Bhekizitha “Ngonyama" Ngidi
Orphaned at 17. What do you do? First thing would be to hold your aunts and uncles up to the promises they made while the coffins were still lying next to the empty mattress in front of the community. But it never takes much to feel parent-less it crawls in when you're curled up on a thin sponge with a thin rug as your empty stomach keeps rumbling and reminding you of its hunger.
Bheki as known prior his taxi rank status that gave him the “Ngonyama" name was once there; left in three rondavels with nothing but a half kilogram of maize meal. His father wasn't a people's man politics bore him enemies some were at the front and some were behind the shadows on his back. Back then in the villages supporting a certain political party that wasn't what the majority believed in deemed you as an enemy of progress. Ngidi Senior was there as one in a crowd dressing up in T-shirts of the opposing party and attending larries with enemies. Even though the goal was one; fighting for justice and equality political parties still saw each other as “opposing” and “enemies.”
The political wars were rife mostly when ward elections were to take place. It was just two weeks before the elections Ngidi Senior was among those who were campaigning for the ward councilor. All Bheki heard was three gunshots and a woman’s short-lived painful scream. After that long hours of palpable silence followed. He stayed awake imagining the worst scenarios in his head and controlling his thudding heartbeat.
He wasn't too young he was 17 he could've gotten out of his rondavel and went to check on his parents and his little sister. But he had no weapon no back up. He knew how cruel people like his father were often killed in the political world. So he waited for the first ray of sunshine and crept out of his rondavel and went to see if just in case his mother and sister had survived. But it was one bullet for each. The three gunshots he heard took each soul of his family. He was left all alone with nothing to hold on to.
He had an aunt his mother's sister who had promised him a home and a warm meal during the big funeral that gathered politic big-shots useless friends distant family members and the community at large. His aunt- that's where all his hopes lied. But a few months at his aunt's place brought back that feeling he had initially felt while mopping the blood of his parents and 3year old sister; he was all alone with nobody and nothing to hold on to.
His final decision was to leave Emanzimeleni village there was nothing left for him there. If anything he was a boy whose parents got shot that everyone wanted to see and give a pity face instead of food. His father did a lot of people favours he left his mark in many lives but nobody remembered that when he died. Nobody cared about the young boy he left behind.
Each for his own rise. He had to make something out of nothing. It wasn't easy. No he had to start as nobody from nothing. Not even from scratch.
One would think getting a job in the taxi industry is easy but it's not. You don't walk into the taxi rank and wave your licence in the air; “Is there any taxi that needs a driver?”
Yes you don't type a CV and attach affidavit and certified copies of your documents. But you hunt down the job just like you do in any industry.
Unfortunately Bheki didn't have anything that could pique the interest of the taxi owners or drivers. He had to squeeze himself in and force it. He woke up every morning behind the empty MTN container that was orphaned at the mouth of Tongaat Plaza and he would stand next to the taxis much to the irritation of some. He'd start shouting taxis’ destinations without being asked and help passengers with their luggage as they climbed in.
Sometimes he'd get leftovers from taxi drivers and sometimes fruits from generous passengers. When you don't have anything a crump of bread can be enough. He grew fond of his job. Yes he took it as his job even though he wasn't getting paid for it. Within a few months everyone knew him- umfana wamatekisi. He knew every taxi driver their registration numbers and how they were scheduled to take stands in the rank.
One day Mthethwa a man who owned several taxis that operated between Stanger and Tongaat bought him a notebook and a pen. That day he started earning money for his job each taxi that left the rank with a full load had to leave R5.00 for him. Twenty full-loaded taxis per day gave him R100. Towards month-ends when people travelled home others to their friends and partners he was able to make R150 or more per day.
He found a shack he rented and bought himself a single bed. He was able to open a bank account and save every cent that he could sleep on.
As time went by his position at the rank dignified. He was able to tell taxi drivers that- “ungangitsheli umsunu uzovala istende wena.” He needed to be harsh to keep them in order and Mthethwa was growing very fond of his abilities. Then came the name Ngonyama the king of the beasts. His courage and strength constantly revealed itself to those who worked under him. Yes the taxi drivers were now working under him even though he didn't own any taxi.
One day Mthethwa asked if he had any money saved. Any amount of it.
“I have R8 460” he said hesitantly. He didn't keep track of his savings. He didn't have any amount goal all he knew was that he wanted to be financial comfortable in the next five years of his life.
“I have a taxi and you have the money. 6pm sharp. You know where I live.” He tapped his shoulder got inside his Cressida and drove off.
That was his first taxi. His first foot inside the taxi industry. A few months after getting his taxi on the road he moved out of the shack and rented a two-room brick house.
One random morning he bumped into a girl curled up in the street corner. He just had his driver's licence but he still walked to work because driving a taxi wasn't a part of his plans. His taxi was okay with its driver and he was still comfortable in his rank-managing job.
Because he had been there before he easily distinguished her from other random street people. He took steps back and called her out; “Yeyi wena woza lana.” That's how he talked to people
That was the biggest mistake of his life. As wounded as she was as helpless and broken as she was she was still not “yeyi wena.” She wasn't going to be addressed like that by a man who just happened to have nicer clothes on and a can of Coke in his hand.
“Why don't you jog along and go bark far away from me?” You don't start a fight with a hungry woman who is on her periods!
“Why are you here?” he asked unbothered by her fire-blazing eyes.
She chewed on her lower lip. She was pissed. Then she snapped her fingers trying to gather words that could get the annoying man out of her sight.
“If you are still here by the end of today please stand by the STOP sign and I'll take you somewhere safe.”
She frowned. That was not going to happen. She was not going to allow another man to have his way with her. No! That’s what she was running away from. She had left home by the crack of dawn packed a few clothes and ran off. All she wanted was to be far away. Far away from Msawenkosi. She couldn't take it anymore. He was their brother he was supposed to take care of them and protect them. It never occurred to her that their mother's death would turn her into her own brother's sex slave. She didn't understand why he chose her. Phumzile was there too and she was older than her. Maybe she had a better understanding of what sex was. Was she even going to believe her if she told her what was going on behind closed doors? He was the breadwinner and the male figure they consulted for everything in the family.
“I'm Bheki Ngidi some call me Ngonyama. I don't want you to get hurt.” His last words paved and got a place in her heart. But she wasn't going to put her life in the hands of a stranger. Her own brother abused her on daily basis who was she to the strange man?
“Magcina Ngomane” she said.
His face melted into a smile.
“I thought you said Ngonyama I was going to ask you to say Magcina Ngidi. It sounds a bit perfect.”
She missed the joke and just stared at him. He knew that he wasn't dealing with just any girl he didn't even know why he was so worried about her that he stood more than a minute talking to her whereas she showed no interest in his help.
“You are the last born?” he asked.
A sigh! She was annoyed. Obviously she was the last born and her parents didn't even bother with creative names. Magcina was her birth name as she was born lastly. Nothing was interesting about her life really. Not even her name.
He spent the whole day thinking about her. His biggest fear was losing her- not finding her where she was. And it came into reality as he found the street corner empty after work without a single trace of her. He searched everywhere for her but she was no where to be found.
Months passed by and he forgot about her. Or rather pushed her at the back of his head and focused on work.
But you can't fight destiny can you? Guess who came to the taxi rank on December 12? The one and only Magcina Ngomane. She was working for an Indian grandmother slaving in a titleless job. Sometimes she was the maid sometimes a babysitter and some days a cook. Her wage remained the same regardless of how many hours and what job she did in that particular week.
She looked better than she was when he first saw her. But her attitude remained the same. She wanted nothing to do with anyone.
It was close to Christmas people were returning to their homes to share their annual earnings with their families. One thing they had in common was that they both had no home to return to.
Maybe that's why she finally agreed to meet up with him and talk. She also longed for company on Christmas day.
They didn't click right away. She had a past and she wasn't letting him in. He didn't talk about his past either but it never stood in his way of communicating with other people. He buried it at the back of his head.
But one day he laid his head on her lap stared up at the roof and asked if she was ever going to share her past with her. He was hurting. They were staying together; she moved in with him. But they weren't emotionally together. She wasn't there and he wasn't sure how long it was going to take for her to let him in.
“I'd rather share my future with you than to share my past” she said.
He turned his eyes to her face.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean that I love you Bheki. I don't want to go back I want to leave the past where it is. I want a future with you.”
“Magcina…” He got up from her lap and pulled her for a steamy kiss. It wasn't their first kiss they had kissed a few times before but it wasn't anything meaningful. When he attempted to lift up her skirt she screamed. He moved too fast didn't he? He apologized and promised to respect her.
They still slept separately even after confessing their feelings to each other. Until one day when they both chose to get intoxicated. Really life had dealt with them badly and they were both way over 21. They needed a break. That night Magcina came to his bed butt-naked and they made love for the first time. Ndlalifa was conceived on that day.
He wasn't ready to be a father neither was she ready to be a mother. But Mthethwa was watching them like a hawk. In his mind Bheki was his son and he wasn't going to allow him to kill his own child. He was financial stable even if he ran short of something Mthethwa was there there was no excuse for him not to want a baby.
Unfortunately he passed on before Ndlalifa was born but he had ensured that nothing was done to terminate the pregnancy. And indeed Ndlalifa was what Magcina and Bheki needed to bond. Their love sprung out. Bheki bought a bigger house and two more taxis. Magcina’s days of worrying about money were over. She never made any friends and that was okay with Bheki. It meant that she was always home and looking after their son. He had a family to go to everyday.
His son grew and started pre-school. He was a happy child and healthy. What more could a parent want?
“He needs a sibling to play with” everyone said and eventually the idea planted in Bheki’s head. He wanted a second baby but as a black man he had to pay for the damages first and meet Magcina’s family. However that's not what she wanted. She wasn't going back home. Not then not ever.
She presented the news of her second pregnancy just a day after Bheki turned 30. Him and her kids were all that mattered to her. He also wanted her to be happy that was his goal everyday but he still felt like he was committing a sin for keeping her in his house without her family consent. But once Magcina said she wasn't doing something she was really not going to do it. She wasn't going back home.
Bheki tried to dig into her past but nothing tangible came up.
Nine months flew very fast. They were preparing to welcome their second son home. The whole taxi rank was waiting for its second son. Ndlalifa was already everyone's son. Ngonyama had turned into everyone's big brother and his house accommodated taxi men every weekend.
Maqhinga came he looked nothing like Ndlalifa and his father. But Bheki had no doubt that he was his son he escaped everything but he couldn't escape Ngidi Senior’s mole behind the ear. It was there; identifying him as a Ngidi.
They were supposed to be happy. It was their second child and they were financially stable. But Magcina couldn’t even bear to look at Maqhinga. She took him off breast milk within two days and demanded that Bheki hires a nanny to look after “this child.”
He ignored the signs. He thought it was the pressure that came with having two children. But as Maqhinga grew he noticed that there was no connection at all. He chose to address the issue.
“How is Maqhinga treating you?” That was his opening line. The bright smile that used to be there whenever Ndlalifa was mentioned wasn't there.
“Why don't we give him up for adoption?” That’s how she responded. It took everything in him not to pull her by hair and drag her out of the house.
“Why?” he asked suppressing his anger.
“He looks like my brother Msawenkosi. I don't know what kind of a curse he is. He's exactly what I was running away from. I hate this baby Bheki let's give him up for adoption or just kill him. You kill people with those guns in the safe right?”
He lost it. He loved her all of her everyday and over every woman under the sun. But not his CHILDREN. Not his little son. A slap landed across her cheek and because she was Magcina and she had nothing to lose in life she slapped him back. His mind didn't register what he did next it was her against the wall and his foot.
“Baba! Mama!” That was Ndlalifa crying at the door. It was too late he had seen them fight. He had seen his father kicks his mother and throwing her against the wall. He heard his mother asking for forgiveness and his father not stopping.
Everything changed from that day. They both loved each other they really did. But Magcina wasn't going to bond with a child that chose to look exactly like her brother- the rapist. And Bheki wasn't going to let his son be punished for the sins he didn't commit. He wasn't giving a young Hlomuka up for adoption. Just thinking about what she said made his blood boil up.
Ndlalifa turned eight as Maqhinga turned two. He was too young to notice the hatred from his mother. Ndlalifa must've been too young to notice either he was the one being cuddled to sleep and given random cheek kisses. It became hard for Ngidi to play two roles to Maqhinga. He loved his sons more than anything. He wasn’t going to fail them as his own father failed his little sister.
There was another baby on the way. He regretted that one more than anything because they were not in a good space. But he was going to try with everything he had. Therapy or whatever monied people did when they had problems he was going to pay for it.
He came back from work early and asked Maqhinga's nanny to take him out for a walk. Ndlalifa was doing grade 2 and rebellious more than ever.
“Magcina what did my son do to you?” he asked over a romantic lunch for two table. He still loved her. He wasn't going to let another woman raise his children. He wanted a family with her. He wanted to marry her.
“He looks like Msawenkosi. I ran away from home because of him. He turned me into his sex slave and I got to the point where I couldn't handle it. We shared a mother and a father my biggest fear was falling pregnant with my own brother’s child. He'd threaten to stop supporting me and say he'll expose me to the family.”
There it was. She was finally letting him in and he just sat there frozen on his chair with his heart pounding out of his heart.
“Why couldn't you give me a son that looked like you and Ndlalifa? I don't understand why he had to look like that monster. I'm sorry but I don't see my son in Maqhinga I just see a rapist.”
“He is just a child.” His words died in his throat and gagged him. He was trying to put on a brave face. He was a man; he didn't cry over things. But seeing the cold face on the mother of his children killed him. There was no love. No glimpse of hope.
He grabbed his car keys and walked out.
He needed a moment…to process everything and just…he parked at the side of the road in the middle of no where. He buried his head on the wheel and let all the pain flow out with his tears.
When he returned back home she wasn't there. All her clothes were in the wardrobe. Nothing was missing except her black purse. She could've been in the shops but somehow he knew that she had left. She was running away again.
To this day Ndlalifa is still asking for his mother. He wants to know what he did to her. He has tried to look for this Msawenkosi Ngomane with no success. Magcina never came back. He never got to meet his child that she was carrying and every year his first son puts him on the stand and asks him questions he can't answer.
How do you look at your son in the eyes and tell him that his mother was raped by her own brother and the reason she left is because she hated his little brother? He can't let them find out especially Maqhinga. It will kill him.