The best teacher ever
Oyena titshalakazi oqwesileyo

Nobody was waiting for me when I arrived the next morning, very early, at the taxi rank in Masizakhe. But I was old enough to find my way to Gogo’s home, which was a proper brick house, not a shack like many of the others. It was Sunday and most people were still sleeping. The door of the green-painted brick house was locked. I knocked once. Nothing happened. I knocked again, this time a bit more strongly. I heard somebody unlocking the door from the inside.

It was Gogo, still in her night gown, her glasses skew on her nose. She recognised me immediately: ‘Are you here already? Your mother said on the phone you would only come tomorrow!’ I did not know what to answer. So I just asked:

‘Is Mavusi here?’

Instead of answering my question, she asked: ‘Don’t you have any luggage? We don’t have enough clothing for all the kids here as it is …and your mother promised to send you with stuff.’

Again I did not know what to say. Only now did I realise that my mother had even kept my school uniform, maybe for one of the kids of her new boyfriend to use. This made sense, as in Masizakhe school uniforms were different in colour from those in Masiphumelele.

Gogo did not seem to expect an answer from me. She waved me in and closed the door. She poured some milk in a cup and gave it to me. Then she commanded: ‘Wash yourself… we are going to church in one hour. All of us!’

But I could not wait a moment longer to see Mavusi. When she returned to her bedroom, I went in search of my brother. Opening a door, I entered a room that had two beds in it. I could see several boys sleeping in each of the beds, and more on the floor. I whispered: ‘Mavusi?’

Before I could get closer to the beds, I heard the loud voice of Gogo behind me: ‘Vukani nonke – get up all of you! In one hour we leave for church.’

I saw the boys crawling out of their beds; six boys altogether. And, finally, there he was! ‘Mavusi!’ I shouted, full of joy. Mavusi was slower to recognise me. His response was much calmer than mine, but he at least had a smile:

Molo, man – hey, man,’ he said, and gave me a hug.

It was so good to see him again. But how skinny he was! Even thinner than when we’d seen each other the last time. ‘Are you sick, Mavusi?’ I asked him.

Hayi, man – no!’ he answered. But a hard cough followed. In no time all the children in Gogo’s house were ready for church.

Altogether we were seven boys and two girls, as well as an elderly sister of Gogo’s, and one of Gogo’s grown-up daughters. We were one of the first families to reach the church and were seated in the front row.

There was no chance to talk to Mavusi face to face. And the service seemed to be never ending. I glanced at him often as we sat there, and was disappointed that he hardly ever glanced back.

Finally, the service was over. I immediately ran to my brother. ‘Uphila njani – how is your life, Mavusi?’

Ndiphilile – I am fine,’ he said. But I saw that he was not. And he did not ask me one question about how it had been with our mother far away in iKapa.

Tell us what you think: What was difficult for Mbu when he went to live with Gogo?