In the morning, scarcely a breath of wind flows across the land, and large dark clouds drift slowly across the deep blue sky. Now and then, they obscure the sun and cause a chill on Catherine’s back. She is working in her small garden at the back of her house. She squats and scoops water from a five-litre bucket with a silver metallic cup next to her and waters her plants. “Eyi, Mam’ Catherine, you like your garden, neh,” says a bold woman’s voice coming over Catherine’s fence.

Catherine gently tilts her head. It’s Mam’ Zonke, Catherine’s nosy neighbour.

“Yes, I love it, it keeps me busy, so I don’t have to mind other people’s business,” says Catherine, scooping more water from the bucket.

“Awu, Mam’ Catherine, you don’t have to be so harsh! I admire you,” says Mam’ Zonke, patting her head. She recently had her hair braided. Catherine doesn’t know if it’s itchy or if she’s showing off.

“Alright, if you say so.” Catherine maintains her attention on her garden.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Tembe boy come to play with my boy Thato.” Mam’ Zonke scratches her chin. “People say his father killed him. They heard the boy scream for help.”

“Killed him? Did they say why they would think such?” asks Catherine, struggling to rise. “People are disgusting.”

“Hehe, people talk, Mam’ Catherine, let me tell you.” Mam Zonke leans forward, “They say the boy is gay and his father didn’t like that. Thato also told me that the boy, Zethembe, is gay. He tried to kiss him, and you arrived and chased the boy away…”

“Whoa!” exclaims the old woman, Mam’ Catherine. “Zethembe is not dead! Vus’umuzi will never kill his son over some nonsense!”

“Hayi ke, think about it, Mam’ Catherine, when was the last time you’ve actually seen the boy? Connect the dots,” says Mam’ Zonke, losing her patience. “The boy is dead, I’m telling you!”

Late in the evening, Catherine crosses her legs, drinking tea on her couch. There’s a sense of guilt building up inside her. She almost spills the tea on her chest. Did I see the boys kissing? She thinks to herself. Maybe I didn’t. Did Vus’umuzi really kill his own son just because of what I said?

Catherine cannot sit around and allow her guilt to nibble her heart. She
decides to go over to the Tembe house. On the way, she catches a group of women whispering among themselves about Vus’umuzi killing his son.

“You have no shame!” bursts out Catherine. They laugh at her and carry on talking. She clicks her tongue and spits on the ground.

She finally arrives at the gate, which is padlocked. “Vusi! Vusi!” she calls. “Vusi!” she calls again.

“Forget it, Ma, those people don’t live there any more,” says a boy passing.


“Shhhh,” says Vus’umuzi tightening his grip on Zethembe’s mouth. “I will fix you son; I will fix you!” says Vus’umuzi.


Vus’umuzi hears the old woman still calling outside. Soon, the calling stops, and after a while, he goes to check from his window. She’s gone.

“Let’s pray,” says Vus’umuzi to his son, dragging him to the couch. “Pray that the sin is washed away! Pray, and if you fool Him, He will know!”

Tell us: Do neighbours have a role in keeping communities safe? How so?