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When the Going gets Tough
(Supplied by Rui Baretto)
Published TBA

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by Sergt. Freddie Keal

A lieutenant and sergeant from Head Office and twelve students from Pretoria Training College recently performed riot duties with a difference. It was a two week relief spell of intensive riot control in the Isolated township of Matsulu (38km from Neisprult) which was also an exercise in survival. This is their story:

The township of Matsulu lay like a bat-tlefield before us as we barged along the primitive gravel road in a Blesbok towards our base. As we trailed through the clouds of smoke, a feeling of anxiety overwhelmed us. What were we to expect?

Our first encounter with our temporary base at Matsulu can only be described as an ultra-shocking experience — mosquito-infested tents, cholera-infested water, toilet cubicles without any sanitary flush system, and hordes of distracting flies. The cherry on the cake was the jungle-like shower cubicles, providing putrid trickles of icy cold river water. Apart from its confined shower-ing space and slippery footage surface, it was a haven for frogs and other miscella-neous "creepy-crawlies".

The lieutenant and I looked at each other in sheer astonishment. Was this not perhaps a survival course of some sort? Luckily, we were to be assisted by a group of competent constables from the Unit 19 Reaction Unit of Pretoria. Despite their highly skilled riot control methods and efficient weapon handling, they tackled their task with extreme determination. They also provided us with moments of ex-haustive laughter with their good-natured humour. The unluxurious living conditions and frost-penetrable tents was a home for these zestful young men, and it was their in-centive to make it a happy home. Every task was a challege for them and nothing but en-joyment was achieved out of each and every task tackled. Needless to say, they compensated immensely for the grim living conditions that we had to endure.

That first acquaintance with our new and strange colleagues remains to be an un-forgetabl-e experience. On our arrival at Matsulu base, our ears were filled with throbbing droans of classical music on cassette, and screams of hysteria from the cook who had accidentally burnt his arm • with hot fat. Another member was peeling ticks off his mascot pups, Lady and Vasbyt, while others, aware of our presence, con-tinued to engulf themselves in a verbal con-frontation as to whether Nelspruit nurses were prettier than Nelspruit policewomen. "Well," said the lieutenant ever so matter-of-factly, we refined, preserved, sophisticated members will have to adapt or die." And indeed how right he was! Apart from our usual Casspir and Land-rover patrols through the township, we were later to discover that our Unit 19 com-rades played a vital role in our two week stay. They taught us both the skills of our duty as well as achieving true enjoyment in everything we did. Enjoyable moments, off duty, included huddling around a typical Lowveld braai-vleis fire, clumsily repairing an enormous puncture to the front wheel of the Blesbok, pinching our nostrils shut whilst anxiously using the toilet pits, and a few of us, to the satisfaction of the others, suffering severe bouts of "jippo-guts." Our patrols on the other hand, also in-cluded a closer educational observation of the perennial Crocodile River, where hip-popotami wallowed and splashed unhinder-ed by the surrounding civilization. To conclude, it is imperative to mention the success that we achieved. Where huts once burst into flames and buses exploded into mists of thick black smoke, the township now transformed into an unsur-passed tranquil Lowveld landscape with its legendary scenes of Tswana women hoeing in the fields and children eagerly weaving their wire cars through the winding bush paths. Our presence had helped them to ap-preciate life to its fullest and to preserve their beautiful surroundings. We left Matsulu not only richer in ex-perience, but richer in human relations,. richer in appreciation and richer in know-ledge. Survival or not, it was certainly two weeks worth while.


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Editors Notes : (Mark Janse van Rensburg)


  Matsulu (Nelspruit)




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