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READING ACTIVITIES. Read the first part of the story and pay special attention to the following sentence: “No one is born with prejudice in their hearts
Read the first part of the story and pay special attention to the following sentence: “No one is born with prejudice in their hearts, although some people are introduced to it at an early age.” How does it sound? Do you agree with it?
There is a man from Cape Town who travels to the black township of Crossroads every day. He spends the morning teaching English at one of the local schools, the afternoon coaching rugby or cricket according to the season, and his evenings roaming the streets trying to convince the young that they shouldn’t form gangs or commit crimes, and that they should have nothing to do with drugs. He is known as the Crossroads Convert.
No one is born with prejudice in their hearts, although some people are introduced to it at an early age. This was certainly true of Stoffel van den Berg. Stoffel was born in Cape Town, and never once in his life travelled abroad. His ancestors had emigrated from Holland in the eighteenth century, and Stoffel grew up accustomed to having black servants who were there to carry out his slightest whim. If the boys — none of the servants appeared to be graced with a name, whatever their age — didn’t obey Stoffel’s orders, they were soundly beaten or simply not fed. If they carried out a job well, they weren’t thanked, and were certainly never praised. Why bother to thank someone who has only been put on earth to serve you?
When Stoffel attended his first primary school in the Cape this unthinking prejudice was simply reinforced, with classrooms full of white children being taught only by white teachers. The few blacks he ever came across at school were cleaning lavatories that they would never be allowed to use themselves. During his school days Stoffel proved to be above average in the classroom, excelling in maths, but in a class of his own on the playing field. By the time Stoffel was in his final year of school, this six-foot-two-inch, fair-haired Boer was playing fly half for the 1st fifteen in the winter and opening the batting for the 1st eleven during the summer. There was already talk of him playing either rugby or cricket for the Springboks even before he had applied for a place at any university. Several college scouts visited the school in his final year to offer him scholarships, and on the advice of his headmaster, supported by his father, he settled on Stellenbosch. Stoffel’s unerring progress continued from the moment he arrived on the campus. In his freshman year he was selected to open the batting for the university eleven when one of the regular openers was injured. He didn’t miss a match for the rest of the season. Two years later, he captained an undefeated varsity side, and went on to score a century for Western Province against Natal.
On leaving university, Stoffel was recruited by Barclays Bank to join their public relations department, although it was made clear to him at the interview that his first priority was to ensure that Barclays won the Inter-Bank Cricket Cup. He had been with the bank for only a few weeks when the Springbok selectors wrote to inform him that he was being considered for the South African cricket squad which was preparing for the forthcoming tour by England. The bank was delighted, and told him he could take as much time off as he needed to prepare for the national side. He dreamed of scoring a century at Newlands, and perhaps one day even at Lord’s. He followed with interest the Ashes series that was taking place in England. He had only read about players like Underwood and Snow, but their reputations did not worry him. Stoffel intended to despatch their bowling to every boundary in the country. The South African papers were also following the Ashes series with keen interest, because they wanted to keep their readers informed of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition their team would be facing in a few weeks’ time. Then, overnight, these stories were transferred from the back pages to the front, when England selected an all-rounder who played for Worcester called Basil D’Oliveira. Mr D’Oliveira, as the press called him, made the front pages because he was what the South Africans classified as “Cape Coloured”. Because he had not been allowed to play first-class cricket in his native South Africa, he had emigrated to England. The press in both countries began to speculate on the South African government’s attitude should D’Oliveira be selected by the MCC as a member of the touring side to visit South Africa.
“If the English were stupid enough to select him,” Stoffel told his friends at the bank, “the tour would have to be cancelled.” After all, he couldn’t be expected to play against a coloured man. The South Africans’ best hope was that Mr D’Oliveira would fail in the final Test at The Oval, and would not be considered for the coming tour, and thus the problem would simply go away. D’Oliveira duly obliged in the first innings, scoring only eleven runs and taking no Australian wickets. But in the second innings he played a major role in winning the match and squaring the series, scoring a chanceless 158. Even so, he was controversially left out of the touring team for South Africa. But when another player pulled out because of injury, he was selected as his replacement.
The South African government immediately made their position clear: only white players would be welcome in their land. Robust diplomatic exchanges took place over the following weeks, but as the MCC refused to remove D’Oliveira from the party the tour had to be cancelled. It was not until after Nelson Mandela became President in 1994 that an official English team once again set foot in South Africa. Stoffel was shattered by the decision, and although he played regularly for Western Province and ensured that Barclays retained the Inter-Bank Cup, he doubted if he would ever be awarded a Test cap. But, despite his disappointment, Stoffel remained in no doubt that the government had made the right decision. After all, why should the English imagine they could dictate who should visit South Africa? It was while he was playing against Transvaal that he met Inga. Not only was she the most beautiful creature he had ever set eyes on, but she also fully agreed with his sound views on the superiority of the white race. They were married a year later.
5. Now go on reading. Share your opinions about the main character`s political views.
When sanctions began to be imposed on South Africa by country after country, Stoffel continued to back the government, proclaiming that the decadent Western politicians had all become liberal weaklings. Why didn’t they come to South Africa and see the country for themselves, he would demand of anyone who visited the Cape. That way they would soon discover that he didn’t beat his servants, and that the blacks received a fair wage, as recommended by the government. What more could they hope for? In fact, he could never understand why the government didn’t hang Mandela and his terrorist cronies for treason. Piet and Marike nodded their agreement whenever their father expressed these views. He explained to them over breakfast again and again that you couldn’t treat people who had recently fallen out of trees as equals. After all, it wasn’t how God had planned things.
When Stoffel stopped playing cricket in his late thirties, he took over as head of the bank’s public relations department, and was invited to join the board. The family moved into a large house a few miles down the Cape, overlooking the Atlantic. While the rest of the world continued to enforce sanctions, Stoffel only became more convinced that South Africa was the one place on earth that had got things right. He regularly expressed these views, both in public and in private.
“You should stand for Parliament,” a friend told him. “The country needs men who believe in the South African way of life, and aren’t willing to give in to a bunch of ignorant foreigners, most of whom have never even visited the country.” To begin with, Stoffel didn’t take such suggestions seriously. But then the National Party’s Chairman flew to Cape Town especially to see him.
“The Political Committee were hoping you would allow your name to go forward as a prospective candidate at the next general election,” he told Stoffel. Stoffel promised he would consider the idea, but explained that he would need to speak to his wife and fellow board members at the bank before he could come to a decision. To his surprise, they all encouraged him to take up the offer. “After all, you are a national figure, universally popular, and no one can be in any doubt about your attitude to apartheid.” A week later, Stoffel phoned the National Party Chairman to say that he would be honoured to stand as a candidate. When he was selected to fight the safe seat of Noordhoek, he ended his speech to the adoption committee with the words, “I’ll go to my grave knowing apartheid must be right, for blacks as well as for whites.” He received a standing ovation.
That all changed on 18 August 1989. Stoffel left the bank a few minutes early that evening, because he was due to address a meeting at his local town hall. The election was now only weeks away, and the opinion polls were indicating that he was certain to become the Member for the Noordhoek constituency. As he stepped out of the lift he bumped into Martinus de Jong, the bank’s General Manager.
“Another half-day, Stoffel?” he asked with a grin.
“Hardly. I’m off to address a meeting in the constituency, Martinus.”
“Quite right, old fellow,” de Jong replied. “And don’t leave them in any doubt that no one can afford to waste their vote this time - that is, if they don’t want this country to end up being run by the blacks. By the way,” he added, “we don’t need assisted places for blacks at universities either. If we allow a bunch of students in England to dictate the bank’s policy, we’ll end up with some black wanting my job.”
“Yes, I read the memo from London. They’re acting like a herd of ostriches. Must dash, Martinus, or I’ll be late for my meeting.”
“Yes, sorry to have held you up, old fellow.”
Stoffel checked his watch and ran down the ramp to the carpark. When he joined the traffic in Rhodes Street, it quickly became clear that he had not managed to avoid the bumper-to-bumper exodus of people heading out of town for the weekend.
Once he had passed the city limits, he moved quickly into top gear. It was only fifteen miles to Noordhoek, although the terrain was steep and the road winding. But as Stoffel knew every inch of the journey, he was usually parked outside his front door in under half an hour. He glanced at the clock on the dashboard. With luck, he would still be home with enough time to shower and change before he had to head off for the meeting. As he swung south onto the road which would take him up into the hills, Stoffel pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator, nipping in and out to overtake slow-moving lorries and cars that weren’t as familiar with the road as he was. He scowled as he shot past a black driver who was struggling up the hill in a clapped-out old van that shouldn’t have been allowed on the road. Stoffel accelerated round the next bend to see a lorry ahead of him. He knew there was a long, straight section of road before he would encounter another bend, so he had easily enough time to overtake. He put his foot down and pulled out to overtake, surprised to discover how fast the lorry was travelling.
When he was about a hundred yards from the next bend, a car appeared around the corner. Stoffel had to make an instant decision. Should he slam his foot on the brake, or on the accelerator? He pressed his foot hard down until the accelerator was touching the floor, assuming the other fellow would surely brake. He eased ahead of the lorry, and the moment he had overtaken it, he swung in as quickly as he could, but still he couldn’t avoid clipping the mudguard of the oncoming car. For an instant he saw the terrified eyes of the other driver, who had slammed on his brakes, but the steep gradient didn’t help him. Stoffel’s car rammed into the safety barrier before bouncing back onto the other side of the road, eventually coming to a halt in a clump of trees.
That was the last thing he remembered, before he regained consciousness five weeks later.
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