Saturday, February 20, 2010

Toilets of Rhodesia and other Number Twos of Notice: Part Six


Sorry for the delay, but I had to wrap an exam. What do you think of this submitted paragraph –
Incredible irony, that panicking creationists, debunking Darwinism - ‘[E]volution means we’re related to … them! And you know who they are.’ (Creationism and Racism (2009) [online]) - Taylor’s Black family are direct descendents from primitive eugenic experimentation - ‘from breeded stock’ (Taylor p. 149) - by the ‘Christian’ White slave owners. Turning the whole theme inside out, Pullman’s anti-organised religion stand has made him to be accused of ‘colonial-racism’ in his books! But, hey! - is this not the secret of a successful/failing democracy?
I am well impressed…lol. On with the show…

My first experience with Long-drops was in the Boy Scouts when we went camping. They also taught me how to boil water in a paper bag, which hasn’t really come of much use, for the simple reason shopping carrier bags tend to be plastic these days.  Zimbabwean CIO agents like to set them on fire and drip the flaming globs onto the exposed skins of opposition supporters.

Anyway – during the Bush War I spent a lot of my time at a base camp called Chirama. I dug up this chapter about Long-drops from a huge piece I wrote, quite some time ago, about my time as a policeman in Gokwe, so I have dusted it down -

But before I start, I Googled their Images for Chirama  + Gokwe, and the only picture that popped up was of …ME! Now I know that pics have been lifted from my Blog and are all over the place. I like that, but I was surprised to find this particular picture, on a strange site called ‘’, which doesn’t really exist! Very strange, but I found another link, along with at least another two pictures of me, was on this website’s sub-galleries GRU 13 SPETSNAZ which is about a Russian Special Purpose Regiments and they have a huge picture collection of Rhodesian forces. Fascinating.

I am well flattered. So after all that, here is the little anecdote. It is 1977 and I am 19 years old.

 Chirama had been a base camp for years. It was used by Internal Affairs, Tsetse Control and the British South Africa Police. It had one of best views in the world. Although about two hours drive from Gokwe village, it was still on the extreme north-west end of the Mafungabusi Plateau (dirt track road, direction towards Bumi Hills, Kariba) with an altitude of around 3800 feet. To accommodate the called-up large influx of Whites, the recreational area needed to be extended. The octagonal tin walled, roofed and glass windowed radio shack, had a massive green canvas tarpaulin attached to it, and this was stretched between several trees. The result was a large shady area for the grub and games table, plus shelter from the blazing summer sun on the paraffin powered fridge and deep freeze.

By late 1977, the place was packed with all sorts of Police Reservists, called up to help fight the war. Most were old enough to be my Father, but with their vast years of experience they rapidly became well organised. They created a really smart camp, with tents installed over three foot deep pits, dug out against possible mortar attacks. A ramshackle lot, these Reservists were a picture of all walks of White Rhodesian life. Bankers, shop owners, pen pushers, farmers, you name any White ‘supremacy’ job, they came from all over the Midlands, sent to prop up the overloaded security forces. They came and went on various lengths weekly periods. 

Of course, we had a large contingent of Black forces. All regulars and volunteers - the government didn’t conscript the Black population. Some were Police, some Internal Affairs, some just labourers working on the new base that was being built a mile deeper into the bush. They were allocated an area of the camp and did their own thing. I do not remember if they had hot showers like us Whites.
I went often over to their ‘side’ and they taught me the game ‘Tsoro’, but I was always soundly defeated, much to the delight of the onlookers.
I remember once tuning my radio into the enemy’s signal being beamed from Maputo, Mozambique, where Robert Mugabe was retroacting the future, live on air. I would demand translations from the small Black crowd, whom had gathered around, as they listened with growing amusement.
It appeared that he was promising free farms and Mercedes cars to those that help free Zimbabwe etc etc. Our lot weren’t having any of it. I liked them all immensely and always queried if they were Okay, enough supplies etc.
           This last jutting spit of flattened earth, before you plunged to the huge expanse of flat lands hundreds of feet below, also had a brick and mortar kitchen with a huge black cast iron wood stove. Nearby, built from the same materials, was a Rhodesian 44 gallon drum boiler, supplying skin removing scalding water for the shower. Scattered around on the dry sandy soil, in an ever increasing amount, were the green tents for the various man power. Bang in the middle was a tiny hut, not much bigger than its own front door.

This - was the ‘Long-drop’.

The Long-drop had a proper toilet seat, but that is where the similarity to a ‘Crapper’ ended. Once you opened the door, the stench really hit you, along with the swarm of very fat flies. This place was to be avoided like the plague, and if you had to drop a long one, then try and save it till late at night, when the heat had dissipated and the flies were in their beds. Sometimes, you got to go, when you have to, there was always a fear that a fly would zip up the rear passage faster than you could close it. There was a large bucket of lime taking up the space not allocated for your feet. This, with the use of a small gardeners spade, was used to sprinkle over your recycled dinner.
Once, very stupidly, I wanted to see how long a drop it was…
I had nightmares of the idea of running into the place, desperate, touching cloth, suffering a turtles head, then slam the door shut, and before you could get your eyes to adjust to the little cracks of sunlight penetrating around the wooden door, your buttocks were submerged in some other persons defecated last supper.
I had to know how much space was left. After all, people had donated for decades, and I needed to know how deep the whole hole was!
 So once, I took a peek. As usual, It didn’t occur to me to simply wait till night time and then shine a torch in it. No, not me. Much cleverer to set fire to a long roll of toilet paper and pop it down.
 As the three foot long strip, spinning eerily, descended, the flames started to reach an alarming height. In the next few milli seconds, my brain cells electrons joined and realized that perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea…
            With eyeballs bulging at the awful sight of a huge pyramid of defecation in every tone and constipation/diarrhoea of brown imaginable, rearing skywards at least half way up the ten foot deep shaft, complete with its own patrolling squadron of giant flies, I suddenly remembered that farts are flammable and Arabs use camel dung to make fires and ignited methane could be a killer! I shut the lid and burst through the door. I was about to shit myself whilst wondering how to explain to everyone in camp and my Boss, how and why, did I send the 30 odd year old long-drop into orbit?
The honest answer that I was interested to see how much poo there was in it, some how, would make a big brown mark on my report card, and list me as a Rhodesian lunatic…

To be continued…

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