She’s A Lady, by Lindani Mchunu (RCYC Academy).

When you’re sitting in the Academy room, just above the braai area of the Club, well actually more on the deck of the Academy room, you get a really nice view of the marina. The masts often look out of place. Like the legs on a stork, only upside down, the legs up in the air, the body floating on water. I am never sure what I like the best. The exposed lines that run on the decks and up the spines of the masts, or the immaculate covers that seem to be the order of the day. I can never compare this view to anything else in my life. It sits as a constant unique event that has never been part of my life before. I often think of it, even in the concrete jungle of Joburg. I drive on Catherine road, cross over onto Rivonia road and marvel at the spectacular Discovery Building.

Sandton is a sensory trip. Everything about it says wow. It’s so over the top chic, one never quite gets used to it. It shows you a glimpse of what Africa could be. Yet with all that and possibly more, I find myself missing the sound of halyards. Dirty men, covered in paint, walking down squeaking docks. How strange it feels walking down the gangway when the tide is up, everything looks closer and I never quite get used to it.

It’s like the world has come to meet me halfway. It’s just a marina. A blue towering crane, boats continually suspended in mid-air. Men, dark men, covered in blue, shifting platforms and welding chains. At times they can be white, spraying white paint on white bottoms. From time to time, you’ll see one of the long sticks move, at first it seems like an illusion. Why is there only one stick moving? It moves closer and closer to you, until you see its nose, almost pointing directly at you, then you see the displacement of water as it approaches.

Suddenly it becomes clear. It’s a boat. Whilst I was sitting there today, the boat happened to be Archangel. She came around, making her way to her mooring, right after Sibu had told me how happy he is with how she performs downwind. He was going on about how great it was sailing her down to Mykonos. As she etched closer to her berth, I saw Alex Mamacos and an elderly gentleman on the helm. The crew it seemed were two Academy kids.

That picture told me everything. An elderly white man, a middle-aged white woman, two young black kids and a boat, on the water, in a beautiful marina. That can only occur in one place. It is something very special and rare, and if it was repeated on a regular basis it would most likely produce something very unique and fundamental.

I don’t know if you heard over the weekend, the biggest story in town was the killing spree that rocked Khayelitsha. Eleven dead, I heard. A racketeering gambit killed a few Somalian shop owners in Khayelitsha after their boss was killed whilst he was collecting protection money. Eleven dead. Our kids live in Khayelitsha.  Maybe some of them heard the shots. Maybe some of them knew the shop owners. That’s their world. In their world such horror is part of their community, to the extent that they no longer react in fear or shock. They just appreciate the fact that it wasn’t them or their family.

Then you see these very same kids here in this marina, in foulies and you realize that this has to happen. This Academy has to exist and we all have to do everything to keep it going. No one is shooting people in the marina of the Club.  The waters of Table Bay don’t have spaza shops that need goons to extort money from them. The Academy is a lady, a beautiful lady, one that needs to be supported and protected at all costs. One that needs to be empowered and set free.

I have spent the better part of the year, fighting to find funding, putting in applications to any institute that I could find online. Lobbying and pleading. Why do I do it? It’s simple really. Life is a right. Success can never be guaranteed. But life should be. The opportunity to grow, should never be more equal for others, when we all breathe the same air. To not make it to 30 because your environment is eating you alive, is not a norm we should accept.

If we did accept it, it would say more about us, who watch from the side lines and read about it in newspapers, whilst sipping tea in the comfort of our gardens, than it does about those who must survive it.  I thought long and hard during Covid 2020. I thought about what is important, right now, whilst we are under siege and death is in the air.  My decision was clear. Life. Life is important, especially when its very existence is under threat. Life and the preservation of it, is the most important objective in any war. In any Armageddon, Apocalypse or Annihilation.

Life is an opportunity to start again. The Academy needs a new Centre and we need new funding, to take on as many kids as we can. Kids that perhaps can meet an old white man or woman, who may say a word or two. Spark a fire inside a forgotten soul. A fire that might burn so bright, that the trajectory of cradle to prison, or grave, is deflected, transmuted in such a manner, that the young kids find themselves enrolled at UCT. And on graduation day they might look out into space and think, that Yacht Club, it changed my life.

See you on the water.

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