I met Johan Viljoen in my 20s. At 29 he interviewed me for a job, which I got! I worked under him for many years. When I started at the organization, he was filling in for the director, who had taken some time off (a short sabbatical). He (Johan) threw Sibona and I in the deep end swim we did!
We went on our first site visit on the 3rd day of our employment to Soweto, where he expected us to present on a brand new project, including budget and targets. I think that is where we earned his respect.
He was our ‘boss’ and we were sharing an office with him.
A temperamental person is someone whose mood often changes very suddenly (The cambridge dictionary). To say that he is temperamental would be a gross understatement!
We got used to the to extremes and often laughed them off. One time a mouse missed my right eye by inches.
As a result, he didn’t buy expensive phones and other gadgets. That’s how I ended up with these photos of him. He asked me to take photos of him and email them to him.
The folks at Canon, (where the office rented printers) knew him well. Every week, we would need to have a printer fixed or replaced but the funny thing is that we would all be lumped in and blamed for this even though everybody knew full well whose fault it was.
We didn’t mind sharing the blame because he often protected us from attacks by the WLG (white ladies gang) to the point where one time, we had to squeeze our not so tiny behinds in a car to go eat tofu in Brooklyn mall in order to show his support for us to this lady who hated us for no apparent reason. She had just met us but couldn’t stand us. She would say the meanest things about us in Afrikaans in our office in front of us, not knowing that Johan and TB would translate for us.
I thought I had experienced racism before this but I had no idea. I even considered changing my name, it was used and abused and used in vain… I somehow represented, infact was the personification of their ‘swart gevaar’. The director took their side and was unwavering in supporting whatever was said about me, without questioning or even applying common sense.
I appreciated his support and listening ear when the same seemed impossible for the director to do.
He taught me and gave me permission (that I didn’t know I needed) to speak out & to express my anger when warranted. My then director later said (to my face) that I can throw my toys. Because a black woman is not supposed to be angry, sad, disappointed, (name a feeling)…
When I look at him and how authentic his emotional responses are, infantile as they are sometimes I can’t help but admire him for it. I say this as somebody who censored herself for 30+ years to the detriment of my mental and emotional well-being.
Now, I call things as I see them. I cry when I need to. I laugh out loud when it’s funny.
Johan has a very distinctive laugh. It can melt away any negativity.
It doesn’t hurt that he considers himself a Zulu of some sort. He hates Hlengiwe Mhlaba’s music but loves amageza amahle. His favorite hymn is ‘Ithemba lami ngonyuka nalo ngingene endumisweni…’
He doesn’t like long, drawn-out meetings and church services for that matter. I am exactly like that. He has no patience for nonsense, me too. He detects bullshit from a mile away, so do I. When he loves you, he shows you and when he dislikes you, he will make sure that you know! Exactly like me.
His roadrage and public farts is where we differ. I will save the farts stories for another post.
I had to salute my makhulu baas. I like how he owns his life and how he does things and finishes them promptly. Each day is new and is for new ‘to do lists’ for him. I try to live my life like this. One day I might even succeed at it!