I dialled Langa’s number.

“Langa!” I said.

“Yes, Spha.”

“How are you, my brother? I’m low on airtime here. Did you–”

“I’m sorry, Spha,” Langa cut me off. “I don’t have a cent to my name.”

“Eish!” I cried out.

“Maybe in two days I’ll get something,” said Langa.

“Please, Langa. Even R100 will do, my brother. My child hasn’t eaten since yesterday!”

“I don’t have anything, Spha. I’m not even sure the petrol in my tank will last until payday!”

My mind went blank after Langa dropped the call. Owethu’s screams rang throughout the house.

“What did we do to deserve this suffering, Spha?” Linda lamented.

My ringing cellphone and Owethu’s screams were the only answers to Linda’s question.

“Answer that phone or switch it off!” she said.

It was Mdu calling again. People say you always have a choice. Not in my case.

I had arrived in Durban from rural Msinga two years before. I came looking for a decent job but only found back breaking construction work. Most times I needed a drink to numb the pain that pulsed through my body at the end of every shift.

I was at a shebeen down the road from our RDP house on the day I was coerced into taking part in the cigarette wholesaler robbery. The site foreman had told me a few hours earlier that it was my last day on the job. I bought ingudu when I got to the shebeen. I took one long sip and dozed off. I was woken by a call from Linda.

“Spha! Where are you?” she said.

“We finished late baby, but I’m on the way.”

“Don’t lie to me, Spha. You sound like you just woke up.”

The sound of a cocked gun shocked me into silence. I looked up. The barrel of a handgun was on my forehead. Mdu and his sociopath sidekick, Padlock, were in front of me. The shebeen had closed while I had slept. Padlock took my phone and scrolled it.

“Are you a mole? Are you?” Padlock whispered into my ear.

“No! I was just drinking and fell asleep.”

He grabbed me by the collar of my overalls.

“You faked sleeping, round this corner here, liar! You heard everything! All our planning,” said Padlock. “I might as well put a bullet in your head.”

“No, I didn’t hear a thing!” I pleaded.

Mdu pulled Padlock off me.

“Neither of us believe you,” Mdu smirked. “But I have seen you around with your girlfriend and child.”

“I swear, Mdu. I didn’t hear a thing.”

“Let me kill him, Mdu. He’s lying!” said Padlock.

“Calm down, Padlock. We were just saying we need a third man,” Mdu smiled and pointed at me. “Here he is.”

“Third man for what?” I asked.

“Today is your lucky day,” said Mdu. “You have slept your way into a major score. You are now part of it … whether you like it or not.”

I agreed, just to get them off my back.

A car crept next to me while I was walking to the tuck shop a few days later. Mdu and Padlock were in the car. I looked the other way.

“Ignoring us will only bring harm to Linda and Owethu,” said Mdu.

“Yes. If you are in – they live. If you want out, they … Well, you can read between the lines,” said Padlock.

Blood ran icy cold in my veins as they drove off.


Tell us: What options does Spha have now?