Do you remember 'The Way We Were'?
When the series began on September 3, 1999, it had been preceded by eight trial articles which were published between May and July on subjects such as historic Cape Town buildings and votes for white women.
The final two, which were about District Six and Cape Town’s first black location at Uitvlugt (now Ndabeni), must have struck a chord, because I was asked to provide more articles in similar vein. No one expected the column to continue without a break (except for editorial mishaps) for the next 1 000-plus weeks.
The newspaper was larger and the columns were longer in those days - 800 words and a suitable picture, as opposed to 470 words and a snapshot today. Writing about the past while living through 20 tumultuous years of democracy has reinforced my belief that history isn’t just a topic for documentaries, text books and exams - we’re living through it all the time.
A glance at some of the inside pages of the Cape Argus for 1999 awakens emotions which range from nostalgia to disbelief. Kim Louis was starring in David Kramer’s new musical Kat & the Kings. You could hire a small TV set from Teljoy for R49 per month.
Frank Chikane described his boss, President Thabo Mbeki, as “humane and totally committed to eradicating corruption”. Police were trying to trace the persons who dumped hazardous medical waste on an open field in Elsie’s River (endangering children’s lives), and baboons and their chasers were active at Scarborough.
A tornado that swept through the Cape Flats one Sunday morning in August sparked speedy humanitarian assistance, but squabbles between political rivals soured official relief efforts. Premier Gerald Morkel and Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo were invited to explain their positions.
Cheryl Potgieter, a UWC academic, wrote a long and thoughtful piece about cricket hero Makhaya Ntini’s recent trial, asking “Are we saying it’s okay to rape?” and suggesting men and youths should be re-educated about what it means to be a man in relation to a woman.
There was much hype about Posh and Becks, who were about to get married in a medieval castle in Ireland, and about the six-month deadline to “millennium madness” on January 1, 2000.
Helen Zille, the newly appointed provincial education minister, and her two sons were photographed under a tree. She claimed her career had grown organically from doing the things that interested her.
Married couples mark 20 years together with gifts of china, but I’m not expecting a special delivery. I still have the chunky mug the Cape Argus gave me when our newspaper turned 160 in 2017, and that will do just fine.
* Jackie Loos' "The Way We Were" column is published in the Cape Argus every week.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.