Sheba’s Vow

Sheba's Vow, book coverSHEBA’S VOW is a novel about the struggle for democracy on a “South American” island. South Chale is ruled by a military dictatorship that has divided the country into four different racial groups, each strictly segregated. On South Chale, Asians rule the nation, while whites and blacks are treated as a subservient subclass.

Sheba is born into the most despised class of all, the mongrels, for the mongrels blur the differences between the races. After seeing her father persecuted by the State Security Police, Sheba vows to work for the overthrow of the dictatorship

Their neighbouring island (Suntos) has become communist, but here things are reversed—it is the blacks who rule over the whites and Asians. When Sheba visits Suntos to investigated whether they should seek the assistance of Soviet advisors, she finds a horror that is beyond anything she could have imagined.

Sheba travels to Los Angles to try and gain American support against the dictatorship, but quite suddenly the dictator dies and there is a power struggle among the generals to appoint themselves President-for-life.

Sheba returns home and becomes involved with the Democracy Movement. During the desperate fight for the presidency between the State Security Police and the Army, Sheba uses People Power, persuasion, and cunning in her life and death struggle to form a democratic government.

SHEBA’S VOW is a blend of fact and fiction. South Chale, where the story takes place is largely an amalgam of Chile, Argentina, and South Africa of the 1980s. The neighbouring island of Suntos is a reflection of the Ukraine in the 1930s when Stalin created one of the most desperate famines every experienced, resulting in seven million people starving to death. The final section is an epitome of the People Power events in the Phillippines, Tiananmen Square, and Moscow.

The novel is largely about a political and personal struggle to find a way out of the despair and violence of dictatorships, a reflection of world events.

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Extracts

I watched them approach from my office window, and they came straight into my trap. There were about two thousand of them: black sambos, white spivs, mongrels and more than a sprinkling of Asians. They carried banners and shook their fists as they yelled abuse, looking up at the ministry building. You could see that they thought themselves so clever, so powerful. At last they had evaded the police and made a successful march right into the centre of the city. The TV cameras were watching, not the American, but our own state run television from the Ministry of Truth; they would supply the international networks as soon as it was modified.

Without warning, from behind the chanting crowd came four armoured personnel carriers with water cannon, machine guns, and huge canisters of nausea-gas. Behind them came State Security Police from one side of the road to the other and ten rows deep. They were equipped with full riot gear: shields, batons, electric prodders, sjamboks, and those at the rear carried M16s. The raucous mob heard their approach and the courage left them. They continued to push forward for a wild moment until the army came out from their hidden positions. The mob was surrounded on all sides. The wedge of APCs cut the crowd into two halves, pushing through and spraying them with chemicals and plastic bullets. The demonstrators panicked, running like frightened sheep trying to escape. The SSP began attacking aggressively, looking for Asian leaders, grabbing them and dragging them along the ground and into the cattle trucks where they were handcuffed. The soldiers came forward with sjamboks, clubbing, punching and kicking. Doberman dogs were let loose to attack the crowd at will, tearing savagely into anyone not in uniform. The SSP charged again and again, using their new electric prodders that sent a screaming surge of electricity into the hooligans, turning them into helpless balls of agony.

The feminist women sat down and linked hands so they could not be separated, but the savage dogs went straight in and bit them. The SSP followed clubbing them till they fell to the roadway, then dragged them along the ground to the waiting cattle trucks. While the trucks were being loaded, the SSP charged into the hooligans who were still trying to flee back down Johnson Boulevard. The rioting mob was now a defeated whimpering rabble, running panic-stricken in circles around Augusto Square, their banners shredded cardboard, their victory chants snivelling whimpers of fear.

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Three weeks after this law was passed, when the first rays of sunlight were striking the tops of the hills, bulldozers, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, trucks, and a dozen helicopters surrounded Lorentown. They were backed up by three thousand fully armed troops. Trucks came along the dusty streets with their loudspeakers shouting. We were to move out of our houses immediately because we were illegally inhabiting an A-Class area. The trucks waiting nearby would take us to our allocated township of Beauty Waters, free of cost.

Our family, led by my father, came struggling out of our beds, sleepy-eyed and puzzled by the noise and the strange sight moving into our street. Papa stood defiantly watching the massive bulldozers coming up the hill towards our home. They were bright orange and clanked and rattled and belched black diesel fumes as they made their way slowly up the hill. The whole town stood awe-struck at their front gates, non-plussed by this approaching army of destruction. The enormous bulldozers crashed into the first wooden houses and shattered them to the ground. People began running into their homes trying to salvage their belongings, money, and sleeping children. The bulldozers waited for nothing. They smashed the houses flat, crushing everything in their path: crockery, vegetable gardens, baths, beds, kitchen tables, water tanks, and our lives. Troops armed with sjambok whips, automatic rifles, and flame throwers, drove the hysterical people before them. The men and women were in a turmoil of emotions unable to stop the steel, the flames, or the bulldozers smashing everything they had worked for into the dust.

The noise was almost unbearably loud: circling helicopters with their stomach-thumping BOOMP, BOOMP, BOOMP, reverberated constantly in our heads. The women and children were screaming in anguish at the senseless destruction of everything they owned. Men shouted for their families, as each person tried to save a lifetime of possessions. The bulldozers rattled and clanked forward like lumbering dinosaurs, tearing with their monstrous jaws into our flimsy houses.

The machine guns on some of the APC’s and tanks fired into a group of teenage spivs, sambos, and mongrels, who were throwing stones at them. Their bodies were lifted into the air by the force of the heavy calibre bullets as they ripped holes in their soft flesh. The only resistance was crushed.

The tanks followed the bulldozers with their flamethrowers squirting yellow fire forty metres long, like rocket exhausts, into the piles of broken wood. When the rubble was burning and roaring they moved on to the next pile. The burning funeral pyres gave off heat that blew into my face, tinged with the smell of burning blankets, clothes and furniture. The fires crackled as the heat exploded fibro and wood. When the bulldozers re-stacked the fires they sent sparks and ashes high into the air. My stomach was churning and tears ran down my face as I watched the total destruction: every house I had ever seen, every tree I had ever climbed, every flower I had ever touched, every patch of grass I had ever played on; my whole life, all destroyed.

The rear bulldozers put their rippers down and tore up any vegetable plots missed, levelling the ground ready for the town houses and home units to come. The burning houses were pushed into heaps by the bulldozers. Now they were closer together in death than they had ever been in real life, all destined for the same end: grist for the mill of the developers.

 

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