by Maureen Velile Majola
“In South Africa a woman is more likely to be raped than learn how to read”
text borrowed from 1in9 campaign struggle t-shirt worn by one of the mourners at Noxolo Nogwaza’s funeral in 2011.
Many of you will think about this statement while some of you will just brush it off. It is true in South Africa a woman has become a subject and men are the only human beings with feelings.
February 2013 marked the most horrifying case ever; Anene Booysens was found brutally murdered and raped.
Seeing this on the news raised a lot of questions for me. There have been far worse cases of rape and murder that were conducted on lesbian women and no one, I mean no one in the government has taken a stand and said NO to the killings of Lesbian and Transgender women.
As a young woman in South Africa, I feel unsafe, I don’t trust any man and every man is a potential rapist to me. I believe that this is a feeling that is shared by many women and children in this country. We can’t trust our fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and neighbors. We live in fear of being the next victim of rape or another statistic that will be added to the horrifying statistics of this country.
I have a story to tell about a man in my life. He is a different man from the men I usually write about. He is charming, caring, loving, and honest and NOT a violent man. This is a tale many women and children don’t live to tell or they don’t have any good memories of the men in their lives because they have become beasts that seek to harm them in every way possible.
My only MAN
Reflected on the 26 March 2013
It was in 1990 on the 30th of September when my mother gave birth to me. She named me Velile, meaning I have appeared. She gave me this name because she wanted a girl child and that’s what she got.
When I first took my baby steps my grandfather was there. He held my hand till I could walk on my own. He became a father, a brother, my bible study friend and my pillar of strength.
I remember coming home from school to find amasi waiting for me to eat. He understood that I always came home from school feeling really hungry so every day I’d come home to a bowl of amasi, which was prepared with love. I’d find him reading the bible with my grandmother and he’d read me a few scriptures that motivated me in life.
Every morning he’d wake me up and help me prepare for school. My favorite man would wash my back every morning and help me dry myself. He’d be watching as I put on my uniform and head to school.
I knew from an early age that granddad loved me. I never needed to hear him say it but I just knew he did, it was all written in his eyes. Each time I did something wrong he’d discipline me. He was never a violent man, he’d never raise his voice when he spoke to any one and he always, I mean always made one understand their wrongs and help you find your feet.
Grandpa was inyanga (healer) ubelapha abantwana ikakhulukazi inyoni ngoba iyona evamise ukubulala izingane ezincane futhi ubengumpetha wayo. He was also Umfundisi (a priest) wase Zion. He led his congregation with pride and dignity. He preached and lived the gospel. He was an honest and truthful man; everything about him was real.
His herbs fascinated me so I learned some of them and how to use them. I am a fast learner so it was no problem for me. With enthusiasm I watched him every time when he had a client and I’d help him out sometimes; since I knew some herbs he had taught me. Slowly I became like his personal assistant and I loved every minute I spent with him.
It was early 2007 when he got really ill. For the very first time my grandpa was sick and I could tell he was not going to make it. He started getting weak, having pains in his tummy, his feet got swollen and he got worse by the day. I came home one afternoon to find him sitting in his favorite chair. I greeted him as I walked to the bedroom to put my books away then I went back to him. We had a little chat then he told me his getting weak and he doubts he’ll make it. My heart broke but I knew I had to be strong. Grandpa asked me ukuthi ngimucabe emaqakaleni khona kuzophuma igazi ebelimile futhi livuvukalisa iyinyawo zakhe. I did just that while we were talking about random things.
On the 17th May 2007 a day before his birthday and on my cousin’s birthday, he took his last breath in a hospital bed. I knew this day was coming but I didn’t think it would be so soon. It came too soon. I was not ready. I didn’t know how to react so I didn’t react at all. I went into “pause mode” then a strong face. Everyone showed some emotion but I couldn’t show any at that moment as I hid it with bravery. My focus was on allowing my mother to grieve and share her emotions. It was not about me but my entire family so I had no time to nurse my emotions.
His passing broke me to pieces that no one can ever put back. I lost a great part of my life and no one ever cared to ask how I was feeling. Everyone thought I was strong, some thought I did not have any emotions.
I miss my grandpa so much, life was so much better with him around. I lost a sense of belonging that day, I knew I would never belong anywhere. He was my rock, my strength and a friend. Umkhulu understood me when no one else did. Ever since his been gone NO one understands me in the family, they think I’m crazy or something.
Life without umkhulu is really hard. Everyday is a struggle, trying to find myself, to find meaning to my life and to live life as a happy child again. Nothing is the same without him.
I miss coming home to amasi and a quick check in about my day and his, our small chats and watching him elapha ingane noma umuntu omdala. My heart still aches at the thought of facing another day without him. I know he would have been proud of me when I received an award last year; he was going to share that moment with me. Umkhulu wanted everyone to be happy. A lot of things I know today are through his teachings. I am a strong young woman who understands life and its ups and downs because umkhulu made sure I knew from an early age that its a cruel world out there.
I learned about God and my Ancestors at a tender age. Besihlabela amadlozi ekhaya and praised God everyday. We are a Christian family who performed traditional things and followed culture. Everyday before eating he’d make sure we pray for that food and give thanks to God for providing us with the little we have. From as young as four (4) years old I knew how to say ubaba wethu osezulwini no nkosi busisa lokudla. He instilled the culture of ubuntu in us and showed us the importance of giving thanks to the almighty God.
The house feels empty without him. Sometimes I pray for one more day with umkhulu just to tell him how I feel. Grandpa has to be the coolest man I’ve ever known.
Amasi = sour milk
Ubuntu = humanity
Umkhulu = grandfather
Ukudla = food
Omdala = old person
Previous articles by Maureen
2013 May 16: Don’t touch ME!