End of another promising life

2013-07-09 00:00

THE road to ruin began innocently. It was one of those friendly enticements to experiment with the restricted privileges that the elderly enjoyed but constantly denied the young. The reason: you are under age, below 18.

One morning, on the way to school, a friend picked up a half-smoked cigarette. The next friend suggested lighting it, sharing it and seeing what happened. The decision was unanimous. A few eager puffs later, they were high.

“This is not so bad,” suggested the first.

“I don’t know why they stop us from smoking. It’s just smoke, anyway,” reasoned the other.

They laughed, insultingly. So, afterwards, the act became a permanent habit. It was only the beginning.

The next day, it was two smokes. In unison, they clandestinely agreed to try something stronger. Their plan was executed. For R30, they got a hit and got even higher.

“That was easier than I predicted,” said the second lad.

The habit slowly took hold. Their supplier promised more.

“I have a special price just for pupils,” he pledged.

This then became a regular stopover.

And soon they were like their absent fathers, who were stoned early Sunday morning when everyone was dressed for the church service.

While congregations shouted hallelujah, they snuck into taverns to imbibe their meagre weekly earnings.

When they went home, penniless, they pounded their women for not preparing a meal, as if empty beer bottles could make supper.

Everyone heard the high-pitched, angry voice.

“You think your Lord is greater than your husband now?

“I paid lobola for you and this is how you thank me, huh?”

The beatings continued until he fell asleep. No one bothered to intervene during his disciplinary actions, lest they were labelled an accomplice, infiltrating his family affairs and questioning his fatherly presence

For that, one could be rewarded with a bullet.

For days, the family did not appear in public. Only the father, clutching his beer quarts, embarked on his familiar tavern errands and later staggered home mumbling alone, cursing anyone he met.

When the wife finally resurfaced, sporting a battered, swollen face, she would tirelessly defend her husband’s actions.

“He was trying to protect his family. He is a caring man,” she pleaded.

Afterwards, everyone knew what would come after the persistent violence — a defensive tirade that left any sympathiser loaded with guilt.

Now, after each prolonged beating, nobody dared to speak out.

Life progressed. The assaults pursued.

It was only the heavy stench coming from her home that attracted the community and the suspicion. Then people started talking.

“I think something bad might have happened to her,” said one resident, addressing a gathering of concerned mothers.

They were right. Unfortunately, it was too late. That afternoon, the police arrived and excavated her decomposed remains for tests.

Later, they revealed it was a bullet that claimed her life, execution-style they said.

Not many were moved. The signs were always there. It was only a matter of time. When the moment came, no one was there to prevent it, as usual.

As you read this, the husband, the only suspect, is on the loose. Somehow, his actions were regarded as heroic by some. Why?

Violence has not ceased, even after her violent death.

She was another victim, murdered by her partner, a common and disturbing trend.

Then one day, the second chap got hold of his father’s whisky bottle.

“Father preferred whisky to lager,” he told his accomplice.

For years, it was safely secured like a gun, far away from the prying eyes of the youthful children. On that day, he forgot to secure it. The youngster pounced. He poured himself a generous portion, floated a few blocks of ice and a half-moon of lemon.

He sat with this pal and enjoyed the elusive pleasure his father had denied him previously. Under the shade, he enjoyed his newly found pastime.

“To a better and brighter life,” they dedicated their loot.

After he had his fill he topped it up with water. Father never noticed, so he indulged again. The drink became part of him, before and after school. He would trade in anything to get a sip of liquor, plus a joint to calm the nerves.

Years later, things changed dramatically. The local boys, the ones who called school a threat, had recruited him.

Smoking and ducking school were part of the game. They called it liberation from the chains of responsibility.

His life had been a predestined, miserable tale from the start. He joined the local gang and declared education an enemy of his future, and he was subsequently anointed the leader of the notorious gang.

But before he could become a permanent member, he had to prove himself, they insisted. The initiation involved inflicting as much pain as possible. He went a step further to prove his worth by slitting a throat and forcing himself on a juvenile, probably injecting the deadly virus, too. Afterwards, every misdeed became normal.

He only came down to Earth when the magistrate declared that people like him were a menace to the community because they were harmful to loyal citizens.

“You deserve to rot in prison for the rest of your life.”

His leg irons disturbed the silence. Her mother, too distraught to cry, followed his figure until he disappeared to the cells, a conclusion to another promising life.

• Derick Matsengarwodzi is a freelance journalist from Zimbabwe and he lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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