The police van screeches to a halt outside the Mangilasi’s gate.
“What is it?” Mrs Mangilasi takes her husband’s arm. “Did they bring him home? Did they catch Jonasi? Why did you call the cops?”
“I didn’t,” says her husband.
One of the police officers gets out of the van. Jonasi is in the van with the other.
“Good evening, people,” says one of the officers.
“Evening,” Mr Mangilasi nods.
The officer introduces himself and his female colleague. He informs the couple that they have come to arrest Mr Mangilasi and take him to the police station for questioning.
“You allegedly assaulted the child,” he says pointing back to where Jonasi is sitting in the van. “This is your son?”
“Yes,” Mr Mangilasi nods.
“Why? I don’t understand!” Mrs Mangilasi starts to cry. “Did you hit him?” she asks and turns to her husband.
“The mark is still clear,” says the officer. “Do you know you are not allowed to beat a child? It is child abuse.”
“He stole …” Mr Mangilasi begins and turns to his wife. “He took your laptop. It has to stop! What am I supposed to do? He doesn’t listen to us. Can I not discipline my own son?”
He takes a deep breath and turns to the policeman and woman.
“Good people,” he says softly. “My son stole our DVD player and sold it to get money for drugs. I think he is smoking mbanzhe. I can often smell it on him. Today, when I got home, he was walking out of the house with his mother’s laptop. I slapped him. He needs discipline. He is ruining his life, and ours.”
The female police officer shakes her head. “You hit him.”
“You need to hear our side of the story. If we continue to let our children do as they wish, they are going to end up on the streets. Jonasi has got no ears; he doesn’t listen.”
“I’m afraid Mr Mangilasi you will have to come with us to the station. You can tell your story there.”
Mrs Mangilasi starts crying. “Please, darling, you’re going nowhere. You’ve done nothing. Even when we were growing up, our parents would spank us when we did something wrong.”
Jonasi has climbed out of the police van and is standing holding the plastic bag with the laptop. He watches as Mr Mangilasi climbs into the van. His mother is crying.
“Young man, you can stay at home. We’ll come to fetch you tomorrow,” the police officer says.
Jonasi stares at his mother. His eyes are blank. “No. I’m afraid my mom might beat me too!”
“Has she ever assaulted you before?” asks the female police officer.
“No. But today she will. She is angry, I can tell.”
“It isn’t true. I have never laid a hand on him.” Mrs Mangilasi turns to her son. “Jonasi, come home, we can sort this out. We can get you help.”
He shakes his head and climbs back in the van.
Mrs Mangilasi watches the police van drive off until it is out of sight. Only then does she notice that the neighbours have been watching from behind their fences.
Her husband is gone. Her son, the Jonasi they knew and loved, has been gone for some time.
Tell us: How do you like this twist in the story plot?