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Vusi Dube

All I wanted to know was my true story.

In the journey of trying to know who I am, I have had more grief and sorrow than healing. But I couldn’t complain because I’m the one who wanted to know the truth. 

I started staying in the streets of Durban when I was 13.

My mother left the village and came to Durban so that she could make a better life for herself and her family. When she got to Durban she ended up staying in the streets with me. She fell in with a good man by the name of Mandlakayise. Everything was fine; he treated me like his son; he did everything for me. At that time, we stayed at Tollgate in a flat.

One day my mom and I visited Dalton because we had some family members who stayed there. That is when bamushaya ngobhulelo umeqo (‘they bewitched her’).  She passed away.  They also tried me but my ancestors fought for me.

I continued staying with my step-father until he fell in love with another woman. That’s when hell broke loose. We didn’t get along; she would make it obvious that uMandlakayise is not my father and she was not my mother. I put up with the emotional abuse for years, until I couldn’t any more. I couldn’t even tell my step-father about what I was going through. This was the first time I saw him love someone after my mother passed away and he deserved to be in love: he looked happy. I remembered that I don’t really know who I am. Who is this man that mother would casually compare me to, the man I looked exactly like, the man she called my father? I decide to leave my step-father and go on a journey of discovery.

While on the journey, the road led me to streets of Durban and I didn’t feel out of place. Some family members told me the story about my father and how I was like him in every way and how he was killed. To be exact he was burnt alive He was coming home from where he worked at a stainless steel company. This was 1990 when Mandela was set to be realised from jail. A group of man attacked him, beating him to a pulp. When they were done beating him, he was unrecognisable but still alive. He was very strong, so they say. Then one of the community members said asimushise!!!! (‘lets burn him’). They started gathering all the material they will need for them to torture him even more than they already did. They put two tyres on his waist; poured petrol, paraffin pretty much anything flammable they could find. And they strike a stick of matches. The flame woke him up. He started screaming, begging them to stop but they didn’t. They stood there in a circle, waiting for him to die. The screaming stopped and that was the death of him. What was left of my father was bones covered with burnt flash. They hanged around for couple of minutes just to make sure there were happy with the results and then they scattered to their houses, went on with their lives as if nothing happened.

The family member who was telling me the story – she was there when it all happened. She said she can still smell his flesh burning as she was talking about that moment and how she felt powerless. And what did he do to deserve this kind of death, death with fire? It was because someone suspected him of being impimpi (‘a spy’) for the Boer police.I found that with the information I got I felt more lost.

But one thing that my father’s story made me realise is that if I carried on staying in the streets, I will die a meaning less death like him. Specially with the way things were happening: being chased by the security guards at the beach front while trying to take a shower. They are public showers but the homeless are not allowed to use them. Hearing the next day that your friends were killed because they were caught in the public toilets while trying to clean themselves.

One day I decided that I will go to the Denis Hurley Centre and ask for work because I was there most of the time anyway for breakfast and lunch. They said they will make me a volunteer in the kitchen to serve some of my friends I stay with in the street. Now I work in the showers I clean them and get them ready for my friends to take a shower in a respectable manner and never worry about being chased around for practicing a basic human right.

I’m glad to say I’m slowly finding myself and I now have my own place at Mayville, where I can take a bath as much as I want.