Varsity Daze

Nhlanhla studied Political Science while I analysed chemicals in the engineering department. In the first year we partied hard and passed. We moved in different groups, but we’d bump into each other at parties.

Revolution took a backseat to girls – he mingled with every ethnic group that tertiary education had to offer. He was sociable with other races. A rarity on campus in those days. He briefly touched the limelight when he went steady with the hottest girl on campus for a week. But that was about it for our first year.

Nhlanhla came back much changed for our second year.

I saw his new look during registration week. The Afro hairstyle on his chubby head. The long dashiki that hemmed just above his knees. His sandals made from old tyres.

“Thank you for holding my place,” he said loudly. There was a rumble from everyone in the long registration queue he had just jumped.

“I know what it may look like. But I was in the line earlier. Ask my brother here,” he said. I just nodded, pretending it was true.

“How’s it, Nhlanhla? What’s with the new style? Girls won’t like this look.”

“This is not a style thing. I’m just embracing all things African. We don’t do it enough. We’d rather look cool in clothes that are not African. We’d rather make European and American designers rich. Putting chemicals in our hair for what? I am no longer on that bus. I’m keep mine natural.”

He ran a finger over my gelled s-curled scalp. He showed me the grease and shook his head in disgust.

He attended more faculty talks. Guess who I saw – deep in concentration, dashiki clad and Afro-haired – in the audience at a talk in the engineering department.

You guessed it, Nhlanhla.

He even wrote a few pieces for the university paper. They ranged in topics, from togetherness among different races to the deliciousness of the campus cafeteria food.

He was soon a known man on campus. He even put a full stop to drinking. I realised why he had done this when I saw the posters all over campus for the SRC presidency.

His chubby face, made chubbier by the afro in an unflattering picture – Vote Nhlanhla for SRC President.

None of the other candidates could talk like he could. None could mingle with the different races on campus like he did.

The university paper endorsed him with a free advert and the obvious was fulfilled. Nhlanhla became SRC President.

After the win it all went downhill.

The outgoing SRC president stole money from the budget but did not do much for students. Nhlanhla went overboard in providing student entertainment, but lined his back pockets with even more cash.

A day after he won the presidency out went the Afro. In was the s-curl and cut, earrings, and the latest European and American fashions of those times.

Later in the year, at a hearing into allegations of his misuse of funds, he gave an impassioned plea daring his accusers to find him guilty. He even brought the SRC financial books as proof. The campus was split in two – for and against him – until it came to light that the financial books were doctored by his accounting student friend.

He was suspended from SRC. To add insult to injury, he failed second year gloriously.

He left university under two clouds of shame: misusing funds and an academic exclusion.

What do you think will happen to Nhlanhla now that he has been kicked out of Varsity?