Our Town, May 4, 1953

Last Look 

En Route to Nairobi, Kenya. This is written at 19,000 feet in a Constellation droning north. Within an hour we will see the snows of Kilimanjaro off to our right and within two I will be in Nairobi to spend a week or more on the terrible story of the Mau Mau, We are leaving the Union of South Africa behind at 284 miles an hour. That suits me. I had hoped to leave by Comet Jet at 500 miles an hour if only because it would be a quicker way to retreat from the memory of a sick country. My last view of South Africa was the same as my first –an enchanting, sun-drenched green place far below. I would like to remember it that way and not as it is in the less pretty confinement of its humanity. 

Yet we've still not entirely escaped. This is an aircraft tf South African Airways.  When you get aboard you are given a seat tag, unlike the Canadian airlines, specifying where you will sit.  Each seat is numbered. There is just one dark man aboard our "Connie" –an elderly East Indian. He alone is sitting by himself up front in the double seats, a sad reminder of the whole rotten business of color against color.

Before take-off this morning I got a batch of letters from home.  Some of them were comments from readers on the series of pieces I wrote before the election.  One man wrote this: "Your stories have been far from objective. Surely there must have been other things to write about in that great country besides the native problem."

It is probably a valid critism. I did not write of South Africa with any more or less objectivity than I would write about witnessing a simple case of rape. But this also is true: The story of South Africa is the story of color, however unpleasant or repetitive it may be. And far better newspaper men than I have found that o be true. 

Africa is not the kind of story you can enjoy writing, it is a story of stupidity and greed, of people of your own breed driving on to an objective they know is wrong and that can only lead to the same kind of violence and terror that lies now ahead of our propeIlers in Kenya.

 I think I lost any objectivity I might have had on the night after spending some hours with a native family.  I returned to Johannesburg's Langham Hotel, where the Aga Khan had recently reserved an entire floor, and sat in the lounge for a drink, trying to shake the depression that came from seeing a little girl who knows the taste of milk as a rare luxury.

 It was a Saturday night. There was a dance in the hotel ballroom. The Rolls Royces  and Jaguars were rolling up to he hotel. The handsome people in their evening wear were flowing past me, full of gaiety and the best champagne. And I decided then that it could not be written with any dignified reserve.

Now, at last we have sighted Kilimanjaro and its great white slopes so incongruous a few miles from the equator. 

Here, as in South Africa, it hard to look upon this magnificent landscape from these clean, pure heights and remind ourself of the struggle that's going down below.

 It is too late now to do the kind of reporting from Kenya that was done from South Africa. Down there the battle is joined. The sickness is beyond any mild medicine. There are rights and wrongs on both sides, but now it is a straight case of murder and lie story to me is just another tory off a police blotter. 

But I'm certain of one thing: if South Africa goes on as it deepening the hatred between white and black and denying not merely freedom, but whole milk to the black people who are so vital to its economy then there will be the same hell to pay back here as there is up ahead.

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