It’s unfortunate that children sometimes have to inherit huge burdens when their parents pass away, and pay for mistakes they didn’t make. Twenty six year old Sakhile Khuzwayo’s story doesn’t fall short of that ordeal.
“My mother decided to sell the family house and that obviously sparked a conflict between her and her siblings. They wanted to know how she could sell a house they were equally entitled to. She on the other side thought the house was hers as her granny left it under my mom’s name,” explains Sakhile.
Sakhile lived the life of many township children; fatherless and unprivileged.
“I grew in the dusty streets of Langa and you know every township has its own challenges and skeletons. I grew up as a focused and vibrant child. There were three of us in the family house; me, my eldest sister and my now-deceased brother. My mother had her own weaknesses but she had unconditional love for her children. Our father was not around but she tried to close that void,” he adds that his brother appears in the book he’s currently writing.
Sakhile’s mom priorities education but then life itself had prepared rather a harsh lesson for them.
“Growing up was hard cos my mom was a street vendor. I was still going to school at this time despite all that was happening cos my mom always put emphasis son the importance of education. But at this point everything seemed possible cos she had just sold the house. She only bought a shack somewhere and didn’t realise this was going to affect us in the long run”
Sakhile’s family left Langa eventually but then their adversities also relocated with them.
“2003 we moved to Delft. She continued to support us cos we never missed out on any school outing. We stayed there for a year but what concerned us is why we never visited our family in Guguletu. I asked her about it but she despised that topic. We were still young to understand this had something to do with her selling the house.
“Years went by without visiting our family but her health deteriorated. It was hard. There was no old person in the house cos of this family feud. They mutually wanted nothing to do with each other. Years went by and my mother passed on and we had nowhere to go…” he says with a gravel voice, recollecting all the memories he’s tried hard to forget.
They hit rock bottom and prayer was their only source of strength at this point.
“Her friends took us in but they had to inform the family about her death. Her friends eventually took us to the family. They welcomed us after venting about what my mom had done. We lived there but we were treated differently. My mother’s siblings also had older children and we could see they got preferential treatment. We couldn’t get social grants cos we were asked to produce our father’s documents”
Sakhile was still determined to finish school but there was a gleam of light ahead.
“I continued with school despite the challenges. Sometimes we couldn’t complete assignments cos we had to go door-to-door selling my uncle’s items. There were lot of things I wanted to participate in at school but I couldn’t cos after school I had to rush home to sell stuff. You grow old and have expectations. You get exposed to wrong things such as smoking and drinking,” he adds he got evicted at home after coming home intoxicated.
“I completed matric but squatting around with friends also failed as I was unemployed. Every child desires to know her father. But he never left his contacts. We were at school when he left. I had nowhere to go. I was homeless. The only option left was to go to my sister’s. I had nothing to eat. She gave me money to go look for my father. Fortunately I found him – but he was renting.”
Sakhile’s non-existent relationship with his father resulted to frequent arguments.
“He asked me to go back to Cape Town if I was going to ‘judge and question’ him. But I couldn’t cos I had no one in Cape Town. His family welcomed me and explained to me the kind of a person he is. I had to go work cos he couldn’t support me with his disability grant.
“I became a cleaner. It wasn’t ideal but at least I had money to contribute towards groceries. My sister in Cape Town had also found a job but she had no place of her own. With the little she was getting she had to take care of the family she lived with. In 2014 she got a baby and I went back to Cape Town”
‘Sakhile’ loosely translates to “We’ve built”, and so he had to build a bridge to cross over from poverty.
“Her situation wasn’t suitable for a new mother. I was the one to take them out of that dump. Settle down cos we can’t live like that forever. That’s when I joined Shine Literacy and worked with children. I would sit with them and they would share all their barriers starting from their homes to their community and how that affected their academics. I related to most of their stories. All I could do was using my story to motivate them.”
Sakhile feeds his literacy and youth activism passion by volunteering at a local library.
“You’re not isolated. You’re just being prepared for the future. Life will put you through stages but there’s no need to throw it away. If you face life smiling, it will smile back. Youth is derailed. There’s talent but not enough channels to showcase it. ”
He believes his book will inspire many people.
“I want to reach out to the youth. You’ll accomplish if you believe you’ve strength and capability and looking forward in life. Seeing that I reach out to a small number of kids I now hope the book will reach a large audience. What I want to express in it is anything is possible!”
Sakhile says he’s in the process of “reconciling with his family” and has an advice for the youth.
“Don’t look at situations as problems. Seek help when you need it. You just going through a rough patch but beating yourself about it won’t make it any better. Approach life with respect and show gratitude to those who help you. Don’t bottle up, talk and reach out. The person sitting next to you might be going through worse and you could be the one to help that person
“We become our own enemies and barriers by negative thoughts and self-discouragement. Daily actions determine our tomorrow. Every day you setting an image in your life, make sure that image is positive,” he concludes.