The late Teddy Pendergrass once said, “life is a song worth singing”, but when I look at what is happening in the world and around me, he couldn’t be more wrong. Life seems to be a song one has to sing because there is no choice. I have seen people struggle their whole life. A friend of mine Michael was born to a loving family, they were a God fearing family that goes to church every Sunday. I remember vividly they were the envy of many as they use to wear look alike suits (suits were really rare for kids in our community in late 70’s to early eighties.
Mike was Fourteen years his brother Hloni and Tumi were 11 and 9 respectively and younger sister Nono was a baby. One rainy afternoon their mother was struck by lightning and their house was burnt down to ashes. The family member had to share kids as their father was working for Johannesburg mining companies that kept only men in hostels. Mike was sent to live with her Gogo (grand mother) from his mother’s side. Like most men, their father discovered a new woman and later moved in with her. He was no longer going home to visit his kids. When Michael was 18 he came to work in the mines like his father. He didn’t do much to uplift his siblings either, and it was not long before bad luck struck again. He was retrenched for joining a union (NUM) and went to sit at home. His siblings were still living separate lives like strangers even worshiping at different churches.
I know this because I went to initiation school with one of his young brothers by then he was trying to reopen their neglected home, which still bore the scars of lighting that struck years ago. Mike wanted them to be a family again as he worked as a seasonal worker in Cape farms. During off-season he got another job as a security guard for Security Company that was transporting money. He was given a day off one Monday and on that Monday his colleagues were ambushed and undisclosed amount of money was taken. He was the prime suspect because he was not on duty. He was never convicted, but he lost his job anyway.
He had to stay with a relative and he seemed fine even though at his age he was uneasy. Their relatives had lost faith in them even though they were still good people. Unfortunately a relative he was living with also passed away and she was a widow and had no kids. He was forced to leave as the relatives were fighting over the house, but another relative took him in. It was not long before news broke out. The wife of that relative was pregnant and Michael was the father. He went to ground for sometime.
Sometimes God can see when you are desperate, a big supermarket chain called Boxer soon employed him. Three years later he lost his job under unclear circumstances that he doesn’t want to discuss with anyone. By then he had build a life for himself and his younger sister. By then he was married with a kid. He was back to square one, but now there were two more mouths to feed. Forced to reopen their home with the hope that they will make it. His wife became a hard working hawker in Town. Luck was still on his side. He got the job in the farms outside of Cape Town and he was looking after his family well and in the process of stopping to drink. One evening I received a depressing call from him he wanted us to me as he was coming to Tygerburg Hospital for a check up. I agreed and I was living just a stone throw away from the hospital in the nearby Parow Valley. He was diagnosed with Throat cancer. This was so advanced that the hospital applied for grant on his behalf and order him to stop smoking and stop working.
The only good news is that he is still alive living on the meagre grant with wife and 3 kids. The kind of life they live thought them to be independent, but no one went to school beyond standard 7 (grade 9). He is depressed drinking cheap home brew beer to forget about his worries that he wake up to daily. The circle continues as his kids are already struggling to pay school fees.
Will there be a happy ending I don’t think so. This is just one case there are worse cases in rural South Africa.