Doe-eyed, skimpily clad young women paraded the streets of Kagisho like a colony of ants on their way to find food. Karabo Mohapi stood at the front door, mourning for the snot-faced toddlers dangling on their hips.

“Meisie!” Her mother’s voice came booming from the kitchen. Karabo abandoned her people- watching to attend to her mother’s cries.

“Need help, Ma?”

Alinah looked up from baking and pointed a fixed gaze at her daughter – almost as if to drive something home. “Please finish this up for me.”

In the chocolate-filled bowl, like a psychic’s crystal ball, Karabo saw privilege. They were lucky to have such luxuries to indulge in. Many people in her community could barely afford something as basic and as fundamental as bread. Let alone a ‘life of luxury’. Then again, with young women who failed do the bare minimum for themselves a child’s needs were sure to be put on the back burner.

A figure moved imperceptibly outside the gate and she zeroed in on it. She made out the features of a boy she had fancied in her much younger days, Tsebo.

Tsebo had had a boyish charm about him and a mesmerising, shy smile. It was not surprising that he was popular with the ladies too. All that was Tsebo before he fell into the cracks of their ailing community. Now, he was repressed potential – screaming to be let out.

The sun set with mother and daughter engrossed in each other’s company. Just the two of them – as it always has been. Something was different about today. Negative energy crackled beneath the surface like a raging fire.

The neighbours were far too loud and aggressive in their speech. “They think they’re too high and mighty to be seen with the likes of us.” Karabo was sauntering leisurely on her way from the shop when she halted in her step. Those words weren’t uncommon but they reminded her of just how much of an outsider she and her mother were. She turned to face the gossipmongers but thought better of it and continued walking.

They had lived in Kagisho, Galamotheo, for twenty years – for as long as she was alive. You would expect an unbreakable tie among such an aged community, but the painstaking truth of the matter was that it was non-existent.

Sure, her mother did not drink alcohol and kept to herself most of the time, but on the occasions that she encountered their neighbours she made conversation. Listened for hours as they expressed the troubles that plagued them. She did not deserve such harsh judgement. Her deliberate detachment from the young people in her area owed to not wanting to lose herself to their lifestyle. Too many had.

She got home and imparted her distasteful experience to her mother.
“Meisie, people will always talk. If it wasn’t about the way we choose to live, it would have been about something else. Forget about them.”

But, how do you forget that it is a neighbourhood of this nature that breeds substance use and abuse, teenage parenthood – that recycles poverty?