The struggle with my mother started before I was born. My mom grew up in small town called Pongola in an area named Ophondwane. She met my dad and fell pregnant at the age of eighteen and gave birth to me in 1995. My father was Mandla Zwane, nicknamed Mangethe after our Zwane clan names. I grew up a Zwane and not a Mathebula from my mom’s family.
The Mathebula’s were in a state of superiority and the Zwane’s were inferior to them, your classic princess and frog story. I was their first born daughter plus a granddaughter in both families. I was loved and accepted by both but my parents had problems. My father was poor, a drinker and a smoker and my granddad didn’t like that. So he punished my mom by refusing her to return to school.
“She’s old now. She has a baby and a man, she must take care of them,” he said.
But my mom knew that her relationship with her dad had always been rocky. When my grandmother died, granddad accused my mom of her death. Don’t ask, family will always gossip, but I never understood that. So my mom left me with my grandparents; granddad and his wife, when I was in Grade 2.
There were two other kids in the family that were my age; a boy Sicelo, and a girl, Zethu. We were in the same grade. My mom went to find a job so that I would be able to go to school and have what other kids had. She tried her best and worked hard, but that didn’t last. The husband of the family she worked for asked my mother to sleep with him and she refused. When she told the woman what her husband did, the wife didn’t believe her. She said my mother was the one who wanted her husband. My mom was fired.
Things were hard and my mother was stressed, and soon she was depressed. She started talking about killing us, herself and me, so that we didn’t have to struggle anymore. I was hurt when I heard these things that were not meant for my ears. I thought she would never do it, but she surprised me; she tried, twice.
The first attempt was a railway line. She took me and stood with me in the middle of the railway line and waited to the train to come finish us off. By the grace of God the train never came and the people started to notice and they shouted at her. We went home with some money the passengers gave my mom, when they heard of why she did it. They gave her words of encouragement too, but that only lasted a few days.
The second attempt was at home. She poured me half a mug of water and mixed it something called “pilisi lengobolwane”. She made me drink it, and when I was done she drank hers too. We just slept the whole day through and woke up the next day. Again, Jehovah didn’t want us to die. Days after, I noted how my mother was always shouting, always angry. I was doing Grade 3 at that time.
Time went on and I was in Grade 5. My Mom needed to buy me a new uniform, stationary and shoes but she had no money. At that time my dad was a taxi driver, he still drank and smoked, but what was worse was that he got another woman pregnant. Mom asked him to help and he bought me five white shirts for school. She asked for more and he refused.
“You will have to ask my wife for that before you get it,” he said, even though they were not married.
My mom had to do the rest with the R150 grant money she got.
Time went on and my mom got involved with a man who drove a water truck. Everybody in the community talked badly about her.
“Yoh, mamncane wakho uqinisile uyawathanda amadoda,” (your stepmom was right you like men too much), they said to my mom. She didn’t care because they weren’t helping her with her situation. I used to play with other kids and I got the same treatment.
“Your mom is a slut. Your dad is a drug addict. Your family is poor. Your body smells sour.”
I was hurt but it was true. Later that year Sicelo and Zethu, the Mathebula kids, failed Grade 5 and I passed. Everyone hated me for that and they abused me more, calling my mother a witch and all sorts of things.
A year later mom found a new boyfriend and went to Durban. She promised me that she was going to come back and take me with her when I finished Grade 7. I was so excited, I was going to start my grade eight in Durban, how awesome was that?
After she left my ill-treatment became worse and so during the holidays I decided to visit my father’s family. To be honest, it was totally boring, there was no electricity, no TV no bathroom, we had to go to the forest to fetch wood and to make fire. On the upside, I wasn’t hurting anymore. It was lovely to be with the Zwanes. They didn’t make me cook, fetch water, fetch wood, wash for them and clean a big house like the Mathebulas did while they sat around and did nothing. It was pretty good being with the Zwanes
In December 2008 my mom came to visit. After the holidays she went back to Durban and she took me with. I was so happy but I didn’t know what to expect when I got there. I started my Grade 8 at Umqhele Secondary School. Everybody laughed at the way I talked but life had changed for the better. Our struggle had come to an end.
The Mathebulas were shocked, jealous and pretended to be happy for me and mom but we knew they were not. Thanks to Sabelo, my stepdad, for changing our lives for the better. Sadly, Zethu and Sicelo are still in school doing Grade 10 and 11 respectively, while I finished school in 2013.
Dedicated to all the single mothers out there.