I have some stuff which has never made it onto the blog that I shall try and knock into shape!
Knock away! As Meg says, interesting insights 🙂 🙂
Lovely writing of terrible times . . . . . .
I was very naive when I got there. And broke all sorts of ‘rules’. I was supposed to sit in the back seat of a car driven by a ‘non-white’ which I refused to do when Joseph gave me a lift home as he was a friend, not a taxi driver. It wasn’t until later that I understood I was putting him in danger.
I’d hate that…..having to do the ‘wrong’ thing so your friends are safe.
Well, you learn to bend the rules, and Cape Town was a lot more relaxed than Johannesburg.
Bending is good 😊
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