Fezekile Futhwa 

Revolutionary Relay - Write What You Like

BIOGRAPHY - CHILDHOOD

My childhood takes place in a few places as we have had to relocate, plus the times I spent in other areas while growing up. The places that have had a real impact on my young life are Kutlwanong, Botshabelo, Welkom, and of course Qwaqwa.

Kutlwanong - Odendaalsrus

This must have been the most confusing period of my life, despite the fact that I was only a young boy. The first three years of my life.

We Afrikans are communal in nature and the concept of extended families is best lived and experienced here. So it goes without saying that even me lived with my extended family at some point of my young life. Aunties, uncles(oota'mcinci), nephews and grand parents all living together in one big family.

Sure, this setup has its own benefits and life is joyous for any young child growing up in such an environment. Imagine so many people to look after you and the many nephews with whom play becomes a pleasure.

You see, at this age many concepts are really hard to grasp. You get so confused about your relations that you end up calling people whatever comes to mind. Take my grand mother for example. Some called her Mme, some uSisi and to me she is supposed to be uMakhulu. All her children called her uSisi(sister), a very difficult concept to me. So all of her grand children, me included, called her Mme(mother). None of us the children ever called any of our mothers mother, all our mothers were respectively called Sisi(sister).

So we called an aunt(uDadada) uMakazi! We called uTa'mci uMalume! Whatever name seemed the strongest or simplest went. Henceforth it was difficult for me at school to actually relate my relations properly.

Talk about confusion. Everybody I know spoke isiXhosa except my mother who strictly adheres to Sesotho. So do my family on my mothers side. So at my tender age I am supposed to filter two languages and develop an understanding of language! I honestly do not know which language I learned first in my first three years. Did I learn to speak by speaking isiXhosa or Sesotho?

The fun of not knowing life and just being happy for having food and playing. And being the last born, the attention you get.

I still vaguely remember the streets of Kutlwanong Zone 4. Even though I can't say I remember the story that goes around that young kids played with ooThikoloshe base Zone 4! I am told ukuthi young kids used to steal food(makhokho/bofalo) for these misterious creatures of Zone 4.

Living in the township in those days exposed you to the harsh and brutal ways of the apartheid system. Every member of the family had to be registered with the municipality under the ministry of natives for a permit to live in the area. So even me at such a young age I had to have what was called lotchers. The broblems that this little card caused for many people is unbelievable. Without this piece of paper you were illegal in whatever locality you happened to be. The brutality of pass laws. This one aspect of apartheid was strictly enforced as the police performed raids several times a week searching for those without this piece of paper. These raids were usually coordinated late at night and doors would be kicked while police dogs were ready for action.

My father worked in Welkom, about 8 kilometers away, and came home only over weekends. This fact that he worked in Welkom meant that he did not qualify for legal status back at home in Kutlwanong! So every time he was home he ended up in jail. In time everyone just got tired of this harrassment and they relocated to Qwaqwa.

Thabong - Welkom

My relations, both my father's and my mother's, were scattered throughout the now Matjhabeng district. Welkom, Virginia, Theunesen, Henneman and Kutlwanong; excluding those who remain in Qonce and Cape Town, whom I personally do not know and have never met. But Welkom became central when my grand parents relocated there around mid 80s. When they first arrived they lived on a hired stand in Mshenguville(Lesilo Park) on which they build a mokhukhu. This was a very strange section of Thabong since most of this area was filled with mekhukhu. No electricity, pit toilets, very poor and life generally hard for the residents of this section compared to other sections of Thabong. This was the area with most migrant workers.

Add to this the fact that the area was said to be popular for a misterious creature, hence the nickname Lesilo Park. Plus the area is situated right next to Thuhlwane cemetry. It was rather scary for us young kids.

Many people here were from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and Mozambique and worked mostly in the gold mines. Harmony and Gold Fields the biggest culprits. And this is where I learned a trade at a young age! This poor township made ends meet to survive, and it so happens that trading in raw and semi processed gold thrived, by poor man's standards. Almost every family here seemed to partake in this rather secretive trade, only secretive to the law enforcements it seems. Our mornings were characterised by sifting through this soil, removing obvious debris and then the process of processing gold and turning it into unpolished stones. Sometimes we scattered all over Thabong visiting marked dumps from which we picked our rich pickings. It seemed rather silly to me how easy it was to find gold but how hard it was for the people of my land.

How can a land be so rich yet our people be so crudely poor? The heart breaking conditions of miners who became ill from their obviously dangerous vocation but have since been terminated from work due to illness and no one took care of them. When a man ran out of his natural vibrancy, the mines threw them away. Make me president for one day and I will enact laws protecting the citizens of this country from this abuse by corporates. Harmony and Gold Fields, among the culprits, must pay a heavy price for this. This seemed cruel and our little escapades to the dumps seemed justified to me, even though it was such a mundane thing. The hardships of being black in your own land! And so the black gold market thrived on the back of hardships of poor black folks who took all the risks only to be cheated when their rich pickings were sold to these white gold smiths. How unjust the world seems to a young black boy.

Many years later my grand parents relocated to their new house in St Helena Park(Putswastene). It seems everyone had to wait for many years just to get a municipality house. Old ones used to be called match boxes, these were much smaller than match boxes, so it seems a common name eluded them. Mandela's RDP seemingly could not be ridiculed nor criticised. I will not even bother talking about the poor standards of these houses. My biggest problem with Thabong as a whole was its salty, untasty water supply. I always wondered how could such a wealthy area have such seemingly unhealthy water for consumption.

This is where I spend a number of my school holidays until recent memory when both my partenal grand parents passed away. Makube chosi, kube hele. Camagu.

My martenal grand mother relocated here around 1987, and to this day at the end of 2008, she is still on the waiting list for a municipality house! 23 years later. At age 82! I am not suprised when she says she will never vote while her situation remains the same. Our black government should be ashamed of themselves. It seems they have since forgotten how bad things are on the ground while they thrive in Sandton and similar suburbs. Roben Island and exile also seem to have made many of them loose touch with reality.

Botshabelo

The reason both my parents and grand parents moved away from Kutlwanong was as a result of pass laws.

The police force raided our areas at will and almost always at night. So everyone just got tired of this harrassment and they decided to relocate. My parents went to Qwaqwa as there were no passes required from residents, alas sethabathaba was required, plus my father could come and go without incident. My grand parents found refuge in Botshabelo under Ntate Lucas Mangope of the Bophuthatswana regime.

So address 1335 in Block D became our home. My grand father owned cattle when he settled here, so I did little cattle minding too in those early years. He had this long sephadi for his cattle, which also dabbled as leswai for us kids. If a foot went wrong we kids knew that our punishment was sephadi. Which would be served unawares as my grand father somehow could control his sephadi from a distance and deliver a very hearty lash.

I don't know exactly what happened, but my grand father lost all his cattle. This was in the early 80s, and from there onwards my grand parents became extremely poor and never recovered. It is here that I learnt that papa ka letswai(pap with raw salt) was a meal. And so was papa ka mphoshe(pap alone). There was also papa ka metsi(pap with sugery water), although I could never get used to this meal. It is from here onwards that my grand parents house only had two meals a day, until they passed away many many moons to follow. The reasons behind their bankruptcy remain a topic for no discussion. And since then, my grand father became an ill person until the day he joined our ancestors. Ndiyacamagusha.

Sunset was an amusement to me as this was the time when monkeys would enter the village in search of food. I remember the first time I saw them, what a shocking discovery for me! For a boy of about five years to come face to face with a group of monkeys could not be explained. Years later, when wild monkeys disappeared due to human settlement, these monkeys became a subject of boloi(black magic). No matter how hard times are, this boloi never ceased to end.

My grand parents arrived in Botshabelo sometime in 1979, and this place is still the same in 2008. About 30 years later, Botshabelo is still very poor, still uses bucket toilet system. I wonder what has Lucas Mangope and the new ANC government done in 30 years to arrive at exactly the same outcome of extreme poverty.

Sadly, it seems the ANC is doing its best to disown all areas previously known as home lands under the apartheid regime. These places have since lost their infrastructure and remain neglected and poverty is beyond description. It is like people living here are not black or did not suffer the apartheid injustices and therefore the fruits of liberation should not acrue to them.

Ask anyone who comes from a former home land.

Qwaqwa

And so my story begins. We arrived in Qwaqwa sometime after christmas of 1979. I still have a family picture of our last christmas in Kutlwanong, shortly after which we began our long journey to Qwaqwa. Qwaqwa was under the rule of Ntate Dr. T.K. Mopeli, apartheid issues aside, and so we came ho kopa tjako. Qwaqwa was still a very small area then, in number of villages, and the majority was still raw untouched natural scapes. We were given land in Bolata village by Morena Mapeka Mopeli at a cost of R60.

Our original land given to us was about 2200 square meters, but was later confiscated by a head man(letona) called Ntate Mosikidi in favour of a friend. So now we were left with about half the original size. I never liked him ever since this Ntate Mosikidi, a cruel man in my opinion.

So 1980 came and my siblings, a brother and a sister, went to school. Mehloding primary is where they all went, about 10 minutes walk from home. Problem is, all my siblings spoke isiXhosa and not Sesotho, and Qwaqwa is a Basotho place where only Sesotho is offered in school. So my eldest brother and sister had to repeat standard 1 about twice just to get them speaking Sesotho properly. They couldn't continue school in whatever grades they already were in because of Sesotho. They became sort of a running joke because of their interesting accent. I was the luckiest as was still yet to start school.

There were less than 10 houses in our village when we started our new life in a new land. Around us were villages of Matswaing, Mangaung, Namahadi, Tseki and Machabakung. As was the norm with apartheid, if your family became known then you would own proper land. All those related and close to the royal families got impressive land. All Bapedi were in good standing as they were the rulers of Qwaqwa.

Some clans, even though they are of no royal background, struck it rich in Qwaqwa as certain areas became their own domains. Machabakung belonged to the Chabaku. Chabaku are estranged dissendants of Tshabangu, the Ndebele. Ha Malimabe belongs to the Malimabe clan. Ha Nchabeng belonged to the Nchabengs.

Some families owned cattle and there was plenty of grazing land. A neighbour, nkgono Mamosia, had cattle too and I from time to time assisted with the grazing and milking of cows. Ours was a poor family by cattle or land. Not owning cattle or land meant our livelyhood directly depended on being employed. And so my father continued working in Welkom, coming home once in a while over weekends. So we all became attached to Sesotho and its traditions. Mother became the head of the family as we only saw my father about once a weekend every month. So we obviously also became somewhat estranged to him.

Matswaing became very popular due to its early cultural heritage. It was a proud village with cultural festivities. Namahadi became popular for its milk which we bought from Ntate Monareng. Mangaung was known for its hostilities to boys from other villages and regular boyish fights emerged. No boy from another village were allowed to go through Mangaung, and so the same happened at other villages about Mangaung boys. Some of these fights became really violent and people got really hurt.

The most lovely boy fights I remember were between Matswaing and Bolata. These fights took place on Saturdays at the border of the two villages which is the Kgopjane river. Both sides would stand on either side of the river and fight using ditswibila(poplar stick with a piece of clay on top swung across to the opponent). And then Matswaing was also known for its challenge of Lesokwana. Very sporty these girls from Matswaing about Lesokwana. Ha o le Mosotho, na o a letseba Lesokwana? Matswaing was later known as Thella Boy, a name that has stuck to this day. Thella Boy is a nickname that was used in those days when the young boys of Matswaing used to play Thellisane. So this village became known as a village whose boys like Thellisane, Thella Boy.

Kgopjane river is where we all usually met on Saturdays for a good swim, boys and girls. And this is where Mangaung boys would also usually attack. Swimming was an all day event. Kgopjane is a very long river covering many villages and descends directly from the mountains in the south. There were only two swimming spots, the general spot and Tshabanana, meaning letsha la banana(river of girls). This Tshabanana was really a deep enclave directly underneath a cave with green waters, and was rumoured to be home to a snake. This fact was fuelled by the fact that animals such as sheep and goat regularly lost their lives at this Tshabanana. But never has a girl lost life, ever. Those sandy beaches on which we lay on the lovely sun and the banks of rocks on the other side of the river.

This Tshabanana side of the river also dabbled as a lovers spot favoured by older boys who were dating. It had a dense array of poplar trees which had obvisiously found a useful purpose for these young waywards. So young bored boys would go watch the gory things that took place down there. I remember the story of Ntshabeng, a beautiful girl of my village who also found herself in this Tshabanana. Presumably she was about to loose her virginity. And when things came gushing, she became overwhelemed and inadvertently kicked and broke a rather thick poplar tree. What an embarassing story for boys to tell. Many girls lost virginity in this Tshabanana. And they would become a laughing topic among us whenever we saw them, remembering this Tshabanana.

Time came so I had to go to school too. I was still breast feeding and was not convinced to go to school. But seeing all my play mates go past home going to school made up my mind for me. I was five years old. Kgopjane primary had just been build a few meters from home. My primary school years were characterised mostly by poems, or at least all I remember is poems, recitations. How we hated recitations, they had to be crammed without any understanding whatsoever. And the teachers were very generous with whipings too if you forgot your lines. In standard 1 I was put into a school choir but run away due to the hard beatings we got in there. My fond memories of primary school is Ntate Nkgele, the stalward teacher who has been there ever since I can remember. Fatherly he is, and he taught standard one and two. He had sephadi nicknamed ditontobi. And he could never pronounce my name, so I was Fefe to him, and I still am Fefe to him to this day.

Middle school was really fun, all the friends I had and all the plays we had. First there was Fana Mofokeng, then Sipho Mokoena, Justice Moteka and Sello Malefane. We were a groupie of friends only like kids can. School breaks characterised by good food from Ntabazwe, the general trader down the road. Diphaphatha, dikitsana, tjhesa-baba le dibete. 20 cents went a long way those days. Girls started taking an interest in me, but I was not ready to give up my boyhood. Ho ratana meant stopping playing and always looking clean and good. I could never give up my plays le boputswa ba ka! Ke ne ke bapala ke be moputswa pudu! And I was happy doing just that.

And it is here, Kgothalang Senior Primary, that my love for music was born. I started singing in my first year in one of the school choirs. We had bontante Matabane le Makwa conducting school choirs. I have been in both their choirs and we have won tropies at regional competitions. But losing a competition meant severe punishment. They would get so angry that sometimes they would refuse to talk to us, the choir. But above all that was real fun and joy. Our competitions usually got held at Mampoi High or Sefikeng College of Education. The two choirs collected a lot of trophies in those days. Ntate Makwa taught English while Ntate Matabane taugh General Science. As far as I can remember, very few failed any subject. Yes we had top flyers and laggers, but in the end everyone passed.

I was never a bright student at school. I just loved playing at school, but I got my school work in order all the time. I guess you could say I was an average student, whatever average is supposed to mean. I could never forget Thabo Disana. This guy was brilliant! To have a young boy this brilliant was beyond understanding. And then there was Sonti Kheswa, my neighbour. She is the girl I also took an interest in once I felt I had played enough. Of course she blew me away and told me to get lost. Ba ya phoqana bana ba basotho ke o jwetse! The misfortunes that befall brilliant kids in our schools. Both these brilliant people started having inexplicable problems later just before leaving for high school. O ba tshabe baloi!

I remember the day I ran away from school, but had to turn back as the thought of my parents discovering this would mean more lashings. Older boys had scribbled in the boys toilets some swear words to the school vice principal, which obviously were discovered by school prefects. We were all asked to reveal who had done this act and when we failed to, obviously I didn't know, great pain befell us. All boys, excluding prefects, were ordered into the school hall where all school teachers were lined up. We were supposed to move from one end of the hall to the other while receiving beatings from all the teachers! I actually cried and swore. I don't know to whom exactly the swearing was directed, but I swore and cursed in any case. How can people be so cruel to young boys. I was 11 years old when they did all this, and none of them teachers had a child at that school when they did this. After this hall parading, we had the same experience outside the school, due to another swearing in the toilets. This time we had to face the wall and all teachers would beat us on the back side in full view of girls. This operation was called tshwara lebota moshemane(hold the wall boy). They did not only use stick, but also used cane and sjambok. I have never been beaten with a sjambok ever in my life! There is no greater humiliation in a boys' life than crying in front of girls. All manner of pose disappear and you just cry even though you know girls are watching you, some of the girls actually also cried when they saw this.

The brutality we encounter at schools all in the name of education.

Outside school, we all found hobbies in things such as soccer, every boy played soccer. Made out of different materials this soccer. Sometimes a proper plastic ball, sometimes made from all sorts of stuff like plastic and cloth. Then we made hats out of grass. Then clay pottery. We would play until it was dark and we could no longer see. Mantlwane was also a popular play among us the young boys. Ficticious families were played out with each family having a father and mother, and hardly any kids for any family. This starts with the building of the compounds, then the cooking by girls, the eating follows. This is played outside or inhouse, but there can never be a grown up around when it is played. Girls loose virginity this way. Mantlwane.

And then there were those moments when there was scarcity of water. We had communal taps, located loosely between villages. What was amazing though about these water shortages was that water only was made avaiable at night, never during the day. Sometimes it would only become availble at exactly mid night. So we would all go, kids mostly, and queue for this water to be opened again. We carried 20l, 25l and 50l drums with which to carry water. It becomes tricky if the family must wash clothes because this means more drums and many more trips to the tap. And so we would wait, seemingly forever, for somebody somewhere to open the taps for us. Boys and girls would find some plays during this time, just to pass time. Tomorrow we must be up the usual time for school. There has been times when water would not be available for days, and this posses real broblems. Cooking, washing, drinking and cleaning all require water. Because of this, owning many drums was desirable.

It is during this stage of my life that church was introduced. Firstly we had to do biblical studies as a compulsory subject, which no one failed. And so christianity was systemically entranched in the black child. Secondly there would be times when a letter from church would be demanded at school, and without being associated with one there would be no church letter. So we had to go to church once in a while to maintain that face. I hated sunday school and I never lasted. Church was a boring activity filled with a very lovely spell of sleep when there. Pity this sleep was not to be enjoyed as there was a mother dedicated to ensuring we don't sleep.

Then there was Ntate Ntsane, our preacher at our church. Fora was the biggest church in Bolata and I figure the de facto church. He was a gentle man this Ntate Ntsane. Despite his christian teachings, he was truly an Afrikan elder. He rode his horse on Saturdays and would go to thanksgivings and our various traditional rituals. And we all respected him and were sad to see him go into retirement.

Now came high school, the worst nightmare of my young life. Me and my good friends from primary went to different high schools, so we were all friendless. I entered high school in 1990 and the first thing I saw at Thahameso Secondary was how well build the male teachers were physically. Which to me translated to thupa. And boy I was right, these teachers hit a kid like no body's business. So my early days of high school were of fear. Being late, forgeting a book, not covering your books, no uniform; all these meant big lashing from these giant teachers.

I remember the day when all boys who did not participate in sports were to be beaten. I was so scared, considering that the school offered no sport into which I held an interest. Soccer, base ball, basketball, netball and chess is all that was offered. Every boy played soccer so there were too many of us. I chose to play karate, but it did not count as it was outside the school offered activities. So it became. Standard 8 came and maths was worse. Titjhere Sojence never taught mathematics. All he ever did was joke in class and seemingly everybody loved him for this. The few times he actually taught something, all his class work was not to be found in our hardly gotten text books. So what he taught could never be confirmed from a text book. So I failed maths again.

With standard 9 really came self actualisation. One started worrying about this thing called the future. So 1992 became to me a year of intesified participation in sports, karate to be exact. But our training was for fun as there was no hope of ever progressing and going for tournaments. So I loved my karate and I stuck to it. I played different styles: masutachi oyama, jeet kune do(JKD) and for a short period kung fu. But Oyama reined and lasted the longest, most probably because it was the only one near me, about an hour away on foot. So I played oyama until college level.

Bazalwana(born again christians) became prevalent and I too was now expected to attend church religiously at home. I refused, we fought but parents prevailed. So I started being active in church and became a singer in the church choir. Music I love, but the strings attached to the church never. After completing katismane, don't ask me to spell that, moruti preached to us about how much was expected from us. Unfortunately this expectation also included the expectation that one would leave his heritage in favour of christian teachings. My culture and traditions are non negotiable to any one. So I quit church in 1992 and I have never set foot again.

So I completed matric in 1993 without knowing what to do. So I wasted time at a private college, three years to be exact. My idea of college was to do one year learning computer literacy, after which I intended to go to technikon to study accounting. At least accounting sounded nice plus I figured you can't go wrong with it. After my first year at college, my parents refused to allow me to go to technikon, mali ayikho(no money) they said. So I was stuck with college doing some computer studies termed computer science. So I got a bursary to complete second and third year college. I became the secretary general for the college sports committee and the SRC chairman. A lot of fun it was at college.

Thaba Bosiu - Qwaqwa

My grand mother, mother's side, moved here sometime in 1969 from Henneman. She says she moved here after the farmer she worked for told her that she would die working for him! This farmer named Stwere, I assume this to be Steward, has a rather bad reputation in my family. Seemingly everyone born before 1965 has had to work for him and his family.

Females did domestic work as well as farming in the fields. Males worked as gardeners, in the fields and looking after cattle. Everyone who has had to work for this family recites bad memories of how they were treated like second class citizens.

I only just learnt that people who lived in Qwaqwa before our arrival in 1979 have had to work in the fields for the Mopeli family! I am shocked at this news from my grand mother. I never knew this part of history of Qwaqwa. I will learn more about this and write about it when I have all the facts.

We call her Teto, everybody calls her Teto. We spend a lot of our school holidays here as well as weekends due its closeness to home. By the way, this is Thaba Bosiu in Qwaqwa and not Lesotho. When using public transport, we would catch a bus at Ha Sethunya, about 5 kilometers from home on foot. Setsokotsane, the bus company by then, was almost always late for Thaba Bosiu. Sometimes the bus would just not arrive, and we would have to travel by foot the 10 plus kilometers to Thaba Bosisu from Ha Sethunya.

But life was fantastic in Thaba Bosiu. A very small village with very strong local rules that were strange to people from other villages. Clothes were not supposed to still be on the washing lane by noon. Water could only be fetched in the mornings and afternoons. Everyone used paola despite the fact that many owned coal stoves. People still went in the veld ho rwalla(collect wood).

week day the young kids collected a delicious soup from the clinic in the mornings. This we loved.

Teto owned chickens, ducks and pigs; so visiting here was always guaranteed good times on the food side! Every winter a pig got slaughtered. Winter brings memories of was kerese, the home made lotion that kids apply at night before bed to keep warm plus you wake up clean like you have washed the next morning. Teto also sold sorghum beer, a business that was very popular.

All kids had to collect wood every Saturday, a chore I never did as you had to climb the Thaba Bosiu mountain to do this. It is not called Thaba Bosiu for nothing. Night befell this village quicker than necessary because of the mountain, hence the name Thaba Bosiu. In the evenings the mountain seems real huge. So people here go to bed around 18:00, something hard to get used to. This is the only area I knew of in Qwaqwa where life was so laid back, even for Qwaqwa. Crime was almost non existent and everyone knew everyone. Criminals were called dibuleli, meaning those whose break into houses. Even this was a rare activity.

Thaba Ntsho

In 1988 I visited Thaba Ntsho during summer holidays. Selosetjha was a very vibrant place in those days. And the love of a young boy to a young girl can never be explained. When two people meet and simply take an interest in one another is amazing.

Then I visited some mapolasi around there, I can't remember what that farm is called. Firstly I remember stopping by some township for the new year celebrations. The house was huge with I don't know how many bedrooms, and one sister was very proud of this fact. She bousted that there were too many bedrooms than any guests they can accomodate.

Then came bedtime, and I resented every moment of being there. I was put in a bedroom with two other boys, clearly home boys. There was only one single bed in a concrete floor bedroom, so sleeping on the floor was out of the question. So three people had to sleep on a single bed! Add to that horror the fact that both these boys cannot sleep like boys. I have never been sleep deprived like that in my life, and I hated people sleeping while mine was rudely interrupted. I had to fight legs, elbows and knees on top of me throughout the night.

The next day we visited this farm, misterious farm that I can't remember its whereabouts. Like any other farm where Afrikan people live, the reception was warm. They slaughtered a chicken for us, much to my secret satisfaction. But firstly a chicken disappeared in the night, and this caused a big furore in the neighbourhood. And then stories of black magic emerged and it seemed a good morning was wasted.

And then there was the farm beauty queen, a girl who attracted everybody's attention. And then there were fields of maize nearby, things that happen in farms.