I was still waiting for my day in court, but it was postponed and postponed again. Finally, a young black lawyer visited me. That was the first good experience I had in almost two months. He asked me questions and listened, and made notes about what I said. After he left, I thought: mhlawumbi … maybe … he really believes me.

Then I had my first day in court, which lasted not longer than ten minutes. The judge postponed everything again, as there was conflicting evidence. Aside from the young lawyer, a social worker also began visiting me from time to time. She was a really nice coloured lady called Karen. She asked me whether she could do anything for me. I asked if she could arrange for me to phone Ta Simpra or the Doc. I was wondering the whole time whether they had heard back in Masiphumelele what had happened to me here.

The next day, I was called to Karen’s office again. She said the Doc would phone me there and we just had to wait. Not long after, the phone rang and, indeed, it was Doc. I was so excited to hear his voice that I could only say: ‘Help me, please help me to get out of here!’

He promised to make sure that a social worker from Masiphumelele would phone Karen soon to organise more support for me.

From that day on I had some hope again. About a week later I was able to speak to the social worker, Nomfuneko, from Masi. She told me that she was trying to find a place for me to come back to since Gogo was still claiming that I was a rapist and had even told that to my mom and my auntie. Would they really believe her – or me?

When the Soccer World Cup kicked off in South Africa on 11 June 2010, I was still in prison. We were allowed to watch most of the games on TV. Probably because the guards also did not want to miss anything. I cheered along with the others for our team, Bafana Bafana.

When they were knocked out in the first round, I chose Spain as my favourite. There was a lot of betting going on and I could have earned some good cash. But deep in my heart, I was just so sad. When I saw all the people on TV cheering in the beautiful stadiums all over South Africa, I thought: look at me … sitting here in this ugly place with all these cruel guys.

The beatings and the rapes continued even during the World Cup. More time went by. But at least I knew now that I was not forgotten. That thought kept me going. That and the knowledge that there were still a few people who did not believe Gogo’s story.

Finally, early one morning in July, my lawyer arrived and told me to put my stuff together. ‘We have a good chance. It’s probable that judgment will be given today. I’ve got a report by a reputable doctor who will testify…’

When I was brought into the courtroom, I saw Gogo and other people from Masizakhe sitting at the back. Ababalwe was also there. I avoided looking at any of them.

Several witnesses and experts were called. The presiding judge was, once again, a boer; but this one was polite and treated everybody, including me, with respect.

When the medical doctor was called, he said something that contradicted clearly what Gogo and her grandson had accused me of. Speaking in English, he said: ‘I examined the boy who had told us that he had been the victim of the accused. I examined him carefully and repeatedly. I could not find any trace of violent sexual abuse. I cannot exclude that there may have been voluntary sexual activity between the boys, but certainly not rape.’

When the court interpreter translated his statement into Afrikaans and isiXhosa, Gogo stood up from her seat and shouted: ‘Do you say that I am a liar?’ The judge commanded her to sit down and to be quiet as she would otherwise be ordered to leave the room.

Then the judge withdrew and we all had to wait. I just prayed and did not speak to anybody. Finally, he returned and we all had to stand up. He looked at me as he repeated all the accusations against me, and then said the words I had prayed for: ‘The accused, Mbu Maloni, is acquitted of all charges.’

Half an hour later, I left the court as a free man.

‘Where will you go from here?’ the young lawyer asked me.

‘I have no idea,’ I answered. But I smiled at him as I said it. I had survived so much already. Nothing could be worse than what I’d been through.

Somehow, I would find a way to return to my friends Atie and Yamkela…

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