I grew up in a small village called Marulaneng in Bakenberg at Mokopane. In my family we were three: my grandmother, my mother and I. I had no siblings. I was the only child. My mother worked as a cleaner in Johannesburg. I stayed with my grandmother most of the time. My mother came home only during Easter holidays and December.
It all started in 2005 when I was 11 years old in Grade 5 at Leubaneng Primary School. I was the brightest learner in my class. No one liked me, not even my class teacher. At first I thought they envied me, for always coming out on top, but how can a teacher hate a learner for doing his schoolwork? I asked myself the very same question each time I went to school.
I had no friends, not only at school, but also in the whole community. I felt like I did not belong. I felt like an outsider in my community. Be it at school or at home it was all the same. At first I thought it was my mind and emotions that told me that I do not fit in, but that was not the case – people hated my family.
My mother died when I was 13 years old. She died on 3 July 2007. I’ll never forget that day. Only a few people from my community came for her burial. Three days after the funeral, rumors started flying around that she died of HIV/AIDS. While I was still dealing with the loss of my mother, the very same people from my community started another rumor that my grandmother is a witch.
They started calling me Setlogolo sa moloi, the grandson of a witch. My grandmother was dark-black in complexion, short in height and she had red eyes. She was always dirty because she loved her garden dearly. She was always working in her garden and for these reasons they labelled her a witch.
One time I asked my grandmother, “Why are we hated by the community?”
She told me to always concentrate on my own ambitions and goals. She told me I do not have to change myself, just to fit in with a certain group of people. She told me to accept the situation as it is. She once told me a story about an old lady in her 70s, who was murdered by the community, because they accused her of being a witch.
I remembered that story everyday, for I did not know what I would do if the very same thing were to happen to her. I missed my mother everyday. I never had a father and was never liked by the community. I was not comfortable in that community. I never felt at home. I wanted to move from that village, but my grandmother refused. She told me that we couldn’t do that, as it was our home. She told me that her husband and her daughter were buried there and she cannot turn her back on them. She still needed to clean their graves.
Books and my grandmother were my only friends. I loved reading short stories to her and she would also tell me some of the best ancient fairytale stories. I also loved reading books by Danielle steel, like ‘A perfect stranger and to love again’. I consider her as my third friend, for her books are the only things that keep me going.
On 17 November 2011, my grandmother died of a stroke. The whole community came for her burial. The majority of them came only to confirm that indeed the witch was dead. You could tell by the way they were talking and laughing. Other learners at school started making fun of my situation. I cried most of the time. My heart was broken. I had no one. I started missing my father – a man I did not know, a man I had never met. I started believing that he was somewhere out there. I was desolate. I needed someone to save me. My grandmother once told me that ”It doesn’t cost much to be happy”, but for me it was too expensive.
I did my matric in 2012 and in January 2013 I got a bursary to study at the University of Johannesburg. Since then I have never gone home and I’ll never ever set my foot in that place again. Today I am working at one of the best companies in South Africa. I am staying in Soweto with my four month old daughter and her mother.