Saturday morning at the coffee shop.
COACH MASUKU: Alright, gentleman! Let’s settle down! Gents… (waves to those standing near the urn to be seated)
(The men take their seats, some with a hot drink in hand.)
COACH MASUKU: Good morning and welcome to you all! Special welcome to those of you who are here for the first time. Congratulations to you on choosing to be part of the solution and not the problem.
(Loud applause by some.)
COACH MASUKU: Now, because we have visitors in attendance, I’m going to open the floor to our existing members to share something, anything, about their own journey. The floor is yours, gentleman!
(Hendrik nods acknowledgement to Coach Masuku on his way to the front.)
HENDRIK: Good morning, brothers. My name is Hendrik. It wasn’t until I raised my hand out of anger that I… (pauses)
COACH MASUKU: It’s OK, Hendrik.
HENDRIK: That look…the look of terror in her eyes… (body trembles at the thought) It was the scream that stopped me from…
COACH MASUKU: Go on. (encourages)
HENDRIK: (looks up towards the coach) It was like re-living what my father used to do to my mother all those years ago. She used to scream… (lowers his head, taking fistfuls of hair, and sobs)
(Coach Masuku walks over to Hendrik, puts an arm around him and pulls him into a warm embrace. Hendrik holds on tight and shudders with tears. Masuku gestures to Thabo to come forward.)
THABO: (stands before the clapping group and lowers his head in shame) I raped her. I raped her because… (looks up as if searching for the right words) I raped her because I thought I could cure her.
(Silence descends on the room.)
THABO: I had stumbled out of a local shebeen, and there they were…kissing, in the shadows. Thandeka and some…woman. (face contorts with disgust) So that night I thought I’ll remind her what it’s like to be with a real man. I grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her to the floor and… (shoulders drop)
COACH MASUKU: (looking at Thabo) And…? (gets up and puts an empty seat a few feet from Thabo)
THABO: Is this what you want?! (He suddenly yells at the empty chair as if speaking to Thandeka directly.) Let me remind you of what it’s like to be with a real man! (long pause)
(Coach Masuku looks directly at Thabo and nods encouragingly.)
THABO: (clenched jaw relaxes and shoulders fall, as if letting go of something) It’s not the 15 years behind bars that hurts me, it’s the fact that in that moment of madness I was so enraged that I refused to take any responsibility for my own part in the failure of our marriage. (tears in his eyes)
HAROLD: All my life I’ve been told, by my grandfather, father, uncles…that a man must provide for his family. That’s what we are, what we’ve always been. Providers.
(A few men nod and murmur their agreement.)
HAROLD: To watch my wife of nearly 25 years have to wake up every morning and go to work so that she can put food on the table, keep a roof over our heads…survive! Bless her. She tried to keep my spirits up, told me that we would be OK…but I just couldn’t look myself in the mirror any more. I had failed.
COACH MASUKU: Ahhh, but together we discovered something meaningful, didn’t we?
HAROLD: That’s right, coach, we did. Brother’s Keeper has given me hope and helped me realise that it’s all a matter of perspective. Coach Masuku explained to me that I could still provide for Lynette, just in a different way. (Harold smiles warmly at the coach.) Now I wake up every morning with a new sense of purpose. I’m volunteering at a school down the road and have started offering my services as a handyman in our community. When Lynette comes home, I have cleaned the house and cooked supper. (pauses)
COACH MASUKU: What have you learnt, Harold? Tell them what you have learnt. (beaming)
HAROLD: That retrenchment does not make me less of a man. (He looks around the room with a smile.) There’s more than one way to support your family. Today, I have faith in my marriage and understand that I am not my father, and my journey will not be the same as his.
THABO: (mumbles to himself) Ya neh…
HAROLD: I’m happy to announce that I have just put together a business plan and have a meeting next week to present it in more detail to a potential investor!
(Men applaud jubilantly.)
COACH MASUKU: (walking to the front while applauding Harold’s breakthrough and good news) We wish you well, Harold! You have come a long way, and your marriage is better for it!
Tell us: Do you think speaking about problems in a group could help you, or your community? Why or why not?