Delft is in Cape Town. It is a township divided into seven, namely Delft South, Voorbug, Eindhoven, Roosendal, The Hague, the new Symphony Section and, of course, my hood Leiden.
Leiden is further divided into six sections, from section 15 to section 20. Section 20 is where you’ll find me: playing soccer, sitting in the corner with my friends discussing new music, movies and trends or we’d be talking about future, asking each other what future has in store for us.
We never really got the answer to that question, we simply decided to stick with the “we’ll always be together” cliché. In fact at that time we believed it. Like all boys in any hood we stuck together, protected the turf against boys from other turfs (sections) who’d come to our turf and steal our ladies. We called our section “Mzansi”. Why Mzansi? I really don’t know, I guess it sounded cool at that time. The turf popularly became know as “Mzansi” from then on, and we’d do anything to protect Mzansi.
We even started a soccer team, we called it Mzansi FC and we never let any other player from the other sections play on our team because we were brothers, we were family and we believed that family sticks together. The part that really scared me the most was that of a family fighting together, as it became literal when we got into the teenage stage of our lives. At that time, Leiden – in fact Delft as a whole – started facing a lot of challenges, such drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and the most scary one to date gangsterism.
I was in high school when some of friends formed a group of gangsters called Mzansi Boys, all in the name of “protecting the turf”. This is when things got real, one was tested to find out if he would really fight with the family. As a result of the newly formed gang, the soccer team disbanded.
After matric I was lucky to be admitted at a tertiary institution in Port Elizabeth. My parents suggested that I apply to universities outside Cape Town as Leiden had become a horror. Home was no longer homey. Well, that’s what my parents felt.
So I left home to live with relatives in PE, and my parents told to not come back until I’d finished my studies and that they’d visit me instead. It was really sad leaving my hood. I made a vow that when I finish my studies in four years time I’d take the first bus to Cape Town. PE was never home for me and I did not want it to be. Being there was a mission. I told myself I’ll do what I need to do and then go back home.
Four years later, I got on a Translux bus that took me to Cape Town station. I’m went through all sorts of emotions.
To cut the long story short, right now, I’m walking through Camdeboo Crescent, my street in my hood, the turf… and God what has become of this place, I wonder. So I decide to continue walking down the street and look at the vandalised houses and damaged grounds.
As I’m walking, eminiscing about old times, I come across a group of boys standing in the same spot we were standing at when we decided to rename the turf and they are the same age as we were – 12 to 15 years or so – and a tear escapes my left eye.
I can’t help but think of them, my friends… my brothers, what has become of them? I ask myself. Do they still remember me? Our promises we made to each other?