Tall, dark and handsome with a beautiful smile and a potbelly. Give him high- waist jeans with bootlegs, colorful shiny shirts and suits and you will become his instant favourite person on earth.

He is truly a village boy from Congo but the smartest person I know, with a beautiful giving heart. He will never let another person suffer while he knows he can help.

Surviving a wall execution at the age of 18, trying to cross boarders coming to South Africa for greener pastures, running away from the blood-shedding wars of Congo. During that time, strong-hearted was his name. The scars on his body will forever remind him of that.

In South Africa he met a Xhosa queen, pure white teeth with a beautiful gap that catches your attention when she smiles. Big eyes and with a full figure.
Light skinned and gorgeous from the village of Hange in the Eastern Cape. Yes, he travelled halfway across Africa to meet me, aren’t I special?

I was born my father’s daughter, very dark with a 6th finger on my left hand, which apparently I got from my father’s best friend, who liked brushing my mother’s tummy when she was pregnant, “Uze uphe lomntana leminwe yakho uzawundazi” she would say, meaning, “should you dare give my child your 6th finger, I will punish you.” Well, his mission was successful.

The Congolese village boy would fetch me every weekend. I was only a few months old, but he already knew how to feed me, change my nappies and take care of me. I know that because I’m constantly reminded every time he talks about his proud moments and that, “Sima used to be dark just like me when she was small.”

Losing my mom at the age of 13 left him a single parent. Raising a daughter alone as a man is the hardest thing to do, especially if your daughter is a teenager. That’s when he started being strict; had a more serious face.
His footsteps would get louder when he walked and he gave me more scary looks when I was sitting with boys. It was funny to me, but all the boys would tremble at the sight of his shadow.

With all this grey hair on his head and face, he is still smart and fast; well only difference is that he has gained weight but he still gives the warmest hugs. He is my shield, he has protected me spiritually and physically. His finger always points at me and warns me when I’m doing something wrong, but when I have messed up he always steps in and saves the day.

My mom and I used to live in a little back room in Senaone in Soweto. My papa used to travel with taxis to come to us, get off at a stop sign that is a few blocks away from us, then walk. I remember the day he got mugged. It was late at night and he was bringing my food and nappies. People knew him as “Sima’s father”. When he got mugged everyone rushed to help him because they would see him every week with plastic bags coming to bring me food and nappies. They helped him up, brushed off the dust, and walked him home, but he never stopped bringing me food and nappies until I stopped using nappies and eating baby food. Then he started bringing me KFC – I can’t- even stand the smell of it today.

The Congolese village boy really grew up to be a great father and a shield to his daughter.

I am very proud of Mr Mapatu, he took the biggest lifetime responsibility and he never backed out.


This was one of the highly commended entries in the My Father essay writing competition. Click here to read other excellent essays from the competition.