The day of the arrival of the impis was nothing short of tragically spectacular. It was like an invasion epic right out of the corridors of Hollywood. It was as if the Martians had not come in peace and would not rest until they had killed every one of us. 

The put axes through the heads of man, woman and child alike. Spears were driven into the chests of those laying bloodied and beaten unconscious on the streets and those who still had their legs under them were chased down like animals and hacked down. From that day, the men’s hostels became Zulu hostels and the rest of us “iilwane”…animals. So, they killed without remorse.

They would March peacefully from Madala hostel in their red and white regalia. Weapons in hand, they sang as they came down 4th avenue and up again to the football ground next to the old Pretoria road. There they listen to their leaders denounce the negotiations of the ANC and NP. There, a different more forceful plan was laid to wrestle power from the ANC where invariably, it would vest.

The call and respond would ring and hang in the air as the winds carried it on gentle shoulders down to the township. Those who had not been fortified the night before got their share of the inyanga’s magic at the grounds to loud, bloodthirsty cheers. They were invincible…untouchable. 

Once the day’s indoctrination was complete, the war cry shook the township and the bloodshed began. A shout would alarm up the road to warn all of us to get off the street and lock ourselves in our houses. Those who did not hear “Nkatha” would be buried on the nearest Saturday. 

The brown military and yellow police nyalas often visited the township but not to protect us. They would have if they wanted to. After all, it was no secret that inkatha was coming and once they arrived, what they did. 

The police and SADAF soldiers came only to protect the nearby white settlements. Exiled MK combatants had returned to find that there was no milk and certainly no honey. The direction and shape of the negotiations made it clear that there was no room for them at the table. They robbed, stole and hijacked to put food on the table and stick it to the whites who had for generations taken from us.

It wasn’t theft, it was repossession and the state would have none of it. The police and soldiers raided our homes regularly and by the time they were done, some would be missing and others bleeding. Compacted reporting made sure that these flash points didn’t interfere with negotiations. 

An avocado thrown into one of the personnel carriers sent soldiers diving for their lives and provided a bit of comic relief on one occasion. The mission to make the soldiers abandon their weapons to be taken failed but luckily resulted in no casualties when the annoyed trained killers finally returned to the vehicle. 

The impi and military raids had become common place. The ANC and its Mandela had become the face of freedom. I couldn’t tell if the violence intensified after the death of Hani. It became hard to tell the police battles with criminals and the political fights. Racist police had found a way to kill with impunity for one last rodeo before democracy would dawn.

There’s one particular raid of our shack I will never forget. I had been with a friend and my brother there. The military arrived. My friend shot out of the house to his own at warp speed. The tall Afrikaner officer bent to enter. As he giraffed, he hit his blonde head on the roof. We laughed. They beat us as they turned our home upside down, insisting that we were hiding weapons.

For the first time my eyes opened to why I had been marching that day. I was turned back by the then young lady who could right this minute be walking the streets in a permanent mumble, saying incoherent things.