[OPINION] Water Wars: The Smiths of Constantia
Haji Mohamed Dawjee tells a story from the future.
The Smith family of Cape Town rose slowly in the light of the sweltering March sun to begin another day. What battle would today bring?
The bells of Day Zero tolled the day before. The noon gun went off and suddenly the land – dry and arid from the drought – found itself infested by the city’s inhabitants looting Woolworths stores for any left-behind bottles of water.
Coconut lime, mango spice infusion, with bubbles, without bubbles – anything, anything would do. There was no time left to be fussy.
Armed only with the sweat on their brow, the Smiths joined in. Unfortunately, they were too slow… they were too late.
The Constantia-based family, used to having things delivered, accustomed to driving everywhere and wanting for nothing, were not prepared for this day… when only the fittest would survive.
When all seemed lost, they managed at last to swap a blood diamond, a beloved family heirloom, for a bucket… A single bucket, empty and thirsty as themselves, but big enough to collect the allocated water at the pumps for the days to come.
Their days now began the same way. No thoroughbred horses to ride into the green vineyard, no yoga to stretch to in the cool morning mist of the valley, no golf for Sir Smith to play on lush green lawns. No. Now, they rose early to arm themselves with said bucket.
Little Jacque’s duty first thing in the morning was to run to the safest cupboard in the house. The one where the family previously housed the slave tears their ancestors had accumulated and gold bars, and check on the prized bucket. Was it still there? Did someone steal it? Was it full of holes?
In the meantime, Lady Smith took her allocated 'Lady of the house 5-minute time out' to sit and think about her hair. Her dull, oily, Brazilian blow dry starved hair. She ran her sweaty fingers through each bleached strand and dreamt about those mornings in days gone by when her personal hair-washer who lived just outside (but still far enough away from the main house) would show up at her door to wash and blow her tresses.
How times had changed, she sobbed into her own hair sebum. The hair-washer, whose name Lady Smith forgot to remember, was now living at her own home, where water supplies were still okay – or so she ignorantly thought.
On this specific morning, the lady of the house tortured herself with an extra five-minute time out to think about all the long, warm baths her employee must be enjoying in her more advantaged township. “Not like us”, she thought. “Poor whites!”
Sir Smith barged in on his wife’s nightmare with great haste and he cut her self-loathing short when he angrily announced, “We’ve started to turn on each other… Even we have started to turn on each other”. She looked up at him; little Jacque hurried to his parents with bucket in hand to listen as well.
Then, with a greasy paw, fingers the size of Kalahari boerewors sausages, Sir Smith slammed a piece of paper on to the table. It was a written agreement from the day before.
You see, when the Day Zero clock struck… zero, Sir Smith, aware of the fact that he had few street smarts and his only means to survive would be his money, struck a deal with his fellow white brethren. The brethren would bring the bottled water in, and Sir Smith would have first dibs on it when and if it did in fact arrive.
But how was Sir Smith to know that the brethren dealt not only in money but also in something of far more value… ethics and humanitarianism.
And so, what little bottled water was delivered that morning was equally distributed before Sir Smith could get his sweaty sausages on it.
Lady Smith, worn from the threat of gross hair getting more gross, just slumped onto her arms.
“But what about our divine plunge pool daddy? Does this mean we won’t be able to fill it anymore?” Jacque stared at his father.
Little Jacque was very tall for a 26-year-old trust fund baby and was able to look his father in the eye.
“Never mind the plunge pool Jacque! How will I flush the toilet?” Sir Smith said.
It was a valid question. To this day, the Smiths remain thirsty, and vol kak.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter.