This is for you

2009-06-29 00:00

Ntombikile’s story

DOWN in the valleys and on the hills of Umsinga live me and my family. I remember when I first came to this place . It was on my wedding day, when I married Mpiyakhe Khumalo. Today it’s been 35 years and now I am all alone.

My husband went to work on the mines in Mpumalanga. They hired him on the day the mine supervisors came to this rural settlement. My husband was lucky to be chosen. Until today I don’t know where he disappeared to. I didn’t have the best education but because I was hungry for knowledge I took advantage of what Bantu education offered and because of that education I was better than many women in our village. I had one daughter, Nozithelo. After my pregnancy my husband vanished when he got that job. He didnt’ even know he had a daughter. All he knew was that I was pregnant, and maybe if he had been around I would have had another child.

But it’s not only my husband who left. It’s been 15 years since my daughter went to Johannesburg to seek greener pastures. I had many thoughts about my daughter when she left. I thought of her father and I thought of losing her as well but I told myself I am trusting my Lord.

Because my daughter had two children when she left at the age of 20 and we were becoming poorer, I could see the need for her to earn an income. Although I was selling sweet potatoes I was not earning much.

As I am thinking about this I am looking at the gate while lying on my bed. I can’t even lift myself up without the assistance of my grandchildren, who don’t know their mother and haven’t seen her in years.

I have decided to write my daughter a letter just in case she comes back when I am dead, so that they can give it to her. I trust her first born, Njabulo, who is 15 years old. He can plant and sow and sell vegetables in the community and buy groceries for me and his younger sister. I know if I die his sister won’t suffer because he is strong and can assist her.


Ntombikile’s letter to her daughter, Nozithelo

My daughter, I am writing you this letter, although I may be long gone when you receive it.

It’s been 15 years of waiting for you to come. I guess Johannesburg got the best of you, you even forgot about me and your poor children. Njabulo is really a strength. I wonder if you still remember him. You left me alone with your kids when you knew very well the hurt and the pain your father left me with when he decided not to come back. The endless tears at night. I wonder sometimes if you thought they were my hobby.

Your daughter is 13 now. She doesn’t have underwear. She wears her brother’s shorts. She even started her periods; in all that she is assisted by Njabulo.

We are still living in that muddy house you left us in, that your son repairs when the rain comes. What got into you? What about the Ten Commandments you learnt in Sunday school, was that also a waste of time? Do you still pray at night? You dishonoured me and betrayed my trust; at least I have your children. How could you make them suffer? They need you. When I named you Nozithelo I thought you would bear better fruit for this family, but that was just my wishful thinking.

Please come back home. Nobody in this place has seen you in ages. Do you have other children? Did you get married? If you find this letter when I am dead please come to my grave and tell me what happened to you. That is, if you ever come back.

I will ask Njabulo to put this letter under my wedding dress in the suitcase, that I saved for you to wear. That was my dream, to see you in it, but you shattered all my dreams when you disappeared. I died 15 years ago when you shadowed my world with your goodbye.

May God be with you wherever you are and may he touch your conscience and make you come back home to your children, they need you more than I do.

Your mother



Njabulo’s reply

I am standing at the head of the beautiful tombstone that you would have appreciated, made especially for you. It’s been 14 years since you passed away and our mother hasn’t returned. I am responding to your letter, which I opened when my sister Thembelihle got married. She wore your dress on her wedding day. We took it to the tailor’s for whitening and alterations because she was still tiny. She looked beautiful, just like you. I am now a qualified engineer. I took your advice; the more you suffer, the more you appreciate life. I got a bursary from our Lutheran Church, and Thembelihle is now an auditor.

I am not married yet. I am afraid of hurting the person I marry. When I see a woman angry I think of you and the tears you cried every night. During the time that we spent together, I can remember few times that I saw you smile. Its fills my heart with lots of pain. There is no muddy house now, it’s a double storey, the most beautiful house in our area.

We are both here and Thembelihle is crying, I am crying as well. All of this is for you.

About the author

THEMBELIHLE Kheswa was born in Umsinga and matriculated at Sarel Cilliers High School in Glencoe. She and her brother Njabulo both obtained student loans with the assistance of the Lutheran Church and she has a B.Tech in financial and strategic management and an advanced certificate in auditing from Unisa. She works as a senior consultant in auditing and finance analysis at Deloitte and Touche. She writes poems, books and educational stories for radio.


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