Through the back window of Tasmente’s van, I try to get a better sliding view of my dusty, dry, remote village, Swartkopfontein. Tasmente is one of my fellow villagers who owns vans which transport my people from Moshaneng to Swartkopfontein and vice versa. Growing up, my villagers were regarded as dull and backward by the Setswana speaking people of Moshaneng and other surrounding villages. In a way, this only encouraged some of us to excel academically and in everything we did, to prove that we were not what they perceived us to be.

Now work and other commitments have alienated us from our true homes. Only serious family gatherings such as funerals manage to bring us together again after decades of separation. My elders left far before COVID-19 came and funerals were limited to only fifty people. Before schools were forced to close and forced to be opened again under the COVID-19 Regulations Amendment Act. My elders departed far before they could sanitize their hands and wear face masks probably for life.

A dignified funeral, that’s how I first went home after my grandfather, Isaac Wayipha Thambe, was buried. A noble and respected man, he was the chief who forfeited his chieftaincy to his younger brother. He was first in everything though. First in the queue for pension payouts. First to vote in 1994.

The second time I went home again was for the burial of Siye Machechisa Gura, my grandfather’s first born. I saw almost everyone I had grown up with – my friends and classmates. They reminded me of my childhood nickname,“Radipotomane” (Mr Strong calves). The hills and mountains of Swartkopfontein had turned me into a formidable machine. I used to run long distances after cows and donkeys, faster than the best comrades marathon runner. When I went back I asked if there were still students walking 60km to high schools every day, as Swartkopfontein does not have one. If there were still people selling firewood on donkey carts. If Moshaneng, 60kms away, still served as our market place for groceries and other necessities.

It tore my heart to pieces to hear that my people were still living in the same poverty after 25 years of freedom and poverty alleviation programs.

In 2020, in the midst of the Coved-19 pandemic, the ruling party politicians are still looting food parcels meant for the poor. Still being given corrupt tenders for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Still responsible for exorbitant expenditures and corruption for state funerals. Tenders are the order of the day. Clearly, the ruling party has learnt nothing about the vigilance needed to stop creeping lawlessness, greed and selfishness taking root. It is relatively liberating to be objective and speak your mind if you owe no official and politician any favor. Nothing is more liberating than being uncaptured, as those who are captured continue to sing for their next plate. These comrades are betraying us, my friends.

Every time we ask about service delivery they say things are still on the pipeline – but how long is this pipe? Older generation still have good stories to tell about people in the ruling party who fought for our liberation. The next generation regrettably will only have stories to tell about thieves in the ANC who stole their liberation and their livelihood. I saw most of my old friends jobless and toothless from senseless fights at liquor houses. I saw brothers I had once respected bent by hardships of this life. I saw my childhood sweetheart in such a sorry state that I surreptitiously wiped away my tears with her scarf as I embraced her.

After the funeral I went to our dilapidated three-roomed house. As I walked around, many of my childhood memories came alive: all the laughter around the fire every night, my parents, my grandparents, my brothers… and my tears just fell.

I then went to my grandfather’s yard. No one lives there now and all the houses that were once there have fallen. Strangely, my grandfather’s favourite “Botshabelo”, meaning a place to hide in, is the only one still standing, the door tied with rusted wires, the roof gone. Next I went to the family cemetery, gathered some stones as is the custom, then went to Isaac Thambe’s grave. There I told him why I had come, where I was living now and closed my visit with my clan’s praise poem, Amagcina, Indlov’emhlophe! I then returned to my aunt’s house where it warmed my heart to see that nothing had really changed, they still remember to pray Ubawo wethu osemazulwini, our Father who art in heaven, every night before they go to sleep.

Mncedise is a 4rd year B Ed student at NWU Potchefstroom Campus.

Tell us: What did you think of this piece?