I am a changed man, Zane thought to himself, looking at two small photos, his mother’s and his brother’s. He was becoming emotional, especially when he realised that it had been years since he had not seen them or spent time with them, especially his little brother.

Again, in his mind, Zane had an old picture of his hood. It was the year 2000 when he was last seen in Nyanga, Cape Town and of course a lot had changed now that he was back. He found himself in the streets of Zwelitsha, Nyanga where he used to stay. With confidence, he started searching for his mother’s house, but the problem started when he was about to enter the street.

His street was an open space with a beautiful park for kids to play and for adults to relax or enjoying themselves. All that he saw was a surprise to him. When he remembered his childhood moments, the street was just a playground and nothing fancy compared to what he saw now, a beautiful park. He started to have doubts as he continued walking slowly, trying to find the house he was looking for.

He started to remember again that the last time he saw his mother’s house, it had had no backyard and it had not been painted. But today it seemed like every house in the street was painted and had a yard built in, just different colour paint and different designs. He also noticed that the street was quite like those of suburban areas, or was it because that the weekend had not started yet?

Zane had finally accepted that he was totally lost when he saw a tall, light skinned young lady standing at the gate of one of the houses. The pretty face of the lady made Zane to have shivers; he greeted anyway.

Molo Sisi, Hi Sister.”

“Hello, bhuti,” the lady responded.

Sis’wam ndiyalahleka maan. Ndicela undincede, ndifunisa kwa Magxarha – I am kind of lost. I am looking for Magxarha’s house, please help.” Zane said. Magxarha was his mother’s name of respect, the name that his mother was known of by most people.

Bhuti you have just passed Magxarha’s house. It is that blue painted house with a hokkie (shack) in front,” the lady said, pointing at the house.

Zane felt embarrassed of not knowing his mother’s house. He grew up here and now he couldn’t even recognise his home. But then on the other side he reminded himself that he had been away for fifteen years and everything had been completely changed, so who could blame him?

“Thank you so much sisi,” Zane was grateful. Without looking at the girl, he went straight to the house he was shown. His heart was pounding so loudly and faster when he was about to enter the door. He started to remember Magxarha’s words.

Magxarha used to shout at him when he got home the next morning. She used to warn him about the bad company he used to associate himself with.

“These golden friends of yours will not be there when you get arrested or hurt. They will not get you to hospital and they will never visit you in prison, like they did the last time you got arrested. I will always be the one okuhambelayo mntana’m. Zanethemba kutheni ungeva nje, why are you not listening to me? Ufuna kude kuthini?” His mother was furious at him.

Zane had decided to not listen to Magxarha. He chose his friends instead and had finally faced the consequences.

When he entered the door, he expected to see two faces, Magxarha’s and Mandla’s. Mandla was his younger brother. There was no one in the house when he entered. He took a seat and waited.

When Magxarha entered her house, she found Zane sitting in the lounge looking straight at her as she was entering.

She stood straight at the door giving Zane a strange look.

Ubuyil’etrongweni Skolie! okanye uqhweshile? You are back from prison criminal, or have you escaped?” Mgxarha said as she was now not paying attention to him.
Zane noticed she was drunk. Poor Zane tried to answer but it was hard and was surprised with the bad welcoming of his mother. He couldn’t answer.

Magxarha went straight to her bedroom and dozed off.

Those words hurt Zane so much; he couldn’t believe they were from his own mother, the only mother who raised him well, the mother who brought him in this cruel world. He thought. Yes, Magxarha had been always good to him until things went wrong. Zane was the one who had decided not to obey Magxarha’s rules, he had decided not to listen to her anymore. He had been influenced by his friends to rob, steal and do housebreaking with his friends. That is why he had gotten arrested.

As he was sitting in the chair, he remembered all those events.

He had gotten involved in those criminal activities because he had wanted his home to be like other homes – beautiful and attractive. He had wanted to put food on the table like other young men of his age did. His mother was unemployed at that time and they were dependent on a child’s grant, Mandla’s. Zane would bring money to his mother lying that he had gotten a good job in town.

One day, Magxarha heard by her neighbours that her son was involved in criminal activities, especially housebreaking which he did at night, explained by Zane as a work night shift to Magxarha. As not in the first time, Magxarha confronted Zane and he didn’t deny anything. Lying to his mother was not his style.

Ever since Magxarha heard what her son was doing, she started to distress and she was not sleeping at night, until one night when she received a phone call. The phone had rang. She had picked up the phone and said, “Hello.”

“Mama…?” it was Zane. He said with a weak voice.

“What is it Zane?” Magxarha said, annoyed.

“I am in custody, I got arrested.”

Uyawenze ntoni mntanandini. What have you done now?” Her voice was louder now. “I will not…” without finishing what she was saying, Magxarha noticed that phone was dropped on the other line by Zane. After the news, she was on the verge of tears and angry. How could Zane do this to me? When is this going to stop? She had thought.

And now he was back, crying, she could hear him from her bedroom.

“Why are you crying? Have not you cried enough in the cells?” Magxarha said, staring at him. She was sober now and Zane was in deep thought.

“I did, just that I am here now and all these events are coming back.” He was now wiping his tears. “Mama why? I needed you,” he wanted answers.

“Zane… you are my son. You will always be. I love you and that will never change. Just that unyoke (your mother) got disappointed in you. At that time, I told myself that when you get arrested again, I am would not go to visit you, uzozimela ngenkqayi elangeni, you will be by yourself. Zane I tried to stop you several times mntanam, but you chose your friends over your mother who raised you.”

Magxarha was in tears too this time. What she said was true. Zane’s friends whom he chose abandoned him when he got arrested and he was all alone, no visit!

“But Ma, in my 8th year during my sentence I changed, you know that. I got involved in sport, I attended life skills classes. All that I did while I was inside, I was doing it for you, for me, and still no visit from you.”

This was also true. Zane used to get a visit once a year from Magxarha, only on his birthday. When Zane would walk to the visiting area after hearing he had a visitor, searching for the face behind the glass window. He would notice it was Magxarha then tears would fall down his cheeks. He would cry like a young boy, telling Magxarha that he regretted everything he had done and that no more bad friends when he’s out.

Magxarha would not pay any attention to that same old song as it was not his first time getting arrested either. The other of Magxarha would want to believe him while the other not. After sixty minutes of visiting, the lights would be switched off. This would mean the end of the visiting time.

“Whenever I visited you on your birthday, I used to get stress. I always blamed myself. I always blamed myself, thinking maybe it is me who had not raised you well. I ended up strongly drinking. The more I thought of you the more I got myself alcohol, drinking until I don’t know my name. I got addicted. I was in and out of hospital and rehabilitation centres. I am still drinking. I think it is why Mandla decided to beg in town, he became a street kid and he hates me so much wherever he is I now. I know you also hate me for not visiting you. Please forgive me Zanethemba. I want to stop! I really want to stop!” Magxarha said wiping tears that were streaming down her face.

Zane was shocked of the news that his little brother had become street kid.

“It’s OK Mama. It is all my fault, I repeatedly did crime knowing exactly the consequences. You played your role by raising me well; I could not blame you for that. What I think is important right now is to forgive each other, search for Mandla, look forward and continue doing what I was doing inside. Uhm about your drinking problem, I won’t make any decisions for you, it will be your decision to get clean. My responsibility is to support you anyway I can. Mama we can do this.” Zane assured her.

They hugged each other tightly. Zane also promised Magxarha that he would go look for his younger brother.


Tell us: Do you think of broken families like this because of crime? How can we help as a community?