Zelwande is not going out to look for work today. Yesterday’s rollercoaster of emotions are still too fresh in her mind. The horror of the attempted rape. Then memories of meeting Thobani and the feeling of comfort on the drive to Tin City … they play a big part in soothing her mind.

She thinks of Thobani a lot. She catches herself smiling in the reflection of her cell phone screen and it scares her. How can I be smitten with someone I’ve met once, someone I know nothing about? she says out loud. Zeh! Stop acting like a teenager! she scolds herself in the reflection, and breaks into a smile.

Romance can play no part in her life because whoever wants to be in a relationship with her must know that her heart comes with Senzo and Aphile. But still, she can’t help smiling as she stares at the roof sheets, thinking about Thobani.

She’s lost in her thoughts and doesn’t hear her neighbour, MaNgcongo, knocking on the door.

MaNgcongo lives with the father of her children, Sotobe. The man becomes a woman beater when he is drunk. Zelwande can’t understand him because when he is sober, he is shy and ever smiling. MaNgcongo is the same age as Zelwande but got pregnant at a young age. Her family disowned her, forcing her to go live with the father, Sotobe.

MaNgcongo opens the door. “Hey Zeh! Why are you laughing at nothing? Are you losing your mind?”

Zelwande glances at MaNgcongo and grows sullen because she knows she is here to complain about Sotobe. What irks Zelwande is that MaNgcongo never takes her advice to leave Sotobe. She’ll agree in front of Zelwande but as soon as Sotobe apologises for hitting her, it’s all lovey-dovey again.

“I’m just thinking of a joke from last Christmas,” Zelwande giggles.

She notes the fresh bruises on MaNgcongo’s face as she sits down and tells her of the latest beating she has received from Sotobe.

“You need to go to the police station and have Sotobe arrested, MaNgcongo. He’ll kill you one day!”

“And what will I eat if I get him arrested? What will my children eat?”

“You’ll live like this until when?”

“I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’ll never have my Sotobe arrested.”

“But you have to put the wellbeing of your children first. Is it good for them to grow up in a home with so much violence? Promise me you will go to the police station.”

“And what will my children eat?”

“God will make a plan.”

“Not to be blunt, but do you really believe that? Has God made a plan in your life?”

“MaNgcongo this is your only life. Don’t forget that.”

“It’s me and my big mouth that drives Sotobe to hit me. Let me go clean the house. See you later,” says MaNgcongo.

MaNgcongo likes to tell everyone who’ll listen how she is a battered wife but leaves when people tell her to have her husband arrested. In true battered wife syndrome she blames herself for the abuse. She also says all the women in Tin City are jealous of her and Sotobe; they want them to break up so they can take up her place next to him.

Zelwande takes the bucket and heads to the communal tap a few shacks away. She smiles when sees that there is no-one there. A hand taps on her shoulder while she is rinsing the bucket. She turns to see Thobani. Startled, she pats her hair shyly because she hasn’t taken a bath yet.

“Thobani! what are you doing here?”


Tell us: Do you agree with Zelwande that there is a ‘battered wife syndrome’.