Sqiniseko wakes up at the break of dawn. He circles the house looking for Nobuhle, but goes back inside when he doesn’t find her. After a while, he comes out with Sthembiso and puts the baby into his car.

It is the sound of a car door closing that wakes Nobuhle in the old outside toilet. She looks through gaps in the timber and sees Sqiniseko run back into the house, leaving Sthembiso in the car. He re-emerges with the baby’s bag, locks the door, gets in the car and drives away.

Nobuhle watches the car until it disappears before she opens the toilet door. She looks around to check if any of the neighbours are up this early. None are awake. Nobuhle makes a dash for the house. But the door is locked.

Her thoughts race: Should I go back home? What will my father say? Or go to my uncle? But his wife wants none of his relatives to visit, she thinks. No, it is better I find a church. A church will have a place for me. But how will I get Sthembiso? I can’t leave without my baby. I better look for a police station first, tell the police my story, get Sthembiso back. From there I’ll find a way. Enough is enough.

It is still dark. Nobuhle moves quickly along lesser-used paths. She doesn’t want to run into anyone; doesn’t want to answer questions about her bruises from concerned faces. Sqiniseko’s control over Nobuhle is so complete that she has never even been beyond the yard since they moved to this place. She doesn’t know where the police station is located. She has no idea where the nearest church is.

Then Nobuhle sees a police van on the main road.

“Help!” she shouts. But the path she has chosen is too far from the main road, so the driver can’t hear her. She watches the vehicle lights until they stop in front of what looks like a mobile home. Nobuhle runs there and squints her swollen eyes, reading, ‘Bhekulwandle Police Station’ printed on the side of the mobile office.

She enters. There is no-one inside at the reception desk. She waits. “Excuse me … I need help,” she calls after a while.

A police officer appears from a room at the back. Nobuhle states her case.

“Do you know who I am?” asks the cop.

“No,” says Nobuhle.

“Derrick Mngoma. Sqiniseko has never told you about me?”

Her heart sinks as she connects the dots. Derrick is Sqiniseko’s friend, his drinking buddy.

“Please help me, Mr Mngoma. Sqinise–”

“Nobuhle, we have more important cases to deal with than a lover’s quarrel. Go back to Sqiniseko and sort things out.”

“I can’t,” she sobs. “I’m begging you. Please escort me to get my baby, Sthembiso, at least. I fear Sqiniseko will beat me if–”

“Are you deaf, Nobuhle? Don’t you hear what I’m telling you? I have no time for a lover’s quarrel. There is no van or officer that will leave this office to sort out what you yourself can sort out. That’s the end of it!” He turns and disappears into the room at the back.

Nobuhle has never felt this alone in all her life. Who can she turn to? She walks out of the police station and knows that all she has left is to look for a church.


Tell us what you think: Is this a common response of the police to domestic violence? Is it accurate that Nobuhle and Sqiniseko are having a ‘lover’s quarrel’?