Black diamond, by Zakes Mda
Zakes Mda with Black Diamond a skillfully written page tourner, and characters are well developed through the book.
Free the Visagie Brothers
No one will blame you if you think Kristin Uys is dressed for a funeral. Not the black folks' kind of funerals where women give the dead a glorious send-off in the same Versaces, Sun Goddesses and Givenchys that are a staple at such horse racing events as the Durban July Handicap or the J&B Met. Not the joyful events where the living crack jokes about the dead, and get sloshed and dance to loud music at those marathon parties known as 'after-tears'. But the sad and sombre affairs that pass for funerals in white communities. A calf-length black skirt, an off-white blouse with frills that have gone tired, and a navy blue jacket that seems to be slightly oversized. The black gown, however, will soon disabuse you of any notions of bereavement, and will place you squarely in a courtroom. She is the magistrate. The gown is almost threadbare, with bell-shaped sleeves and shoulder pieces of scarlet. Her blonde hair is tied in an old-fashioned schoolmarmish bun. But the austere look and the severe dress code fail to disguise her fine features. She sits at the bench and looks sternly at the accused. One glares back at her unflinchingly. He is Stevo Visagie, the older of the two brothers in the dock. He is tiny and wiry. What he lacks in stature he makes up for in his menacing look. His sharp features, leathery skin and penetrating eyes tell us at once that he is tough. The other one hasn't got the guts to return the magistrate's gaze. He lowers his eyes. He is Shortie Visagie, a young man with the frame of a wrestler and a perpetually perplexed expression. Although he is obviously as strong as an elephant, he has an avuncular air about him. He may pretend to be tough, but he is really a teddy bear. The magistrate did not expect this kind of temerity from Stevo; she turns her gaze to the defence counsel. Mr Krish Naidoo stands up to address the court. Before he can utter a word the magistrate says, 'You are not dressed, Mr Naidoo.' 'I beg your pardon, your worship?' 'Next time I will not allow you in my court in that suit, Mr Naidoo.' He should have known better than to wear a light grey suit in Kristin Uys's court. Everyone is well aware that she is a stickler for courtroom decorum: a black suit, a white shirt, a bib and a black robe. But sometimes a lawyer forgets, especially because other magistrates are quite lax about such things. 'I expect such infringements from younger attorneys,' she adds. The spectators in the gallery watch expectantly. Prominent among them are four women in the garish attire and exaggerated make-up of prostitutes. They are huddled together and are paying close attention to the proceedings. Krish Naidoo suppresses his irritation and apologises to the court. He then proceeds with his closing remarks. His clients, the Visagie Brothers, are on trial for running a brothel. 'But the state has failed to make a case against them,' he says. 'Evidence given by their mother has shown that the girls found on the Visagie property were their cousins visiting from the platteland! The prostitutes in the gallery seem to enjoy this characterisation of their peers. They give the court what they think are coquettish smiles. The magistrate has nothing but disgust for them. All they need to do is give her the slightest excuse and she will have them thrown out of the courtroom. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel Black diamond, by Zakes Mda.
Title: Black diamond
Author: Zakes Mda
Publisher: The Penguin Group (South Africa)
Cape Town, South Africa, 2011
ISBN 9780143026860 / ISBN 978-0-14-302686-0
Paperback, 13 x 20 cm, 207 pages