We sat there and did not speak a word. Later, Yamkela started to play music on his small keyboards. He was playing music I’d never heard before. Maybe he had just composed it. Maybe for me.
Yamkela will be a famous musician one day, I guarantee it. Nobody taught him anything, but he’s very good. His mom brought the keyboards back one day from the old age home and Yamkela started playing it. He’s been playing ever since.
The sun was going down. I watched it through the window of Yamkela’s brick house. The many poor shacks in the neighbourhood seemed like little matchbox houses, like toys, all painted red and orange by the late sunlight.
It was dark when Yamkela stopped playing and said to me: ‘Do you want to go with me to Ta Simpra’s youth group tonight?’
‘Ta Simpra runs a youth group at the HOKISA Peace House in Kanana Road. They have it once a week. They talk about Aids and drugs and at the end there is bread and juice for everybody…’
There was nothing better I had to do, so I went with Yamkela
to the meeting.
I had expected that Ta Simpra would be an older man, someone well respected, since this is what the title ‘Ta’ indicated. But he turned out to be a young man in his late twenties, a born youth leader who could really listen and wanted us to talk about the things that troubled us in our lives. While I’d felt embarrassed when my teacher, Mrs Mhlana, had asked me about my trouble, I now listened with open ears to what others had to say. The serious topic this evening was teenage pregnancy. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw Unathi there – not drunk at all. She was quiet like I was, but seemed to be listening with equal attention.
Ta Simpra spoke about his own youth when he had to look after younger siblings, and I was reminded of Mavusi when I heard him speaking. He told us that he worked in HOKISA, which stands for Homes for Kids in South Africa. It is a small Children’s Home in Masi that caters for kids in our community who have lost their parents to HIV/Aids – or whose parents are not able to look after them. I had heard about this place but had always avoided it, as I did not want to get too close to any kind of social workers. The only ones I knew so far worked for the court in Simon’s Town and went looking for the parents of the young tsotsis who were caught at Longbeach Mall.
It was only after Atie said he would join me that I agreed to visit this place called HOKISA Children’s Home. Atie, as always, was game for the new and unknown: ‘What do we have to lose?’ he argued. ‘You can’t go on sleeping on the streets whenever my dad’s around. Maybe you can get a bed at this place.’
Tell us what you think: What’s likely to happen when Mbu goes to listen to Ta Simpra?