This has been on my mind for quite a while as a lot of my old memories are returning to the fore and today I posted up a few photo's from my National Service days 73/74 to the Rhodesian Military Group for a little help with the guys names. While I can remember the guys quite well it is their names that I have difficulty with. I've included them here.
Not long after I finished my twelve months of National Service I was car jacked one Friday or Saturday night whilst returning to a nightclub after dropping some friends/relatives home (I think to meet their curfew's) as this was around midnight. Anyway before I get into the details of this incident there are a few things that you should know apart from the fact that I was a bit of an idiot (putting it politely) in my teenage years.
I had obtained my Motorcycle Drivers Licence (Class 3) at the age of 16 and had a good knowledge of the road rules and I had my Military Drivers Licence for all classes but...... a big BUT.... I didn't have a "Light Motor Vehicle (Goods/Passengers), (Class 4) Civilian Licence.
|1979 a duplicate license issued with Classes 3,4,5|
|Regimental number removed for security purposes.|
Of course all this was very well until I purchased on HP (Hire Purchase) a 'brand new', second hand MG 1100 - my very first credit account (2 years) at 40% of my wage, 50% went on Board and Lodging leaving me with 10%, seemed like a good idea at the time.
I had owned a couple of cars in the past a Vauxhall Victor (age 16) which I bought from my Grandfather "Oupa Hoffman" and sold to my cousin Gary for the same amount which I think was $300.00 without having actually driven it, Dad had though. I then bought an old rusted out Morris Minor 500 side valve station wagon for $50.00 (age 17) which I rebuilt with the help of my 'muccas' in the photo's above during my National Service, before giving it to my brother Guy.
Well I had possession of my MG for all of six weeks and Dad was on my case to get licensed he was dead against me driving any car till I was licensed, Mom just wanted me off the bike's (Motorcycles) I had written of three by this time and broken almost everything on the left side of my body from knee to collar bone. An interesting fact here is that I never wore a helmet and never hit my head once and trust me I came off those bikes a lot more than three times. I had a number of ridiculous accidents, usually when members of the opposite sex were in close proximity, but these are stories for another time.
As with a lot of teenagers I argued, what could possibly go wrong? I was licensed albeit not for this class but I knew what I was doing, yeah right! Thought I was the bees knees with my fast little new ride which was pretty awesome and of course I never gave a thought to the possible dangers while running my friends and family all over the place ... until that fateful night.
We (my friends/family and I) had all been to the "Zoo" as we referred to the popular Grey Street nightclub that evening (Electric Circus/Talk of the Town were a couple of it's formal names as it changed hands frequently). I think someone had a curfew (most of the girls did in those days) and so I volunteered to take them home, any excuse to go for a ride, funny that I still love driving to this day even though a good portion of my life was spent night driving for a living. I was going to then go on home like most of the people I was hanging out with but changed my mind and decided to go back to the Zoo after all I could probably get back in, since I had done so before.
I was driving up Main Street since I was coming from Kenilworth and around about 5th Ave as I was passing a group of African fellows they started gesturing and pointing at what I thought was my car. Becoming concerned that there may be a problem with my new car I pulled over a little way up the street, got out and was inspecting the car for damage when these five guys caught up to me and began demanding my wallet, watch and keys for the car whilst threatening me with bottles. A couple of them were a little drunk but I was not confident that I could survive an altercation and this is when it dawned on me that I was about to lose my car (unlikely to ever be recovered but certainly if recovered it would be a burned out shell - no insurance since I was not licensed and 23 months to run on my HP) What a bloody horrible time to find out that Dad was actually smarter than I.
How the heck was I going to get out of this in one piece and keep my car? I thought. Perhaps I could reason with them and maybe an opportunity would present itself in due course. So while I handed over my wallet and watch, they argued amongst themselves at to my fate. A couple were in favour of killing me by bashing my head in whilst others just wanted to take my stuff and disappear. During their argument I tried to ascertain who the leader was and attempted to befriend him by suggesting that I would make an excellent taxi driver after all I wanted to party as much as they did. This amused the fellow who saw me as his personal plaything and perhaps an additional source of income for the night which frightened the hell out of me but not enough to let them take my car, as I convinced myself that an opportunity would present the drunker that they became. The most vocal for killing me stormed off toward York's as the rest piled into the car and instructed me to drive down 6th Ave extension into the Western suburbs - "Good, one down" I thought.
Well we certainly did go to a number of party's where I became the life of the party at the insistence of my new found "friend" (I'm being facetious) - This was totally unexpected as I was really, really afraid of being sold for sex and I have to say that this was in the forefront of my mind. Instead I was offered as a punch bag for anyone who would pay for the privilege of hitting an "Mkiwa" ... and there were many. It seemed that my new 'friend' didn't much care if they did beat me to death as long as they made it worth his while either financially or with alcohol. Any opportunity to flee with my car was fast slipping away as I became more and more disorientated from the beatings which went on until sunrise as we went from one party to the next. To this day I have no idea how I managed to retain my position as driver because it is this that was actually instrumental in saving my life.
Whilst I had a lot of assistance driving with multiple hands on the wheel and gear crunching (I later realised that the fellow who initially wanted to bash my head in was probably the only one who knew how to drive but he had stormed off - one of life's left turns I guess). Suddenly there was a sign "POLICE >" I thought "Yes! at last" as I stomped the accelerator to the floor, unfortunately I was not the only one who saw the sign and all hell broke loose in the car as I fought to gain control.
There were legs and feet between mine as we accelerated, the handbrake was being pulled as there were hands it seemed everywhere, .... on the steering, in my face, an arm around my throat.... yelling, screaming "Kill the Mkiwa", I struggled with the desperation borne of the realisation and certainty that I was about to die. It was absolute bedlam in that little car which held about six or seven of us at that time..... blank!
The next thing I remember was hearing someone screaming "Bullala lo Mkiwa"(Kill the Whitey) or words to that effect with a lot of expletives thrown in but there was certainly no mistaking the boot that I saw descending into my face before losing consciousness again. From this point on things became very sketchy, as I drifted in and out of consciousness. I recall a policeman rolling me onto my side so that I wouldn't drown in my own blood he was saying something about an ambulance on the way and that everyone (there were apparently spectators) thought I was dead from the severe kicking I had taken. I recall parts of the Ambulance drive as paramedics worked on me, I recall a little from the operating theatre as I tried to sit up but its very sketchy with quite a few brief snippets but I have no recollection of the pain.
I had survived, the car had not - The left side of my head had been crushed, two vertebra in my neck were broken (they fused together limiting my movement) seventeen vertebra in my spine had broken or shattered process (various) and my left shoulder-blade had shattered. Dr Taylor of Bulawayo performed the re-constructive surgery and did a marvellous job although his bedside manner left a lot to be desired. I was able to eat solids within eighteen months much to the delight of my family, especially my Mom. There had been extensive nerve damage which I learned to control over time for the most part, there are still rare occasions that I have to use all my willpower not to rip my left eye from it's socket.
When my children were growing up they were fascinated by the markings on my back and the fact that they could bury needles in it without my knowledge - one of life's right turns I suppose.
Till next time, God Bless.