For a non-Jo’burger, the level of noise Pitso’s ears were subjected to as he entered Johannesburg would have been deafening. To Pitso and those who had lived around these parts for quite some time, it was nothing more than the normal Joburg vibe. The streets were, as they always are, lined with hawkers and vendors. The bustling mood of downtown, that he never got enough of, was at its peak. Whistles. Cars squeaking. Vendors shouting out loudly about their products. He paced himself to beat the traffic light but to his disappointment it changed before he got there. It went from green, orange to red in no time and there he was. Stuck in the middle of the city. Trapped by the traffic robot he never liked obeying.
It was neither the traffic robot nor the bustling mood of the day that had his heart heavy. It was not the tiredness his body relentlessly fought against succumbing to, that had his head bouncing back and forth in drowsiness, that had him yawning every five seconds; that had his eyes swollen and filled with tears. The mood he had to face today was his dad’s funeral. He couldn’t care less if his late dad was still alive. What difference did it make?
Next to the car stood a pale lady. So pale you’d swear it had been months without her having contact with water except when she drank it. Her skin condition had started to deteriorate to an extent that one would assume she had some sort of skin cancer. The hot sun that shone at the top of the city didn’t do much to dissuade her from her mission. Her mission of seeking employment and begging for money for herself and her two children was much bigger than any bad weather condition. Pitso had a peep at this shady looking white lady. He was greeted by a deep stench that smelled like a mixture of dried spices and grease. He closed his car window just next to where the lady was standing. He took few seconds to analyze her as the robot kept him at bay. She held a placard that read:
Ek moet werk. Ek het voedsel nodig vir my en my twee kinders.
What did you do when your people took so much from black people? he thought as he took his eyes from the lady at the roadside. His thoughts were directed at no one but himself. They surely didn’t demand an answer from him and definitely not from the pale lady on his right. I’m probably starting to think like Papi, but unfortunately I won’t give my money to a white person, regardless of how poor they are.
The traffic robot turned green and gave him the right of way. His foot was locked and couldn’t find its way to the clutch. His car stood stationary as the traffic light turned green. His heart was still on the lady on his right. She had her hands stretched towards his car’s right window. His heart wanted to give her something. He wanted to roll down the window and give her some cash, but his heart just couldn’t get past the fact that it was a white lady asking for money. The very same lady from the community that owns the means of production of the country, despite being the minority. The lady from the community that still has black people’s land and in turn, millions of black people are stuck in informal settlements and shacks in poor living conditions in the townships. His heart just couldn’t get past the fact that she belonged, by virtue of her skin colour, to the group that did everything to strip black people of their dignity. When offered an opportunity to view blacks as equal human beings, they declined with passion as they did when they enforced all the oppressive colonial and apartheid laws towards black people.
Why would she write her placard in Afrikaans? His thoughts raced in his head. The drowsiness he had started to feel had left him. All his energy was invested on the pale lady on his right. The squeaking sound of a white flashy car’s tyres is the last that the white lady saw or heard of him.