It was like the fall of Saigon.
Choppers buzzed low over the beach, rescue boats fitted with powerful engines circled beyond the breakers, the wail of ambulance sirens filled the air. A weird mist hung over a shoreline jammed with writhing, screaming bodies. Minibuses packed with half-naked, hysterical people weaved through the dense traffic. Ragged children emerged from makeshift shelters and fought among themselves for the few scraps of food still available.
When I saw the last white family being airlifted off Camps Bay beach, it was only my experience as a war correspondent that prevented me from sobbing like a girl.
Everywhere around me, people were drinking heavily to numb the horror. Those who had foolishly finished their drinks before the sunset curfew and the imposition of martial law were copulating openly as people do in times of great stress.
I watched as six Swedish tourists stepped over the bodies and set up their volleyball net. I had to look away. Even though I am immune to scenes of carnage, there are still some sights that turn my stomach.
On one side of the road was the Western-backed south, its chrome and glass bars and restaurants providing a safe haven for hundreds of people pale with fear. On the other side of the road, the Communist-backed north was gathering for a final push on the degenerates of the south.
Fortified by Chinese takeaways and Russian sausages, big-breasted commissars in red spandex leotards pushed deeper. The Vietcong were Girl Guides in comparison. Their enormous voices drowned out the desperate cries from the south. I was close enough to hear them and I can tell you it was pitiful. “Who ordered the crayfish?” shouted a harried man in a white coat, tears streaming down his face.
We all knew that the south and the north were deeply divided, but few could have predicted that the final showdown would take place at Camps Bay. Where there should have been a Blue Flag, the skull and crossbones snapped in the wind.
Durban’s most popular beach fell to the north years ago and was renamed North Beach even though that was its name anyway.
Now Camps Bay, the final refuge of the flaxen-haired blue-eyed devils, was on the verge of being declared Tai Chi Minh City.
I took up the classic position of the United Nations peacekeeper but stopped short of molesting young girls and instead simply observed as the north began massing, as only the north can mass.
Just when I thought all was lost, a Humvee full of Gauteng coke dealers crudely disguised as Patagonian toothfish poachers drove up. The south rose as one, rattling their jewellery and shouting for more cocktails.
I heard what sounded like a gunshot and a stampede broke out among the north, but they were quick to regroup when word spread that it was nothing more serious than a Zulu warlord taking care of a methane gas build-up.
I was weighing up my chances of making it to the nearest bar without compromising my objectivity when a glue-stained orphan tried to sell me his teeth. I am no newcomer to the seedy world of black market teeth, but now was not the time so I denounced the urchin as a filthy spy and he sloped back to his people.
American intervention in the form of a dozen Harley Davidson’s gave the south renewed hope, but their courageous cries for more lobster and champagne were reduced to a dull murmur once they realised the cavalry was made up of men more comfortable with holding each other than holding the line.
The north, meanwhile, was in disarray. The frontline had stopped its advance and had begun shoving and slapping one another. A renegade faction, probably on the south’s payroll, had put out the word that this was the queue for taxis and that the real invasion wasn’t due until Thursday.
Quick to exploit the situation, the south sent out a patrol of underage drinkers. They stood there for a bit, swaying gently in the breeze and giggling among themselves. I was hoping for a bit of action, but the only thing that blew up was their skirts. I shouldn’t complain, really.
After requisitioning a shot of morphine from the mobile mediclinic, I witnessed what looked like a ceasefire agreement being signed between a clan leader with an oozing head wound and a Kevlar-coated cop whose eyes were glazed with indifference.
I doubt it was implemented because I was still standing on the back of a moving bakkie calling for the reunification of Camps Bay when the south surrendered and all the bars were collectivised.
Blouberg accepted the first wave of refugees but the rest stumbled down to the shorebreak where they made a raft from free Engen beachballs and drifted off in search of a brave new world.
As in any war that involves political ideologies and girls who offer up their maidenheads for a bottle of cider and a ride in a fast car, there were the inevitable civilian casualties in the battle for Camps Bay. Most of them ended up in municipal body bags along with used condoms, broken sandals and half-smoked bottlenecks – the usual Boxing Day detritus of any conflict this side of the 16th parallel.
It was like the fall of Saigon.