Zine opens the door to the flat to find Lelo and Khanya waiting for her in the lounge. They all share this small flat in Hillbrow, in Jozi.

“We have a meeting, Zine,” says Khanya, curtly.

“What is the matter, guys?” asks Zine.

“The landlord has increased the rent. All of us have to add more to our contribution for next month,” says Khanya.

Zine rubs her aching feet. She has been on her feet all day because she works as a domestic worker. “At least it won’t be that bad because there are three of us in this flat. We will work together like we have been doing for the past three years.”

“I’m sorry, guys, but you’ll have to count me out. I’m moving out because Themba has asked me to move in with him,” says Lelo.

“How can you do this to us, Lelo?” Zine exclaims.

“Do what? Do you mean I should have said no to free accommodation and kept struggling with all of you here instead? Come on, Zine.”

Lelo’s cell phone rings. She goes to the kitchen to answer the call.

“There is no time to criticise Lelo or argue with her. You and I need to make a plan so we will be able to pay rent every month, Zine,” says Khanya.

“I hear you loud and clear,” says Zine.

“Guys, help me gather my things because Themba is coming in an hour,” says Lelo.

Khanya and Zine ignore her.

“Come on, guys! Help me gather my things! It’s not like we won’t see each other any more. We will see each other in clubs when we do what we are famous for,” says Lelo, demonstrating her dance moves.

Khanya and Zine laugh and also join Lelo in dancing. They hug and help Lelo gather her things. 

“We will miss your cleanliness, Lelo. Who is going to clean the flat spotless now that you are leaving us?” says Khanya.

“Well, your maid is gone now. She is going to be a maid to her man!” says Lelo.

“Now I’m left with Zine, a domestic worker by profession, who never cleans in this flat,” says Khanya.

“I can’t clean at work and also here. When I’m here I want to rest,” says Zine.

They all smile.

“If Themba treats you badly, promise me you won’t hesitate to come back to us. Don’t suffer alone because we are here as your friends. Come back to us any time you want, you were not chased away from here,” says Khanya.

“I’ll treasure these words in my heart. But Themba is a good man and I trust that he has good intentions for me and our relationship. I may have been drunk at the club when I first met him but he never reminds me of that. He just treats me well, he is a proper gentleman,” says Lelo.

“I’m so happy for you, my friend. It’s rare to find a man who truly loves you these days. Hold on tight to him, don’t let him go,” says Zine.

“I won’t make the mistake of letting him go. I will hold on tight no matter what storms may come, I’ll hold on.”

“Another very important thing, girl, is that you must take care of your man. You must cook for him and wash his clothes. But most important of all, you must respect your man, never forget that even for one minute,” says Khanya.

“Come on, guys, stop speaking so seriously. You are going to make me cry. You are making it seem like Themba’s flat in Sandton is in another province when it’s just a 20-minute drive away.”

They all smile and carry on helping Lelo gather her things. It is a sad moment when Khanya and Zine watch Themba’s car drive away with Lelo in the passenger seat.

Zine starts cooking supper as soon as they get back to the flat. Her mother calls as she is about to add beef cubes to the pot. 

“How are you, Mama?”

“How many children did you leave with me here at home?” says her mom, angrily.

“Three children, Mama,” answers Zine, shyly.

“Have you forgotten you have children? You are so busy with men there in Jozi you forgot to send money to your children!”

“Mama, you know my situation. I work as a domestic worker, I don’t get paid a lot,” says Zine.

“Don’t lie to me, Zine. There is a lot of money in Jozi. Why is it called the place of gold if there is no money there?”

“Mama, not everyone in Jozi is rich. Most people here live from hand to mouth. Most times we are working so that we have enough to eat and a roof over our heads.”

“Zine, there is no food here. Today our supper is only pap. You need to send money for your children.”

“But Mama, where will I get money in the middle of the month?”

“I don’t know, my child. But know that your children are crying because of hunger. My pension money is not enough to feed them. I’d go out looking for work if I could but I’m too old to work.”

“I understand, Ma. I’ll ask my boss to lend me some money. I’ll try to send something tomorrow if my boss agrees to give me something.”

“OK, I hope your boss gives you something. Have a good night.”

“Good night, Ma. Pass my regards to my babies and everyone at home,” says Zine.

She ends the call and sadness overwhelms her rapidly. The same sadness prevails for an hour after she gets into bed, before she finally falls asleep.

Tell us: What do you think of Khanya’s advice to Zine that she must take care of her man, cook and wash for him, and always respect him?