The first years
I got married in 1975.
Before that I had already been staying with my husband, in M section in KwaMashu. We had been together since the time when I had one child, Dumisani, the eldest one. That was in 1968. We got on well together. It was fine, nice. Everything went right.
But after three years my husband started doing some bad things that I didn’t like. He began to get girlfriends and to sleep out. He did not come home early and sometimes he didn’t even come home at all. From then on I started to suffer.
I had Thami in 1969 and Zandile in 1972 and Sipho, the one who is ill, in 1976. It was bad but not too bad. Because when I was having all these children he was trying to help me in many ways. When I came home from hospital he helped with cooking and with other things. But after he had finished helping he often used to go out.
Then it got really bad after I had Sipho, the one who was born in 1976. My husband kept on getting new girlfriends and started drinking beer.
Coming home from hospital
In 1979 I had Nono, my second girl, at King Edward Hospital. My husband did not visit or phone me at all. He just kept quiet.
They discharged me the same day because they said there were too many people in the hospital. There was no place for me.
I didn’t even have a cent in my pocket. I took my child and went to the gate asking for an ambulance. They said that there was no ambulance going to KwaMashu. I was wondering what I should do now.
They said, “There is nothing we can do for you.”
So I went out through the gates of the hospital.
There was a man standing over there. I went over to him and asked him for money because I wanted to take the train. But he didn’t have money. He said, “Ai, I feel very sorry for you but I haven’t got anything in my pocket.”
So I just started walking, a long way from King Edward to Dalbridge station.
When I was just near Dalbridge station there came a lady. This lady sells iJuba and other things at the station. She came quickly towards me saying, “Oh, you are coming from the hospital. Why are you walking? Because I can see that you have delivered just a short while ago.” I said, “Yes, I haven’t got money and so I had to walk.” She said, “Bring your child.”
And then this lady called another girl. She gave her five rands to buy me a pint of milk and scones and then we walked together to the station.
She said to the ticket examiner, “Don’t ask a ticket from this lady, the girl I have sent to buy something will come with change.”
When we got inside the station the girl came back from the shop with milk and scones. She gave me two rands and said, “I am going to buy a ticket for you. And when you get to KwaMashu station you must ask the taxi driver to take you to the gate of your home for these two rands.” So she knew that the taxi costs a lot.
I said, “Thank you very much.”
And I came home and my husband was not there.
The fish chutney
After I had had Nono, my fifth child, things got much worse. My husband did not buy me nappies, he did not buy me anything. And soon we started fighting. We had fights regularly.
One day, when I was in the house, he came in and just said, “Hey, make me some fish chutney. Don’t cook it. And two slices of bread.”
While I was preparing it a lady knocked at the door. It was his girlfriend. They sat down together in the dining room, drinking beer.
When I was finished, I brought the chutney to the dining room. My husband took a spoon and tasted it. Then he said, “Nonsense, who can eat this stuff? I told you how to make fish chutney, and now you have made it your way.”
And he just threw it down onto the floor.
I kept quiet. And my eldest boy Dumisani picked up the stuff on the floor and wiped the floor clean.
Drinks and girlfriends
As time went on my husband became a heavy drinker. He used to wake up late in the morning, saying, “Today I am not going to work, I am tired.” And as time went on, “I don’t want to work today.”
I asked, “Why?” He said, “Ai, I have been working at that place for many years, and they are not paying me a good salary. I am working hard and doing a big job that should pay me a lot, but they don’t pay me enough.”
Well, I just kept my mouth shut.
Now that he was staying at home he continued to drink and to have girlfriends. He started working on his own, painting cars outside in the yard. When he got paid a lot of money he just picked up his girlfriend and went away. But you would see him at home again as soon as the money was finished. It was always the same.
My husband gave me very little money. So one day I said to him, “I must try to find a job now.” But he said, “Oh no, I don’t want you to work because I am working hard here and I am giving you food. I am giving you everything.” But he didn’t really give me anything. So I said, “I have to work.” And I found a job and started working.
But after I had Sithe, my youngest son, I had to stay at home again.
One day when I was at home we had a big fight. I had not done anything. I was just asking myself, “What have I done?” He came inside, he took a crowbar, which is called umqala in Zulu, and hit me on the head. I said, “Why are you hitting me like this?” He said, “Don’t talk.” Oh, it was a big fight.
He tried to hold me and I tried to push him away from me and to escape. But he followed me everywhere. At last my cousin came and pushed him away from me and held him.
Then I ran outside and went to see the chairman of our section and told him everything. The chairman came to our house and talked to my husband. After that my husband said, “I see now that I have made a mistake and I am not going to do it again.”
One night my husband started hitting me again. When he was in the other bedroom for a moment I just opened the window because there were no burglar guards. I got out and ran away. I ran to another street to an aunt of mine and knocked at her window. She opened the door and let me in.
Soon afterwards we heard people looking for me. I heard my husband’s voice, “It’s me, Themba.” But we just watched them from inside the house and did not open the door. I said, “I am not going back any more. I am tired of this nonsense.”
After staying with my aunt for two days I went to D section to my brother’s home and told him everything. My brother went to my husband’s house to fetch the children. He said to him, “I am taking these children now. I have had enough of you. You are always playing with my sister. I am sick and tired of you.”
My husband said, “All right, but you are going to see who is going to act last. You can do what you like but you are going to see what I am going to do.”
So I stayed at my brother’s home with my children and my husband stayed in his house.
But he often came and asked for me, “Where is she? I want to talk to her.” But when we were talking, we were fighting at the same time.
He always acted in the same way. And so I said, “Eh, forget about me.”
One day when I was not at home my husband came to my brother’s house and took all my children. My brother said to me, “All right, let him have the children so that he will suffer by supporting the children and paying school fees.”
So the children stayed with my husband. When they came to visit me in the beginning they told me that everything was fine. Everything was going all right.
But then my husband started changing his girlfriends. First it was one woman who stayed with the children. Then, after three months, it was another one, and then again another one.
One day the woman who is still staying with him now, said to him, “No, I don’t need your children, I don’t want them.” And when the two of them had something nice they did not share it with my children. So the children started reporting, “Ma, we are suffering now. Things are not going well.”
I did not know what to do. But the children began leaving my husband, one after the other.
One by one they left him.