Once upon a time, there was a family of five, the Ngemas, who lived in the rural village of Shayanoya, Estcourt, KZN. There was never a moment of peace in the Ngema household; Dora and Bheki Ngema were fighting constantly – a result of Bheki’s aggressive attitude when he was drunk. Ever since Bheki got retrenched from his firm two years earlier, he had become a notorious alcoholic, a regular at Bra Joe’s tavern.
Their eldest daughter, Lindi, had finally decided to move out of her parent’s home and in with her boyfriend after she fell pregnant for the third time. However, her parents were not happy about her decision – gave her an ultimatum: “If you leave right this house, don’t ever come back. You’re no longer our daughter,” they said.
“Dad, I’m leaving, can’t stay here and allow my children to starve to death. There’s never money to buy any food but there always is for you to buy booze,” Lindi said cheekily. Bheki was on the verge of slapping her across the face when his wife begged him to calm down. Dora begged her to stay, but Lindi wasn’t having any of it.
“Leave her be Dora, she’s a grown woman now. Just don’t come back here when your boyfriend shows you his true colours,” her father warned getting up and heading for the door. “I’ll be at Bra Joe’s if anyone needs me,” Bheki said then he left.
“Mom, why don’t you leave him, he doesn’t treat you right?” Lindi asked with concern.
“My child, where would I go? Thabo is still young for me to leave.” Dora said solemnly.
“How long will it be, before he kills you Ma? You always have bruises when I see you. I can’t bear to see you suffering like this anymore,” Lindi said hugging her mother and leaving too.
After Lindi left, Dora sat for hours daydreaming about how happy they used to be when Bheki was still working, how they ate whatever they wanted. Her four-roomed house used to be filled with joy. Life was great; Bheki was a good father and a good husband. There was always food in their household.
Life was good then, she was envied by many women in her village because she always had money. She wore all the latest clothes and she was beautiful. But now she looked 10 years older; with wrinkles and bruises on her once-beautiful face. “How did my life get so complicated?” Dora asked herself then her train of thought was interrupted when her 22- year-old son, Sipho, walked in.
“Ma, look at what I bought you,” Sipho said excitedly.
“Oh my child, thank you, you arrived at the right time I was thinking about going to Ma Gudlu’s and beg for some mealie meal for supper tonight,” Dora said, her voice filled with gratefulness when she saw the parcel of chicken pieces and loaf of bread Sipho had put on the kitchen table.
“Don’t worry Mom, we’ll go to town and buy some groceries. You don’t have to beg those gossiping women anymore, I’m here now,” Sipho said. “Thabo, take some plates and come back here to eat, then change clothes to go to town with Mom,” He directed to his baby brother.
Dora was happy that her son tried his best to make ends meet, although she didn’t like what he did for a living. It was no secret that her son was a gangster, but what could she say? That job put food on their table. The three of them ate the chicken pieces and white bread hungrily.
After they had lunch, they left for town to buy groceries. The entire trip to town was quiet and most of it back home too. Then Sipho cleared his throat and said in a serious voice, “Mom, I’m thinking of buying you a house in the suburbs. I’ll provide everything you need as long as you leave that man behind. I can’t pretend that I love him, I hate his guts and I’ll kill him with my bear hands if he lays his hands on you ever again.”
“Why do you hate your father so much? “Dora asked, holding back her tears.
“I’m a gangster because of him; he’s a failure who can’t provide for his family,” Sipho said before turning the volume up on his car’s stereo. He dropped his mother and brother off at home and left for ‘work’.
Later that evening, Bheki arrived at home. He went into an angry rant when he saw the food, “Where did all this food come from?” He demanded. .
“Sipho was here this afternoon, he brought the food,” Dora said trying to reason with her husband.
“Don’t talk rubbish, you foolish woman,” said Bheki said then started hitting his wife. She pleaded for him to stop, but he continued hitting her relentlessly. “You think I don’t know that you have a lover, I want you to show him that I’m not a fool,” Bheki said slapping Dora over and over.
After an hour of battering his wife brutally, Bheki went to his bedroom and slept. The next morning when he went to the kitchen, he found his wife lying on the floor.
“Oh, you’re still sleeping; do you think this is your grandmother’s house?” He muttered under his breath. He then went back to his bedroom to change his clothes. “I’d better find you awake when I come back here or else we will continue where we left off last night.” He said on his way out of the front door. Bheki bumped into Sipho on his way out to Bra Joe’s. “Sonny, good to see you,” he greeted his son who ignored him.
Sipho’s eyes turned red with anger when he saw his mother’s lifeless body in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Lifting her head gently, “He will get what’s coming to him, and that’s a promise,” he said as he stroked his mother’s face.
Sipho rushed to his car and drive like a mad man to Bra Joe’s.
“How could you?” He said angrily pointing at his father.
“What’s wrong son?” asked a drunken Bheki.
“You killed mom and you asking me what’s wrong.” Sipho spat then pulled out his gun and shot his father before he could say anything else.
Why do you think Dora refused to leave Bheki, even though he constantly abused her?