Mfundo is confirmed dead. Killed by an angry mob. I can’t believe that I won’t see his smile again; that we won’t compete to see who can blow the biggest dagga smoke ring again, make circles in the air; or who could get a sheep out of the kraal the quickest.

First we had competed about who would score the most goals for the team. I wish it had stayed like that.

It is even worse that I couldn’t say goodbye to him. If Lwando had the chance to go to the funeral, he would slip in anqotyi, dagga, in that coffin, a Nas CD and a picture of a red gusheshe, BMW E20i, Mfundo’s dream car. I think these things sadly to myself as I lie in the flea-riddled excuse of a bed. I want to die.

On the one side of the wall is scrawled gang graffiti: ’26 Money over bitches’. On my side, ’28 Blood thirsty’.

“Sabelo, when you walk into a room, people must warm up to you, so smile a little. People must never suspect that you may steal from them.” I keep hearing Lwando’s voice in my mind, remembering the times he bossed me and Mfundo.

“Sabelo Jonginto, Sabelo Jonginto s’botshwa, get up prisoner!” The voice bounces off the walls off the corridor, calling my name.

Five men with beige clothes and brown shoes walk in. They shove me down the corridor. We walk into a room with one table and two chairs. One prison warder remains with me. He does not talk a lot. He is a one-word man, “Here. Sit.”

A coloured woman walks in. She is wearing a cream linen suit and black shoes, a slight smile on her face. Her damp hair is tied back in a ponytail. She hugs a blue file close to her chest with her left hand. In her right hand she dangles car keys. I envy her bitterly. Car keys to me mean freedom.

The prison warder closes the door and stands dead silent, next to me.

“My name is Ingrid. I am your state-appointed lawyer,” the woman says pulling up a seat.

“Has it been raining outside?” I ask her.

“Yes, for two days now.”

I think of Lwando. Tall, very dark skinned and blood-red-eyed Lwando Mpahlayimbi. He loved it when it rained. Stealing sheep was easier. People went to bed early. He also liked his meat on cold, rainy days.

“When it rains, you are not going to see people on the outside, no, because people of this village melt.” We would laugh and laugh when he said this.

The woman slides her arm forward. I look her in the eye, and then at the prison warder, and back at her again.

“How are you today?”

“Phuh, do you wanna know how I feel? I…”

“Hey, hey, don’t be cheeky with her,” the warder interrupts. A few more words from him this time.

Meneer, I will show you what cheek is!”

I crack then. I bang both my hands on the table, push it so that it shoves against the woman. I get up.

The warder speaks fast on the walkie talkie. Two other guards rush in. They ask the woman to give them a few minutes. She gets up and walks outside holding her stomach.

One of them pulls a chair towards the corner. He jumps on the chair and pulls the surveillance camera sideways so that it faces the wall.

Mthimkhulu, uyicokise, kodwa ingophi, hit him good, but he must not bleed,” he says to the one as he hops back down from the chair.

I am hit with a baton twice, hard on the left shoulder. I feel another warder’s shoe ram against my back as I am pushed forward. I fall flat on the hard concrete floor. Kicks and punches land on my thin body.

Uxolo bhuti, I am sorry!” I scream.

One of them has the black sole of his brown shoe pressed against my cheek. They carry on punishing me severely. I start crying.

“Wipe those tears and get ready to talk to the lady,” the one says. I get up and quickly sit on the chair. I’m now in excruciating pain. But, ready to listen to the lady. The two warders walk out. One remains standing next to me, dead silent. The woman walks back in.

“Please, please tell me what it is that I must do for you,” I beg her.

“We need to think about what it is that you can do for yourself Sabelo,” she says.

Honestly, I want to cry when she says this. But, that might be mistaken for ill-discipline and I will be at the mercy of three big men again.

“Do yourself a favour Sabelo. Don’t cause trouble like that. Don’t lie to me. You are young and a first offender, so the court may treat you leniently. Your family needs you,” she says and opens the blue file again.

“Sabelo, I will ask you some questions. If there is anything you don’t understand please ask me to repeat or explain. At the end you will get a chance to ask me if you have any questions. I also have a letter to give to you from your sister. But before we start, is there anything you would like to tell me?”


After the questions the woman hands me a letter from Nonyaniso and walks out of the door.

I hesitate, waiting for an instruction from the warder. “I tell you when to shit, sleep and eat. You tell me vokol.” This is what he told me after the beating. “I decide how much sunshine you get in a week.” He did not need to tell me that he is my Lord, vader. I know I will never disobey him again.

“Get up, we are heading back to your cell,” he says in his deep voice.

We walk down the stuffy corridor. In front of BB278 he opens the gates with two long keys.

I think of the woman’s words, “…tell me no lies.”

I think about what I have just told her – my own version of what happened on the night of the party. I think of Nonyaniso. I don’t want to read what she wrote in this letter.

This is a version of the story, I think, that will haunt me forever.

Nonyaniso writes in the letter that she is going to Cape Town. She does not say anything about the night of the party.

* * * * *

My sister hates me. I have a friend who died. Black Tights did not pay me. The love from a gang always has a condition. A stupid initiation. A quick road to this dirty prison.

I want to start all over again. Even if it means Mama, our mother still favours Nonyaniso. I will be thankful just for a plate of food every night. Even some meat, that Mama cannot pay for upfront. But, she makes debt and brings it home. I will stay at home. Be good. But for now I must pay, pay a lot in this hell.

Thixo ndincede, Lord help me.

* * *

Tell us what you think: What sentence should Sabelo get for his thieving and for the rape?

Find out what happens to Nonyaniso and Sabelo in ‘Free at Last!’ the next FunDza story.