During the same year as my boxing achievement, 1979, arriving home from school one afternoon, I spotted a police vehicle parked in front of our house. My first gut thought was–my boy, your luck eventually ran out. Just the weekend before, one afternoon walking back from the cliffs, my friends and I set alight some dry grass patches. We would strike matches, throwing it into the dry brush. At first, nothing much happened, but then, with the help of a slight breeze, a fire sprung to life. Some of my friends tried to extinguish the flames, trampling over patches that were not fully alight yet. All to no avail. What started out as a fun-prank, were soon a seriously out of hand roaring fire. Late that night, one could still see the flames licking at the circle of the horizon and smell the bitter smoke as the fire burped into the night. A moth-eaten blanket of ash-clouds listed and rolled in the night sky above the fire.
So, this is D day. I dragged myself into the house. In the lounge, my Dad and two police officers awaited me. Shocked, I noticed the stars on officers’ shoulders. My one and only thought was that it must have been much more serious than I could ever have imagined. On top of it all, my Dad, who had never ever come home during his working day before, was present.
I greeted them, and almost gave in to the urge to hold my wrists out, ready to be cuffed, when one of the officers’ got up. I could only stare into his smiling face as he stepped forward, took my limp right hand with his, and shook it. Confusion ran rampant through me. The officers introduced themselves as recruiting officers from the East London Police Force. Apparently, my Dad had contacted them. Without my knowledge, he had informed them I would join the Police force as soon as I turned 16. The news delighted them. In fact, as became clear from their animated conversation, their delight was more because of my boxing achievements, rather than anything else.
Sport was a priority for the South African Police and they promised to take excellent care of me. My boxing career interested them and they foreshadowed I would be a great asset to them. I was dumbstruck, ‘What? Me a Cop’, I thought to myself. It was never my idea of a future or, for that matter, a career. I was astounded at this turn of events. The officers chatted with me and my Dad for a while, and after about another thirty minutes, they got up and left with a promise to make contact when I turned sixteen. Bewildered, I questioned my Dad after they left.
‘At least allow me to matriculate and get my certificate’ I begged.
‘You’ll be leaving school the end of this year. You can earn money while your mates are sitting on school seats. Study part time and get your matric (senior school certificate) that way,’ he counteracted all my objections.
One of my close school friends learnt about this and decided he would also leave school when he turned sixteen.
‘If you leave, I leave, I’ll go to the military,’ he stated in solidarity.
The months flew past and by the end of that year, we both received our school reports. We had both successfully completed another year of our secondary education.