Friday, July 27, 2007

My Jinxed Friday

As I was eating breakfast this morning (Captain Crunch! thanks to a care package from my nephews), I was thinking about how uneventful the week was. I should have known that was a great way to make today full of adventures.

It started innocently enough. I got to the office at 8:30, the usual opening time for the Centre. I had a cup of tea and caught up on overnight e-mails. Wednesday was the monthly food parcel day, and we had a few extra bags, so I decided to take one over to Rosie and her family. Rosie is the woman who had no bed that I wrote about a few weeks ago. She and her three kids stay with her sister and her family in New Crossroads, about a 5-minute drive from the Centre.

Rosie has HIV, diagnosed when her last child was born a couple years ago. Her CD4 counts are high, so she should be in good shape. However, she's been struggling with a GI bug for the past month and has had really bad problem the past couple weeks. I had taken her to clinic on the 16th when she was very weak and unable to eat. The nurse gave her an IV with some multivitamins, and the doctor order some medications and special food (porridge and milk powder) to help renourish her. I thought that would take care of the problem.

When I stopped today, I didn't get but one foot in her room before she started crying and asked to be taken to hospital. Not only has her diarrhea not gotten better, now she was unable to control her other functions. She hadn't eaten in over 5 days and looked very emaciated. She's also very concerned about how much of a burden she is to her sister and her family. I told her sister that I would check on what had to be done in order to get her in the hospital. So, I drove to the clinic and spoke with one of the nurses about what to do. In order to be admitted to hospital, people must be referred from their primary care clinic (like Brown's Farm). So, back to Rosie's house to bundle her up and bring her in.

Her sister got her ready to go, not an easy process when you're so weak you can hardly sit up. She also couldn't walk today, a combination of the weakness and some nerve problems in her feet. Fortunately, her sister's partner was at home so he helped me carry-walk her to the car. Of course, just as we got to the door it started to rain. I gave Rosie to her sister and went out to move the car closer. We eventually got her into the back seat and away we went.

I waited while the doctor saw her, just in case she was not going to hospital and had to be taken home. The doctor agreed to send her, so they called for an ambulance (not that it was an emergency, it's just how they do the transport). I gave her my cell number and R20 (no such thing as a free call in hospitals here) in case she needed anything and I left. I stopped at her house on my way back to the Centre to tell everyone what was happening and leave my cell number. So far, no calls, but I don't expect the weekend to pass without some word on what's happening. My guess at this point is that she has hepatitis, which is surprisingly uncommon here. We'll see what develops.

One 5-minute job that only took 2 hours. Not the first time that's happened and probably not the last, either.

I got back to the Centre in time to catch the tail end of a planning session with Edwin and Yvonne about blankets. Yesterday, I learned that politicians CAN be trusted. When the Deputy President was at JL Zwane in May, she said she was working on a blanket collection program with some women golf pros in September. But, she said, she knew that they would be needed in July and August, so she was going to try and get them to us earlier than originally planned. I'll be darned if 37 assorted blankets didn't arrive yesterday afternoon, delivered by 4 of her staffers. She also sent over 3 boxes of bath towels (about 36 in all) and a dozen warm-up suits for kids. They couldn't have come at a better time - the prediction for the weekend is for an emerging cold front with highs only around 55 F. It's also been very, very windy and rainy for the past 2 days and that's supposed to continue through tomorrow. So, I told Edwin yesterday that we had to get these blankets out today, and that's what he and Yvonne were discussing.

Yvonne made a list of about 12 kids who needed blankets and we arrange to start delivering them after lunch. Before that happened, I had a women come to see me who I had not met before. She said she need some money for food, that she and her children had nothing and were really struggling. I gave her some money and she went away happy. (My name is getting out there as someone who can help people, and I'll occasionally get a visitor who needs a "loan." I've bought shoes for someone, paid for a bus ticket to job training, and paid for another ticket for someone to see family in the Eastern Cape. I figure if they had enough courage to approach me, then I should have the grace to help. I don't expect to get these monies back, but someone wants to repay me I'll gladly accept it.)

Now that we ate, Yvonne and I were on our way. I had thought that these deliveries would take a hour or so. Silly me. I should know by now that working with Yvonne has it's own timetable and it takes as long as it takes (not that that's bad, you just have to be flexible). The upside is I got to see some new places and a whole lot more of Guguletu.

We picked up Nomokwezi, a woman who works in Nyanga and helps Yvonne with the child-headed household program. We went to the regulars, like Noloyiso and Shepherd, to drop blankets and a couple food parcels. It's always good to see these kids, and I see them regularly enough that they will talk to me. Noloyiso's house was broken into a couple weeks ago and she lost her electric kettle, iron, and a sandwich maker. I need to see if I can help replace them.

We went to a house where a woman started a center for mentally disabled kids. She had one of her own and couldn't find anyone to take care of her, so she quit her job and started taking in other similar kids. She now has 14 in her house and gets no government assistance, relaying on the kindness of strangers and the few parents who still look in on their kids. She had 7 cribs in a space the size of my living room at home, and I could only guess where the other kids slept. Some kids had blankets and bedding, some didn't. The food and blankets we brought will be very appreciated.

Just down the street, we stopped at a foster care home with 7 children to drop some blankets and towels. There was a (God-awful) aroma of tripe boiling on the stove, and it took me a minute to realize that it wasn't a dead mouse or something. The kids in this house are well cared for and seem very happy, which is not always the case with foster care here. Some people do it just for the support checks and the kids are not looked after.

We stopped at the home of our head custodian, Noboniso, to drop a prescription from the clinic. She lives in New Crossroads, in a shack behind a house. Normally this would be okay, except that her plot is at a low point and she had about 8 inches of water in her "front yard" (the driveway). I asked if she had water in the house and she said yes, and that it would take about 2 days to dry out. Sadly, those 2 days won't start until Monday, and the problem will be a whole lot worse by then. There were two guys bailing water from the yard and pouring it down a storm sewer. I think if you look up futility in the dictionary, a picture of them will be next to the definition.

We dropped some blankets and warm-up suits at a hostel called WJM (not the station from Mary Tyler Moore's show). The hostels are not for backpackers, they are where families were originally moved to when resettlements took place under apartheid. The hostel unit contains a shared common room (usually used as an eating area) and 4-6 "apartments" where people live and sleep. Families used to share rooms in the old days, but now one family has a room to themselves. Of course, this doesn't normally mean 2-3 people, it means more like 6-12. The family we saw today had 11 in their room - a grandmother, her daughter, her daughter's children, and a couple cousins who lost their parents from HIV within the past 2 years. This is not unusual, although this is one of the largest families I've seen in one room. Because there's usually only one bed, people end up sleeping on floors and any furniture that might be around. Again, blankets will definitely help keep the chill away.

I got back to the Centre about 4:15, after dropping Yvonne and Nomokwezi at the corner to catch a taxi. I spent a few minutes with Edwin about some staff problems, and then went home. None of my task list items got done today, except the one that says "help someone today." Gold star for that one.

Off the topic a bit, here are some things from this week that I won't forget anytime soon:
1. Watching 5 cows, yes real cows, walk side-by-side down a road in the middle of Phillipi, the township where I work. Their front-right hooves were tied to their necks so they couldn't run away. Like they wanted to. The ambled along not caring about the taxis honking or cars trying to pass. They (and the goats that you see even more often) are owned by locals, and no one ever tries to mess with the animals. They are usually allowed to roam free, although they spend most of their time in fields. Seeing them in the shack areas is unusual and it made a good visual.
2. Driving to clinic on Wednesday and seeing a baby funeral happening in someone's front yard. Wednesday was the only sunny day this week, and it was probably warmer outside than inside. There were about 6 men in suits on one side of the small yard, a little pink casket on a bench in the middle, and 8 women sitting on the other side. Someone was preaching as I drove by, and I can probably guess at what he was saying.
3. Fulfilling a promise to a boy at Stormont Madebela school to buy him a new pair of shoes and seeing his face when he got them. This boy had shoes with no soles on them. He needed to wear shoes to school so he had no choice but to wear them. At least the new ones will keep his feet dry. Unfortunately, now that he has the shoes he's hitting me up for a sweater, slacks, and shirt too. And, don't forget socks.
4. Driving to the school for more painting and getting nice waves and thumbs-up signs. I was worried after the water debacle of last week that I wouldn't be welcomed back. But, everything seems to be forgotten now. The kids were back to play just like before. If I could just get them to understand not to touch the wet paint, life would be perfect.

More to come.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Funny, But Sad Story

I got this story via e-mail from someone at the Centre. I'm glad there are pictures to support it.

ISANDO/KEMPTON PARK - R25 & M39 (Tembisa Interchange) on 21 July 2007 at 10h00

Photos: ER24, Werner Vermaak

It was a free for all when a fuel tanker overturned in the R25 Interchange near Tembisa this morning. [Tembisa is outside of Johannesburg in Gauteng Province]

At approximately 10h00, emergency services received an emergency call for a fuel tanker that overturned and is leaking fuel. Paramedics that arrived on the scene found an extremely hazardous situation.

A fuel tanker, believed to carry almost 38 000 litres of fuel overturned on the on-ramp of the R25 towards Tembisa. The driver of the tanker was the only person that was injured and there were no other vehicles involved. He was transported to the Aarwyp Hospital by the Ekurhuleni Emergency Services.

A different site quickly developed on this highly explosive and flammable scene. Pedestrians and commuters from everywhere ran towards the overturned tanker to get their share of the "free" fuel. Literally hundreds of people stopped alongside the highway and on top of the bridge to collect fuel. Some of them used anything from a can, beer bottle, buckets and water bottles to collect fuel.

Some of the fuel collectors were so arrogant on scene that they demanded a share in the fuel and started fighting amongst each other. It is amazing to see how quickly people can get buckets and other fluid holding devices on scene. Some children were running down the on-ramp to get fuel.

The situation got worse when the "fuel collectors" started having a casual chat on the scene and lighting cigarettes. The commuters and pedestrians quickly outnumbered emergency services. The police was called in and arrived quickly on the scene.

Fire Fighters had no choice, but to use extreme action to disperse the crowd in order to continue with cleaning up operations and prevent more fuel escaping into storm-water drains. A fire hose was directed at the "fuel collectors" and opened with full force.

People were running and screaming in all directions, up the embankment and up the on-ramp. The crowd got angry that they were not allowed to collect the "free" fuel and started throwing rocks at the fire services. A quick turn of the fire hose at the rock throwers were no match, as the fire department quickly scored in their favour. The powerful water stream swept them off their feet straight into the arms of the police. The police managed to cordoned off the area, it is not certain if anyone was arrested on the scene.

Fire fighters used all means possible to contain the spillage and closed off the complete intersection as it holds a high safety risk.

Every now and again when a passerby tried to gain access to a leaking manhole on the truck, his urge for free fuel was quickly washed away with a fire hose.

Werner Vermaak
Public Information / Scene Safety Officer

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Initiation School

We just got through one of the periods when Initiation School takes place. This is a very old tribal custom in South Africa, not just for the Xhosa people but others as well. It marks the transition from a boy to a man, and is considered a very important ritual that will determine a male's place in the tribal society.

Initiation School is 30 days long. During this time, the boys live in the bush on their own. Their families are not to interact with them except to bring them food and water. And then only the men can come, no women of any kind. Some boys in the cities will return to their rural villages for Initiation School. If they can't, or if they were raised in the city, then they will build their huts on a bare patch of land in the township. The field in this picture is maybe a mile from the Centre and I drive by it every morning. There's another field about three miles south that has even more huts on it.

School starts with a ritual circumcision, usually done by a traditional healer or sangoma. As far as I know, no anesthetic is used. For the next 8 days, the initiates can only eat dried food (dried meat, half-cooked samp, etc.). They cannot drink any water during this time, either. The reason is that the wound needs to heal completely, and if they have water or normal food it will delay the healing process. (I don't understand the science in this, but it's been going on for thousands of years so there must be something to it.) After the 8 days is up, they can go back to eating normal food and drinking water. Everything is supposed to be healed up by the end of the second week, and then it becomes a waiting game.

During one of my previous trips to Guguletu we saw an initiate painted white over his entire body. He did this to pay tribute to his ancestors. He was white because the tribe believes we are all white under our skin, because that's what color our bones are (after we decompose). I haven't seen anyone else do this, but I haven't seen too many initiates up close to know.

The initiates are also taught about their new roles and responsibilities as men. They are given new words and phrases to use, none of which are written down (keeping in tradition with other oral histories). These words and phrases are used as tests when they meet other men to show that they are truly men now. If a male is asked a question and cannot answer with the correct phrase, then he is assumed to be a boy and cannot participate in debates held by men. If the "boy" argues that he is indeed a man, and it cannot be proved by the proper ways, he may be asked to show his evidence. That's a last resort, and I'm not sure I'd want to be in that position.

When School is over there is usually a celebration. Some families will kill and roast a goat, and homemade beer is usually produced. (In some rural areas, the tribe may offer the initiate a woman to make sure everything still works okay and that he is truly a man.) From that point, the man will be judged by his actions and words. If the man still behaves like a boy, running with the same crowd and making the same mischief as a boy, people will consider him a failure and shun him.

Xhosa men take this ritual very seriously, as well as the responsibilities it brings. I told two men I was speaking with that they'd have to take my word that I was a man. They laughed and said they would judge me by who I am and that I wouldn't have to show my evidence.


Murals Unveiled

Yesterday, I had a unique experience. Two of the Treatment Action Campaign murals I and some you sponsored are completed, and one had its official unveiling yesterday. The event started with a march from the TAC district headquarters in Khayelitsha (about 15 minutes drive from Guguletu). It was my first political march, of sorts, but obviously not TAC's. About 40 people marched for a little over a mile to the site of the second mural (the first is farther away but still within Khayelitsha). It was very well organized, from the city permit down to the chants and songs. I felt a little out of place - I looked like a yogurt raisin in a box of Sunmaids - but no one else seemed to notice.

There were plenty of onlookers, as the site is on one of the busiest roads in the township. Taxis were forced to slow down and go around us, so a lot of people got a look at us and the murals. There was one photographer from a local paper, as well.

The mural is in four parts. The first panel shows a couple going to the clinic to get tested. The words at the bottom mean Your Life, Your Health, Our Responsibility. The second panel shows the couple in the clinic meeting with a counselor. The third panel shows them relaxing in the park, something they can do because they know their status and how to be safe. (One of the peer educators from TAC, a high-school girl who teaches other kids about HIV and STDs, translated for me. She said that the parks aren't safe to sit in, so even though the panel shows a park these "meetings" would happen at home.) The last panel gives key telephone numbers for the police (to report crime or rape), ambulance (in case someone needs help), testing sites, and places to get education. The colors are really bright and you can't help but notice as you pass by. It only took the artists 5 days to finish the whole thing, including the white base coat.

I was asked to say a few words as the murals' sponsor. I said that we were proud to sponsor these murals, and if just one person was prevented from getting HIV because the mural helped them get educated, it was worth it.

We then marched to a street corner where a local DJ was set to have a little dance party for the neighborhood. A few minutes after we got there, a small group was asked to march back to the mural so TAC's videographer could film us arriving and a couple of us giving our speeches. So, back we went. In the 15 minutes we were gone, a local woman (in the orange shirt) had strung a line and hung her washing to dry right smack in front of the mural. She was very kind and took it down for us and then repeated the whole procedure when we were done. There were other clotheslines along the street, so apparently it was a great place to dry clothes.

I saw more of Khayelitsha than I had ever seen before. It's a lot like Guguletu, but poorer. I didn't see any proper (brick) homes in the neighborhood we were in, just lots of shacks and shops. I did get solicited by a nice young girl, who was on her way to a good drunk (at 11:30 am). It started innocently enough - her sunglass lens had popped out and she asked me if I could put it back in. No problem, I thought. After I fixed it we traded names like most Xhosa conversations start. Then she asked where I lived (twice, actually, because she forgot she asked already). I guess I was friendly enough because then she asked if I had a girl. When I said yes, she pouted and turned away. It was only then I realized what had just happened. I felt a little stupid, but I didn't expect that in broad daylight on a crowded street corner at 11:30 in the morning.

The third mural should be started in the next couple weeks. It will be good to have this project finished.

More to come.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Fun with Xhosa

The following is a conversation between me and our receptionist, Mkhuseli, from earlier this week, more or less verbatim:

Mkhuseli: Good morning Tony

Me: Molo bhuti [hello brother]. Kunjani? [How are you?]

Mkhuseli: Fine. How are you?

Me: Ndizaliwe (en-dee-zah-lee-way).

Mkhuseli: (stunned silence for about 5 seconds) What did you say?

Me: Ndizaliwe. Why, what did I say?

Mkhuseli: What did you mean to say?

Me: I'm calm. You know, like the weather.

Mkhuseli: (thinks for a few seconds) Do you mean ndizolile (en-dee-zoh-lee-lay)?

Me: Yeah, that sounds like it. What does ndizaliwe mean?

Mkhuseli: It means you just gave birth.

(loud laughter followed)

I have a lot of fun with the little Xhosa I know (I have been taking lessons, and know enough to at least initiate conversations). I've managed to surprise many people, especially people I'm meeting for the first time. The last thing most township folks expect is a white person who can speak Xhosa, and more than just molo (hello) or enkosi (thank you). What's most fun is saying something to folks at the Centre who normally speak English to me. I usually get a blank stare and have to repeat my Xhosa phrase, followed by the same thing in English, before they realize I was speaking Xhosa. They just don't expect it so they're trying to figure out what I was saying assuming I was speaking English.

I did have a nice little chat with a random old man on the street this week, who smiled and laughed as I worked through my "hello, how are you, I'm fine, nice day today, the sun is shining, have a nice day" phrases. I also have fun with people at the clinic, who forgive me when I butcher their names (I get about 90% correct, as long as there's no Q-click in the middle of it) and appreciate (I think) when I wish them a nice day.

My goal is to be able to give a good-bye speech in Xhosa when I leave in March. As long as it includes the weather, I'll be just fine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lessons Learned, Again

I had an experience today that I'm still wrestling with. It's my own fault, really, and I learned a valuable lesson from it.

I took the new group of GLA students to Stormont Madabela school to continue our painting project. (Just an aside on the students: They are a much more diverse group than the first. There are about 6 Americans, 2 from London, 1 from Oman, 2 from Ghana, and 1 from Kenya. They've been asking more questions and appear a little more worldly, at least for the first 3 days. I think they'll be a fun group to work with, too.) Although I didn't want to have any local kids help us, we ended up with about a dozen or so grabbing brushes and rollers and pitching in (and many more wandering around touching the paint).

Now, that sounds like a lot of fun, until you consider we were using oil-based paint and not latex. The kids here don't understand the difference, and they don't care about getting paint all over themselves and their clothes. To make matters worse, they insist on washing it off under the faucet, which only serves to spread the paint to larger areas of their bodies. I spent about an hour cleaning hands, arms, backs (some boys took their shirts off), heads, ears, and faces with turpentine to get them halfway clean. I also had to clean off shoes, since most kids didn't change out of their school uniforms before painting.

As you can imagine, it was controlled chaos. I finally resorted to taking kids by the hand to a GLA student and pairing them up for cleaning, especially the younger kids who kept touching the calls and then themselves. I played charades with the older kids, showing them that you have to use a paper towel and wipe the paint off instead of pouring turpentine on your hands and rubbing them on your arms.

When I had gotten done with the first group of older kids, I gave a few of them bottles of water I had brought for the GLA students. This was a big mistake. All of a sudden I had 10 other boys who thought this was their reward for helping to paint, and they all wanted "spring water" too. When I told them no, that I didn't have enough for everyone, they kept on pleading and begging, some of them saying their stomachs were empty and they needed the water to fill them up. I tried to explain again that I only had 2 bottles left and it wouldn't be fair to give it to only 2 kids. That didn't work. They knew I had it and they wanted it. Case closed.

As we packed up my car, they all gathered around the trunk and continued to ask for water. I had to finally just shut the trunk lid and walk away.

They had also seen 2 bags of candy in my bags painting supplies. I had bought these to hand out to the kids today, but changed my mind when I saw how they were behaving. I didn't want to take the chance of having a mob scene at the school with only a limited supply of candy. After the GLA students had gotten into their van and left, I decided to hand out the candy, outside the school's gate, to diffuse some of the simmering hostility. I bought 200 pieces, and each kid got 3 with only a few remaining at the end. Most of the kids appreciated it, and some tried to get seconds. One of the teachers was standing by watching the kids for me and she told the returners to get back. She also told me when to stop so that no problems could develop.

I felt better when I left, thinking that I was able to salvage at least some good from a potentially bad situation. Then, as I was driving away, I got the finger (actually two fingers because he used both hands) from one of the boys who wanted water. The look on his face was a mix of anger and frustration, with a big dash of disappointment mixed in. My face probably looked the same after that, anger at myself for starting something I shouldn't have started (by giving water to a couple kids when I didn't have enough to give everyone a bottle), frustration that I wasn't the nice guy I was last week (the group of local boys we had with us during the school holiday were actually quite friendly and we got on pretty well), and disappointment at not being able to explain myself to these hard-working boys who may truly have been starving and needed something, anything to fill their stomachs.

My lesson learned is not to bring anything with me in the future. If I don't have it, they can't see it, I can't give it, and no expectations can be created. Sadly, that's a much different solution than I want (which would be buying enough for everyone) but it's much more realistic.

I'm also struggling with how to teach children in this situation that sometimes some people get things that others don't and how they should deal with that. I know they see and live that everyday, and they don't really need me to teach them anything about income and lifestyle disparities. However, I was truly struck by how adamant they were that they needed to get water, like they were missing out on something really valuable. I need to continue to think through this and see if there's a different way of managing this in the future.

More to come.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wrapping Up the Week

This has been one of the most stressful, yet most rewarding weeks I've had so far. I just want to note a couple things I didn't include in other postings to close out the week and get ready for the next one.

Mkhululi's funeral was yesterday. It was a very nice service. There was a lot of music, singing and dancing. About 10 people came and gave their respects and offered words of encouragement to the family and friends. I was asked to speak again, and repeated some words that are stenciled on the rafters of the church: Beka ithemba lakho kuye uthuthuzekele (Put your trust in Him and be at peace). I said I was looking up for guidance on what to say and it was literally written right above my head.

The end of the 3-hour service was different from other funerals I've been to here. A group of young men shrouded in blankets came to the casket and performed a Sotho chant over the body, something to the effect of saying good-bye. This group then led the procession to the cemetery, meaning it took about 45 minutes to go the 3 miles to the graveyard. I couldn't take my foot all the way off the clutch, we were moving so slowly. But, they chanted all the way and it just heightened the experience of the day.

After the grave-side service we went back to the house for lunch. The women did an excellent job, and no one went away hungry. The "umfundisi table" (where the ministers and church elders sit) had mutton and chicken, spinach, squash, rice, beans, and potato salad. Everyone else had something similar, served in a take-out box for ease of clean-up. I'm hopeful the family has enough food to last a few days until the can sort out where food will be coming from in the future.

On a different topic, last week I was approached by one of the staff, a young man named Isaac, about an idea he had for some of the orphaned children. First, some background on Isaac. He's about 20 years old and is a first-year student at CT Varsity, a film school in Cape Town. He's studying animation and is quite a skilled artist. The Centre supports him financially, and has done so for the past few years after his parents died. As pay-back Isaac works weekends at the Church doing odd jobs and setting up the hall for Sunday service.

Isaac's idea is to take a few of the kids to a movie every now and then to give them a new experience. He thought of this when he took his girlfriend to a show - she had such a great time that he thought other kids might like it, too. We spoke with Yvonne today, and she is going to prepare a list of kids for Isaac, and he'll take them next Saturday.

While this doesn't sound like a big deal, it's actually huge. Isaac is one of the first to see that giving is not about donating hundreds or thousands of rands/dollars/Euros. It's about taking a small step to improve someone else's life, even if for 2 hours on a Saturday. He feels so good about what he's received that he wants to give something back, and this day out is his idea of a meaningful experience for children who have never been to a movie. This concept of turning receivers into givers is something Yvonne and I talked about during one of our first conversations, and I'm really glad to see that it can be a reality. Isaac is hoping to do more in the future, even taking kids to Table Mountain or Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was jailed) to open their eyes to the world around them. I'm hoping he can be a role model for others in the community and that many more will take on the challenge of giving back.

This week should be more relaxed. Edwin's back from his trip to Mexico and the U.S., no doubt with plenty of stories to tell (including the airlines losing his luggage in New York and never finding it). I have a new group of high schoolers to shepherd, and we'll be painting more of the school. School starts again tomorrow, so the after-school will be in full swing (it's been very quiet around the Centre, not that I'm complaining much). In other words, back to normalcy.

More to come.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Township Transport

When you drive through Guguletu, Phillipi, Khayelitsha, or any other township area, you're sure to see just about every kind of vehicle made. Big cars, small cars, expensive cars, beaters, trucks of every size flow through the narrow streets. They don't even have to have all their parts, or have any of them working (other than the engine, of course) to qualify as transportation. In fact, it's almost like a beat-up car is a badge of honour, the way some people drive them.

Very few people in the townships can actually afford their own cars. When a new car is bought, it's cause for a party. I drove by a group on the street once and was told that they were celebrating the purchase of a new car. They really meant a new USED car, but it was a new car to that family. Everyone on the block gets a ride to show it off. It's like I remember new cars as a kid - it was a big deal on our block when someone got a brand new car. I remember when we got a new station wagon in the early 70s, it was the talk of the block for weeks. Maybe it was just the orange color and wood siding...

For those without cars, there are three basic forms of transportation available. Which one you use just depends on where you're going and when.

The first is the city bus, known here as the Golden Arrow ("The Bus for Us"). These circulate through the townships and generally only go to Cape Town and back. It costs about R4 to R6 for a ride, depending on how far the trip is. People will use these to go to work and back, but not for local travel.

The alternative to the city bus is the minibus taxi. These are usually VW or Toyota minibuses, (known here as a combi), outfitted to hold up to 16 people. They are manned by a driver and a doorman, who also acts as the sales guy. He usually hangs out the open door or a window and yells at people on the sidewalk to drum up business. Rides cost about R6 or R8, again depending on where you're going. While the biggest use of these vehicles is to go from the townships to the city, people so use them inside Cape Town proper to get from one side to another. I haven't used one yet (because I have a car), but they are considered safe (as long as you know where you're going and pack lightly) and lots of locals use them as their primary transport.

The third type, and the most common in the townships, is the "regular" taxi. These are only meant for local trips, or for moving from one township area to another (like from Guguletu to Phillipi). These cars are almost all Toyota Cressidas, for some unknown reason. They look like 1990s-era boxy Corolla or Camry. (I get a lot of waves from people during the morning rush because they think my Corolla is a taxi. But it's in way too good a shape.) Most of the taxis are beaters, with lights missing, cracked windscreens, and missing body parts. The hiring process is not like in the U.S. When you hail a taxi, you don't get your own car. The driver will continue picking up people until he has about 6 or 7 people in the car (2-3 in the front and 4-5 in the back. In a compact car.) Then he makes the drops. Township residents call these cars cockroaches because when they stop it looks like a bunch of roaches scrambling out of a box. Rides cost about R4 to R8, depending on distance.

When you drive through the townships you quickly learn to set aside any traffic rules you learned in drivers ed. Stop signs are just suggestions. Red lights mean to drive faster so the next 4 cars can shoot through. If you feel like you've waited long enough at a red light, you can just go ahead. You can also pass anyone whenever you want, even if there's oncoming traffic. They should jump the curb and drive on the sidewalk if necessary so you can proceed. You can also drive down the middle of the side streets until just before you're due to hit the car coming from the other way. It's not playing chicken exactly, but it certainly keeps the adrenaline flowing. Speed limits vary from "I'm in no hurry and you'll have to crawl behind me for a while" to "get the hell out of my way."

Pedestrians also are a challenge. For a country that doesn't believe in pedestrian right-of-ways, people walk whenever and wherever they want. It's not at all unusual for people to trot across three lanes of oncoming traffic traveling at 50 miles an hour. People also walk along the streets so close to cars that I swear I've felt pants legs brush against my car as I'm going. I'm amazed there aren't more accidents than there are.

The other transportation you see here is the cart horse. I see about 2 or 3 of these a day. They are mainly used by scrap haulers because they're cheap and don't break down. At the end of the day the horses are let loose in fields to graze and then put in some kind of barn at night. While most owners care for their horses at least okay, some of the horses are awfully thin and many are pulling extreme weights. There is a cart horse association who looks after these animals, to make sure the owners know how to care for them and that the horses get enough quality food and water. At least they're not roaming the streets like the dogs.

More to come.

Friday, July 13, 2007

No Longer White

As you may guess, it has been a very emotional week at the Centre. While it's had its negative times, it has allowed me to get closer to some of the people here and others I've interacted with along the way.

Much of the emotion is wrapped around Mkhululi's death and funeral. As I mentioned to some people via e-mail, Mkhululi's family is very poor. He was the only income earner in his household of 8 people. I don't know what he made with Siyaya, but it couldn't have been more than R2500 a month. That's not enough to pay for food, utilities, and other expenses but they made due with extra help here and there. Now that he's gone, the family is really struggling with survival. And that's before worrying about a funeral, burial and lunch for several hundred people.

On Tuesday, before he left for the U.S., Rev. Spiwo told me that we (i.e., me) would have to help Mkhululi's family somehow. I committed to doing that as best I could. I spent the next couple days formulating a plan, which I carried out today. More on that later.

The next emotional hurdle came on Wednesday. A couple of Mkhului's close friends planned a memorial service for that afternoon to be held at the JL Zwane church. I expected a low-key affair. Silly me. I should have known it would be a very musical affair, since Mkhululi was a professional musician with many friends. There were performances by Siyaya 1 and Siyaya 2, otherwise known as the women who used to be in Siyaya until late last year and the current line-up of the full group. There are also songs by another man from the community, backed by Siyaya's band. Siyaya 2 sang an a capella version of the Lord's Prayer that was a breath-taker. The room was absolutely silent save the perfect harmonies ringing through the church. I will have to convince them to do it again someday so I can record it.

The whole service was MC'd by Sisi Yvonne and a local radio personality named Prince. (He was quite a bit taller than the other Prince, so there'd be no mistaking them.) Mkhululi belonged to a near-by evangelical church, and their pastor and worship team handled the readings and a short sermon. They also sang a few songs throughout the evening.

I had a little role to play - I had to offer words of encouragement on behalf of the church and Centre because Spiwo was away. I've given hundreds of presentations in my life, but I was so nervous that night my teeth were chattering. It didn't help that I was asked to speak about 10 minutes before I had to do it, in a church full of people I didn't know, mostly speaking a language I didn't speak and giving statements and testimonies full of religious references and resounding prayers. (I don't remember Passionate Preaching as a class choice in my 8 years of Catholic grade school, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't in my pharmacy school curriculum either.) And, the person before me had the crowd rolling with laughter as he shared stories about Mkhululi. I finally decided that it wasn't about me but was about his family and friends, and I was able to calm down. I told the group "Ndisithetha isiXhosa kancinci (I speak Xhosa a little) so I will speak English" and a couple people laughed with me. I managed to convey my condolences to his family and friends, saying that he was a part of our Centre family and that we would be there to support them during these rough times. That seemed to be enough, for me and for the people I cared about there.

After about 2 1/2 hours the memorial broke up and everyone went their separate ways. I went home tired but happy that everything had gone well.

Thursday came and gave me my next challenge. It was my last day with the first GLA group. These are the high school kids who are doing community service projects with the Centre. We had our last painting day at the Stormont Madebela school. I must say, the place looks 100% better than when we started, for the parts we got done. We finished about 2/3 of the outside walls with 3 coats of paint all around. We also got 3 classrooms painted. While not perfect, the walls look clean and refreshed, ready for another couple years of use and abuse by the school kids.

The challenge came when it was time to leave. About 20-30 local children had built some fairly close connections to the GLA students (or maybe it was the other way around) during the short time we were there. This was especially true of the tiny ones, the kids who were maybe 2, 3, or 4 years old. We also had 10-12 teenage boys who came everyday to paint with us and who showed up at our art day to paint and make clay sculptures. It was really tough to break everyone up when it came time to say good-bye. I think there were hugs by the van for about 10 minutes as the GLAers were trying to load up. I had to hold a couple little ones in my arms so they could shut the door. It was tough for me, because these township kids see a lot of visitors come and go and they never have a chance to really build close bonds and really get to know outsiders. At least I get to come back next week and see them again, and maybe they'll come to see me as a friend, too.

The school project has been interesting from a neighborhood perspective. I may be naive, but I honestly think the local residents appreciate what we're doing. I've gotten waves from people as I drive by their homes on my way out of the area (I always wave to people on the side of the road out of habit, and nearly everyone waves back) and I've had people call hello to me from their yards if I walk down the street. The principal is happy with what she's seen so far, and I hope the rest of the teachers are when they return from holiday next week.

Then came today. I expected an easy Friday, but it was one of the busiest days I've had since I've been here. First thing this morning, about 9:00, I went to see Mkhululi's mother to see how I could help with the funeral. Fortunately, she had a funeral plan for him so that all of the core funeral costs (casket, plot, transportation, etc.) were covered. (We're having the service at the JL Zwane church so she won't have to pay for hall rental.) All that's left is the lunch. She had arranged to get 6 sheep (live, to be butchered at home this afternoon), and had some vegetables. She had nothing else and no prospects. I asked for a list of items, which she'd already made. I took the list and said I'd be back later in the day with everything. As we were leaving, Ncebe, a man I know from the Centre and my partner for the meeting, said to wait a second. Apparently, the mother didn't want to ask me to buy sodas because she thought it would be too much. After he convinced her to tell me everything they needed, we got the whole list sorted out and we left. I went through the list with Mama Nkqo (the head cook at the Centre) and she helped me figure out the quantities for everything. I made a plan with Xolani Gwangwa, the Centre's driver, to go with me to Makro (like Sam's Club) later in the day. Item One sorted.

I finished this just in time to leave for a funeral. It's odd to have a funeral on a Friday, but this was a special case. A woman somewhat linked to Rev. Spiwo (his son's girlfriend's mother) had a baby about 6 months ago who was born with Down's Syndrome. The baby was found not breathing yesterday (Thursday) morning. They rushed it to the local day hospital (like an urgent care clinic), but the doctor said it had been not breathing for too long and there was nothing they could do. No one knows what happened exactly - the family thinks it was an asthma attack. Many children with Down's Syndrome are born with heart and lung abnormalities and it could have been related to that, too. In any case, the family planned a quick funeral for today. Zach, our seminary student at the Centre, was asked to fill in for Rev. Spiwo to officiate.

What a difference to the other funerals I've been to. It was held in their house, in the living/dining room, a good sized room in a three-room house. There was constant activity in the kitchen around the corner (where they were preparing the luncheon), which had no door to muffle the sound. We sang a couple hymns and Zach led a couple prayers, and then the casket was brought in. It was carried by one man, literally under his arm it was so small. It was a plain white wooden box with two small handles and a couple gold locks to hold the top down. It was brought into the bedroom first, where the mother was waiting. All of the women followed and they had their own prayer service for about 15 minutes. They then returned to the living room and the casket was brought out and put on a bench in the middle of the room. Zach performed his service, and did an amazing job considering he had about 12 hours to prepare. After more songs and some comments by two of the neighbor ladies, we went to the cemetery.

The "hearse" was a little 3-door hatchback, with the casket laying in the back sideways. There was only one minivan to take mourners, as opposed to 2 or 3 MTC-sized buses. The graveside process may have been the same, but it was starker just because of the tiny hole in the ground. After Zach finished his prayers, it took all of two minutes to cover up the casket with dirt and place the marker. We went back to the house for lunch, and then back to the Centre.

(As an aside, there are two things about funerals here that I find really interesting. One is that funerals for children are not as big as those for adults. As I've been told, this is because babies haven't done anything yet so there's nothing to celebrate. This is a real difference to my experiences in the U.S., where dead children are greatly mourned because of the lost potential and lost hope of the future. The other item is that no one cries at funerals here. I've been to 5 or 6 now and I've seen only one person shed a tear. I don't know if it's a cultural thing or if it's something else, but it is definitely different.)

Xolani and I then went to Makro. We got everything on the list, which filled up two flat-bed carts. We even bought a three-burner gas stove so they could cook everything tonight and tomorrow morning. The 20 cases of soda pop (crush, as it's known here) from the spaza shop should have been delivered this afternoon.

I got a couple nice comments from people today about what I did. The one I'll remember the most came from Linda, one of the (male) singers in Siyaya. He came to my office and said "Today, I no longer see you as a white man. I look at you and I see a black man." That really touched me. It might surprise you to know that I've forgotten my skin color here a couple times, that I've reached out to shake someone's hand and didn't notice there was a difference. I've really come to see that we are all part of the same race, with the same goals and aspirations, hopes and dreams. We all have the same potential and ability to succeed, albeit in different ways and in different areas. Some of us may be better positioned to reach our goals today, but I have no doubt many I've met here will figure their own ways to hit their marks, too.

But to be clear, I didn't buy food to get good comments. I did it because it was the right thing to do and I had the means to do it. And that's how I want to live my life.

I also bumped into Nomasome, the original shack lady, today (remember her?). But that's a story for another day.

More to come.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Perspectives

Looking back over the past week, I've done some pretty simple things. However, three months ago I would have been awestruck by them, even just one of them. I don't think I'm becoming used to my daily life in Guguletu, because every day seems to bring some new experiences and understanding. Not to be too cliche about it, but I think I'm learning what true day-to-day life is there, that hardships and helping are just part of the fabric that makes the tapestry of the township.

Last Thursday Rev. Spiwo caught me and told me about his visit to Mkhululi's house the evening before. He hadn't realized how badly they had it, that they had basically nothing in the house for the 8 people to live on. Luli was the only person with a job, and now that he was gone it would be even worse. He asked if I couldn't buy some groceries for them, especially things they'd need to serve visitors paying their respects. So I went out and bought some coffee, tea, sugar, flour, and milk. Mama Nkgo, the head cook at the Centre, also gave me two bags of potatoes and a bag of onions for them. Xolani and I brought it over on Friday morning. Although it was after 8:00, we managed to wake the whole house. As I waited I saw people waking from their mattresses on the floor, scrambling to find clothes to wear. We didn't stay long, as it was obvious we were in the way. I did find out that Luli has a daughter, somewhere around seven years old. I haven't met her yet but probably will soon.

Spiwo also talked to me about the funeral. Because the family has nothing, they will need help paying for the funeral. These costs can run upwards of R10,000 ($1400), including the casket, plot, transportation for guests, and the post-funeral luncheon. As far as I know no one in the family had a funeral plan, so they will be expected to pay the full amount. I plan to help out with those, along with some of the contributions people have given me so far.

The GLA students and I spent two afternoons last week painting the Stormont Madebela school in KTC. I have pictures, but had to loan my memory card to someone today. I'll post them as soon as I can. It was actually fun. We had great weather, with bright blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70s. I also got to witness the "Tom Sawyer effect" in action. Each day we had about 10 local boys show up to paint. I have never seen boys so eager to help, ever (and that includes me at that age). Most had probably never held a paint roller in their lives, but that wasn't going to stop them from painting. I tried to buddy them up with one of the older kids, but after about 10 minutes they were all off on their own, painting the walls and themselves, almost in equal amounts. We put on three coats of paint in two days, and the building looks clean if not exactly perfect. We have two more days there, and we'll be focusing on the insides of a couple classrooms. I hope to be able to give most of the students a bright place to learn, even if they don't have lights or heat (or books or pencils or desks or almost anything else).

On Saturday I spent about an hour with Lydia, previously called Sophie in this blog. I've decided to use her real name because she deserves to have her story told, and she is open about her status. Her son's name is Niwo (nee-whoa). Lydia is having a very tough time right now because of both her health and Niwo's. She was supposed to have some surgery last week to fix a long-standing stomach problem that prevents her from eating well. Unfortunately, she couldn't have the operation because her pre-op blood pressure was extremely high. So high, in fact, that her doctor was surprised that she didn't have a stroke. So, she is back at home waiting for a new date, struggling to eat and stay healthy.

She's also very worried about Niwo. As I mentioned during one of my first postings, he has struggled with his HIV treatment (he failed his first regimen, so now he's on the second and last treatment course) and with seizures (called fits here). His seizures are mostly under control now, but he is starting to fail on the new HIV medicines. His viral load has not responded, which does not bode well for long-term success. He also has some type of lung problem that will require surgery, scheduled for about two weeks from now. The doctors think it's a side effect of the HIV medications, and if surgery doesn't correct it they'll be forced to stop the drugs (which they may have to do anyway if the viral loads don't improve). He looks land acts ike a happy kid - he even played with me on Saturday, when he's never even acknowledged me before - which makes it difficult to imagine his possible future.

Lydia is very depressed. She thinks that Niwo will only live a short time if the HIV drugs are stopped. Her sister and I both tried to tell her that he could live for years without them, but I don't think she believes us. (And to be truthful, I don't really think so either.) She said that she hopes that God takes her first, because a mother should outlive her child. She's also struggling with her older children, a son who doesn't talk to her or support her financially (even though he's working) and a daughter who fights with her more often than not. Although Lydia is living with her sister, she doesn't have a bed of her own and she doesn't have a stable food plan. Her mother lives two doors away but has basically disowned her and doesn't speak with her. (Lydia lived with her mother for a while when she moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg, but her mother didn't feed her or provide any kind of support. She didn't like the fact Lydia was HIV-positive, even though it wasn't her fault.) She wants her own place very much, so much so she asked me for the bungalow that is being used in Barcelona. I don't want to open that can of worms but it may come up sometime soon.

I left Lydia's house very sad and very frustrated. I want so badly to fix things for her, but there really isn't anything I can fix. I gave her some money to buy some groceries, but that was a one-time thing. I can't make her feel better physically, I can't convince her that Niwo will be okay, I can't get her a house of her own, I can't fix her family relationships, and I can't make her happy. I can only be her friend and a shoulder to cry on, and hope that's enough.

Saturday afternoon I spent about an hour with a group of young professionals who found the Centre somehow and want to help. It was my first time representing the Centre by myself, the white American talking about life in the black township to local black people. Even though I felt odd, I think I was the only one who noticed. All of them are in public relations, advertising, marketing or a related field. A couple are very excited about helping us spread our message within South Africa and internationally through magazines and online publications. They also brought several bags of clothes with them, which we will put to good use. I'm excited by the prospects.

Yesterday (Sunday) we had about 100 American visitors from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Their Senior Choir has been touring South Africa for the past 10 days with stops in Jo-burg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and elsewhere. They've been supporting JL Zwane for about 15 years and made a special point of visiting the church for a concert. They performed three songs during the Sunday service, including a great rendition of Amazing Grace. We served a finger-food lunch (which I got to put together) from 12:00 until 2:00, and I was happy to see about 30 people from the community there, including a number of the church leadership and key members of the congregation. There was a lot of good discussion, and Spiwo had a short Q&A session with them. At 2:00 they concert started with a chorus made up of Siyaya and another local choir named Sivuyile ("we are happy"). The Bryn Mawr choir sang next, and then all singers combined for the Hallelujah Chorus. It was very first-class and a lot of fun.

So, daily life continues to a balance between extremes - poverty versus affluence, sickness versus health, sadness versus joy. The only difference between now and April is that I realize it's part of daily reality and not a shocking exception to a different norm. I only hope that I continue to be appalled by the disparities and don't learn to accept them.

By the way, you may have noticed a new quote at the top-right of my page. I found this today while I was looking through some public domain books. It just seemed to fit with my trip - that only through sharing and discussion can we really understand each other, and we all deserve to speak and be heard.

More to come.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The JL Zwane Art Gallery, Plus More on Mkhululi

I know I ended the last posting a little abruptly. I just couldn't write any more that evening. I'm not even sure why I was as sad as I was, because I didn't really know him. I guess I had a hard time dealing with a senseless death in a place where risks are ever-constant and life can be very tenuous.

From what I've been able to piece together, Mkhululi was hit by a minibus taxi on Friday afternoon. The taxi was trying to pass another car and either didn't see Mkhululi or couldn't stop in time. He must have hit him at close to full speed to cause Mkhululi's injuries. I don't know if the taxi driver has been found or not. I was told that if he was, he would be made to contribute to the funeral costs because he caused the accident. We'll see if that happens or not.

I went briefly to Mkhululi's place Tuesday morning. He had a shack behind his mother's house. Most of Siyaya was there, and the rest were on their way. They weren't saying anything, just sitting silently thinking of what happened and was happening. I think some of them were probably contemplating their own mortality for the first time, as well (which seems odd given the daily problems with violence and deaths from HIV/AIDS, but when you're 20 years old you always think it happens to the other guy, not you). I approved a day off from rehearsal in Rev. Spiwo's absence, since they wouldn't have gotten anything done anyway. The guys stayed and cleaned and painted the mother's living room in preparation for visitors and the funeral (which will probably be next week).

Since Siyaya has a big concert on Sunday, they were back at work today practicing their songs. They have a replacement drummer, at least for Sunday. He's also from the township and has played for a while so Bongani thinks he'll do fine. I hope it all works out.

Look Out, Louvre
We had an art class of sorts at the Centre today. It was put on by a student group I've been working with the past couple weeks called Global Leadership Adventures (GLA). This program runs for 3 weeks, and pulls in kids from the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and South Africa. Many of them are from affluent households, and most would be considered high achievers in their schools and communities. They do academic sessions in the mornings, studying and discussing topics like poverty, human rights, economics, and homelessness. Their afternoons are spent doing community service projects. Ten kids have been assigned to the Centre and I've been their host/guide/taskmaster. They are a really great group of young adults, motivated and hard working. This group runs through next week and then I have another group of 10 coming.

I've split their time up to give them exposure to different people and settings in Guguletu and the surrounding area. Half of the time is being spent painting the Stormont Madebela school I've written about previously. I hope to get pictures tomorrow and will post them soon.

The other half is a mix of projects. Today we had an art class of sorts for the local kids, since it's school holiday and most kids have nothing to keep them occupied. We had three stations: drawing (pastel crayons and charcoals), painting (watercolors) and clay. It was a really great time. We had about 20 kids, 10 to 14 years old, come and they stayed busy for the full two hours. If they got bored we also had a pick-up soccer game going for a while. You can see some of what they were working on in these pictures. The level of creativity was very high, and they all put my stick men pictures to shame. We even had a couple adults wander in and make something, which was lots of fun to watch. The interplay between the GLAers and the local kids was also really fun to watch. There wasn't much of a language barrier, and if there was the other kids would translate. Everyone was helping each other, with lots of laughter and sharing going on. At the end, everyone shared the cleaning responsibility. Then we had the requisite group photos, followed by about 15 minutes of good-byes. Everyone left happy, and most of the local kids were asking when they could do it again (which we will in a couple weeks).

It is absolutely amazing what can happen when adults take their stresses and anxieties out of the way and let kids be kids. Because GLA is a leadership development program, I told the students that they were on their own for the day. I gave them the supplies and they took care of the rest, organizing the tables and helping set starting projects for everyone. They also organized the soccer game. They did a great job. I think all of them could go on to great things.

(I included the picture of the clay animals for my brother. "Hello Mr. Go-phair. Pay no attention to Mr. Squirrel...")

More to come.

Monday, July 02, 2007

An Eventful Weekend After All

First, if you're interested in a different perspective of life in Guguletu, check out the blog Leaning on the Windowsill by Zach Schaeffer. Zach is on a 10-week internship of sorts at JL Zwane. He's pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Princeton Seminary and is in Guguletu to gain experience. Zach's blog is at

I wrote on Saturday afternoon that I had an uneventful week. Well, that changed on Saturday afternoon. I was at the Centre waiting to go with Siyaya to a performance at Stellenbosch University. Things didn't exactly go as planned:

1. On Friday afternoon, Siyaya's drummer, Mkhululi, was hit by a mini-van not far from the Centre. He was hurt pretty bad, with head, neck and hip injuries. Zach said he heard that Mkhululi was dragged the van for a short distance, as well. He was taken to the trauma unit at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, the biggest hospital in town. Bongani, Siyaya's director, and I went to see his mother that afternoon to see how he was. She said he could hear her talk but wasn't able to respond. She was very hopeful that things would improve.

Today, Zach and Bongani went to see Mkhululi. He's now in ICU, unconscious and on a ventilator. Zach said his head is quite swollen and is totally non-responsive (although it's possible that he's in an induced coma to help with the brain injury). That doesn't bode well for his recovery. Even if he does regain consciousness I have to believe he'll have some residual brain damage. In Guguletu, where support for brain-injured people is non-existent, this means a major burden on his family for many years. I can only hope he does well and is able to resume some normality with his life.

2. On Saturday, one of the Siyaya members didn't show up because he was in the shabeen (tavern). Apparently, he hadn't heard that there was a show on Saturday and decided to go out drinking. Bongani went to him at noon and told him to go home and sober up. But, he still didn't show. One of the other performers covered his role, and no one in the audience was the wiser.

With both of these events, I was concerned about the show and asked Bongani if we should cancel. He was adamant that the show must go on, that the troupe needed to know that one person could not and would not stop them from performing. And, he was right. All of Siyaya's members were concerned for Mkhululi, but they stuck together and put on a great show. Bongani explained what happened to the audience after the show, and publicly thanked Siyaya for performing. The audience also showed their thanks with a healthy round of applause.

Update: As I was typing the above message, I got a call from Rev. Spiwo. Mkhululi died this evening. He was a young man with lots of potential, and he will be missed greatly.