“Where is Mandla?”

Sandra looked around the flat. The sitting room was neat and tastefully furnished. There was a small kitchen and bedroom and a lovely bathroom. It was nice. So much nicer than her home. For a start, I don’t have a bathroom, thought Sandra.

The man came back from where he had been pouring her a large cola. The ice clinked against the side of the glass.

“Never mind about Mandla,” the man said to her. His voice was soft and gentle. “He’ll be back later to fetch you. But first we must get to know each other.”

“Thanks Uncle,” said Sandra softly, sipping the Coke. It was so hot, and the Coke was so cold and sweet and delicious. Mandla had called the man ‘Uncle’, so Sandra, hesitantly, did so too.

“Do you know that Maths is a very emotional subject?” said the man, smiling down at her. He sat and then pulled his chair closer to hers at the table.

“Emotional?” asked Sandra. Sandra knew what emotional meant. English was the one subject she was very good at. She would never have thought of Maths as emotional.

“Yes. It’s very important that you relax and feel good before we start doing Maths,” said the ‘Uncle’. “You are a very pretty girl. Do you know that Sandra?”

Sandra put down her glass. She didn’t know what to say so she smiled shyly. The man pushed a plate of chocolate biscuits towards her.

“Have one,” he urged. Then he added, “Have two. I’m sure you must be very hungry.” He was still smiling that gentle smile. And she was actually really hungry. It had been a while since she’d had a chocolate biscuit. Hesitantly she reached out for one.

As she put the biscuit into her mouth the man spoke again. “Why don’t you just tell me a little bit about yourself,” he said softly.

Sandra quickly finished the biscuit. The taste of chocolate was delicious. If you had one, you just wanted more.

“I come from Zimbabwe,” she began, and the man nodded encouragingly. Sandra began to relax. She liked talking about her home country.

And so Sandra told the man all about how she was twelve years old, nearly thirteen. She told him how her family had to flee the township four years ago, when people had attacked Zimbabweans and people from other countries in Africa. She told him how they had lived in a tented camp for a while.

Sandra paused. The man urged her to have another biscuit. Sandra reached for one, and took it. Some chocolate had melted onto her fingers, and she unconsciously licked it off.

The man took out a white folded tissue, held her hand gently, and wiped it clean. Sandra watched him. Her eyes were wide as he put her hand back on the table. “There you are. That’s better. Have another biscuit. Tell me more,” he said.

Sandra, slowly and hesitantly, started to tell him more. She told him how she had been sent back to her grandmother in Zimbabwe while her parents stayed to work in South Africa. She told him how times had been tough. They still were.

Sandra’s mother spent most days looking for work in town and came home very late. Her father was often away, working on a farm as a labourer during picking season. After her grandmother had died, Sandra had to come back to South Africa.

When she started again at her old school she had a lot of catching up to do. She had missed so much work.

“That’s why I need so much help now,” Sandra’s voice trailed off. “Especially with Maths.”

The man called ‘Uncle’, was nodding his head again, and smiling at her.

“Where is Mandla?” she asked again, but the man gave no reply.


Tell us what you think: Who is Mandla and where has he gone? Why is Sandra alone with this man: ‘Uncle’?