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Diamonds And Dust: 35 - The Hippie

…He always seemed to start a sentence with “Hey man” and was probably one of the first peace activists in South Africa. He told me many years later that he had to leave Cape Town as the authorities were asking questions about him and possibly wanted to have a ‘short discussion’ with him…

Malcolm Bertoni tells of another of the characters he met while working at a diamond mine in Namibia.

To read earlier chapters of Malcolm's vivid account of diamond mining in Namibia please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/diamonds_and_dust/

To obtain a copy of his book click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

I remember Mike D_ quite clearly. He was possibly the only hippie at Oranjemund or Affenrucken. He stayed at Affenrucken for about a year. He had a long beard and hair and always seemed to squint at people. He was a real strange one.

He always seemed to start a sentence with “Hey man” and was probably one of the first peace activists in South Africa. He told me many years later that he had to leave Cape Town as the authorities were asking questions about him and possibly wanted to have a ‘short discussion’ with him. We all knew what that meant. So he disappeared for a while to let things cool down.

It was easy to disappear in those days. One didn’t need a passport to get into Namibia, and there were no electronic records or other means of tracking one down. Even the tax wasn’t PAYE in those days. So one could easily vanish….

Back to our hippie. He scrounged some black paint and painted all the walls and even the windows of his room and burned incense all day. Where he got the incense from we never did find out – he had an endless supply of it. He never opened a window and I swear he wore the same clothes all the time he was there. He didn’t smell or anything, he just seemed to wear the same clothes all the time.

Interestingly enough, we never saw him in the showers. Being a men’s quarters there were communal showers that everyone used. The work was often dirty and always dusty, so we always had a shower the moment we came off shift. We did have basins in our rooms, so he must have washed in his room. Perhaps he was shy.

He got into deep and meaningful discussions about life, the universe and everything with the Ovambo workers, and they must have thought this guy had a few screws loose. He kept telling them that they were being exploited by the company. Actually we all were. We were making the company rich. But we were all there by choice.

I guess we are all exploited in one way or another. That’s the name of the game. So I don’t hold to the exploitation crap. Conditions were superb and everyone knew it – black or white. Oh sure we had it better than the blacks, but then people in town had it better than us and people in Cape Town had it better than the people in town. It was all relative. A lot of it had to do with luck. Making the right moves at the right time and going to the right place at the right time.

So our hippie would sit in his room and chant to himself while we were out riding in the desert and generally having a great time making the most of our situation in the desert. But he was pretty harmless.

We met once in 1996 in Cape Town and when I returned in 2001, I phoned him but he sounded indifferent about us catching up with a few of the other ex-Affenruckeners. Perhaps he was embarrassed about his freakiness. He just didn’t seem to care. Strange.

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