Chapter 20: Transfer

Thus it came about in March 1960 I was notified that as from 1 April 1960 I was to change places with Mr Grundlingh and go to the Buntingville Institution in his stead. Margery and I had a tough time to get all our luggage packed and to attend all the ‘farewell’ parties to which we were invited, both in Blythswood and in Nqamamkwe. There were eleven of these, in eight of which we received gifts. It was a sad and trying time. However, when we had been settled in Buntingville for a week or two Margery said to me: “You know, it was the Grace of God that you were relieved of Blythswood: you were just working yourself to death there!” And I must say I agreed with her.

But it had been a great wrench to part with Blythswood, that had been our life’s work for 20 wonderful years. To me the worst thing was to leave our friends on the staff there! We had become a very fine team and I loved each one of them, and I know that they loved Margery and me greatly.

The Regional Director insisted that I was to invite Mr Grundlingh to visit Blythswood so that I could show him what was what, and that I in the next week would go to Buntingville to be shown the school, etc. Thus the changeover was made very peaceably – in Buntingville!

When poor Grunglingh was ‘inducted’ into Blythswood by the Regional Director the occasion was not a great success. On the next day, after all the students had been told to go to class they all remained standing. The poor principal did not know what to do, so he ran to call his father, another former principal, to advise him. Suddenly he noticed that the whole student body had begun marching towards him, without a word or a song. He got such a fright that he fainted. His father got more of a fright and rushed off, shouting, “Hulle he my kind dood gemaak! (They’ve killed my child!)” Then all the students simply went quietly to their classes where their teachers took over. The next day I received an urgent telephone call from him, asking me please to go to Blythswood and spend some days there with him, to show the students that he had my friendship! I told him that was quite impossible as I could not simply leave my new institution to do his work for him.

Poor Grundlingh was so frightened of the Black students that he never went into a classroom or a dormitory unless another white man or Mr Bikitsha was with him. He retreated to his house every night before sunset, locked all doors and windows and refused to answer any calls made on him during the night.

What happened then was that Mr Bikitsha and Mrs Mama really ran the institution. They often spoke to me about their difficulties: I could give advice, but could give no real help.

Nine months later, at the beginning of the New Year, poor Grundlingh met his fate. As usual, some parents brought their children to school late. One night a car with several Black people in it arrived in Blythswood. It stopped at the Principal’s house and a man got out and knocked at the door. Nothing happened so the man knocked again, to no effect. There was a light on in the house so the man kept on knocking. Suddenly a voice called, “If you don’t go away I shall call the police!”

The caller had come a long way, so shouted that he wanted to see the principal. A few minutes later a police car from Nqamakwe arrived in a hurry and three armed policemen jumped out. They looked surprised to find a peaceful family sitting in the car, but asked what they were doing. The driver said that he had brought his daughter who had been accepted as a new pupil in Blythswood, but that he could not get anyone to help him. The policeman advised him to go further along to get top one of the hostels, which he did. All this while the principal’s house was kept locked!

The father of the new pupil then found Mr Bikitsha, explained what had happened, and said that he had the money for his daughter’s fees. He had driven all the way from Johannesburg with the girl, her luggage and the money for her fees. It was then arranged that the girl could sleep with Mr Bikitsha’s family and he would take the money from the fees and pay it in at the institution’s office the next day. Thus after a lot of unnecessary fuss the poor girl was accepted into Blythswood.

But this was not the end of the story. With this man who had brought his daughter was in the car his brother, who was a lawyer practising in Johannesburg. He had been most annoyed at the cavalier treatment his brother had been subjected to, so when he had returned to Johannesburg he wrote a strong letter to the press describing what had happened and asking whether this was the kind of treatment that Blacks could expect in the future. As the Government had for some time been trying to tell the world how the ‘Bantu’ had eagerly accepted Bantu Education it did not like this account of the opposite, and so Mr Grundlingh was hurriedly promoted to inspectorship and moved to a post in the then South West Africa (now Namibia). Here he soon gained notoriety. One day he went out hunting. He drove his official car, complete with a rifle and some .303 bullets, into a restricted area and shot several buck while there. His sport was, however, spoiled by the arrival of several policemen who arrested him for (1) using an official car for a private purpose; (2) being in a restricted area without a permit; (3) hunting in a restricted area without a permit; (4)_ killing protected animals. Poor man. Sometime later he was driving his own car with his wife by his side when, because of high speed, his car was overturned and his wife killed.

Mr Grundlingh’s brief time as principal of Blythswood was the beginning of the worst period in its long history, when in six years no fewer than six different principals were in charge.

A note about my father’s ‘demotion’ from Blythswood to Buntingville, for that is what it amounted to.

When my father was made Superintendent of the whole of Blythswood Institution a new Headmaster of the High School had to be appointed in my father’s place. The man who replaced my father, whose name escapes me now, was a typical Bantu Education person, full of enthusiasm for apartheid.

One of his first actions as Headmaster was to have a large hole dug and all the books from the High School library, which my father had painstakingly and over many years, built into quite a superb collection, buried. Because ‘Bantu’ had no need of such things. After all, as a prominent Nationalist Party Parliamentarian had said: “We should not give the Natives any academic education. If we do, who is going to do the manual labour in the community?” (JN le Roux, National Party politician, 1945.)

Then he complained to my father that the staff room at the High School was not segregated, the black and white staff all drank tea and ate their cookies together. As a supporter of apartheid this was not acceptable to him and he asked my father to provide ‘separate amenities for the Black staff members. This my father refused to do, so the man wrote to the famous Regional Director, who as my father explains above, did not in any case have too high an opinion of my father, to complain about this.

The Regional Director then wrote an official letter to my father instructing him to segregate the staff room. My father wrote back that since the foundation of the school in 1877 the staff had always had only one staff room and that there was no reason to change that, he would not provide any ‘separate amenities’ for anyone. The staff would continue to do as they had always done, drink their tea and eat their cookies together.

The result was his demotion to Buntingville, which, in spite of my mother’s words about “God’s Grace”, hit them both extremely hard.

This was in the days before the Labour Relations Act and so the only recourse a public servant had when he or she felt unjustly treated, was to the Public Service Commission., My father refused to make any submission or appeal to them but my mother was adamant and filed a complaint to the PSC on his behalf. Needless to say the Commission could find no fault with the way my father had been treated.

One response

29 11 2008

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