The sun had long been up, and so had the neighbours, judging by their laundry flapping outside their houses and the sounds of kwaito and house music coming from each house as if there was a competition we didn’t know about. I knew it was my turn to clean the house judging by the dishes left unattended in the sink and the cushions all scattered around the dining room. It was my day off, the perks of being a second year varsity student with a flexible timetable. But my brothers were not letting me off the hook with the household duties today.
It was 12:30pm. My youngest brother, Siphelo, aged 10 years was sitting in the dining room watching television. It was just the two of us, there was no sign of anyone else in the house.
“Kutheni ungatshayelanga ke ngoku aph’ efront (Why didn’t you sweep the dining room)?” I asked as I dragged my feet with annoyance, picking up the scattered cushion lying on the floor. I didn’t wait for his answer and headed to the sink to pour water into the kettle. Skritch, skritch, swack. His eyes still on the TV, Siphelo dragged the broom across the floor and whacked it against the base of the stove. I had always found being at home during the week boring; you always had to listen to older mamas shouting at their children and older men laughing and talking about politics over a few cold beers. I had become accustomed to the sounds of deeply coarse voices and laughter, some sharing their two cents worth opinions on the country’s state, with debates erupting – one would swear we had a parliament just outside. Whenever the alcohol had gone to their heads, the language being used to communicate would swiftly change to English, that’s beer for you.
“Malema doesn’t play. He is gunning for the ANC,” one man said in a serious tone, his voice on a higher peak than before.
“He knows their secrets, he knows them. Malema might one day be the president. He is good that one!” another chirped in with admiration.
“Oh, that one won’t stand a chance. He was the one who said the ANC would lead forever. He was spot on. The ANC is going nowhere.”
“The DA is using the division between us to advance their propaganda. ANC and EFF should just collaborate together to win the elections.”
Suddenly there was quiet; they had stopped conversing. Siphelo was back to watching the television and I had my head bowed to the sink with soapy water and greasy dishes. I could hear the dogs barking unstoppably outside; they usually did so whenever the postman cycled past.
Boom! Through the window I saw my older brother burst in out of breath and pacing around the yard.
“Yintoni (What is it?)?!” I asked, annoyed by the violent way he opened the gate, giving us such a fright.
His round beady face and bloody red eyes gazed at me with no answer for a good 5 seconds. “Ayonto (It’s nothing).”
I turned back to the sink minding my own business. A few seconds later I heard the click of the gate opening again, and the bang of it closing after. I looked outside through the window and there were three policemen. One black policeman slapped my brother on his face, and then held him at his throat. The other two looked on, checking around the yard for what I assumed was drugs, because I knew my brother sure used a lot of weed and tik.
“Yeey, uzothini apha (Hey, what are you doing here)?” The policeman asked as he held him by the throat
“Ndihlala apha bhuti (I stay here, brother),” he answered, his voice breaking from fear, and probably because he could have been high by this time.
I could feel a lump in my throat as I stood by the sink motionlessly watching. My mind kept on wondering what has he done now but those words couldn’t come out of my mouth. The policemen were coming in. Siphelo stood at a distance, his face turning navy with fear and dismay and his chubby body leaning by the wall, almost like he was hiding himself from the wrath of the police officers.
“Is this man staying here?” the coloured policeman asked as he came inside, looking at me, as the other policeman pushed and slapped my brother whenever he wanted.
“Yes…” I finally uttered a word and got some recognition in the room. “He’s my brother. What did he do?”
“He ran fast and came inside here… we just…”
“Iphi iroom yakho? Ulala phi apha (Where is your room? Where do you sleep here)?”
“Bhuti, wenzeni? Why umbetha? What did he do? Why are you beating him up?” I asked.
“Khawume maan wena. You back off!”
“Ye wethu bhuti, uyaqonda phofu ayondlu yakho lena (Do you realise this is not your house)? Futhi ufike kukho abantu awuthethi nothetha nam uba ufuna uthini apha (And you won’t even tell me what you want here)! Unayo khona isearch warrant (Do you even have a search warrant)?” I was angry.
He had already kicked the bedroom door open and let himself in, pulling up the mattress and throwing the blankets on the floor. My older brother was now standing by the bedroom’s doorway, apologizing for the sun and global warming whilst my younger brother was standing afar, his eyes bewildered and shaking with fear.
“Ufuna ndibambe wena ogqiba ndikuqhwabe ngoku (Are you asking for your own hot slap)?” he asked as he was approaching me with his fist fixed up.
“Oh, try me, I will show you things. I am not him, you had no right slapping him instead of asking him, same as what you have done in the room. Yilungise ke la bhedi, ubungafikanga injeyana.”
“Hayi bhuti, ndicela umyeke. Andinanto mna qha bendisoyika (Please leave her alone. I’ve nothing on me, I was just scared),” my brother chirped in his voice shaking. He stood before me and the policeman as he kept on coming near where I stood holding on to the wet dish cloth.
“Jonga sisi, ndizokuyeka. (Look here, I’ll let you go.) Lo mfana usibalekile sisiza samleqa, siyojonga lento ebeyiphethe (But your brother ran away from us and we want to know why. Susiphazamisa (Don’t interrupt us).”
“Xa enibalekile kutheni umbetha ke ngoku? Why did you go on to assault him again here in front of my younger brother? Do you see how traumatized he is now? Nah maan, ayikho lento uyenzayo, you are using your power to humiliate people gqithi. Ndifuna undibethe ndizokubonisa ke mna ke ndizokwenza ntoni! (I dare you to lay your hand on me! You can’t come into someone else’s house and not even let them know what’s going on in a respectful manner).”
“We apologize sisi. My colleague here didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”
“Sorry but I don’t want an apology. I asked for his name.”
“We are sorry, sisi.” They left immediately. People had already gathered outside the gate to get the day’s scoop. I hurriedly got back inside.