I have to admit that it took a few weeks before I trusted the adults and other kids at HOKISA. I could hardly believe that they were just kind people. Maybe they were only pretending and one day would want me to pay them back in one way or another? What did they think about the accusations against me as a rapist?

After a while I realised that half the township had heard the news of my arrest in the Eastern Cape as a rapist. Since rumours spread like fire in Masi, the stories became wilder and wilder: Mbu has raped five girls; Mbu had sex with a prostitute and her mother; Mbu is a moffie and has been raped by two other men; Mbu has raped all the small boys at his schools…

I ignored all of this nonsense. As much as possible. But it was not easy. I sometimes saw girls of my age giggling with each other when they saw me; when I came closer, they’d look the other way and totally ignore me. One evening a drunk guy followed me, shouting: ‘Mamela – listen, Mbu: how did you have sex with the little girls? And with how many… hey? Was it fun?’ Others joined in his stupid laughter.

No word was spoken against me at the Children’s Home. But I was sure the older ones and the adults, at least, must have heard the rumours, too. I tried to see into their hearts but I couldn’t. Because I was so uncertain, I became suspicious for no reason. When one of the ladies dished up food for us and gave me a little bit less than others, I thought: maybe she thinks I am a rapist. When the other guys did not call me to join them for soccer, I wondered: do they think I like to rape little boys?

Although no one made any remarks, I became more and more paranoid. There were days when I did not want to see anybody at all. After supper I’d go to my little hut and lock myself in. I even avoided Yamkela and Atie for a while; it’s hard to explain why. It had something to do with the fact that I’d been places, lived through things that others couldn’t guess at. It made me feel very lonely.

Then, one evening, the Doc asked me to stay on in the living room after supper as he wanted to share a story with some of us teenagers at HOKISA. He spoke about a street kid called Mbongi, who’d had the chance to go to an excellent school to get basic skills training, but had returned after only three months to his old gang of tikkops. Doc asked us: ‘How could he damage his own life so much? Why did he not grab this chance with both hands?’

One of the older girls said: ‘It’s because Mbongi does not trust anybody outside of his gang. Even if the other tsotsis beat him up he will keep staying with them. Because this is what he knows…’

Tell us what you think: How would you feel if you were Mbu?