“There is no more Ubuntu,; today everyone only cares for themselves,” Koko Mamsi said while shaking her head.

Koko Mamsi is a neighbour to Koko Zitha, who looks after seven grandchildren. They both get pension money but Koko Zitha spends her money on beer for herself and her boyfriend; an old man in his mid-70s. She feeds her grandchildren only one meal a day, at supper, pap and chicken feet. They have begun relying on the help of feeding schemes and local soup kitchens which are intended to help orphans and the homeless.

Their suffering has become visible through tattered clothes and scabby skin, as if they don’t wash. There is no soap, let alone moisturizing lotion and people just look past these kids, only concerned about their own lives.

Hearing Koko Mamsi’s words, I couldn’t help but think that not all people are this way.

Some time back, we used to show real love to one another, be it friends, family or even strangers. But now those days seem more of a forgotten dream and a distant memory.

One day while I was doing the washing and also checking my WhatsApp messages, I left my phone outside on the stoep and went inside. A group of guys from my area walked by. I didn’t notice them moving towards the direction of my phone and when I wanted to check messages I realised that my phone was gone. I immediately began panicking. My phone has everything on it, my stories, my pictures and music. Realising what had happened broke me.

A few days after that and I heard that a guy from my neighbourhood had my phone. I looked for him so I could get my phone back, but when I found him all he had to say was: “I bought that phone, you have to pay me for it.”

I realised then that the days of love amongst neighbours have long since passed. I was devastated that I had to pay a thousand rand to get my phone back. I didn’t understand why he treated me this way, why wouldn’t he just be kind?

Koko Mamsi was right and I gave up on the phone, I’d rather buy a new one.

I took a bus home for and we drove for 12 hours, it’s never this quick, the bus normally takes about 15-17 hours from Polokwane to Harare. A Christian woman decided to sit next to me and she had brought pizza and offered me some. At first I refused but she insisted, saying she won’t be able to finish it.

“Food tastes better when it’s shared with someone.”

I wasn’t going to argue with free food so I enjoyed it with her. I had my own food I had brought with for my journey but I didn’t want to disappoint her. I was surprised to hear some ladies whisper: “What if someone poisons you?”

I told myself that if death comes, it will be my time but this lady doesn’t even know me so why would she want to kill me? I prayed that God bless this kind woman. I believed that Ubuntu still existed, maybe some people have changed but the majority are still kind to one another.

I was excited to arrive back home because I got to see family I last saw months ago. I wanted to see all my relatives so I asked my cousin to take me to the village and she agreed.

When the day to visit the village came my cousin, all of a sudden, demanded 30 bond notes for fuel. My eyes popped wide open in shock. When I told her that I only had ten U.S dollars, she refused and she left without me. I was devastated. Thirty bond notes are equivalent to going by bus and still have money left over.

“Sister, everyone wants to benefit. Why don’t you just go by bus?” Lola, my younger sister suggested.

“I wanted to take the kids with too,” I replied disappointed.

“We can go tomorrow, give me the ten dollars,” she said grabbing it from my hand.

My sister is greedy, she knows ten US dollars is not equivalent to the bond notes we use in my country. I was glad but she’s not the best person to travel with; she will wake up late knowing that I want to leave early. She gets irritated easily when we want to stay longer, so she makes us hurry and she is typically moody.

One day we drove to Mbare, a food market, and some guy motioned us to follow him when we got to the gate. He showed us where to park and even escorted us inside the fruit and vegetables market, but little did we know what was about to happen.

The guy was gone. We didn’t think much of it and returned to the car only to see that it was clamped.

Another guy then approached us.

“Who told you to park here? You need to pay 56 dollars for its release … or maybe you can talk to them nicely and agree on something?” he laughed with a sly look on his face.

“Those people left us parking there and didn’t tell us it was illegal,” Lola complained.

I remained quiet. I kept thinking that I had brought curses upon her life too because nothing was going my way.

We went to the office instead and there we saw one of our relatives. We greeted and laughed about the whole situation… until he got down to business.

“What will you pay me? I am hustling you know,” he smiled, not feeling the slightest guilt for ‘hustling’ his own family.

I offered ten bonds and he agreed. A few minutes later he removed the clamp and we left, not bothering with goodbyes. We were silent for a while with only the sound of the car breaking that silence. I sat there wondering when things became this way.

People really have changed, they rob their families and steal from friends. It’s all about self-preservation now. We used to help strangers, but now? We direct them into a den of thieves. When they need help we help them only to make ourselves look good and then gossip about their lives. No one wants to see someone succeeding.

We pick up a wallet or a phone of someone you know and our first thought is our benefit and not the loss faced by the other. What’s in the wallet might help you but what about the owner’s feeling? It could be their salary or last money to sustain their lives. We are so lost that these thoughts don’t even bother to cross our minds.

Maybe it’s because people are stuck in poverty, but is that reason enough to take from someone’s else’s hard work?

What happened to us?

We have lost our generosity, our kindness, our compassion and most importantly, we have lost our love for our brothers and sisters. Mandela taught us about Ubuntu but now it is gone.

I hope people will go back to the way they used to be.


Tell us: Do you think we’ve lost our humanity?