“Hurry up Tshepo, the taxi is almost full” said Mrs. Gumbu to her son.
“But ma, I am trying, these things are far too heavy,” Tshepo said referring to the plastic grocery bags he way carrying.
“You are becoming lazy, Tshepo,” she said and shook her head.
She was carrying more bags than Tshepo but she was not complaining; the spirit of a lady raised under black oppression. She was a house maid; she took care of a family’s child. Shaun was his name, he did not know that his parents, uncles and many who shared his skin color were doing bad. But there was a certain way he treated Mrs. Gumbu that proved that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.
Tshepo went to a boarding school. He was handsome but still had the tummy of childhood, not old enough to stand with a girl on the corner as most of the older boys did when the parents were not around. He had the stature of a freedom fighter but his mother treated him like a three month old baby. His friends would often tease him and call him a “mama’s baby”.
Tshepo’s father was shot when the little man was only three months old. He was coming from work after a pay day and some boys tried mugging him. He knew that the money was needed by his wife and three month old baby, he fought back and that led to him being shot. It was ironic how much this affected Mrs. Gumbu. She knew that her husband died with honor, he was not killed for the struggle of apartheid but he died for the love of his wife and child.
“Sorry mama are you going to Zola?” asked the queue marshal as he gave her a hand with her groceries. Even though it was really ever spoken of, these men found at taxi ranks were the closest you could get to a gentleman during those times.
“Yes my boy, thank you… I am so tired,” she said as she sat on the seat positioned behind the driver’s seat in an old blue E-20 Nissan taxi.
Tshepo came in at last and they left as the taxi was short with two passengers before they arrived.
As if it was a way of making people pay whether they liked it or not, the taxi driver drove half the way and he said with a soft voice, “Pay up please”. Mrs. Gumbu reached into her bra searching for money for the fair but there was nothing.
“Tshepo please pay up my boy, I used up all the money for food,” Tshepo smiled as he went for his pocket. He felt like he was considered a man for doing something as simple as paying for the taxi. Suddenly his facial expression changed from pride to fear and then to panic when he came down to the hard hitting fact that he did not have the money with him.
“Ma, I lost my money bag,” he said softly trying not to draw as much attention as possible.
“What!?” said the taxi driver who overheard their conversation.
Without waiting to hear the statement again, he pulled over and turned his big body, clothed with a leopard print vest, to the back of the taxi. The vest telling everyone that he was true Zulu warrior.
“I am sorry sir, I will give you the money in minute,” she tried to sound sure of herself, but she had no clue where she was going to get the money from. He shook his head while collecting the rest of the money. This had turned the whole situation around, he felt obliged to get his money personally, even if that meant he would be last on the taxi queue, it did not matter. A man had to live and to do that a man needed money.
After collecting all the money, Mrs. Gumbu had not yet given the gentleman his money and there were no signs of mercy in his eyes.
“Well I will have to take your food ma,” he said. Worry fell upon her face, what were they going to eat?
“I will pay!” a voice said from the back.
“Huh?” Mrs. Gumbu remarked and the rest of the taxi looked to the back seat and there sat a man with a pressed suite. He looked important, not important to have his own business, but he was important enough to be a teacher or doctor.
“Thank you sir,” she said, trying not to say anything else, this was already embarrassing. Even though they lived under the principle of Ubuntu, sometimes Ubuntu could turn you into a desperate woman with just enough to get through the month, no husband and no money for taxi. And this was not something she was going to embrace.
“Short right driver,” Tshepo said as he saw his friends playing soccer in front of their yard which had a two roomed shack, a long drop toilet and spinach and potato garden.
“I will send Tshepo to your house to bring the money sir,” Mrs. Gumbu said. The gentleman just shook his head and said that it was okay. But Mrs. Gumbu was adamant about giving him back his money. The last thing she wanted was a man who would take advantage of her and her son.
There was a reason why she thought this way; she was a very beautiful lady with an afro, not too big but just enough to give her a respectable look. She had round hips and large boobs. Even though it was a rude thing to mention, Mrs. Gumbu had an “arse” for days.
Who was this man, what made him so different from all the man she had ever met, was the question that Tshepo asked himself as he helped his mother offload the grocery bags.
The gentleman’s name was Vuyo Lelimo; he knew Mrs. Gumbu and her son very well. Actually he knew more than they thought he knew. He knew Katlego Gumbu, Tshepo’s father and his best friend.
The stories to Katlego Gumbu’s murder were two, one was true and the other was not. Only those with a certain degree of thinking or more or less a forensic mind could unfold what had happened.
In the mid-seventies when there was political violence galore, Katlego and Vuyo were young men who wanted to live the American lifestyle. They wanted to change Soweto into America, if Martin Luther King Junior could speak his mind and make change to a certain degree; they wanted to do the same. And that meant they had to join politics, and politics would give them status and a respectable reputation among the ladies and the youth. Being the black supper man in the township was a big deal. The art of sacrifice was enough; even if you died on the first day of the job you were still considered a hero. This foundation lead to Katlego’s death.
After a meeting which was usually held at night, Vuyo and Katlego went out for drinks or rather “amaBEER “or “Izamalek”. They were not chronic drinkers they were chronic good-time-havers. But that night they kissed to many bottles and they were surely drunk. This led to Katlego flirting with a young girl, promising her the world and all that he did not have but wished he could offer. One thing led to the other…
Katlego had to keep contact. It was the rebirth of the gigolo inside him, a little demon as many would say.
Hours, days, weeks and months passed while this happened. Things were already serious with Grace, Mrs. Gumbu, she was eight months pregnant, and they had just got married. On the other side of the fence things were serious too, even though the grass was not a green but there was still hope.
The young girl was falling in love with Katlego. She had found a good looking man, who had enough money for a few beers and an occasional trip to the fish and chips spot around the corner. He was a jack pot. A tender, it is wanted by so many but only a few can get their hands on it and she was the one who did. Stupid naïve girl!
But she did not stay naïve for long; having friends that turned out to be jealous and told her that Katlego was married. She got mad, did a bit of researching herself, got a bottle of brandy and went to pay Katlego a small visit.
Katlego was out drinking with Vuyo, he was drinking more than he did in the past few months. The demon of cheating was eating him up inside, he wanted something to happen he wanted the young girl to leave or get tired of him. Little did he know what was coming his way!
Little girl: “Hello baby, hello Vuyo,”
Katlego: “Hey, didn’t expect you tonight,”
Little girl: “Yeah I just thought I should come see you, you know I miss you,”
Katlego: “I miss you too, how about we go to the back of the shabeen and have a talk,”
Vuyo: “Hahaha, I will go get some beers while you guys “talk”.
He held her by the waist, dragging her in a way that showed that he couldn’t wait for the “talk”. “Ish, I forgot my handbag,” she said as she turned around and went to the table. Vuyo winked at her and she blew him a kiss and turned around and headed back to Katlego. But the imbalance in her walk was obvious that the brandy had taken its toll on her. But Katlego could not see that. It is hard for a blind mouse to lead a blind mouse as it is for a drunkard to spot another drunkard.
Katlego: “You look good tonight, come here,”
Little girl: “Yeah I know but I want to ask you one question before we begin,”
Katlego: “Anything you wish my love,”
Little girl: “Are you married?”
He paused for a while, asking himself how things had come to this. He thought they were coming out to have a good time, but that was not the case. He had dug his own grave by asking her to come “talk”. There was nothing he could do but lie, there was no way he was going to betray his erection with the truth. ‘The truth will set you free’ was not a phrase he did want bouncing in his head at that moment. Frankly speaking, the truth would not set him free at all more especially from his sexual desire.
Katlego: “Now where did you hear that?”
Little girl: “Katlego I’m damm serious, stop playing games with me,”
Katlego smiled at her.
Little girl: “Please I’m serious, I’m warning you!”
Katlego: “What are you going to do?”
Little girl: “Just tell me,”
Katlego: “Look I don’t owe you any explanation. What did you think was going to happen with us? Did you think I was going to marry you and start a family? For God’s sake we met in a bar and that’s where we will always meet!”
Little: “I hate you, you are a pig!!”
She reached into her handbag and pulled out a gun. Like a hot knife on butter, the bullet pierced his flesh, hot blood staining his shirt while making way to the ground. The reunion of blood and soil, a sacrifice to the ancestors, a sin offering to the gods.
He felt cold, fell to his knees and gently laid down in his own pool of blood. He tired saying something but there was nobody to hear him.
“My son, my s….” and that was the end of it.
Vuyo was scared and the tears were seen on his face. He called for help, he sent someone to go to Katlego’s house and tell his wife that her husband was shot by two ‘tsotis’; that was true to a certain degree, because the little girl had taken his wallet and dompass. Truth be told Vuyo did not know what else to think, he thought that the little girl ran away after they were attacked.
The baby was kicking more than he did that night. Grace was so happy that night and when she heard the knock on the door she thought it was her husband, so she we went to the door humming a gospel song. When she opened the door she was met by two hard breathing and sweating youngsters.
“Who are you and what do you want?” She asked.
“Sister we were sent here to tell you that Katlego Gumbu was just shot next to Bra Jake’s Shabeen,”
“What? Piss off .I don’t have time for games!” she said hoping that this was a joke. But she noticed that there was no change in their facial expressions. Dust to dust, the end was here and there was nothing she could do about it. The baby was not kicking anymore. It felt as if he knew that the one who was meant to be his hero was gone, that he would look up to movie stars. A true shame.
She wept, she was scared, a young mother with no money no husband. Her family helped her but for how long would they do that? She was not educated, she had fallen pregnant after matric and Katlego had promised her that he would take her to school right after the baby was old enough. And now the baby was coming in a month.
Here she was, fourteen years later, and the man who could have been more of a friend to Katlego had paid the taxi for his best friend’s widow. The best friends are the ones who tell us when we do something wrong, they are the very ones who are “hating on us” when our enemies are laughing with us while we self-destruct. A simple look from Vuyo could have made Katlego think twice about cheating.
The sad part was that Vuyo did not see his fault, he did not see that he was involved in his friend’s murder whether he liked it or not. He was responsible for Grace and Katlego, and after so many years, who was he to just pitch in front of their door and tell them about his life with Katlego? Did he even have any right to do that?
Whatever he did, he too will still be in the dark. Because he would not know that Katlego’s marriage to Grace was the reason the little girl had pulled the trigger.
Who I am to judge? There is too much folly in this story and the biggest of all is that nobody knows that the little girl killed Katlego and funny enough is that she is sitting right next to me.
I’m just kidding.
It would be an injustice to not continue the story talking about the young but now mature Tshepo. You do want to know his fate right?
Time was not worrying to him, he was in a pale taxi, with a brown dashboard which could be considered vintage if only the driver too cared of it, but he did not, so it was a peace of dung. It was four years since the first time I had introduced you to Tshepo with his mom in a taxi. Well he had worked hard enough in school and was awarded a bursary. He was a law student at the University of Pretoria, a year after the 1994 democratic elections.
Things were turning around especially for him, he would have never dreamed of making it this far in life. Even though the motivation from the likes of Napoleon Hill, Hendry Ford and Nelson Mandela gave him hope when he was studying under candle light, he was convinced that all was a pipe dream. But he was wrong, dreams do come true.
Handsome like his father, graceful and strict like his mother he was man’s man, envied by many and loved by most. He was a young man, and enemies were under his arm, he needed them; they made him push hard. He wanted to be like his father, or maybe the idea he had of his father. Just like you would have guessed Vuyo had done the noble thing.
He had not wanted to put salt on the wound, so he told them half the truth about his life with Katlego. He did not mention the fact that they were into politics, that would distract Tshepo and did not say a word about our famous killer, the little girl, as that would crush Grace’s spirit. So he played with his tongue good enough and that did more good than harm. And this was only what he saw; the smaller picture any man sees when he tells a lie.
Sin is pleasurable and lies have large profits, Vuyo ended up under the sheets with Grace and that led to the debate if she should change her last name to Lelimo or not.
Vuyo went from being mom’s friend, to uncle Vuyo and then to Tshepo’s step dad.
Tshepo became one of the most renowned lawyers in South Africa, his mom and step dad grew happy together. Tshepo got married, and it was not to the daughter of the “little girl”. It was to Vuyo’s long lost daughter. They lived happy in folly, like fools they told their children about grandfather “Katlego Gumbu”, how much of a good man he was.
Who had killed him was a mystery… did Vuyo have a hand in it, did he always have a thing for Grace from the time Katlego was around? Who knows? When he told me this story he did not say but the look in his eyes told me a different story. Don’t conclude maybe I might be wrong!