“You know I hate seeing you in ripped jeans, Khaliso. And what have you got on your feet?” Mongezi’s yes condemn everything about my outfit as we meet outside The Pit. “You look so unfeminine.”
My emotions are already all over the place after the argument with Ma and Pops at home. It was that whole thing about rap’s reputation again. I told them, if it’s all about Sbu in our family, him getting to stay on as a student at my expense, and I’ve got to do it all for myself, go after what I want with no help from them – then they don’t get to tell me what sort of songs I should do.
I look at Mongezi, and my heart is hammering in my chest, I’m so scared of standing up to him. But I have to.
I say, “I dressed for me, Mongezi. Not for you.”
I sound liked a frightened child, my voice thin and high and shaking. Something shifts in his eyes, scaring me even more.
“You don’t know what you’re saying. I’m getting worried about you, Khaliso. It’s like you’re getting sick, in your mind.” He pauses. “You know I don’t want my girlfriend coming to support me dressed like this. If you’ve forgotten that, you need help.”
“I’m not here to support you.” I have no control over my voice, squeaky one moment, rough the next. “I’m here to try my best to win The Pit song contest.”
I turn away from him – and it happens again like it did once before. There’s a hard blow to the side of my head, sending me staggering into a group of strangers who yell in surprise.
“No man, bhuti, that’s so not okay,” I hear someone saying as I try to keep my balance, my head full of little sparking white lights from the blow.
I blink. It’s Mongezi’s friend Okuhle who has spoken. Irwin and Wandisa are with him.
“Unacceptable,” Irwin agrees, while Wandisa rushes over to me.
“God, girl! Are you all right?” She grasps my arms, giving me support as I fight waves of nausea that I think are more from shock than from the ringing pain in my head. “The bastard.”
“Did … did you see?” My voice seems to come from far away. “I was turning away, same as that other time, so I can’t be sure … Did he do it on purpose, Disa?”
“Of course he did, the piece of shit.” Then she registers what I’ve said. “He’s hit you before?”
“Once. He said it was an accident, and I wasn’t sure–”
“She was asking for it.”
I hear Mongezi’s voice and realise he’s trying to make excuses to his friends.
“No-one asks for it, asshole,” Irwin tells him.
“Fuck off. Khaliso, come. We’re going inside.”
“No, you fuck off, Mongezi Fakude!” Wandisa rages. “Go inside, stay out here, but you’re not doing it with my girl here. Oh, and I’ll tell you something else for free, you stinking trash. When Khali-L gets up on that stage tonight, she is going to bury you.”
Tell us: Mongezi’s friends condemn his violence towards Khaliso, but why do so many males fail to speak out against gender-based violence?