“God blessed me with daughters, because he knew I could use them to take care of me”, the words she never let me forget.

I never knew a mother’s love, not because she was not around, but because she was a ghost, present but you could never see her actions.

Born and bred in the poverty stricken township of Alexander, South Africa, I knew I was beyond the boundaries that restricted me. I knew I was worth more and that I could become better than what people thought I could be.

Thabile Mlotshwa, that’s me, my name means happiness. I was intended to bring happiness into the lives of all the people I came across, but most for my family. That’s the irony…

It was a normal day, nothing new, I was getting ready for school, while my sisters slept throughout the day. I was the only one of my 4 sisters who felt the need to go to school every day. My mother didn’t see the importance of education, but I believed it was my ticket to escape poverty.

While I packed my school bag, my mother walked into our two roomed shack, coming from who knows where. She was as drunk as a fiddler, she reeked of alcohol and stumbled across the room. “Mbali?” she yelled as if she was speaking to someone who was miles away, she couldn’t even recognise me. “Thabile”, I said finishing what I was doing. Her face changed and she said, “Oh it’s just you!” she clicked her tongue and stumbled across the room to where my sisters were sleeping. Do I blame them? They come home at midnight every evening or should I say nothing.

I took my worn-out school bag and headed to school. It was freezing cold and the holes in my jersey prevented it from keeping me warm. But it was better than having no jersey at all.

I got to school and the day immediately began with a prayer. We then headed off to our classes and I made my way to the seat at the back of the classroom, where I sat all on my own. I didn’t have friends, because of the kind of person my mother was. Everyone thought I was just like her, I couldn’t blame them. I mean all my sisters were exactly like her, what would make me any different? Or at least what would make people think that I was different?

The day proceeded and nothing exciting happened. I went to all my classes and soon the day came to an end. I never looked forward to the 15:00 bell. I wanted to stay at school longer, even though I had nobody at school, I felt lonelier at home. I felt safer at school than I did at home, I know most kids would disagree.

I made my way out of the school gates and that’s when I was stopped by one of my classmates, Sindi Hlomuka. She and her gang stood in front of me and blocked the pathway, so that I couldn’t walk past.

“Girls there’s something I don’t understand about this girl”, she said looking at her friends, forcing them to interact with her evil eyes. “She’s been around, but she can’t even buy herself a school jersey, some people need to get their lives in order”.
They laughed and walked away, leaving me behind with tear-filled-eyes, I couldn’t let her see me cry.

The house was empty when I got home, nobody was home. I put my school bag down and changed into my casual clothes then began with my homework. About 5 minutes later, the door swung open and three men walked in, dressed in dark clothes and one had a gun. “Where is Iris?” the one pointing the gun at me said. I shrugged, I was terrified I couldn’t utter a single word.

He clicked his tongue and indicated to the other men that they should take me. I tried to run but they were so strong and too fast. They grabbed me and carried me out the house. I screamed and cried hysterically but no one came to my rescue, the neighbours just looked away as if nothing was going on. People in the street just watched three men kidnap me as if it were a natural thing. I’d never felt so helpless, as when they threw me into the boot of their car and I was left in the dark.

My mother had a story and like each one of my sisters, we were a page of her book the only difference was my page was irrelevant to her story.