“Rose! Rose!” shouts Mrs Govender.

Zelwande doesn’t answer. She has forgotten she has been given this new name. It registers in her mind after a while that Mrs Govender is calling her. She runs to the room Mrs Govender’s voice is coming from.

“Yes, madam,” says Zelwande, out of breath.

“What took you so long, Rose?”

“I couldn’t hear you, madam. The house is so big that sometimes I can’t hear when you are calling me.”

“Listen, I’m going to the market. Do some ironing,” Mrs Govender says and points to a mountain of clothes on top of the bed. “I need the ironing done by the time I return. You need to work faster. I’m not satisfied with your pace.”

“Yes, madam. I’ll work faster, madam.”

Zelwande gets to work. She can hear the clang of Mrs Govender’s high heels recede as she leaves the house. Her car beeps and starts. Zelwande peeks through the curtains and sees the car drive out, and the gate closing.

She can finally take a breather; she has been slaving furiously since she arrived this morning. She closes the door and stretches on the bed in the room. Lying down flat would do wonders to replenish her energy right now. It is her break time anyway. She sets the alarm on her cellphone to wake her 30 minutes later, in case she dozes off.

She feels … is it a hand? Running up the back of her thigh. She opens her eyes. The hand is definitely running up her thigh! Startled, she turns over. She can’t believe it!

Mr Govender is on top of her in an instant. He fondles her thighs. He has pinned his immense weight on top of her.

“Help! Help!” screams Zelwande.

Her cries echo back to her in the empty house. She realises she has to fight her way from under the weight of this heavy man. Part of her skirt seam tears loudly as Mr Govender forcefully tries to open her legs.

“Help! Help!” she screams.

“Shut up or I’ll kill you!” threatens Mr Govender.

Zelwande fights with the last ounce of her strength. She can feel she is wriggling free. Mr Govender’s hands move from her thighs to try hold down her flailing hands.

In the struggle she grabs on to a vase on a small bedside table. She can hear the rage in her screams as she hits him on the head, with all her might. He staggers off her, bleeding profusely. He stumbles and hits the wall, face first.

Zelwande doesn’t stick around to see what happens next, she grabs her bag and bolts out of the house.

She gets to the gate and stops. Its too tall to climb over. The key is back inside the house. She looks back, afraid Mr Govender will come out of the house and assault her again.

“Help! Help!”

Right then the gate glides open. Mrs Govender is returning from the market. Zelwande bolts out as Mrs Govender waits for the gate to fully open.

Her skirt is skewed and torn in places. Her shirt is fully unbuttoned, exposing her bra with one strap missing. Mrs Govender’s face becomes ashen in a split second.

“Rose! Rose! What happened? Where are you going?”


Tell us: Do you think sexual abuse is a common threat to female domestic workers?