A Story for Workers Day
By Ntsako Mlambo
“Shosholoza, shosholoza. Kulezo ntaba, stimela siphume eSatata Afrika. Wen’yabaleka kulezo ntaba, stimela siphume eSata Afrika.”
I have decided to die in my sleep because it is the only place that allows my dreams to live. Nobody told us, nobody warned us. When this song was composed for the male miners who were off to the mines, did they consider telling us that our fathers and brothers would never come back?
Did they ever think about what uMama and what my siblings would eat? I come from a generation where absent fathers exist. I come from a generation where absent fathers exist because they thought chasing gold would be better than taking care of their families.
We are the women and children with no names. No one is praying for us. To them we are just those who stayed behind. I have been fed poverty and hunger since birth, I have stomached my mother’s cries ever since uBaba left. The men in my family have dug our hearts out, placed them on metal trays and have torn them bit by bit. They have sliced up our veins and chopped our arteries and fed them to the dogs. The men in my family have erased the laughter in my soul and because of that I bleed distress, hate and rage all together, every day. Have they forgotten that we would give up our womanhood just to make them men again?
When I was sixteen my mother had decided that I was old enough to go look for my father in the big city. I remember how I left eMisinga, rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, I remember my mother folding my clothes with so much tenderness and care in her hands as if she was doing it for the last time. You could tell she was no stranger to loss. Everyone in the house had gathered on the steep to send me off except uGogo.
I don’t blame her, she has seen to many people go and never return. I heard her last night talking to abaphansi on my behalf, I smelt the imphempho burn from my room and I tasted the brewing of the umqobothi.
agogo did this so I would have all the protection needed for this journey. The last thing I was given on that day was a letter from my mother; it was a letter she wrote for my father. She told me not to open it but give it straight to uBaba as soon as I find him.
So I did, I guarded it religiously. I had memorized the address of my father’s workplace like how I had memorized the scars on my brother’s back. I had not slept much in the bus, I tossed and turned the whole night, I was crippled with anxiety. I didn’t find my father during the time I spent in the big city nor have I found him today.
One of the workers at the mine who shared a room with my father when they lived in the hostels told me that my father had died a year ago because he was sick. Sick because he was a mischievous man, popularly known for sleeping around with too many women who he would pay afterwards, instead of visiting us or sending any money home.
All I had to my father’s name were his old mining boots, a permit book in the pockets of his overall and a tattered bible. The silence of absent fathers is a silence that follows you for many years. The silence of absent fathers becomes louder when they are quiet and not there to speak for themselves. The silence of absent fathers violates our spirits.
I have kept the letter my mother gave me to give my father, it reads:
“As much I loved you, I don’t want you to come back. You have caused us too much pain; your children have grown now. Your cruelty and selfishness helped us in the long run because we were the only people who could fight for ourselves. You left your mother here with us and we had to bury her, she wanted to see you before she drew her final breath but your selfishness wouldn’t let you come back home. You killed her; you are responsible for her death, she wasn’t just your mother, she was everyone’s mother. She was a mother to me and to the kids as well but you couldn’t come back and that broke her heart. Yaz’ I hope you die too and burn in hell for eternal life. Voetsek!”
Today I will burn that letter before I go to sleep, so I can try to move on with my life. I cannot be moving with hills on my chest and so much baggage on my shoulders.
By Anam Magudu
Quiet, he said
There isn’t much you can do
If you remain still, I won’t hurt you, I promise
Why are you fighting this?
You don’t want to do this, do you?
Ah, look at those tears, beautiful, aren’t they?
You are begging me to do it, I see
Why are you being so hard? why!
We can get this over with and done with before anyone
can notice that you are missing.
Look at your thighs: soft, yummy and slutty
The can consume and keep me warm
Who wouldn’t wan to touch that
Who wouldn’t want to feel and enjoy that
That belongs to me now
In fact, you are mine
He promised that if I remained silent he wouldn’t hurt me
He promised that if I behaved and became a good girl he will be soft with me
He said it will be quick and painless
I believed him
I wanted to fight but at the same tume I wanted to survive, to see another die
He told me it will be over soon
I obeyed, I followed becuase I wanted all of it gone
It was so painful that I let out a piercing sound and prayed that someone heard me
I wanted to be found, saved and alive
I gave up and I gave in
I waited for the moment when he will say he was done
He cleaned me up from my pool of blood and dressed me up
I should have appreciated the gesture, shouldn’t I?
He told me that this is our beautiful and little secret, nobody has to know about it
They will be jealous of our chemistry
I was confused, scared yet I still believed him
“If you keep this to yourself you will forget it by tomorrow.
You should be fine. It will all heal before anyone can notice”
I could barely walk, breathe, cry or anything
I believed in silence because I did not want to be the victim
Physically, I have healed
Emotionally, I am scarred
But guess what? He came back again
Silence did not heal nor save me
I will be roaring this time round
I know he will come back
She Closed Her Eyes
By Sarah du Preez
She closed her eyes,
and felt the suffocating grip of his cold calloused fingers press against her lips.
They drowned her please for help as an ocean of tears rained from her eyes.
She felt the weight of Him on top of her, crushing her, she could barely breath.
The rough, scratchy rope wound so tightly around her wrist
It left her skin raw and her fingertips numb.
The cuts from the broken bottle,
The bruises from His drunken fist.
she felt completely helpless,
powerless, as He took what He thought to be His God given right.
The pain ripped across her body as He forced Himself upon her.
she focused on the hollow look in His eyes, one that had once shown love and
tenderness now revealed a bitter numbness to the suffering in which He was inflicting.
A look that terrified her to her very core.
He could not look her in the eye.
she suddenly awoke in a panic, drenched in sweat, paralyzed
when it was all too much to bare.
This nightmare which she was doomed to relive each night in her dreams
and there He was, lying peacefully asleep beside her.
Your Silence Will not Protect You
By Thobile Mahlangu
Gwen Hilden (43) lightly taps her cigarette against the marble ashtray to her before taking another drag. Her body barley making a dent in the plush leather sofa in the formal living room, dressed in a starch white polo and knee-length khakis, simpler and precise the typical spring uniform for a Constantia housewife living in Cape Town. Her wheat-colored hair is in a pristine bun except for the few wispy strays that frame her sharp features. Her ice-blue eyes peered through the glass sliding door then shift towards the interviewer sitting across her in the armchair and finally settle above the fireplace mantel behind him.
I know what you’re thinking, and I agree with you it’s hilarious right? ‘The mother who disowned her lesbian daughter with a pride flag in her house? Well goodness I could write an article on that alone’. What can I say, it reminds me of her so I kept it. Listen, although I’ve never been a supporter of the homosexual way of life, contrary to what you may think I did love my daughter and I raised her right if you ask me. I’ve always told her is that, irrespective of the path you choose to take in your life, keep these two rules constant: Always center your life around God and never betray your family. I never expected her to break both of them.
(Takes drag of her cigarette and chuckles dryly)
At the same time.
This whole ordeal started seven years ago, she was 13 and dealing with the angst that comes with being a teenager, or at least that’s what I thought. She comes into my room, her face was stricken as if she’s scared for her life. Immediately worried I asked her what’s wrong, and in a trembling whisper she tells me: “Mom I’m gay”.
I froze. Fear just washed over my entire body. I couldn’t believe that my daughter- my beautiful, talented, intelligent daughter- was telling me she was gay. When she said that, it broke my heart.
I let it be known early that I was having none of it and it created a wedge between us. From then on, all I could think about it was: how to fix this problem. And when I’d confided in Ed I was grateful when he offered his assistance. Pastor Edward had been my childhood priest who, along with my mother, had moulded me into the woman I am today. One day when I was picking her up from bible study I told her “Uncle Eddie has a surprise waiting for you at church” and immediately her eyes lit up.
Few people know about the bedroom that’s right outside the pastor’s office at our church. I’m not entirely sure what it’s used for, but that day it was used for what Ed calls ‘realignment therapy’. We walk in, Ed still in her robe smiling down at April. I’ll admit he had made an effort, the room was dim, blinds closed, candles on the window sills and the headboard, a few rose petals sprinkled here and there and he even got April a bouquet of sunflowers, which are her favorite. I told you, he’s a good man. I told him “she’s all yours” and left as he locked the door behind me.
It didn’t take long, I waited 20 maybe 20 minutes until I saw them walking towards the car. April gets in, silent, with a blank slightly disturbed expression, which isn’t that surprising I was quite unsettled the first time it happened to me. Pastor Ed comes to the driver’s window and tells me that the session went well and says “your daughter’s a feisty one, took a few tries until she went along with it”.
The drive home was painful, to say the least, but I have no regrets. Now she knows what I expect from her. Just like what my mother expected from me and my sisters. When I did she told me, once you fix the problem, you keep quiet and move on with your life because you’re cleansed now, of all sinful thoughts, that silence is your weapon, use it to your advantage and to guard and protect your family. She just wanted the best for us, like I want the best for April. Now she’s punishing me for it. Telling every news outlet that will listen that I’m a villain. So I’m glad someone is getting my side because you know what I think? My daughter’s weak! She wasn’t strong enough and now all our lives are fucked. All because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
The annual student residence Res-4-Res drama festival is a virtual affair in a new format this year as COVID-19 continues to shape the world around us. The Res4Res Festival invited students to submit artistic expressions around the theme, Your Silence Will Not Protect You, in three categories, namely visual, video and written work.
Held in the fourth quarter, Res for Res is one of the highlights of the residence calendar. In the past, student playwrights, directors and actors have strutted their stuff in front of a live audience, usually in the plush Baxter Theatre complex. Each year, residences are given a theme to shape their drama around. The plays usually run over several days and tickets are sold to entice students to come along and support their residences.
But, due to the global pandemic Res4Res has shifted into a virtual space this year, taking place across platforms like Vula, the online data-free site UCT students use, Facebook and Instagram. Students have been invited to submit artistic expressions in the following categories: Visual, Video and Written, all responding to the theme, Your Silence Will Not Protect You.
Students received some guidance by industry professionals including Kanya Viljoen, Rosa-Karoo Loewe, Tiisetso Mashifane Wa Noni, Ameera Conrad, Tailyn Ramsamy, Kim Adonis, Larissa Mwanyama and Jemma Kahn. Conrad, Ramsamy and Mwanyama were also this year’s judges who decided on the works that would be featured further on social media platforms that Res4Res had partnered with.
The commitment of Res4Res remains to provide a platform for res students to share and engage in artistic ways around the themes and realities that are part of students’ lives in South Africa, as well as creating a space where students can continue to express and explore through artistic expression.