They are already high when a tall, lean boy limps around the back of the building and sees them.
“Ah! Guys, what are you doing?” He glares at them, hands on his hips. When no-one answers, “What are you doing?” he demands again. Jonasi pulls at the zol and passes it to Rudzani. After taking at least three strong pulls, he passes it on to Bethuel.
“Are you crazy or what?” Bethuel finally asks the boy, as he exhales.
The boy shakes his head. “Are you for real, guys? Ni khou daha mbanzhe (You’re smoking dagga). And you ask if I am crazy …”
“Does it concern you if we are smoking?” Rudzani asks. “We can smoke cow dung if we want. After all, it’s our lives!”
“Skyf da, Bethu!” Pretty prods Bethuel in the ribs with her elbow.
“Sure – here,” he says and passes the smoke to her. She lifts the zol to her mouth and draws on it for what seems like eternity.
“Pretty! What are you doing?” the boy exclaims and looks disgusted. She ignores him, continuing to puff at the zol.
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
“Leave me alone, please, Goliath,” she finally answers.
Rudzani squints at Goliath. “Who are you to lecture us? A village mini-pastor?” he says and giggles.
“You laugh at nothing, because mbanzhe controls your minds.” Goliath taps his head. “Look at you,” he points at Bethuel, who is cackling. “You’re drooling on your T-shirt and you don’t even notice.”
Bethuel laughs again. “Is your name Goliath?”
“You know me, we go the same school, but you ask if I am Goliath?”
“Hey people of the world – look at bony Goliath!” Bethuel laughs. Pretty, Rudzani and Jonasi join in laughing. With a defeated look on his face, Goliath turns and limps away. Bethuel mimics how he walks with a crippled gait.
“That little boy,” utters Pretty. “He thinks he can lecture us.”
When they are done smoking, Jonasi staggers home, high as a kite.
At the gate he unwraps his ice mint, throws the wrapper on the ground, and tosses the sweet into his mouth. A minibus taxi with loud music blaring drives past. Jonasi bobs his head to the song. The familiar fragrance of flowers and plants in his father’s garden welcomes him home.
He finds the front door locked and has to knock.
“Who is it?”
“It’s your lovely son.” I am in trouble today he thinks, as his mom opens the door, but she doesn’t look angry. His father, on the other hand, looks like a storm cloud. He is sitting in the living room waiting for him.
“Come here!” he commands Jonasi. “What’s that smell?”
“It’s only ice mints,” Jonasi answers softly.
“Can’t a child enjoy some sweets, darling?” says his mom, in Jonasi’s defense.
Mr Mangilasi shakes his head. “You spoil him. When we were young my father didn’t spare us. My older brother David was punished after he took our father’s car and drove it into the wall of the Assemblies of God church. Do you have an idea what your late grandfather did to him?” he says and glares at Jonasi.
Jonasi shakes his head.
“He dragged him into the pigsty, tied him there in the mess, and left him for a full day, without food or water,” he says. “I watched pigs sniffing at him with their big noses. And he would squeal now and then, just like a pig himself!”
“That was cruel, my husband,” Mrs Mangilasi answers, visibly shocked.
“It worked. David stopped stealing the car to drive it for fun. I think I should do the same to Jonasi. Am I not his father? Do you think I don’t know how to bring him back to the right path?”
Jonasi’s mom stares, her eyes fill with dread for her only child.
Tell us: Should parents be allowed to discipline their children any way they like? What do you think of the ‘pigsty’ punishment?