I grew up not knowing my biological mother. All that I knew was that she was in South Africa. I knew her name too because my father told me when I was young.

I was born on November 8, 1995, in Johannesburg. Sihle is my name, and Moyo is my surname. I’m a girl. I don’t know when my parents met; all I know is that they met eGoli.

My dad was from Zimbabwe and my mother a South African. My dad was working eGoli and my mother was a student at a college when she gave birth to me. They lived together. But as time went on my dad started to drink and play cards. They had two children, my older sister, Gugu, and I. My dad spent money on drinking, and came to the house without anything for us to eat. My mother would go to her sister and ask for help most times.

In 1997, my mother started to hate dad. She couldn’t take it anymore and so she left him. She took me with her and we headed to KZN, to her home. She left my sister with dad. After some weeks, she went back for Gugu.

I don’t know how long we stayed in KZN for. Gugu and I both started to get sick. We had sores all over our bodies and the doctor couldn’t cure us. My mother didn’t know how to get rid of them also. She concluded that the climate was not agreeing with us. She decided to send us back to dad.

In December 1998, dad took us with him to his country. We were very happy even though we were still young. My new family welcomed us warmly. At first life was not as easy as we thought. We didn’t like the traditional food they ate. To us, it looked disgusting. But as time went on, we started to enjoy it; and we grew strong and big.

Since then my mother had never supported us. Dad never saw or heard from her again; she disappeared. We lived happily with my grannies and my stepmother even though life was hard in Zim.

My dad loved us; he supported us.

I remember one day I came from school and I found people crying at my house. I wondered why they were crying. My stepmother and my granny were also crying, my cousins too.

“Why are you crying, what’s wrong?” I asked. But they didn’t answer me. I started crying too.

My grandfather came to us and I almost died when he told me that our dad had passed.

“Everything is gonna be OK, don’t cry my grandchildren,” Granddad said to us.

“Is my father going to wake up?” I asked him.

“I’m sorry, you will never see him again,” he answered.

Dad had become sick and died shortly after. He died in June and was buried in July; he was in South Africa and had to be buried in Zimbabwe, Tsholotsho, where we lived.

Life became complicated after his death. We had no one to pay our school fees for us. I was in Grade 5 and my sister was in Grade 7 when he died. Luckily, a program called PLAN, which paid for the poor and orphans, paid for us.

In Zimbabwe we lived a life of ploughing the fields and we had cattle. One year we had drought; crops and cattle died and life became more difficult. My uncle was the only one working but he earned too little for a big family.

There was still no sign of my mother.

I missed my dad. Sometimes I would look at his pictures and cry. I wished my mother would come and fetch us. But that was a dream. She never came; she was swallowed by KZN.

I dropped out of school in Grade 9. The program that supported us started to cheat and they no longer paid school fees for us. Life was difficult I cried almost every day. I missed school and I missed my father. I prayed every day, asking God to find my mother.

Was my mother still alive? Did she love me? Would I ever see her again? I asked myself every day.

Ungakhali mtan’omtanami, uNkulunkulu unawe,” my granny encouraged. I was even thinking my mother hated us. Sometimes I would think God had turned His back on us.

“Sihle! Sihle!” my aunt was calling me one morning. “Come here, your uncle wants to talk to you,”

I wondered what was wrong now. I ran to her and she gave me the phone to talk with him. I was flabbergasted when I heard the news.

“I found a connection with your mother,” my uncle told me. He also told me that she would send money for me to go and live with her. I was very happy.

My grandparents were not impressed though.

“Your mother is such a snake. How dare she want to take you? She never supported you, she neglected you, and she abandoned you.” My granny complained. “Now that I have raised you she wants to take you?”

I didn’t care about what they saying. All I cared about was that I was going to live with my mother.

It was 2012 in October, and I was going to South Africa. I was happy I was going to live with my mother, and sad I was leaving my lovely family.

We arrived in Jozi in the morning. My uncle took me to my aunt’s, my mom’s sister. They welcomed me and my uncle left. I was very happy.

My aunt introduced me to her children. I didn’t remember them. It had been fourteen years since I separated with my mom; I was now seventeen.

On a Friday I headed to KZN where my mother was still living. I told myself that I would cry when I saw her. I arrived in the evening and met my eldest sister and my younger brother for the first time.

I hadn’t even known that I had other siblings. I slept over at my sister’s place in Howick. On Sunday we took a taxi to Balgowan, where my mother lived. We arrived early and the family welcomed me. Mom wasn’t there she was at work. They kept asking me questions: how was Zimbabwe, would I go back, and so forth.

While I was sitting, just chilling, a woman came inside and she greeted me. They asked whether I knew her and I said no.

“I’m your mother,” she said.

I just kept silent.

I was shy that I couldn’t even stand up to greet her. At last I found her, I remember thinking. The family spoke Zulu, I spoke Ndebele, but because the languages are alike, we understood each other.

I was very happy to live with my mother and my new family, but I missed my family in Zimbabwe too.

As time went on, I started to see some changes. My mother started to treat me differently from my brother.

In December we went to Howick for Christmas shopping. And the following week my mother took my younger brother, who was twelve then, to do his shopping. Even though I was shocked that his clothes were from Edgars while mine were from Jet, I didn’t take it seriously.

My mother stayed at work so I lived with my brother. My sister wasn’t staying with my mom either, so I was the “grown up”.

Last year, 2013, I started school in Grade 9. My mother told us that she couldn’t give us pocket money. She couldn’t afford to give two children R5 every day, she said. But when I arrived, she always gave Mlondi R30 pocket money weekly.

I passed Grade 9; I’m now in Grade 10. But life is complicated.

My mother shouts at me and tells me that she doesn’t have time for me. When I ask her to buy me something she tells me that she doesn’t have money, but when Mlondi asks she buys it.

“Sihle, I will send you back to Zimbabwe,” she always said to me when I would complain.

“Then why did you bother taking me if you didn’t want me?” I once asked her.

Ngakulandela ukuzogada uMlondi, wena ucabanga ukuthi ngakulanelani? I fetched you to look after Mlondi, what did you think I took you for?” she said to me.

“I thought you took me because I’m your daughter,” I said crying.

Angihlangene naleyonto mina, that has nothing to do with me,” she shouted.

She still tells me that she will send me back to Zimbabwe. I don’t know why she hates me.

I don’t have a birth certificate, so I can’t get an ID. I don’t know when I would get those things. I’m nineteen now and I don’t know how can I get them without my mom’s support.

The life that I’m living is intolerable.

When I came to South Africa I thought I would live a better life. But I was wrong. I thought my mother loved me, but now I can see. Now I know the reason she neglected me.

I wish to pass matric and go to university. I wish to achieve my goals and be a journalist one day. I don’t want my children to live the life that I’m living right now.

But I am at my wits end.


Let’s chat: Have you been in a similar situation or do you know someone who has? What would you do if you were Sihle?console.log(‘ThelmsSurveyLink::GetLinkArray() returned ‘, false);