Xhanti would save a morsel of bread for his bold visitor. The little bird who perched faithfully between the bars of his cell.
During his solitary confinement in the Armed Struggle.
Now Xhanti is as free as a…
And spending his weekends chasing birdlies on a golf course.
And his days showing tourists around the sprawling township of New Brighton on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth.
Us, a party of Irish (and one Scot) travel writers with the South African tourist board.
He invites us to join him in South Africa’s national pastime.
No not rugby, nor cricket, the traditional African sport.
Although one local is proudly donning a Springboks top, or soccer, the blacks’ sport.
No, everything stops for food in South Africa, and more specifically a braai (barbecue).
On game reserves, in parks, in back yards, on beaches and in KK’s ‘butchery’ or bar.
We are laden down with meats, mutton, beef, chicken and corn on the cob…. the salad is just dressing.
Which can only be truly savoured with a Castle beer… or three.
Everywhere we go in the township and the ramshackle Red Location, its oldest and poorest port we are met with kindness.
It has been a long road to freedom for Xhanti and his fellow Freedom Fighters.
But looking around the dirt poor corrugated roofed sheds they look no better than outhouses.
But they house whole families and you sense that there is a long way still to go.
The billboards remind us that a general election is around the corner next month.
And the country is looking to President Cyril Ramaphos to continue to try to heal the wounds left by Jacob Zuma..
What would Mandela think?
Everyone visits for a photograph with him.
And we are still following.
As an adjunct to this article the Port Elizabeth township’s most famous son Siya Kolisi lifted the Rugby World Cup six months after my visit... https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/11/02/siya-kolisi-the-boy-from-the-township/