Tragedy permeates Lower Crossroads, even as it is Women’s Day and have barely sat down to chat with Vuyo Ma-awu.
Vuyo tells me that someone has just been shot in the vicinity in broad daylight.
“It happened 10 minutes ago and the sad thing is that the victim is someone who is advanced in years. Nobody knows the perpetrator/s or why(the man was killed).
Affectionately called ‘Mqeqeshi’ by acquaintances, he continues: “Gunshots are the order of the day here, be it day or night, and it does not shock us anymore. You just wonder who it is this time around.”
I wince in disgust, before realising we have an interview at hand.
“Vuyo is a big dreamer,” went the refrain in a former TV advert.
However big he dreamt, our Vuyo also had a childhood dream; alas, all seemed to go up in smoke.
Time was when his presence on the soccer playing field struck fear in the hearts of opponents.
He was doing amateur duty for Green Lovers FC.
He sliced through rivals’ r defences like a hot knife would do butter.
The sight was one to behold.
Then he was spotted and invited for trials at Moroka Swallows juniors.
Suffice to say he must thought this was his ticket to football superstardom.
But fate has a way of dealing harshly with some boys’ dreams.
Thus: “Unfortunately, they did a scan of the bones in my body and they discovered that I had a knee injury, although I felt perfectly fine at the time.”
Vuyo was so flummoxed he resorted to blaming extra natural forces for his woes.
“That explains why I thought I was bewitched. When I came back from Jozi, my interest in football waned. I mean, it was clear to see that I was going nowhere with football. To this day, the twitching of my knee is a sad reminder of what could have been.”
He reminisces a lot these days.
“Soccer was the glue that held the community of Lower Crossroads together; when fathers sacrificed their time to watch their sons having a ball, so to speak.
“Chesa Mpama FC coach Bra Joe Matroshe, would not stand on the touchlines to issue instructions without having taken a few puffs of the holy herb first. A lot of the older folk were passionate about the game and their mission was to inspire the youth. Not to mention the Easter Tournament, courtesy of Umhlobo Wenene and Arrive Alive – they were a huge hit with the locals.”
These Easter Tournaments won Umhlobo Wenene a lot of hearts and minds in the area, and gained for itself a lot of listenership, as the games were broadcast live. On the other hand, Arrive Alive used these gatherings as a platform to send road safety messages.
Vuyo laments the sad state of the local stadium, which has deteriorated over the years, and, along with it, the dreams of many kids.
“I feel so bad about the lack of sporting facilities here because what it has led to is a situation where, every Saturday, we are burying a young person. Criminals are the role models now.”
The 27-year-old says he has tried to reach out to the authorities regarding the ruins, to no avail.
Presently, Vuyo is the founder of CA Entertainment, whose primary focus is to stimulate a love of the arts among the youth.
The challenge, though, he adds, is lack of adequate facility, as they are forced to utilise the premises of Beautiful Gate- an interdenominational Christian organisation providing care and support to vulnerable children and families in Philippi East- for their activities.
His view on education is an interesting, for he holds that not everyone is cut out to succeed academically.
He says those who are good at drawing portraits or singing should be given the space to perfect their skills.
“We are misleading the little ones, to a certain extent. The popular rhetoric is that education is the key to open the doors of life and that, without it, we are doomed. Kids grow up with the mentality that education can only be earned at school, failing which, you have no life. My belief is that education starts at home. It’s sad that parents don’t support their kids in their extramural activities. Our art sessions have a high rate of absenteeism because parents just don’t understand what this ‘art thing’ is.
They lose it when the kid comes back from a rehearsal at 8pm,”.
At CA Entertainment, he says they organise all sorts of events, but more especially those where art is concerned. “We have disco lights and sound systems. We also organise venues for people’s events so that the event can be a success. I work closely with Aaron Tywabi and the challenge we had was that people in this community wanted to perform. They wanted to join groups. That led to us opening an art group – which started exclusively as a poetry group – called Revolutionary Poetry Movement Club. We do contemporary dance, sport and music (mostly acapella). That’s one group where we can accommodate everyone in Lower Crossroads, but since the people here aren’t that active, we also have members from townships like Nyanga, Gugulethu, Philippi and Kraaifontein.”
Charity begins at home, and in father Ndabazelizwe Ma-awu and mother Isabel Ma-awu (née Jele), he had parents who ensured he never went astray.
The 8pm curfew had to be adhered to, and in winter, he had to scurry home as soon as darkness fell.
He expresses his gratitude for this kind of upbringing.
“Their guidance saved me from a lot of bad stuff. Things are hard when you are not from a well-off family. I saw this when I was playing for Santos juniors, alongside teammates that were of different races. The coloured and white guys would have their parents watching them from the stands. These parents would contribute to the team’s affairs, so because of that, you’d find a player playing ahead of you even though you were better than him. My parents favoured schooling above all else.”
Things were not always rosy, though, growing up.
“Back in 2002, a Coca Cola truck was robbed just behind Phakama High School, by thugs brandishing AK 47 rifles.
Learners stood behind the fence, and people were throwing cases of drinks to them ... No one thought about the effect this would have on the reputation of the Kasi,” shares Vuyo.
For the past two years, he and his team have been running June 16 events at the local community hall.
Last year they worked closely with Malusi ‘Mahoyi’ Dantile, popular for his brainchild called Kasi Village, which is an entertainment hub.
“We invited budding businesspeople from the area to come and sell their stuff and display their brands.
From the guy who does tattoos to the woman who makes beads and the gogo who knits for a living, they were all there in numbers.
We want to continue with the legacy of the 1976 youth. They fought for a better education and the message we are trying to drive now is that people need to be engaged in positive things. Don’t rely on government. Stand up and do something. That’s what successful people do.
Such is his determination, that he lets on that plans are afoot for poetry sessions once a week as a way to awaken the consciousness of the young in the area. He is appealing to community leaders to grab the opportunity to get involved and support a cause that has the potential to woo the youth and pluck them from the troubled streets.
“We want young people to come on stage and read short stories to the audience, read poems and dance.”
“The youth must fight for a better future, not for girls. It’s scary how it seems we don’t fear HIV/Aids.
If you do not fear HIV/Aids, then you should not fear striving towards a brighter future.”
After the interview, as I hop onto a “cockroach” taxi. The driver shakes his head from side to side.
I ask why the long face and it emerges that he’s shaken by the news of the earlier shooting, having just passed by the scene. He informs me the victim’s body was still lying on the road, some distance from his car, and that he’d been shot in the head.
Yeyele noko madoda.
Its the case for Lower Crossroads.