Every time I walked on the streets of Daveyton I saw conflicts of the township narrative: schoolgirls alongside senior men who saw them as pieces of meat to be devoured after marinating them with alcohol; and young men smoking drugs made with hazardous concoctions, puffing away the future while chasing a high. Home is not always where the heart is, sometimes it’s only the body’s residence. That’s how I always felt but those feelings escalated after one specific day.
It was a Saturday in April 2010, my mother was attending a funeral out of town and I was left behind. I was watching a scratched DVD around 4pm when I heard blatant roars and shouts from outside. At first I thought it was a small scuffle, it wasn’t abnormal for people to get intoxicated and clash publically on weekends, however the commotion was heavier than usual. I peeked through the window and saw a crowd headed for the corner. I was curious so I followed.
There I was greeted by the sight of a man being attacked by a mob. His name was Ernest. He lived a few streets away from mine. I knew about mob justice but it was my first time witnessing it. At first he was being slapped and yelled at, then he was kicked and the violence persisted to intensify.
“Why are they attacking him?” I asked Ms Maseko, a neighbor.
“He was caught trying to steal an expensive pair of shoes,” she responded.
It was an era of house robberies and things disappearing from people’s yards, so I suppose they were setting an example even though it was extreme… the crime and the sanction didn’t match up.
Ernest begged for forgiveness until his voice became hoarse but his pleas fell on deaf ears as the community’s compassion was buried six feet under by rage.
He yelled, “Mama!” Even though his mother had passed on three years ago.
My heart ripped for him. I thought of calling the police but I didn’t trust them. A year before Ernest’s attack I discovered an abandoned infant at an alley, I called them and when they arrived, they said the child was mine.
Ernest’s eyes were red from crying but there was blood concealing his tears or maybe he cried so much that he was out of tears, his eyes were a portrait of helplessness. He tried using his last bit of strength to crawl away but he was outnumbered. He was a meter away from me. I could smell his blood – it was inevitable; some of his blood had dried to stains on his clothes, some was drying and he was still bleeding. I got nausea and ran back to the house, I prayed for him in tears but my prayers seemed fruitless; I had witnessed too much pain and hostility to have faith.
About an hour later, a patrolling police vehicle dispersed the mob and called Ernest an ambulance. It arrived much later. In Daveyton, pizza delivery is always faster than service delivery despite the urgency. He didn’t live to tell the story, he didn’t live through that day even. There were no suspects and no arrests. He died because of mob justice but he didn’t get justice.
That’s when I knew that I didn’t belong in Daveyton, I felt like an outsider. Too much was wrong, there was too much crime, too much domestic violence, too many immoral things – like teasing people with albinism and cursing – were considered normal.