Zukisani, Luxolo’s friend, storms in the door and sits down. “Kwedini, why don’t you knock?” My father is furious.
“He is arrested mama. Luxolo is arrested,” Zukisani says, trying to catch his breath.
“What happened mntanam?”
“We were being chased by game rangers. There was a gunshot behind us and the dog howled. It was your dog, Thubezela. Luxolo turned back. We pleaded with him not to run back but he wanted to save the dog, Mama.”
Just then a white bakkie speeds towards our house. Zukisani runs out the door and manages to escape before they arrive.
“This is where the bastard stays,” one of the rangers says as he jumps out of the bakkie and slams the door. The back of the bakkie looks like a police van. They have caught Luxolo. His fingers are pushing through the mesh.
“Hey mfazi, where are his dogs?”
The dogs come out to see the rangers. They wag their tails. The rangers pull out their guns; one of them cocks his weapon.
I close my eyes.
My mother screams.
The people of the village surround the bakkie. “Shoot innocent dogs, we will hurt you. Shoot innocent dogs, we will stone you. Shoot innocent dogs, we will hurt you,” they sing, holding up spades and sticks. One of the rangers hurriedly assures the community that they don’t really intend to shoot the dogs.
“Please be gentle with him. He has not had anything to eat since yesterday,” my mother implores.
“The fine is normally R500 or three months imprisonment. But because he was caught without a dead animal, they might drop it to R350,” they inform us, before getting back into their bakkie.
I watch them drive away with my brother. There is no way my family can get him out in time to sign his contract with the municipality.
“He will have to go and work in Luxolo’s place,” my father says, pointing at me.
“Who? Not my son Mphumeleli. He is still at school!” objects my mother.
I run outside when the argument starts between my parents. I run to Bongeka’s house. I need her to help me make sense of things.
She boils water. When she is pouring the water to make tea, we hear a scream. It is coming from the direction of my house. We get there and find Mama lying on the floor holding her arm.
“Mphumeleli, it looks bad,” Bongeka says.
I hold my mother and stroke her forehead. I start crying. Bongeka runs outside.
A while later she comes back in a bakkie driven by one of the villagers.
“Here, Mphum. Please get your Ma in the car.” She helps me lift Mama into the back and the driver takes us to Victoria Hospital eDikeni.
Mama is in pain.
The driver of the bakkie tells us he is not able to wait for us. Bongeka pays him R200.
“Where did you get that from?” I ask her.
“That money was for me to buy new clothes. But, you love me Mphumeleli, right? So, I don’t have to dress to impress you.” She smiles.
The doctor comes out and tells us that my mother will have to be in hospital for a few days. I tell him that we don’t have money to get back home. Bongeka asks him if there is any way he can help us.
“Go to Constable Ntuntwana,” he tells us. “I have already been in touch with him. He has to go and pick up the man that is responsible for fracturing your mother’s left arm and bruising her ribs.”
I look at him again. “Please doctor, can you repeat that?” I cannot believe what he has just said.
“Yes, I have spoken to your mother about arresting your father for assault.”
We drive back home squashed on the front seat of the police van.
My father does not object or try to escape when the police officer reads him his rights. We watch the van as it drives off with him in the back.
“My father has been raping me for years,” Faniswa reveals to us when he is gone. “That is why he forced my mother to agree for me to come here with him.”
We just stare at each other for a while, shocked at this further evidence of his cruelty. What a monster! We can’t believe he has finally been taken to face his fate. Bongeka and I talk with Faniswa, and soon we are walking with her back towards town. We are going with Faniswa to the police to open a case of sexual abuse against our father.
We hitch a lift with a man driving a donkey cart and eventually reach town. My mother will be pleased to know that my father will be in prison for some time. I dream that maybe by the time he is released I will be a lawyer and will be able to fight in court to protect her!
Then I think about my brother, Luxolo. How unfair that he is locked away in the same building as my evil father − for trying to get us food! I decide then and there that I will find the R350 to get him out to sign for the municipality job. Bongeka and I and Faniswa will find it together. Between us we can approach the school staff, our school friends, everyone we know! I can’t wait to see Luxolo’s face when we get him out and show him the letter of acceptance from the municipality.
* * * * *
Faniswa’s mother in Cape Town sends her money to go home when she hears the news. Both are happy to be free of our father. Faniswa tells my mother that she loves her, and promises to insist that her mother in Cape Town not take her father back when he is out of prison in many, many years time.
That night as I prepare umondlalo, my floor bed, my heart is lighter. Life is getting better. I promise myself one thing. I will never let my father beat my mother.