When I was about 4 or 5 years old I walked to the train station with a friend. When I came home I found my father crying. he thought I had disappeared and told me never to walk so far away from home again.
My father used to eat apples a lot. I remember him waking me early, washing me and putting me back to bed. My neighbour would then come look after me in the house once my father had left for work.
My great uncle took me to the Eastern Cape one day. I remember I woke up in the morning, my dad had already gone to work, and I played with my neighbours and when I returned home there was a person busy packing. My uncle told me I was going to the Eastern Cape with him and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my dad.
My family in the Eastern Cape was holding a ceremony for my grandparents. They slaughtered a cow. My great uncle had a daughter and a son, they were a bit older than me. I lived with my great uncle until he died. It was OK, he treated me like a son. After my great uncle died I moved in with Zankutwani, who was from my mother’s side.
When I was 6 years old there was a burial. They bought us clothes and I remember going to another house when the body arrived. We couldn’t go to the burial because we were too young. To this day I do not know who they were burying. When we got back home from the burial there was a woman crying and other women were preparing food for the burial. They gave use money to go buy some sweets. I remember being told that if you bury someone never point at the coffin and if you’re talking about God never point up. It is disrespectful to do so.
At another burial that December I learnt about my uncle. I heard that he didn’t want to go to the bush, he was scared and ran away and never returned. They say he came to the Western Cape. I was hopeful that this was someone who would care for me.
When Zankutwani died we moved in with Noeloff. I think I was about 7 years old and I noticed that my great uncle’s sons were treated differently. They were treated like slaves, cooking and cleaning. If they did something, the woman who lived there would take a wire from the car and beat them. The children had marks.
Once I tried to intervene but she beat me with a wire and it opened up a wound on the side of my body. My uncle’s daughter put a cloth around my waist to staunch the flow of blood and the wound got infected, causing me to walk like a crab. Noeloff once hit me in the face with a hot pan. I still have a mark. I have many marks on my body. I remember my uncle’s son hiding under the bed and her pulling him from there.
She used to punish us. She would tell us to clean and paint in places we couldn’t reach and then punish us. We used to run away into the mountains to escape. The older son used to steal food for us when we were hiding and Noeloff would set the dogs on us, but they knew us and were friendly.
One time it started to rain and we only had t-shirts. We were cold.
After 5 or 6 years a farmer came to take one of the other boys. She took me to another place and she reported the abuse to the social workers. I had scars on my body from the physical abuse. I remember the cops arriving and taking Noeloff, but she returned. She used to beat us with wires and brooms.
For a time, I stayed with an elderly woman but she made me clean and wash things for her. I felt pity for her as she couldn’t do much. It was only me and her. She died and I was then supposed to move back in with the woman who beat us, but I took my things and lived in the bush.
Tell us: Why do you think people like Neoloff treat kids so terribly?