Wednesday, 25 May 2016


The year was 1975. I was about to turn 25 and I was travelling to a foreign country where I knew absolutely no one; I had just a couple of hundred quid in the bank. At least I had a job waiting for me. I knew that I wanted to taste the world, to see what was out there and be a part of it. I hasten to add, I knew nothing about South Africa except it was warm, sunny and a blessed relief from the cold and grey English winter. Little did I know that South Africa sanctioned the most brutal regime against ‘blacks’ (Africans) in their own country through laws known as Apartheid. Laws that had created a number of ‘homelands’ in the 1960’s, where up to 4.0 million Africans were forcibly removed. Rural dumping grounds in the most unproductive regions of the country, which provided cheap black labour for white employers.

I was prepared to ignore the politics because excitement beckoned. My Mum and Dad, bless their hearts, did not mumour one word of caution or warning, and without a care in the world were about to wave me off to my new life from Heathrow airport – maybe if I had been more aware, I may have seen some apprehension on their part, but they didn’t show it.

I still don’t know how or why this event had happened. I was meant to emigrate to Canada but their Embassy had lost my emigration papers after a delay of 4 months, and sick of the thought of re-applying I had responded to an Ad in the Daily Telegraph for Computer Programmers in South Africa – no problems with lengthy formalities, just fill in the forms and Permanent Residence would be granted within 3 weeks. I had applied for and been accepted for a computer programming job at OK Stores in Johannesburg, which was also the largest retail organisation in South Africa. And they had 2 IBM 360/55’s with 512K of memory each, which was simply huge for that time (remember that Apple and Microsoft had not been invented at this point, and all programs had to be written onto pieces of coding paper and then punched and verified onto punch cards, and returned in a metal tin. It may seem pretty basic today, but at the time it was cutting edge).

I came home one evening from my fantastic job as one of a select group of computer programmers with Nestle in the UK, to give the news to my Mum and Dad that I was leaving this gift of a job, a secure career with one of the largest multi-national companies in the world (based in Switzerland), to go half way across the world to virtually a ‘police state’ where anything could happen, and probably would! And they didn’t bat an eyelid – not a word of warning or disapproval – they just carried on as if everything was perfectly normal! Insane!

The next 3 years would be a kaleidoscope of people and events, clarity and confusion, like on a continuous wave driving me forward without any control. It appears at times that I didn’t know what I wanted to do in those years, that I had lost my rudder in life and was aimlessly pushing forward without a clear direction. It’s impossible to impose order, or reason or logic on this period of my life. But that’s the great thing about being 25; the events of everyday life are unpredictable, and any pattern is difficult to discern. You just have to ‘go with the flow’!

For me, everything was in front of me – new places, new friends and new experiences. The time was 1975, I was turning 25 years old and I had some living to do.

My name is David Haigh, and this is my story of the communal house scene in Johannesburg between 1975 and 1978.

Read on…

Note:   Prices quoted are in South African Rand. In 1975, R1 = $1.10 AUD.
If you live in Australia, you must multiply 1975 prices by 7 to get current day prices (2016). So in 1975, something costing R1 (or $1.10 AUD) would be worth approx. $7.70 AUD in 2016.

Authors Note: The events described here are true; as memories of when things happened begin to fade, they may not have happened in the exact sequence described, but they did happen. Some of the direct quotes from people are taken from my assumption of what may have been said at the time. The characters are true but some of their names may have been mistaken or forgotten over time. Nothing in this story is made up!!
It should be remembered that the era of the 70's was fundamentally different to today; it was the era of free love, student unrest, dope smoking and racial segregation (in South Africa). This Blog is my personal account of those times. 
Events are described in the present tense as if they are happening as I describe them. This is just a convenience to the story-telling.

To access each chapter (or Post) in this Blog, find my 'Blog Archive' in the right-hand Panel and access each chapter by clicking on it.