Fezekile Futhwa 

Revolutionary Relay - Write What You Like

Fiction

THE MAGIC NUMBER - Part 2

Ntebaleng has always had a crush on Thabo, since she can remember. While it was Thabo’s modus operandi to hit on any skirt that wills, he had taken no interest whatsoever in Ntebaleng. She knew Thabo had no interest in her, but somehow kept hoping that one day he will sleep with her too. That was all she wanted, that he sleeps with her.

Ntebaleng also works for the Free State government as a Paramedic. She lives opposite Thabo’s flat and she always checks up on him whenever she hears sounds she thinks come from his flat. Today she was off from work and she was bored stiff. She had been contemplating going to work even though it was her day off but she couldn’t get anyone to agree to swap shifts with her. It was early in the evening, just after the seven o’clock news had started, when she heard the sound of a firing gun too close to comfort. Guns just don’t go off in the complex, she knew instinctively that something was horribly wrong.

People who live in the Free State are a true reflection of the principles of ubuntu. They are communal and everyone knows everyone. The many people of colour who live at Seer flats know each other very well, probably because many are young and therefore don’t have hang-ups from South Africa’s past. By the time Ntebaleng got out of her flat to investigate what was wrong, her morbid suspicions were confirmed by the number of already gathered in Thabo’s flat. She feared for the worst. All she could think about was how can her Thabo die without tasting what she had for him? She prayed silently and asked for the highest favours from the spirits not to let Thabo die. That she couldn’t handle, she told herself.

She was horrified by the sight of what she saw when she walked in. Thabo’s body was sitting akimbo on the couch sliding to the left. Blood was flowing all over and the gun was sitting jut below the couch. As a paramedic, she acted quickly to inspect the body for any signs of life and to see if she could do anything to save him. The bullet had pierced through his right temple but did not come out the other side. She felt a faint pulse in his veins and instinctively moved to position the body on the floor in a right posture. She asked someone to bring her emergency kit from her flat while she did what she could. Somebody had already called the emergency services and the ambulance was on its way. All she could do was try her best to stop the loss of blood until the ambulance arrived.

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Since Thabo’s woes were something of provincial importance, as far as the media was concerned, the late evening radio news read: “Serial heart breaker takes his own life.” Lesedi Fm, BBT Radio, even Qwaqwa Radio carried the story. His life, the court cases and the suicide were all brought back live in the radio. The following day all the newspapers picked up where the radios left off the previous night. It was field day in Bloemfontein. The media had camped at the provincial government’s offices early in the morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of the political heavy weight Gugu when she got to the office. They all wanted to interview her. Everyone knew by now that she too had a baby by Thabo.

Modiehi on the other hand was fielding non ending phone calls from radio stations and newspapers wanting to know how she feels that Thabo had committed suicide. Some even went as far as to say she was the cause of it in the first place. If she hadn’t sued him for maintenance and emotional suffering, he might not have taken his life. While she hated Thabo passionately as a result of the treatment she got from him, she didn’t hate him to the extent of wishing him dead. In any case, she still needed him as a father that one day her child will get to know. No matter how bad they are, mothers always need their babies’ fathers.

Life is one complicated mess that leaves us shocked at things we discover about ourselves, just when we think we know who we are or what we stand for. Just when we think that we have matured, then something happens that we realise we know nothing about ourselves as a people. Ethel felt like shit. For the life of her, she could not understand why. Why God? She had worked so hard, educated herself and really had a good life without anyone’s help. She was a happy single mother, or was she?

When the news about Thabo reached Ethel, she was in her office doing some paper work. She sat there for a long time like a spooked person. All she could think of was why? Thabo’s suicide had brought to her the reality she had thought she was long past. She had mixed feelings about him, all of a sudden. Those long buried feelings, probably buried by anger of the way he treated her, simply resurfaced! She honestly hadn’t known that she still loved the bustard. These feelings simply showed up at a time like this. She cried long and loud. It was like she was a grieving wife crying for a dead husband.

The media waited to no avail as Gugu never made it to work that day. A doctor friend had called her last night to inform her that Thabo had committed suicide. She had been enjoying supper with her family when the news came. All her family saw was her falling down and collapsing, only to wake up in hospital hours later. The doctors confirmed she had suffered a mild stroke! All because of Thabo. She herself could not believe what was happening to her. She had moved on with her life, gotten married to a loving husband, with whom she had two beautiful boys. And now she had suffered a stroke n the news of Thabo?

Life is indeed a bitch. Modiehi was mopping for the father of her child, a father the child has never seen. Ethel was practically falling apart with grief for a man she had not had contact with for many many years. Gugu, poor Gugu, had suffered a stroke on news of a man she thought she couldn’t care less what happened to him. Life is a bitch, ask Modiehi, Ethel and Gugu. Poor Ethel and Gugu, they didn’t know it, but they were still madly in love with the bustard.

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The day was filled with mystery. A number of incredible news were hanging in the air. Everyone has been reporting on Thabo since last night, but no one really knows if he is really dead for sure. The doctors were tight lipped on his condition and told no one but his family of his condition. His family too, somehow, was not telling anyone what was happening with him. This is why by noon, many people were beginning to wonder if he was really dead. A dead person, once certified dead, goes to mortuary; something that has not happened to Thabo.

Then news broke that Gugu had suffered a mild stroke. When the calculating heads of news people figured the time of her stroke, they added and two and came to one. Lunch news on radio were almost exclusively about Thabo and Gugu. While no direct link was mentioned between the two accidents, the news were so tempting that anyone concluded the accidents were related. People concluded Gugu suffered the stroke when she learned the father of her baby had committed suicide. And her husband too figured this out. Which led him to conclude one thing, that his wife was still in love with the father of her baby. He silently wondered where did that leave him.

BBT radio decided to track down the three women who had sued Thabo and interview them live on air. Gugu was in hospital and therefore unreachable. Ethel was literally suffering from emotional breakdown. She had left work and gone home to be in the comfort of her bedroom where she was crying all liquids from her body. News reached the radio station that she left in a state, and her phone was switched off. Only Modiehi was reachable, but had turned down any invitation for an interview. The afternoon talk show had the highest number of calls in its history. People were putting two and two together and arriving at a million explanations.

For some strange reason, the evening news focused on the three women who were now rumoured the cause of Thabo’s suicide. Their private lives were laid bare for the public. How they had known Thabo in the long forgotten past. The children they all had with Thabo. What they did for a living and where they were now married. Insinuations were made that their suits were really spite because Thabo had not married any of them. It is amazing the things the Mzansi media can report, without ever being held responsible for the mess they cause. It was out of this media frenzy that Modiehi’s, Ethel’s and Gugu’s children knew who their father was. It was also through this frenzy that many other kids elsewhere got to know who Thabo, their father, was.

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Ntebaleng was the most disturbed person in the week following Thabo’s suicide. She was the most up to date person about his condition. While he did not die from the gun shot, he had lost a lot of blood and was kept in ICU under close supervision. Some had doubted whether he would make it. But Thabo did not die, he held by the slightest thread of life that was left in him.

After a week of suspense, everyone got to know that Thabo was critical but okay. Okay because he didn’t die, but not okay as in the old Thabo. The doctors told the bad news that Thabo will probably never walk again. The bullet had impacted on his sensitive nerves and as a result some parts of his right side are not functioning properly. He could probably walk again with physiotherapy, but they asked everybody not to be too optimistic.

Several forces were now playing themselves out. Clearly there was nothing to be gained by continuing with the class suit against Thabo. The women had to decide what the next cause of action was. Drop the case. Modiehi was guilt ridden, thinking that she had started all this suing business when in fact she did not need Thabo in her life. The social worker in Ethel had left her and she was a wreck. The love she had for Thabo was especially strong these days. While she was mad a hell to Thabo, she just couldn’t help but feel emotionally attached to him. Perhaps she need closure with him. After all, she had never really had a proper relationship with him, she was just a sex toy to him. She was somehow searching for some affection from him, one she thought she should have had all those years he used her. Women’s feelings are deep and complex indeed.

Gugu’s life had a taken a sudden yet bad turn. As soon as she was released from hospital, her husband wanted to know if she still loved Thabo. What he failed to grasp, he said, was why she would she feel even the slighted sympathy for Thabo after all that has happened. She asked her if she knew how embarrassing it was for him that his wife, whom he loves very much, had a stroke on news of another man. How is he supposed to answer queries about the cause of her stroke? He asked her.

Politicians are a strange bunch of people. At the core of their existence are insecurities and the worry about public perception of their lives. Despite the fact that Gugu and her husband already had two beautiful children, her husband found it necessary to pack out of the house and seek separation from her. Just like that, Gugu found her life in shattered, again, from the irresponsible ways of Thabo. And now that the imbecile had not died, she vowed she needed to teach him a lesson he will never forget in his life.

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The legend goes that Thabo had once gambled with his buddies about a lady who was known to be a “no nonsense” woman when it came to men. She had minded her own business and had no man in her life, and she wasn’t looking. Thabo had promised his buddies that he could take her to bed within one week of meeting her. While everyone knew Thabo was good with women, no one believed a week was all it could take to break down Mbali.

Mbali worked as a paralegal for a private firm of attorneys and knew first-hand how men are dogs. Every single male member of that firm wants to sleep with her. So much that she has even received threats of losing her job if she does not comply. But she is quite content losing her job, if it means saving herself from these ungrateful women hungry hyenas. She had not been particularly receptive of men since she was a young girl. She had seen how her mother had suffered from men, all who had claimed great love for her and her daughter. Instead, she had witnessed one abuse after another of her mother by these men, and had vowed never to live through similar experiences in her life.

She had wanted to become a lawyer, only if to sue every single bustard that had given her and her mother a tough time. But her mother could not afford university fees, so she started working straight out of matric to try to save money for varsity. She was already in her second year of BA Law through Unisa when the Thabo incident happened.

The two had never met before, so Thabo did not even know what she looked like. But the mere fact that everyone was saying how impossible it was to get her, he decided it was up to him to break the myth. So everyone put down hundred bucks to see if Thabo can indeed do as he claimed. The gamble really was a drunkard’s blurb since this happened in a bar when everyone was slouched. The rest of the guys didn’t expect anything to come out of it really. But Thabo felt the urge to see for himself this girl who turned down every single man who had come her way.

So he made a lame excuse to visit his buddy at work, who happened to be Mbali’s colleague. He was totally amazed at the beauty of the lady he met in the reception areas speaking on the phone. She was so beautiful he even forgot what he had come to do in this office. So he just stood there in from of her admiring her beauty. When one of the ladies at reception asked him if they could help him, he simply dismissed them and said he is here to see this beauty. Noticing that she is been so keenly watched, the lady cut her phone conversation short as she was now too conscious of herself from the stares of the stranger. “Can I help you? Why are you looking at me like that?” The beautiful lady asked him as soon as she put the phone down. “Don’t you know it is rude to look at people that way?”

Thabo smile self consciously at the woman and said, “I know it is rude to look at people that way. But you can’t blame me for finding you utterly gorgeous. Your beauty has made me forget all the manners my mother taught me about looking at people.” He continued, “I came here to mind my own business but my conscious wouldn’t let me pass I didn’t take notice of you. So I took a look at you just to satisfy my eyes and curiosity. Is that such a bad thing beautiful one?” “About your other question of whether you can help me, I sure hope so. I have been told there is a very difficult person here, so I thought I’d come and see for myself.” “And who might that be?”, the lady asks not paying much attention to him. “Hhmmm, let’s see.” He begins. “I am told her name is one Mbali Ntuli, the troublesome Mbali. Do you know her?”

The lady is irritated at this arrogant and untactful man, yet finds his bluntness amusing. At least he is honest, she thinks. She looks at him briefly while deciding what to do with him. “So do you know her?”, the arrogant man asks. “Please go into the second office on your left, I will tell her you are waiting”, she says. He thanks her and again and tells her beautiful she is and how he wish he could know her better. He sits as directed in the office waiting for Mbali, whom he has no idea what she looks like. Minutes later the beautiful lady he was speaking to walks in, closes the door and takes a seat. She sits quietly looking at him inquisitively. He looks at her and shrugs. The asks her if there is a problem. “Do you even know who this Mbali person is?”, she asks him. “What is your name anyway?” Thabo really sees the stupidity of his actions now that the questions have been asked. Shamefaced, he shakes his head.

Right at that moment Mandla walks into the office without even knocking. When he sees Thabo seating in the same room with Mbali, he immediately withdraws and runs back to his office. Mbali sees this and puts two and two together. She looks him in the eye and says: “well mister, I don’t know exactly what it is you are trying to do but the troublesome Mbali Ntuli happens to be my name. Now that you have seen me, what do you have to say?” Thabo could not believe his ears, how careless he had been. He looks down for a while Mbali is looking for a reaction from him. After a while he sighs and looks at her. “I have erred, and I need to redeem myself. My sin cannot be left unpunished.” Mbali gives him a surprised look. “Grevious errors are mended in only one way ka Sesotho. A cow.” He says matter of fact. Mbali couldn’t hold herself at this, she burst out laughing. Meanwhile Thabo is looking at her sheepishly. “Abuti towe, o ngwana mang?” she queries. “Well ke ngwana Mme Mamohlophehi Radieta nna, and where shall we deliver the cow?”

Their chat is interrupted by a call which she has to take. She must go into a meeting immediately and cannot stay to continue talking, but he begs her for a follow up. She refuses to see him again, but he tells himself that he cannot give up so easily. He bids her goodbye and leaves.

Later that day, at quarter past four in the afternoon, Thabo walks in at Mbali's work place and takes a seat in the reception area. He asks the reception lady to tell Mbali that he is here to pick her up. To her utter shock, Mbali meets Thabo in the reception area. “Are you ready to go?” Thabo asks with smile on his face. Fearing to be embarrassed, Mbali asks him to wait for her to get her bag. As soon as they were out of the door Mbali asks him angrily, “what do you think you are doing? Showing up at my work not invited like that.” Thabo apologises and tells her that he had no choice. “I just couldn’t stop thinking about you. So I had to do something to avoid going mad.” “What do you want?” Mbali asks. “I don't want anything Mbali. I already have everything that I want.” he shoots back with smirk on his face. With eyebrows raised, Mbali continues, “so what are you doing here with if you don't want anything?” I am here with you, so why would I want anything else?

Mbali knew very well the character of Thabo, yet she couldn't help admitting to herself that Thabo is a great guy. He represents everything she dislike about men, but still he has this thing about him that she can't resist. She has caught herself thinking deeply about him many times since he came to introduce himself to her. She has even prayed to god that the temptation must go away but it won't. Instead, every day her attraction to him grows and she wishes he would call her, just to hear his voice. He had taken to bombarding her with phone calls, just to complement and charm her. She loved it. On the Friday following their “meeting”, Thabo did not call her at all. She was going crazy missing him. What if something was wrong with him. What if he was loosing interest in her. What if she had sent him away. She wondered all day why Thabo did not call her. She noticed that Thabo even though Thabo and her were merely people who knew each other, he was having a big impact in her life, more than she would have liked things to be. Missing a man so much who is not even your boyfriend was not acceptable in her mind. But she missed him anyway, and it hurt her a lot. For the first time in her life, for as long as she can remember, she did miss having a man in her life. When she got home that afternoon, she was feeling very horny, and she had no one to take away that horrible feeling. And so she simply broke down and cried.

Thabo arrived at her flat unannounced. She was busy crying when she heard a soft knock on the door. Quickly, she dried her tears and went to see who it could be. An involuntary smile planted itself on her face she stood face to face with Thabo. Before long she had grabbed him and kissed him hard on the lips. What happened next left her uncertain and doubting herself for many weeks to follow. It resembled nothing in her view of the perfect world. She had played cernarios in her head of what it would like the first time she met a man. Yet what happened blew her mind. She had slept with a man who was a known womaniser. She had slept with a man who had never proposed love to her. She had slept with a man she had known for only five days.

This achievement, Thabo never disclosed to his friends. For reasons only known to himself.

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Three weeks later Thabo was discharged from hospital. His discharged caused an even bigger debacle than his heart breaking ways. Since he lived alone, he clearly could not be continue that path under the circumstances. He had refused plainly when his mother pointed out that he must come live with her in their mokhukhu in Botshabelo Block M until he had recovered. In his eyes, this would be the worst kind of admission to the people of Botshabelo that life has dealt him a lesson on their behalf. He could picture all the girls he had gone out with in Botshabelo, those he impregnated. Living in Botshabelo was just out of the question.

Ntebaleng had learned about Thabo’s refusal to go live with this mother from his mother, and she had offered to live with Thabo during his recovery. As far as she was concerned, this might just be the opportunity she has been praying for ever since she knew Thabo. The possibilities of living with him in her flat were fascinating. She could already see herself giving herself to him wholeheartedly. She could even imagine the jealousy other girls would feel for her when they learn Thabo lives with her. So she agreed without any doubt whatsoever that she would live with him and look after him. While Thabo totally against the idea of living with Ntebaleng, it was the best option he had under the circumstances, and he had to agree.

Ntebaleng was besides herself with joy for having Thabo live with her. She let anyone who cared to listen that she is the one Thabo had chosen to live with. The news travelled fast that Thabo was indeed out of hospital and was living with a girlfriend in town, the rumours claimed. These news stung like a sting when they reached three women, Modiehi, Ethel and Gugu. Modiehi felt sorry that the father of her child was living in a “vat 'n sit” relationship. Ethel couldn't get past the fact that she still loved Thabo very much. Gugu had a score to settle with the bastard.

Ntebaleng had the joy of nursing Thabo only for two days, on the third day, Ethel showed up at her flat demanding that Thabo must come stay with her. She had a greater claim over him because he was the father of her child, unlike Ntebaleng who was a mere girlfriend. She was fuming with anger that day when she showed up at the flat. She was disgusted at herself that she could stoop so low as to fight over a man, a useless one like Thabo at that. What would people say about her. What would her colleagues think of her. Stuff the people. Stuff her profession. She loves Thabo and there is nothing anyone can do about that fact. She had suffered enough to let this opportunity pass her. She will have Thabo, whatever it takes.

Gugu. Gugu had no plan on how to make Thabo pay for everything he had ever done to her. All she knew were her feelings of hatred and resentment towards him. Her husband was suing her for custody of their children. The movement was no longer in favour of her as they deemed the Thabo matter scandalous. In fact, the local branch of the movement was campaigning for her removal from official duty. She was under heavy emotional stress. On the verge of insanity. How can the movement she had served so well with loyalty all her life abandon her like that. It is not like she had done anything bad. All she ever did was fall in love naively when she was still young with a snake like Thabo. And now she is paying for it the rest of her life.

The Mangaung branch of the movement had voted her out of office and banned her from any activities relating to the movement. Her official car and residence were taken away from her, and out of the blue she was homeless. She had dedicated her entire life, since high school, to serving the movement. She had worked hard to ensure the movement won the municipality in the elections. She had campaigned hard across the province for the success of the movement. Today, in her darkest hour, when she needs help the most; the movement turned its back on her and kicked her out. Like a dog. They will one day regret ever crossing her. She resignedly packed the little she had left and moved back to Maokeng in Kroonstad.

A mini war was raging in Ntebaleng's flat when Thabo's mother arrived. The two women looked like were about to tear each other apart. The poor woman didn't know what to do. Although she instinctively knew that Ethel had a valid point, and Thabo would be better off living with Ethel than with Ntebaleng. She also believed that Thabo needed to take responsibility for his irresponsible ways with women. And living with Ethel might just be a step in the right direction. She had taken as much abuse, tension and heartaches as she could about Thabo. Frankly, she was tired of having to deal with the nonsense that Thabo does with women. But Thabo was her son, and only a motherly heart knows how to put up with this nonsense.

Ethel won the argument and had Thabo living with them. This left Ntebaleng with a broken heart and a hatred for Thabo's mother for having agreed to the decision. And she hated Thabo too for not having slept with her. Maybe if he had slept with her, like the many other women, she too would be pregnant with his child and she would a leg to stand on in this argument. Damn him. Damn all the women who had his children. Damn everything, she wants nothing to do with Thabo.

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Life was a strife for poor Gugu. After all these years, her father had not come to terms with her pregnancy, he refused for her to come live in their family home. So much hatred and anger from a man of the cloth on his own child. The best compromise her mother could broker was for him to allow Gugu's child, the one she had with Thabo, to live with them. Gugu's husband had dumped the child with Gugu and took his own only. Gugu was secretly grateful that her child would at least have a roof over her head. She, on the other hand, had no where to go. Even people she had done so much for in the past could not bring themselves to helping her out. One past acquaintance had wispered to her that the movement had warned them to stay away from her. They had been threatened with tough action if anyone dared to intervene in her dire situation. All she could do was cry, if only in disbelief to what she was hearing.

She had to start life from scratch. She had no ready marketable skills other than running a public office, a skill she cannot rely on since she has now been blacklisted by the movement she served. She had to look elsewhere for a livelihood. Her pension payout is due soon for the years she had spend in public office. That should tie her up for a while while she decides what to do next.

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Things were particularly difficult between Ethel and Thabo in the beginning. The two had only known each other briefly during courting days, which was a very short period of time. And now they meet again as grown ups with only a child bonding them, but with nothing else in common between them. She had tried hard to establish a relationship between him and her daughter. But in time they seemed to get along, sometimes seemingly happy. At last, she was beginning to believe that things can work between herself and Thabo, and maybe, just maybe they could build a family.

Seven months following his release from hospital, Thabo had recovered almost completely. Doctors, they who think they know it all, were amazed at his recovery. They had written him off as someone who would never walk again. But here he was, almost in perfect shape like nothing ever happened to him, except of course with the problem that he couldn't lift heavy objects. But even that was really not an issue, as long as he was okay. For this, Thabo was eternally thankful to Ethel for what she had done to nurse him and improve his condition. During his recovery period, he had thought long and hard about his previous life. And he had uttered a silent prayer to God vowing never to go back to his ways ever again, not after what he had gone through. He wondered how come he could leave someone like Ethel for no reason whatsoever. He secretly hoped that things would work out between them. He had warmed up to the idea of being a father, alas if only to one of his many children.

Following this state of affairs, Thabo had seriously began considering proposing marriage to Ethel. He figured after all that has happened, nothing could ever come between them. Plus she had proved her loyalty to him beyond any doubt. Mme Mamohlophehi was over herself with joy when she heard Thabo intended to marry Ethel. To her, her son needed to settle down in order to change his ways. She didn't care who he settled down with, as long as he became a responsible person. She approved of the marriage on the spot. They got married quietly, after all the traditional requirements have been met, and started life as husband and wife.

Life couldn't be better. Ethel had gotten the man she never knew she loved until recently. Her child now had father and together they were a normal family. Thabo had repented and was willing to be a responsible father and husband. It seemed his tragedy had paned out a different person in him.

The two had a good life as a family for exactly one year. After the first year passed, things started to change in their lives. For some reason, Ethel began resenting him. He had not done anything this time around. She just felt a strong feeling of resentment towards him. Initially she had tried to conceal her feelings, but she stopped the moment she realised these feelings were persistent. She thought it was a phase and like all phases it will come to pass. She would get irritated by him for no apparent reason. He had wondered where these mood swings were coming from, but he took it for granted they will pass. Things started getting out hand when Ethel had their second child. Very quickly there after, she understood that she did not love this man at all. The passion she had felt for him over a year ago was probable her wanting to live out her fantasy of a perfect life with the father of child. She had misunderstood that for love. She also began to understand that she had wanted to make Thabo pay for all the heartaches he had caused her and her baby. She did not love him, in fact she hated him bitterly.

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Life was horrible for Gugu in Maokeng. Not only had she been disowned by her father and the movement, but both had done their best to stop her from making a living in the area. It is like she was blacklisted from doing any form of business, or rather from anyone doing any business with her. She was compelled to leave Maokeng and relocate. The Free State province was out of the question, she had to go far away from people who know her to try to start life afresh. Four months after being divorced by her husband and effectively fired by the movement, she went to Gauteng to re-establish herself. Gauteng was attractive to her because of its anonimity. People in Gauteng went about their lives without giving second thought to anybody else. And since it was refuge for everyone, she could blend in easily and mind her business.

She fully understood that her success lied in her finding something other work to do. The word that had gotten around in Maokeng and Bloemfontein would inevitably reach people far away from those places. Especially because people in the province had direct contact with provincial leadership of the movement, and the movement controls government. She never bothered looking for a job. She started a small business pre-paid as well as business services such as internet access, faxing, binding and the like. Her business operated right in the heart of Jozi and it was doing not badly for a start-up. After about five months of operations, the business had grown so much that she needed to expand. She opened a branch in Hillbrow and another in Melville.

By the end of the year, her businesses were thriving and she was financially sound. She had bought herself a property in Mofolo, Soweto. She intended bringing her daughter up here to live with her.

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For the first time in his life, Thabo fully understand the meaning of the proverb “pele e ya pele”, which is an utterance by those whom you have done wrong, but instead of treating you bad they simply wish you the best. The implication is that they wish you into the hands of those who will teach you a lesson on their behalf. And Ethel did teach him a lesson he will live never to forget.

It all started when days would go by without Ethel saying a word to him, despite the fact that they lived in the same house, shared a bed in fact. She would just ignore him like he did not exist, and that hurt him a lot. Then the situation graduated to him not getting any food at home. Somehow she made sure that the would be no food when he got home from work. He had once tried to complain about this but she told him she was not his maid. Now he had to make a plan to eat before he got home, otherwise he would go to bed on empty stomach. Months after this behaviour had started, Ethel brought home a man when she knew Thabo would be home. She had placed her guest in the lounge where Thabo was seated. After a while she had asked him to join her in the bedroom, the same bedroom she shared with Thabo. The poor man didn't know what to do. He was mad as hell, but at the same time it seemed Ethel was daring him into something. How else can he explain what he was witnessing at that moment? Because he lacked any conviction on what to do, he simply left the house and went drinking.

No one had ever hurt him the way he felt pain with what he saw in his own house. Okay, maybe it is not exactly his house. After all, the house belonged to Ethel. But weren't they married in community of property? Did the fact that they were married mean that the house was his too? Anyway, he was deeply hurt and he began to wonder exactly what Ethel was capable of. Looking back at their lives together, he wondered what the real reason was for her to take him in when his was injured. She had done so much for him, yet here she was hurting him like he is not her husband. Why did she marry him if this is how she treats him? What about their children? Despite his background, he cared deeply for his children with Ethel. But more importantly, what was he going to do with the turn of events? At some point he will have to go home and face Ethel. Ethel, mara why hey!

Is this what they call love? This propensity to care for others. The need to know how the other is doing. The need to hear their voice for no apparent reason. The seemingly unjustifiable tolerance towards the other no matter what. Here he was, Thabo the player, deeply hurt by a woman. When he knows fully well he could get just about any woman he desires. Yet he was tolerant of behaviour he had no idea where it would lead them. Damn, he does love this woman. Damn you Ethel for throwing my love back at me. Damn love for making me feel this horrible.

But then again, who was he to complain about being played? Who was he to complain about being hurt? How many hearts has he broken in his life time? Perhaps he has come a full circle after all.

He finally had to swagger home, he couldn't stay at the bar forever, and of he went. His mind had finally caved and given up on him. He had no idea what he was going to do, he just knew he had to go home, if he could still call it that. When he got home, he did want to know if Ethel was there or what has happened to her lover, he simply cuddled himself on the couch and dozed off. He was too sloshed for anything else anyway. He woke up the next day too late to go to work, and he was alone in the house. With a banging head, yesterday's events came rushing to mind like a mob of angry people. He shed a tear or two in the privacy of his home. But he was in no condition to think straight, not with the splitting headache thumping his skull. He must take care of his babalaz first.

When he woke up, it was late in the afternoon. The pangs of hunger were ripping his stomach apart. He had not eaten for almost eighteen hours. He went to the kitchen to grab something to eat. A quick bite would do. Just as he was finishing his meal, Ethel walked in. Without any greeting of sort, she walked past him to the bedroom. He was in no mood to face her, so he didn't even bother looking at her. Moments later, she came out of the bedroom and went out. Still without a word to Thabo. When she finally came back, it was late at night. He was sitting in front of the television not knowing what to do. The night blanket was over the land and soon sleep would reckon. Where was he going to sleep tonight? Will he ever go back to sleeping in their bedroom after yesterday's incident? What of him and Ethel. Will things ever improve between them? Heck, why is he even considering all these questions after what she has done to him, was beyond him. Ethel decided for him when she stormed into the room to announce that henceforth he was no longer allowed in their main bedroom. She told him that he was to sleep in the guest room from there onwards. Further more, there were new rules she came up with, once which were not negotiable as she put it. He was to never expect being served any food by the madam of the house. He should make his own plans regarding his laundry. And, this one really hurt bad, she had the right to the family remote; meaning that she could chase him out of the tv room at will. And the last blow for him was when she told him to expect her male friends to visit her at home, in their bedroom. Or what used to be his and her bedroom.

He was tired, angry, confused, hurt and ashamed. Tired from lack of rest and proper sleep, the one that is trouble free. Very angry at Ethel for the way she was behaving. This no way for a wife to behave. Ethel is an upstanding member of the community, and her behaviour did not go well with that. Confused because he had no clue what he had to do under the circumstances. So many things to consider. Surely anyone knew that this kind of treatment was hurtful. How can a wife treat her husband they way she was treating him. His manhood was under question, he felt. But above all, he was ashamed that he was Ethel's husband and that she was his wife. A husband takes pride in his wife. She is the centre of his universe. Everything a man does is for the pride of his family. But here he was, badly hurt and completely embarrassed by the actions of his wife. Didn't social workers have a code of conduct to abide by? Nxa.

Is this what love is about? Caring even when the other person seemingly does not. Being deeply hurt yet you are hopelessly in love with the same person who has hurt you. Worse still, you are willing to forgive them for hurting you. You live in hope that things will change for the better. That your lives together will be happy, ultimately. Love is the ultimate price.

Things deteriorated still, Thabo hardly ever saw Ethel at home. She mostly came home to change clothes. And then occasionally, she would be home with a male friend. In their bedroom of course. Sometimes nights were just impossible for him. The things he heard coming from the main bedroom when he was supposed to be sleeping. The disturbing sounds of his legally married wife in their bedroom with another man. He was going mad. How is a man expected to hear these sounds about his own wife?

What worried him the most was the welfare of their children. Has Ethel even thought about what this was doing to them?

The defining moment in their lives came one mid week when Thabo had an important presentation at work the following morning. Out of a sense of obligation, he had mentioned this to Ethel. So he had a busy evening facing him to try and finalise things for the meeting. Around six in the evening, he was seated in the dining room busying himself with work when Ethel arrived with a host of people. Not really surprised, he continued minding his own business. But soon enough, the whole house was full of people and exactly by seven o'clock, the house went blast with loud music. Food and drinks were beings served and this looked just like a party. It was impossible to work anywhere in the house under the conditions. He drove to work to finish work. Around midnight when he got home, he found Ethel enjoying canal pleasures right the middle of their lounge. The very place used by everyone in the house, including the children. While he was angry at what he saw, it was the feelings of shame that overcame him. In that act his wife was engaged in, he saw his past.

He knew things could not remain the same between him and his wife. He knew instantly that their marriage was over and there was nothing to salvage. His heart silently bled for their two children. Although he did not like Ethel’s behaviour a bit, he knew the kids would be better off with her.

He tacked himself in the children’s room for the night. He had already decided to leave first thing in morning, although he hadn’t decided where he would go.

=============================

Thabo quickly relocated to Cape Town, to get away from all the bad memories about Ethel. After thinking hard about it, he realised that the whole of the Free State province holds sore memories for him, because of his past. Getting away from it would be good for him. He wanted to make a clean break from his past, to where people didn't know him or his past. He wanted to be as further from everyone who knew him as possible. Free State people don't like Cape Town, it is too far. And it is this their refusal to go to Cape Town he found appealing. He could lead his life in Cape Town without risking bumping into anyone he knew from the Free State.

Life was instantly enjoyable for him in Cape Town. His coloured looks made him look like just a another guy from around. Before long, he had found himself a woman. She was a recent widower who was set financially from her late husband's insurance payout. She loved him, he wanted to forget about his troubles back home. Both had one thing in common, the love for fun and vibe. She was breath takingly gorgeous. The goddess of beauty. An object of envy and lust for many a male species. Ncumisa Witbooi. Ncumisa had been married to her husband, Eric, for only two years when he died in an air crash while taking his flight lessons for light aircraft. Eric Witbooi was a well connected comrade who was in exile during apartheid. He lived a large life and was a BEE beneficiary. The two didn't have any children. Like many of his class, Eric didn't associate with his folks since his return from exile, he felt they were too low class for his image and achievements. He systematically cut himself off his entire line of family until they didn't bother him anymore. Ncumisa worked in the administrative side of Parliament. She had not bothered changing her name back after her husband's death. And she had inherited a handsome amount as a result.

The two pair were soon the subject of waggling tongues in the mother city. They were spotted one too many times at parties and social scenes. Soon enough, the tabloids were interested in them. This their high profile life proved to be their undoing.

Modiehi had was in Cape Town on business when she saw the front page headlines of one of the tabloids, “Super Couple Living High”, was embossed in bold across the page. She had no doubts that the man in the picture was Thabo Radieta, the father of her child. The last time she had heard anything about him was three years ago when he was supposedly paralysed after an attempted suicide that went bad. How on earth did he move from paralysis to this glamorous lifestyle? She couldn't help admitting to herself that she felt a little jealous. He looked so well groomed in those expensive clothes. And that woman he was with, she defines the face of beauty.

When she got back to Bloemfontein, Modiehi revisited her strategy on Thabo, the same one she had devised three years ago. The same one that had led him to commit suicide. That one that had worked so well to frighten him into wishing himself dead. It was time she completed what she had already started. She contacted Ethel and her group of women to appraise them on the latest developments. She had already revisited her case and was waiting for a date to appear in court. She felt that since Thabo was so well and accomplished, the court should uphold the previous ruling in her favour on the child support case. She argued it was also time for the court to render the sentence on the civil suit in which Thabo had already been found guilty. Harm was again at arms length for Thabo from bitter women seeking justice from heart breakers.

Within a week of been seen in the paper by Modiehi, Thabo was served with court papers as follows:

  1. Maintenance case pertaining Modiehi Tlokwe.

  2. Civil suit with Modiehi Tlokwe as the complainant

  3. Maintenance cases of the seven women led by Ethel Smit

  4. Court date for the civil suit by the group of women led by Ethel Smit

  5. Hearing for child support by Gugu Masango

His head was spinning with disbelief at this turn of events. He thought he had ran away from all this mess when he left Bloemfontein. He had also assumed that the women would leave him alone following his predicament after the failed suicide. But he was wrong, all the women were back in full force. Now even Gugu had joined the fight, and she was a bitter woman following the events in her life. Even though things had turned for the better for her in Gauteng, she had a score to settle with Thabo. And then there is the matter of the movement she must attend to as well. People were going to get hurt in the process, whoever had crossed her path and rubbed her badly. She had the money to take the fight to its owners. As the Sesotho proverb goes, o e lata letailana.

There is something perculiar about BEE women. They love, perhaps thrive is the right word, controversy. Their public profile matters more than anything else. It was the goddess Ncumisa who tipped the tabloids about the latest developments in Thabo's life. And these news were too juice for local tabloid. It was headline material and that is how the story spread nationally. Again, Thabo found himself in the public eye through the media. The events of three years ago were retold with vigour, with the fascinating conclusion that he was now more than able to meet his obligations. His lifestyle with his mistress was told many times over. Her indiscretions about Thabo had paid her very well. Not that she was doing it for the money, it was a compulsion only the rich had. The urge to be in the media spotlight no matter the consequences.

This Thabo incident had propelled her to a personality of some sorts. Magazines, radio and television all wanted her on their programmes and pages. And because of her looks, she was an instant hit with the media. The public loved her, or at least every time she appeared on air she broke the record of listenership/viewership. She made lots of money. The media made lots of money. Those that didn't received great publicity. Thabo was the loser in all this. As soon as Modiehi's child support ruling was enforced and the verdict was about to be read on her civil suit, Ncumisa dumped Thabo. What made the dumping worse was that she dumped him on air. On a television show nogal. Poor Thabo was watching the show.

The problem with these modern young men is that they don't know what it means to be a man. Manhood to them is defined by material possessions and the number of women they take to bed. And perhaps the number of degrees attached to their names. They forget the basic tenets of manhood in African society. Responsibility, pride, accountability and humility. A responsible man does not live with a woman he has not married. A proud man has his own compound that bears his name, and by extension the basis for his wealth. An accountable man is one who answers to his actions. And humility means that a man knows that there will always be beautiful women around. That your chosen woman may look the worse choice in the face of temptation. But it is these choices that make us men in the first place.

Like many of his class, Thabo had finally moved in with Ncumisa in her luxury apartment. What they see these young men in this arrangement is not having to worry about own property. But they overlook the naked truth that this situation is the number one cause why many of them lose control over women. A man who lives in a woman's house is not much of a man. He has lost touch with the reality of being a man. This reality only hit Thabo at that moment when Ncumisa announced to the world on tv that she was leaving him. He was too much controversy she said. That hurt him more than what Ethel had done to him. Na yena ke mmutla wa dintjeng? To be humiliated like this on national television. There and then, he realised he had no place to go to. A place of his own. A place to call home. He must go back to renting a flat, if finds one so soon under the circumstances. He saw the foolishness of it all. That sometimes these boys confuse love for fantasy. Mistake infatuation for commitment.

He understood the wisdom of his Sesotho heritage. The saying goes, maya ke maboya. Etswe le pele di na le baji! How right they were, ancient Basotho ancestors.

Even though he knew he had to do something about his accommodation, he was too numb to act. He sat in front of the tv and watched the whole show, as humiliating for him as it was. Ncumisa found him glued in front of the television when she got home. “You have been watching the show?” she asked him. “So you saw me on tv? What are you still doing here?” Those words stabbed his heart like a dagger being swayed at him at full force. The media just couldn't resist the catchy headlines, “Booted.”, “Player Played.”

He checked himself into a bed and breakfast while he looked for a place to stay. He also wondered whether Cape Town would still be his sanctuary after all this media attention. But for now, he decided he would stay. He had many things to worry about and this Ncumisa situation was the last of his worries. He needed to decided on how to handle the matter of pending court cases against him. When he thought about this, he smiled a little to himself. How brilliant. Ncumisa's brutal and hushed actions to throw him out of her life were just the things he needed to win the court cases. All these cases were based on the fact that he was living a lavish lifestyle in Cape Town while he didn't attend to maintaining his children. Well, without Ncumisa and her money, there is no way these women could prove otherwise. He felt good that he finally had a strategy in place to deal with these cases. But he must find himself a lawyer first.

Late that evening he went through his address book. With a silent prayer, he hoped that she has not changed her number. How could he have this careless. To have forgotten completely about her. Not even once giving thought to her. Never once finding out how she was doing. Indeed he admitted he had been careless. The elegant Mbali. What would she do if he contacted her? Would she brush him off, like her usual self? He reached for his phone to call her number. He was bracing himself for another hard hitting chat with her. If he connects to her.

=============================

He was over himself with joy at the prospect of seeing her. She had agreed to meet him over drinks. So he was on his way to Jozi for this important meeting meeting of his life. Maybe when they have finished talking business, he might as well plead his ignorance and beg her to take him back. He just couldn't believe that he had let her go, just like that. Such a beautiful and intelligent woman. Such a principled person. Indeed he had had a good share of great women, none of whom he ever appreciated.

They met for lunch and he couldn't believe his eyes. Mbali was god damn gorgeous. The was no question about that. His heart skipped a beat or two when he saw her. Memories of that day when he had Mbali all to himself flashed in his mind. Why on earth did he ever leave Mbali?

Lunch was fun and everything seemed okay in his mind, until the subject of the business at hand came up. “I am sorry Thabo, but I really can't take your case.” she explained. “But why Mbali?”, he wanted to know. “I mean you are a lawyer and all, why can't you represent me in court?” He seemed to take these news a bit hard, looking more depressed than usual. She wondered how he will feel when he heard the real reason why she can't represent him. She cleared her throat and looked him straight in the eye. She was quiet a bit longer than necessary, and this got his attention. “Thabo, the reason I can't represent you in this case is because I am already involved in the case. And taking your case would constitute a conflict of interest. Not only that, it would plainly be unprofessional. I could be disbarred for doing something like that. And you must understand that from here on I cannot even discuss this case with you. Anything about it. You see Thabo, I represent Gugu Masango in the suit.”

Life is a riddle. People always wonder why some things are not straight forward in life. From a young age, humans are taught the lesson of life through experience rather than logic and understanding. This is said to be the way individuals find their own personalities in life. From the word go, life is this mystery that people are supposed to figure out. Yet despite this big mystery, we do our best to enjoy life. Unfortunately for some people, it takes them a life time to figure out this riddle called life.

You know, when I met you Thabo, I knew what kind of a person you were. But I so much wanted to believe that people can change, that I gave you that chance in my life. To me, you were rogue person going straight. And things would have been so good between us. But I guess some people will never change. Only you knows what you want in women, but I know for a fact that it is not love, not companionship, not friendship; not even sex because I know sex with me was great. So I have wondered to myself exactly what it is you were looking for in women, and I have come the conclusion that you are a menace. You don't know what you want yet you go around messing with people for the sheer fun of it. Perhaps to prove something to yourself. But let me tell you this much buti, that very thing that has made you mess with women, has proved to be very thing that has guaranteed your downfall. Seriously now Thabo, have you ever thought about your behaviour towards women? What have they done to deserve such treatment from you? While I have wanted to believe in you so much Thabo, you have left me with shame through your actions. And in you I see the actions of my father. And men like you must be taught a lesson they will never forget. That is the sole reason why I have taken this case. To teach you a lesson.”

Life riddles. His shame was like ntja e kotlileng mohatla when he left Jozi. And Mbali's demeanour told him she was determined to prove whatever point she meant to prove. Her calmness spoke of a woman tired, one who has reached the bounds of her tolerance. Her quiet nature meant that she thought things through before she acted. Her actions are not to be taken lightly.

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The trials began in earnest, almost all of them at the same time. Since Modiehi's child support case had already been ruled upon, it was the first under review. The question now was how to award the support grant considering that many more cases are pending for child support. The court had subpoenaed his financial records to try and determine his ability to pay maintenance. But without Ncumisa in the picture, it was clear Thabo could not afford to pay any of the many cases against him.

This fact, that he could not afford to pay maintenance to all pending cases, he had given much consideration. While he was aware he would lose most of the cases, he was relying on his inability to afford as a defence strategy. This is why he was really not bothered about the outcome of any of the cases against him. If he cannot afford to pay child support, there is nothing anyone can do make him pay. All the courts can do is try to come up with some form of settlement. So whichever way you look at it, the women are the losers, again. He was so proud of his strategy that he was dead sure the cases would be thrown out for his inability to pay. He will get away with just a stern warning from the Judge. He couldn't care less how angry the Judge may be at this turn of events, he will get away with it, and this all that matters.

What he clearly hadn't thought through, was who the Judge in his cases would be. Judge Nku Moremi is very familiar with the Thabo story. And, in her words when she delivered her judgement, she said:

“Looking at all circumstances, there is no basis in law on which to prosecute the defendant. While the plaintiffs are fully entitled to recourse from this court, his financial situation renders the legal recourse useless. In a case like this, the law has no way to punish the offenders, but simply lets down the hopes and aspirations of those whose desires rest on this court. As a result, this court cannot attach any financial value to the defendant that will have any material impact on the judgement of this court. That is a shame, that the courts cannot protect those whose interests it is supposed to serve.

However, as a Judge and a responsible citizen of this country, I cannot standby and watch social outcasts like the defendant go unpunished simply because there is no basis in law for such punishment. The basic tenets of justice are restitution and recourse. If this court cannot make people like the defendant account for their actions, our justice system would be in shambles.

I therefore find the defendant, Thabo Radieta, guilty of serial heart breaking and neglecting his responsibilities as a father to his children. Since he has indicated that he cannot be a responsible father and husband, his children are better of with him removed from society where he would continue his immoral ways.

Thabo Radieta, I sentence you to a jail term of five years. As an officer of the law, I am mindful of the fact that this sentence would probably not stand on appeal. But I assure you, I will do everything legally in my power to delay such an appeal by a higher court. Realistically, that means you will spend at least eighteen months in jail. Society can do without misfits like you lingering around. The court is adjourned.”