That night, after everyone had gone home, Sbu waited up late for his father.
Dumisani worked as a tiler. He was a supervisor with a construction company, and that meant that he often had to do big jobs all over the Western Cape. At 2 a.m., there was the sound of a bakkie outside Sbu’s house, and a minute later, a key rattled in the door, and Dumisani came in.
“Sbu!” he said, seeing Sbu on the couch. “What are you still doing awake?”
“I saw Uncle Mandla,” said Sbu.
They went through to the kitchen and prepared a late-night meal together. Dumisani warmed up a chicken stew, and Sbu cooked up some pap. While they cooked, Sbu told his father about the day – the whole story, including the camera, the brick, the braai and the fire. And he told his father what Mandla had said, about Sbu benefitting from crime. Dumisani listened quietly though it all.
They sat down at the kitchen table and had their meal.
“I knew what he was up to,” said Dumisani. “He’s my brother. I asked him to stop, but he wouldn’t listen. We had a fight, and I told him that I wanted nothing to do with him while he was a criminal. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After that he went up to Johannesburg.
“I didn’t hear from him for months. I was worried. Had he been arrested? Had he got himself in trouble with the gangs up there? Then one day, he sent me a letter. No address, just a short message and some money. The message said that we would always be brothers, and he would always support me. It also said that I should use the money to help raise you and your sister. I knew what Mandla was doing. I know him very well. He was trying to use the money to buy away his guilt.
“Every year, Mandla sends some money. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s more than R5000 now. He said I should use it to buy your clothes. I didn’t want to keep the money, but he gave me no return address, and no way of contacting him. I even thought of burning it. But then I decided, no. I would keep it. I wouldn’t spend it. I would save it up, every cent, so that when Mandla returned I could give it back to him and show him that we did not need it. I wanted to prove that we can live honestly.”
Sbu’s father sighed.
“But I don’t know now. Mandla’s still up to his old ways. Giving back the money won’t solve anything but my own guilt. It will just make my brother richer.
“And the money is yours, too, Sbu. Mandla said it was for you and your sister, and you’re old enough to make tough decisions.
“What do you think we should do? Should we keep the money? Spend it? Or give it back?”
Image: Matt Burris, BY-NC-SA
WHAT DO YOU THINK? If you were Sbu, what would you say?