Thabo Ngweni lived in Bizana with his mother Fikiswa and his little sister Maputla. Fikiswa was not working ever since her boss fired her because she was ill with Aids. Her boss wanted to avoid her spreading the disease to the rest of the staff, so he decided she couldn’t work there anymore. She was getting money for food and her treatment by using Maputla’s grant money.
Thabo was doing Grade 12 at Nongeke High School where he was pursuing commercial studies. When it came to accounting, he was the best student in his class. His dream after matric was to be a bookkeeper for top companies. Sometimes Thabo would help at Mr Bhala’s shop by sweeping and helping to unpack the stock. His payment was a package of food and a little money per day he worked.
It was the middle of the year, and the matric students at his school were starting to apply for the following year at university. Thabo took a form from Walter Sisulu University and filled it out, although he knew that his mother wouldn’t have money to pay for his university studies.
A few months later all of the matric students had written their final exams, and the schools were closed. It was then that Fikiswa became seriously ill, and there was no longer money to buy her treatment.
So Thabo decided to go to the big city of Johannesburg to look for a job so that he could provide for the household needs.
In the morning Thabo went to Mr Bhala’s shop to borrow money.
“Hello sir,” greeted Thabo.
“Oh hey Thabo. How can I help you today?” asked Mr Bhala.
“Sir, I’m going to Joburg to look for a job so I would like you to lend me money,” he said shyly.
“Don’t be shy my boy. You are doing a great thing by going to other places to look for a job. If Jabulani were here he would be proud of you boy,” said Mr Bhala, giving Thabo the money.
“Thank you, sir. I will pay you back once I get a job,” said Thabo with a look of determination.
“Okay boy. Travel well to Johannesburg,” said Mr Bhala.
Thabo went to his aunt Nomsa who lived across the river to ask her to look after his family while he was off in Johannesburg.
“Aunt, I would like you to look after my family,” said Thabo.
“Where are you going?” asked Nomsa with a cheeky expression.
“I’m going to Johannesburg to look for a job,” replied Thabo.
“Okay, I would like to help my sister,” said Nomsa, waiting for an explanation.
“Thanks aunt. Here is some money for you to start with. Use this money on household needs,” said Thabo, giving her some money.
“I will do that,” said Nomsa.
So Nomsa and Thabo went together to Thabo’s home.
“Okay mom, I’m on my way to Joburg now and aunty will take care of you while I’m gone. Please Maputla, behave, I will be back when I’m good on finances,” said Thabo.
“Please my boy don’t ever get hooked on other bad things there, cause people in Johannesburg are so greedy,” said Fikiswa with little tears in her eyes.
“I promise you mom,” said Thabo, hugging the family. “Goodbye,” he said as he walked out the door.
Thabo took the last bus to Johannesburg. He sat near the window, and looked back at his village as the bus drove away.
I’m coming back to rise up my father’s house. I will suffer today but tomorrow I will be living a better life, thought Thabo to himself.
When the bus arrived in Johannesburg, it was morning, and the bus dropped him at the station. Once there, Thabo didn’t know where to go next, so he just sat on a nearby bench in the station. He sat there, looking out at the road and thinking about where he should go.
Finally, he stood up and started to ask people where he could find a place to stay. One of the men in the street gave him directions to the cheapest place in town.
“Thank you for your time,” said Thabo, picking up his bags as he made his way there.
When he arrived, there was a big, scary man who was in charge. He told the man that he was looking for a place to stay.
“Good morning sir,” greeted Thabo.
“Morning boy,” replied the man.
“I’m looking for a place to stay. Can you help me?” asked Thabo in a low voice.
“You are in the right place,” said the man.
“I would like to rent here,” said Thabo, scared and shaking.
“It’s fine boy you can feel at home here. Be free. This place is secured 24 hours so don’t be scared,” said the man, giving Thabo his room keys.
“Thank you. I won’t mess around,” said Thabo, going upstairs to his room.
“Ey young man one more thing,” said the man, stopping him.
“I’m listening,” replied Thabo.
“You don’t pay I will break your legs,” said the man in a gruff, threatening voice.
Thabo felt a shiver run down his spine.
“Don’t worry sir I will pay on time,” replied Thabo, hurrying to his room.
His unit was divided into three rooms: kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Thabo went straight to the bathroom to take a bath. After his bath he unpacked his clothes and arranged them in the wardrobe. At that point he was feeling very hungry, and so he went out in the streets to find something to eat.
On the way to look for food, he saw a flyer on the wall advertising a job. He took down the numbers and quickly made a call. After a few rings there was an answer.
“Jozi supermarket how can I help you?”” asked the administrator.
He introduced himself and went straight to business. While he was talking there were two men who were watching him, and when his back was turned they crept up behind him and took his cell phone straight out of his hand.
“Help!” he yelled.
“Sir, are you still there?” he heard the muffled voice from the phone as the thieves ran away.
“Ey boy, this is Jozi, you can’t just make calls in public. You better watch out next time,” said a street vendor nearby.
Two weeks later, still unable to find work, Thabo decided to go to the Jozi Supermarket with his CV. When he got there he asked for the manager’s office, and was led there by security.
“Afternoon sir,” he greeted.
“Afternoon,” the manager replied.
He introduced himself and handed the manager his CV. Since the subject section showed that he was the best in accounting, he got hired.
“Mr Ngweni, we would like to take you as our new worker, so be here next week Monday 9:00,” the manager instructed.
“Thank you sir, you won’t regret it,” he replied, shaking hands with him and grinning.
Thabo was so happy on his way back to his room that he put a coin in the first public phone he saw, excited to make a call back home. The phone was answered by his little sister.
“I found a job! I’m starting next week,” he said as soon as she picked up the phone. “How is mother doing? Does Aunty take good care of you? And does Mama take her medication well?” asked Thabo.
“Congratulations,” Maputla said glumly. “What medication? And who’s Aunty? Thabo here at home there’s no food, no Aunty, and no medication. We are starving,” she said, her voice nearly breaking.
Thabo was shocked and so furious about this problem.
“Don’t worry little sister. I will solve this, just relax. Sleep tight and pass my regards to mama,” he said soothingly before hanging up.
Thabo decided to bother Mr Bhala again. He asked him to send food and medication to his home.
“In this coming month I want all my money back cause now I’m getting short!” Mr Bhala yelled. Thabo assured him he would pay him back as soon as possible.
The day finally arrived when Thabo was preparing to go to his new job to work as a cashier. The day went well, and Thabo quickly grasped the way things were done at his work. After he was working hard for a month, it was time for the workers to get paid.
“Thabo, today is Friday and we are planning to do a braai with booze. So are you in?” asked Lucky, one of his co-workers.
“No thanks, I don’t drink,” he replied.
“Ah you are so boring! You are full of village life!” yelled Lucky.
Thabo simply shrugged and went to the pay till to transfer money to Mr Bhala. A few months later he received a letter from Walter Sisulu University saying that he’d been accepted to come and do his bookkeeping studies.
The school would be in session soon, and it was Thabo’s dream to go back to his studies. The manager was really disappointed because Thabo was one of his most loyal and hard workers.
“Mr Ngweni, on holidays please come back here to work. You’ll always have your job,” said the manager.
“Thank you sir. I would appreciate that,” he replied.
Thabo went back to his room to prepare for his journey back home. He had already bought enough medication, food, and new clothes for him and his family. On his way out to the bus station he passed by the reception office to pay the previous month’s rent.
“Thabo you are a good kid. We would like to see you here again,” the owner commented, smiling at him.
“Thank you sir,” he replied.
Thabo made his way back to the Eastern Cape with a lot of joy. He realised that he could now take care of his home himself, a job that would have been easy for no one.
Upon his return, Thabo and his family lived happily again.
Three years later he finished his studies. Now he is working as a bookkeeper for a large company here in South Africa (SARS).With his newfound financial stability, he renovated his home to a double story and he bought a car. He also enrolled Maputla in great schools and he hired a nurse to take care of his mother.
Nomsa was ill from HIV now, and one day she went to Thabo’s home.
Finding his mother there, she said, “Sister I’m sorry for not being loyal to you. It’s because I was forced by my boyfriend to take your money. Thabo I’m sorry for letting you down,” she said, sobbing.
“Don’t cry. I know these things. You can stay with us if you don’t mind,” said Fikiswa.
“Oh sister you have a great heart thank you,” she said, sighing in relief.
With that, she had healed the rift between them. Honesty can set you free. Let’s choose to suffer today rather than struggle in the future. Suffer today and you’ll live a better life tomorrow.
Would you be willing to suffer today if it meant a better life in the future?