book 2/1, travelling, South Africa
In the evening, Lesedi and Karabou sat over a first draft for a revised Hub application process.
‘Ever heard of Injaberg?’ Lesedi asked.
‘Never. But I looked it up. Small town. North of the Garden Route. Four or five hours drive from here.’
‘They have no idea what’s waiting for them, do they?’
‘No,’ Karabou said, standing up and filling her glass with water from a glass bottle.
‘Should we have warned them?’ Lesedi asked, holding out her glass for a refill.
‘No. They wouldn’t have listened.’
‘Do you think, they’ll understand better when they’re back?’
‘I doubt Alice will. She’s too— don’t know— too stubborn, too determined to make things work.’
‘Maybe she’s right,’ Lesedi said, taking a sip of water.
Karabou sat down and drummed her fingers on the desk. ‘I don’t know.’
‘I mean, maybe that’s what it takes: believe.’
‘Since when are you religious?’
‘It’s not about religion. But nothing is going to change if we keep believing that there’s nothing we can do. If you want to change something, you have to believe that change is possible, even against all odds. It’s absolutely impossible to change something if you don’t believe that it can be done. Things are not possible, because you believe they are. But they can only become possible if you do believe.’
‘Stop that. You’re making my head spin.’
‘Anyway, how did the contact with Injaberg come about?’ Karabou asked.
‘Some artist who had an exhibition in New York.’
They laughed and stopped when the door was pushed open by Unathi. He looked so dreadful that Karabou and Lesedi stood up at once.
‘She’s dead,’ he said trembling. ‘Nku killed her.’
‘Ayanda?’ Karabou whispered, tears shooting into her eyes.
The travelling team arrived in Injaberg around ten in the evening. Everyone was tired and stiff from the five hours drive. To be fair, the landscapes had been stunning, the sunset amazing, and the starlit sky was a dream. But it was pretty cold again.
The hotel was on the outskirts of the town, sitting in a green plot, which was surrounded by high hedges. It was a broad single house with three floors, an orange facade, high rooms, all painted in earth colours and decorated with African paintings, masks and animal sculptures — giraffes being a favourite with the hotel owner. All in all, it was a homely hotel. No posh plush or big polish or soft carpets. Just comfortable, nice rooms.
The team were welcomed by South Africa THE guards who had taken over the management of the hotel for the duration of the travelling team’s stay. This meant that the travelling team could move around the hotel freely, nip into the kitchen for a snack, pour themselves a beer at the bar, use any room for meetings, or, as Dennie added: ‘We can sleep in a different bed every night.’
‘Not every night,’ Devery said. ‘It’s not that big.’
‘All right, every other night then.’
They were all sitting on the floor,
Lesedi holding Karabou,
Karabou holding Unathi, rocking him like a child.
Ayanda was Unathi’s sister.
Karabou grew up with them. Neighbours. Best friends. Secret keepers. Especially the secret that Unathi loved men.
Ayanda and Nku married two years ago.
She was so happy at the wedding.
Then she changed.
They knew that Nku beat her sometimes, especially when he was drunk. They knew it was really bad when Ayanda wouldn’t see them for weeks. They tried to talk to her. But the only thing she ever told Unathi or Karabou was: ‘If you love me, you don’t say a word to Nku or anyone.’
Two or three weeks ago, Nku lost his job as a police officer. No one knew why. He said, it was temporary, and could he work at the Hub Station in the meantime?
But the Hub had a strict policy regarding violent behaviour, even suspected violent behaviour. Not a chance, Nku would be cleared for a job at the Hub.
When Karabou told him, he hurled himself against her, attempting to beat her. If it hadn’t been for her fighting skills, she might have ended up in hospital.
She had him down on the floor, belly first, arm twisted, in a minute — a long minute.
Colleagues came running and marched him off the premise.
But on the way out, Nku saw Unathi, holding hands with a man. Unathi didn’t even notice. He was so wrapped up in the flirt. That was, until Nku lost it again and started screaming insults.
Ever since neither Unathi nor Karabou had dared to leave the Hub Station. Fortunately, the station had some twenty flats.
A day later, Nku came back with a gang.
But THE was prepared and pushed back hard, making sure Nku wouldn’t dream of attacking again.
And now Ayanda.
She was so happy at the wedding. And everyone was so proud of her and her husband. Ayanda and Nku. The perfect wedding photo.
About a week ago, Unathi read the introduction to the town project’s sex talk. And only a few days ago, they wrote an essay for it. All three of them: Unathi, Karabou and Lesedi.
And all the time, Ayanda was on their minds.
All the time, they believed there was still time, that they could find a way to help her.
They tried to understand the roots of violence, a bit as if it was a question of finding the right code. A code that could fix this.
Why would a young man beat his wife? He hadn’t shown any signs of violence before the wedding.
Unathi said, it’s the pressure. There is always someone who tells a man what he has to do, what he has to achieve, how strong he has to be. Anything else would be weakness, would be less than a real man. And then at home, he takes his frustration out on his wife.
No one can endure constant pressure.
‘We could ask for an initiative where men come together and search for the roots of their anger and aggression,’ Unathi suggested. ‘I think there’s a connection between pressure, failure, sex and violence. If we solve this puzzle, maybe we can find something that helps.’
They made a note for the initiative.
They told Alice about it yesterday. She green-lighted it.
Only — time had already run out for Ayanda.
Karabou said: ‘Mothers beating their sons. Sons beating their wives. That’s a problem too. With beating your child you make violence acceptable. You teach that beating is an option.’
Had Nku been beaten as a child?
Lesedi said: ‘Maybe married life needs to be redefined. What if you grew up with the perception that as a man, you always have to be superior, always better and stronger? What if you feel the need to prove your strength by belittling your wife, by insisting that she obey, and by punishing her if she doesn’t?’
‘Maybe. But how can that be changed?’ Karabou said and added: ‘Ayanda is such a beautiful soul. I’m sure she still dreams of seeing the world and of studying to become a teacher.’
But now— now she was just dead.
book 2/1, travelling, South Africa
I was working on the South Africa chapter for book 2, travelling, when I saw the headlines about violence against women in South Africa. This inspired Ayanda’s story.
The Guardian: Thousands protest in South Africa over rising violence against women.
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