Battles In His Young Days
“People overseas complain they are in the ghetto, but when they come here they say they have never seen squatter camps like the ones in Joe Slovo. We come from these places. We attend these Model C schools and on some days visit our white friends in the suburbs. But on weekends when they are supposed to visit us they don’t come.”
“Did you expect any different, Lungsta?” Sbu looks at me as if to say – you are mad brother.
“How do I invite a white friend to a one room shack where my parents’ bed is in the one corner and the cooking table in the other with a bucket in the middle to catch rain water as the roof is leaking?”
“Eish, I don’t know the answer to that one.”
“My white friends are curious to come here though,” I tell Sbu.
“Wow, Lungsta, things have changed. Generations of black South Africans before us would not go into white areas for known reasons and fears. White people feared going into black areas. There were laws keeping them separate.”
“I know Sbu, I can’t wait for a South Africa where we don’t speak black and white.”
“I think you worry too much about things you won’t see in your lifetime, Lungsta.”
“You see my friend, Sbu, what is really happening here is that good friends of ours fear the unknown, it may seem too dark and too dusty. The stories painted in newspaper headlines highlight the stabbings and the gun shots fired. How do these people live? They may ask themselves this. My white friend may be fascinated but his mind is full of contradictory stories. My friend is black, he lives in the poorest shack, but he wears good quality clothes and brand names. How is this possible?”
“Talk about brand names – that is our thing, my man.”
“Exactly my point, Sbu. Who is then responsible for painting a true picture of our locations? This white boy may have driven past the main street to drop off their domestic worker and saw a special advertised: ‘Buy one case of bear and get one smiley’ – a sheep’s head meat. What else do they eat – some might think.” Sbu burst out laughing.
“That gives me an idea you know.”
“Yes, Sbu, he may have driven past four tents in two street blocks and wondered what was happening. On learning that four funerals were held that weekend, he may have felt that there is no peace here.”
“Well, what I think, Lungsta is that ninety-nine point nine percent of the people in townships are scared of the same crime elements white people see and are scared of. It is just that they are much closer to it and have acted to bring about a positive change.”
“Well Sbu, I always try and steer away from using color to describe and differentiate people you know.”
“Should we be speaking of the rich and the poor, Lungsta?”
“Yes, my friend, I think so. Even though we know that in suburbs black people are the minority.”
“Lungsta, white people are a tiny minority in townships too.” I get up and change my shirt to put on my white one that says ‘I love Cape Town.’
“Brother, you have been here for so long and you don’t know that there are white people residing in townships.” Sbu repeats.
“What was that idea you had when I mentioned smiley, Sbu?” I say, changing the topic.
“Yeah, Lungsta, you probably guessed right. Let us go and get some of that.” We get up and take a walk down from my house to the place where they sell sheep heads.
The dream of every aspiring ambitious black man around the world is to get out of the ghetto and own a house in a suburb. “What would happen if everyone was successful and left the township?”
“Sbu, one property in the suburbs would take up a whole street block where forty families stay in the township.”
‘Yes, but in the suburbs you can’t buy smileys on the street,” Sbu says as we wait for the meat and chat to neighbours.
“Yes, and you wouldn’t stroll down the street like this, greeting people. You would hide behind your walls, too scared to go out.”
We are waiting now in a small queue for our smileys.
“Man our black sisters have a lot of respect for themselves and they are beautiful. They’ve made this nice basket for white men and black men from all over Africa to dip in and choose.”
“Sbu, what’s wrong with inter-racial relationships?”
“Ok, Lungsta, so please tell me ndoda, why is it that when I, as a Xhosa man, really love a white lady I am told it will not work? Why is it that the guys I come across tell me that white ladies say that we – South African black men – are shy. Are we?”
“I don’t know what you are getting at man.”
“It is said that we don’t approach white women, Lungsta. I mean look at me, do I look like the type that will let a fine babe walk by?”
“There are only a few black man dating white women. When they walk in a shopping mall all eyes are on them, but I want them to be strong. I want to tell my white sisters out there. I know it is love that brings you together – please let it be, and don’t even think of being shy to hold your man.”
“I would nominate you as an interracial relationship counsellor.” Sbu laughs.
“Perhaps there is a life lesson to be learned from these relationships, Sbu. If we categorize people and love them according to their skin colour or language, or where they are from, or how much money they earn, we are nowhere near winning the battles the youth are faced with. Let your heart feel and you will know when you have touched and made that connection, Sbu.”
“Yo Lungsta– picture me with my own white mabebeza – chick.”
“Yeah Sbu, it is possible. If that’s what you want.”
“I want everything, Lungsta. I want to be great.”
“I want to be very great – the Jay Zee kind of great. The kind of great that will get me a white chick.”
“My man, if you don’t get your game on, you might as well call it off.”
“Ay, Lungsta, you know I got my game on.” Sbu makes me laugh.
We get inside the place where they sell smileys and order a whole head – thirty-four rands. Sbu pays. We leave and stroll down the road. We will enjoy eating the smiley at home with some cold beer.
“You know, Sbu, I drove past a church nearby in a white suburb one day and saw a whole lot of white crosses on the front lawn of the property.”
“Oh, I remember seeing those. What was that all about?”
“Those were to commemorate the number of abortions that had taken place in our area in a period of ten years.”
“Wow, is that so, Lungsta? What a topic while we chow on this delicacy.”
“Ah, shut up and listen, Sbu. Let us throw numbers in our head. Here we are talking a residential area of about thirty kilometers. Maybe fifty-five percent of the people in this area are youth between the ages of fourteen and thirty-three. Youth as young as fourteen are having sex.”
“Lungile, is that correct?” Sbu looks shocked.
“Haven’t you heard of fourteen-year-olds falling pregnant?”
“Now that you are saying it, I have seen it before.”
“And it is the fourteen-year-olds that are most overwhelmed if they fall pregnant.”
“You are losing me now, Lungsta, there are too many numbers. Who is getting them pregnant? Men of what age? We are not sure but we know they are much older.”
“Lungsta, when we don’t have money we become physically vulnerable. Those girls who go out with older men, who promise them the world, they think money is everything.”
“When a young person is in bed with a man that has just taken her out on a very fancy dinner and strolled with her into fancy places and clubs, how challenging is it for her to say no to unprotected sex, Lungsta? It must be quite a thing you know? Does she give this person all he wants, Sbu, so that she can ride in fancy cars and have her clothes paid for? Is that what she wanted?”
“Lungsta, now that you are saying it I should have advised my sisters differently on how they could get their own money. You know to me, Lungsta, exploring what is referred to as ‘flesh to flesh’ is like playing Russian roulette with life. But instead of one bullet in a seven hole pistol flywheel there are six bullets.”
“The good thing is that there is sex education. You’ve seen the signs for the youth directed programme, LoveLife. It has touched and changed so many lives – we wish to see more of it even in rural areas as well.”
“If a woman has been raped, she may not want to keep a child. Or if the father is not a good man.”
“The age group of fourteen to twenty-four may not yet be financially stable therefore it may not be financially sound or viable to keep a child in their defence, Lungsta.”
“The role our parents hold in societies may force us to think that having a baby would be so taboo and that the only option is to abort. The age group of fourteen to twenty-four is busy crafting their future and babies were the plan but more a future plan and certainly not now. I grew up listening to my uncles who spoke of how prevention is better than cure. I feel it would apply here too, let us not put ourselves in a position where we have to face abortion decisions.”
“Guys are competitive now, Lungsta. A guy wants to know that girls love his body and clothes. This promotes competition amongst young men yet some men competitions tend to be rough and characterized by stabbings and gun shots. Some men, instead of fighting clean, use a gun and knife.”
“When jealousy is allowed to have a repeated loud voice in our minds – we fight ugly Lungsta, that’s what it is.”
“When young men seem to be losing that battle for the smartest car, gear and the feeling of being in new clothes and that of driving a new car – an ugly fight brews.”
“No ways, Lungsta. Gangs are therefore formed in search of the quickest way to having much, would you say Lungsta.”
“I would say anger, Lungsta. Young mothers pay very heavily for falling pregnant before time, some more so than others. The emotional price must be the heaviest of all for very young mothers. That’s why young mothers are less likely to finish their school. Young women fall pregnant and are immediately faced with tough decisions, either to keep the baby, abort, or give up for adoption. The natural thing would obviously be to keep the baby, yet what has been done at first was unnatural therefore making this whole experience unnatural hey, Lungsta.”
“You say so Sbu, young fathers want to keep clean and be in less trouble as possible. When a young mother faces the decision to keep, abort or give the baby up for adoption – they should not give the biological father any say in that matter.”
“What, Lungsta? I do not agree with you on this one. The baby belongs to both the mother and father.”
“Ok, Sbu, I won’t take you up on that too, my man.”
“We have mentioned what happens when a young mother decides to keep the baby. The decision to abort comes with its own risks. When making this decision, I hope they make sure that they consult professionals, Lungsta mfana.”
“Giving a child up for adoption in my view has only benefits – you are giving the child a life. All you may have heard about sex perhaps from your parents, is true. It is to be enjoyed when the time is right and when one is of the right age. The fact remains though that the younger one is when they have sex for the first time the more likely they will regret it.”
“I hear you, Lungsta.”
Tell us what you think: Are you enjoying the conversations between Lungile and Sbu? Do you chat about these same issues with your friends?