Faniswa looks on as my father speaks. She had thought we knew about her. She had told me that my father mentioned us a couple of times to her and her mother in Cape Town. He never said he was married in the Eastern Cape though.
My father expects us to ask no questions. He has told my mother that it is not like it is the first time a man has brought a child home from another relationship. For him this is normal. He expects my mother to understand. He expects us all to be OK with it.
* * * * *
Food comes to the house in only two ways. My brother goes to steal from the orange farm and sells oranges at my school, or he goes hunting for meat. My mother goes around to the village people to ask for pots of food.
My father just sits there and talks. He talks about Cape Town and how life is expensive there. He boasts about how his daughter did so well at school. He tells us he knows she will come first in her new class. We are not allowed to ask questions. We must just listen and agree.
“You know what, Mphumeleli my boy. It is the system.”
“What system Tata?”
“I must tell you, you are too young to know yourself. You see, in the past we were not allowed to take our women with to Cape Town,” he says, cleaning mud from his boots. I want to tell him ‘rubbish’ but I don’t. “Uyandiva nyana, do you hear me son?” he asks me.
“You will grow up to be a man like me,” he tells me.
Oh Lord, please! That is not my wish, I think to myself.
“You see my boy, women were not allowed in Cape Town…”
My mother storms into the front room. “Rubbish, Tata kaMphumeleli. Please stop feeding my child lies. You had every chance to change that situation when the law of the country changed. Instead you just remained there with your mistress. How did she get there if women were not allowed? That excuse is insane. I don’t want my son to listen to those lies.”
“Mphumeleli and Faniswa, go outside. Go play with your friends.”
“No. Mphumeleli sit right there. Hit me yise kaMphumeleli. Hit me in front of him. You want him to grow up to be like you, right? So smack me in front of him. Punch me like you always do when you order him to go outside. Pull my hair and tell me to shut up. Come on, do it! Show him how you thank me for raising your two beautiful sons in hardship. Kick me again like when I told you I almost got raped. You wanted to know what I was doing outside at that time of the night.”
My mother gets onto a chair. She grabs the framed quote TRUE LOVE NEVER DIES.
“Do you remember when we hung this up on the wall?” My father just looks at her when she asks. She hurls the frame to the floor. The glass shatters. I can hear my father breathing heavily. He is itching to do something really bad to my mother.
Faniswa is shaking with fear. She has told me that our father treated her mother differently in Cape Town. “Oh, every new day I hate this man even more,” she whispers in my ear.
There is a knock at the door. It is my principal. My mother gets off the chair and takes the letter he holds out to her.
As soon as the principal leaves my father wants to open the letter. He grabs it from my Mama’s hand. It bears the news that my brother Luxolo has been accepted by the municipality for the project! He is invited to go and sign his contract eDikeni.
We wait for him to come back home to share the news with him.
Tell us what you think: Do men who leave their wives and children in rural areas have the right to mistresses in town?