Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas From the Heart

It was in in 1982 that I found myself with not a penny to my name and it was the day before Xmas.  I was a single mother with two children and my son’s birthday was on Xmas day.  I was feeling terribly sad and not knowing what to do.  In a walk to the letterbox to check the mail with no thought in my mind, I opened the post box to find an envelope in it with a R100 check in it made out to me.  There was no sender and it was a bank cheque.
I drove my clapped out beetle, with no floorboards, so the children had to sit with their feet on the seats as we could watch the tar passing by as we drove and I went to the bank and asked them who had sent the check to me.  They told me that it was an anonymous gift.
That R100 made the most wonderful Christmas with food and presents including a special one for my birthday child.
I have never forgotten that Christmas donation and every Christmas since that day, I have found a family to repeat the gift that was given to me. 
It was also that Christmas that we started the tradition of no Christmas gifts for one another but rather a letter written to one another, recounting all the good things that that person had done or had meant to us during the year.  It sounds like a simple enough gift, but the letters took a long time to write because it had to incorporate everything good that had come from that person for the entire year.  The other rule was that the letter had to be handwritten and had to have a handmade envelope.
That Christmas tradition as a gift has been a tradition since 1982 – no Christmas presents for the three of us but a beautiful letter showing us what we mean to one another.
Getting these gifts of letters ready to be in time for Xmas has to be started on the 1st of December to be in time for the 25th.  The only gift that is given is to my son whose birthday he shares with Jesus.
Perhaps you may like to make this a tradition for your Christmas instead of buying into the commercial Xmas that most people turn into a frenzy of buying and over-eating.

I would like to wish you a Christmas that will be filled with good memories for years to come and that the new year brings you everything you need.  Merry Christmas!! 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Miracles from a Cloned Standard Bank Debit Card

I had my Standard Bank debit card cloned last week and every penny taken from my account.  The only thing that goes into that account is money for rent, my medical aid and for the medication that the medical aid does not pay.  I get my money from helping people write books, publishing books for others, writing and selling my own books and occasionally managing to sell one of the blankets that I crochet.  And then I get a disability grant from the government.  My children give me a little money towards my medical aid but I have to come up with the rest.  It is always a gut-wrenching and stressful time for me until I have the money I need in my account.  I had my money for the end of November when my card was cloned.
I, by habit and by nature am a giver and a helper and someone who never asks for anything.  I have been like this my whole life, believing that it is far better to love than to be loved.  That law of doing unto others as you would have done to yourself is engrained in me.  I find it very difficult to ask for help for anything.
In His wisdom, God taught me a lesson.  I had no way of getting the money for the end of November but I put my pride in my pocket on asked for help on FaceBook.  After all, I have over 1400 FaceBook friends, many that I have helped over the years.
A miracle has occurred.  Not only do I have money to pay Discovery, but I have money to pay for my medications and enough to pay half the rent.  I have no worries now because I know that God will use one of his angels on earth to come up with the difference, or Standard Bank will make good on my cloned card (They refused to refund me).  The real miracle is that those who gave me donations were those I have never helped before – they were all relative strangers, FB friends who just liked reading my posts.  Not one of those I had helped, helped me.  Our rewards come from the places and people we never expect it to come from.
I have learned a few lessons from this experience and the biggest one is that it is OK to ask for help when you need it.  It is not humiliating and embarrassing.  It is reaching out to another and accepting the help they offer.  I have even learned that people do remember help I have given, even if I don’t remember – I have had people say “You helped me once so now I can repay you”.   This has been an incredible experience for me.  From a total disaster, out came a rainbow of miracles.
I have also learned that I am loved as well – something I have never really felt. I am loved and I am lovable and I can ask for help – what a comforting revelation to me.   
So with something so evil as my bank card being cloned and my money stolen, God gave me back a thousandfold; not only in the donations from His earth angels but also with showing me the amazing experience of feeling loved and being able to ask for help.
To His earth angels – my deep gratitude and to Him – all glory! 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I Don't Know why I am in Prison

I don’t know why I am in prison
It was a cold, silent night.  The wind was whispering.  It was three in the morning and I was coming back from a tavern on my way home.  I could have taken a taxi but the street was empty.  Not even a shadow could be seen.  I could only hear the sound of dogs barking.
I had a bottle of Black Label beer in my right hand and a cigarette in my left.  I was talking to myself since there was no one to talk to.  I was so drunk that I couldn’t even see the road clearly.  While I was walking, I took five or three steps forward and then I stumbled on something.  At the time I didn’t know what it was since I wasn’t carefully looking and I didn’t mind looking around since I knew there was nothing except me on the road.  I fell on top of this thing.  I didn’t know what it was.  My Black Label bottle broke into pieces.  I don’t know where the cigarette ended up.  As I was trying to get up, my eyes fell on what I had fallen on top of.  My whole world stopped.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  I had fallen on top of a dead man.  He was stabbed to death.  I tried to stand up as fast as I could.  Then I saw someone appearing from a dark corner.  It was a tall, thin and dark lady.  She was young and beautiful.  I tried to approach her about this dead man but she ran to the closest house around when she set eyes on me.  I asked myself “What was she running from?”  She reached the door of the house and she didn’t hesitate to knock and she was crying and screaming for help.  “HELP HELP”  I could see in her eyes that she did not want me to get any closer to her.  As I set one-foot closer she was losing hope.  She was so scared as if she saw death coming her way. I tried to calm her down but she shouted, “Don’t come any closer to me, you killer”.   I tried to explain what happened.  The people in the house whose door she was knocking on came out and closer to hear what the young lady had to say.  I looked around and saw more and more people around me – more than I could count.   They were standing there as if they were ready to go to war.   They had assegais, garden picks and stones.  In an instant, I realized that this was mob justice.
I looked at myself and I was full of blood stains all over as if I was slaughtering a cow and there was a dead man lying next to me.  Anyone who was looking at the crime scene would say the broken bottle was the murder weapon. I heard an angry man’s voice saying catch that murderer and I was thinking if I run now I would look guilty in these people’s eyes and if I don’t run now I could be beaten to death and no one will ever hear the truth.  I felt like a moth who got himself close to the light except I didn't burn.  I turned cold.,  I could see the heavenly door open.  My death was around the corner.  Another mand shouted “POLICE”.  That was my chance of escaping.  The way the mob was standing the police could notice that there was something strange going on, so they stopped.  There were enough policemen to stop the mob's intentions, twelve vans one after the other.  I heard the sound of a door shut “bhar barh” and the mn approached the mob.  Everyone stood still and he asked what was going on.  Everyone answered at the same time as if everyone knew what was going on.  But the policeman asked a few volunteers to give statements at the police station.  Eleven people were available.   The police grabbed me and threw me into the back of a police van.   We reached the police station and I was thrown into a cell.  
There were two men in the cell.  One was under a blanket and the other was sitting as if folding himself into a corner.  They looked angry but tired at the same time.  These men were gangsters – I could tell just by looking at their faces.  Their faces were almost green, they had red eyes and deep scars on them.  I thought about greeting them first and then thought better of it because then they would think I am a coward.  They looked at me as though they were seeing a ghost.  One said ‘Yes?’.  I did not answer at first until the one who was under the blanket got up and came straight towards me and stopped when there was only one step between us.  He said, “Yes, bathi ungubani wena?” (Yes, who are you?). I replied that I was Luvvuyo and his response was nothing but a prepared fist on my face.  I stood there thinking should I fight back, but he released another right fist.  This time I was aware of it and I hit him back with a right to his chin.  He fell and I kicked him in his stomach.   Immediately the police were inside the cell.  They pulled me out and kicked me into a deep sleep.  The police threw a glass of water into my face to wake me up.  When I got up I was in the interrogation room.  There was a huge white man standing in front of me.  He was wearing a black suit, saying “You are in deep shit son”.   I tried to find out what he was talking about but he told me that he asks the questions and I am the one to do the answering.
He took out the tape recorder and a few sheets of paper and asked me, ‘What can you tell me about three o[clock in the morning?”  I told him that I knew nothing about what happened.  He hit me and said, “Tell the truth”.  I replied as loud and as clear as I could, “I don’t know”.  Then he told me that I was going to be charged for two serious cases of murder and Assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm because the man I kicked in the stomach was in the hospital because I broke his rib.  I did not have a statement for the murder case because they would not believe anything I said and I asked myself why can’t anyone believe me?  Was it because of the color of my skin and why would anyone want to lock me up and for what?  But the man interrogating me pulled out the papers, took my fingerprints and took me to the back of the van.  They drove straight to court.  We got to court, they called my name “Luvuo Lukas” and I stood up.  The magistrate looked at me through his glasses.  While I was standing I saw how respectful everyone was towards him.  Everyone stood up and waited for permission to sit down. 
The magistrate raised his voice and said, “Simphewe Nomfazi, you are charged with murder and assault GBH.  What can you tell me about this?”
“I know nothing about murder and the assault was self-defense”
Luckily, the man who had folded himself in the corner was also a victim, his rights were also abused by the man I assaulted and he was there to witness my statement.  The assault case was then over but what was not over was the murder case.  They asked me if I wanted a lawyer and I said no.  Time flue, days died and weeks vanished doing the same thing over and over again until the last day of the case arrived.   It was 8 o’ clock on a Friday morning and I arrived in a police van.  When I looked outside the court was full of people from the community.  They were protesting, caring written cardboards with “Arrest the murderer”,  and that was when I knew that I was no longer safe in the community anymore.  I thought about my life and how cruel the world is, my life just vanished in front of me.
The trial began.  I stood up when they called my name.  The prosecutor asked me if I was ready to say something.  I did not respond.  I looked at him and I saw nothing but a fallen angel standing in the presence of God, acting like he cared while he only cared about was his salary at the end of the month.  The prosecutor called witnesses and nine of them were available, including the lady I saw that early morning when I tripped over the dead man.
The lady was the first to climb the state.  The prosecutor convinced her to tell the court the whole story.  She was prepared and ready to bring me down – what for?  I don’t know.  I never knew the lady, she did not know me either.  I heard her telling the court how badly I stabbed the deceased and I wanted to kill her too and that is when she ran to the closest house around and I had tried to get to her too.  People in the house she ran to get up so did the community.  Everyone after her agreed on what she had said.  And they asked me again, “Sir, can’t you tell us anything and I said “no”.  The judge called for teatime and everyone stood up and were dismissed.  While I was waiting for the break to end I thought what am I going to do or say to convince the court and prove that I am not guilty.  I was losing because everyone was against me.  I was alone in this situation and had no one to talk to while I was thinking.
 A policeman came and said, “Come forward sir, you need to finish what you have started”. Who started this, I thought.  Now I have to finish it. I felt like Jesus because I was dying for somebody else’s sin.
The judge called me forward.  He said, “Simphewe Nomfazi, you were too drunk to remember stabbing someone because you were drinking irresponsibly.  He convinced me to understand that he is not doing this for anyone but myself and the community.  And I thought “This is it now”.  My mind was all over the place and I couldn't feel my body.  I had a feeling that something bad was coming my way.  Five minutes after the magistrate said silence in court, he said, “Simphewe Nomfazi, I sentence you to ten years imprisonment for murder”.
I could not believe what I had heard.  I  did not know what to say or to whom.  All I knew was that I was going to prison for not knowing anything about the dead man.  I climbed on the back of the police truck and was taken to St Alban’s prison in Port Elizabeth.  When I got to the reception the warder who was working there asked me what I was arrested for.  I gave him the ticket and he saw every detail he was expecting.  But when I got to the cell, they asked me the same questions.  I told them the truth.  I don’t know what I was punished for.  Now I have to spend most of my days in prison, while the murderer is walking free out there and what was the difference between me and the murderer?  The only difference is the murderer knew exactly what happened and I didn't know nor do I know to this day.
I have changed the name of the prisoner.  The story is in his own words. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Rape in Prison

 This story is in the prisoner’s own words.  I have kept his name secret for obvious reasons.  

It all happened so fast, the day of my arrest and the pain of my life.  It was on the 5th October when I was remanded in custody for a warrant of arrest on my pending case, which was for armed robbery.  We were all pushed into one big truck, which is called “umgqomo” (rubbish bin).  We arrived at the West Bank Trial in East London, then the Correctional Officials locked us up in a cell called the “Court Cell” for more than several hours without water or food.  Just after “Phaka” time, which is also known as supper time or dish up time, we were all stripped searched, as they divided us into different sections. I was placed in C-Unit, well-known as the rich gang’s section.  Everything happened in that section and all the so-called fat cats, the top dogs, were staying there.  At our arrival in the unit, you could literally hear the guys making remarks like “You are mine tonight”, “Come stay with me, I’ll make you a queen, baby”.  The fear started to build up inside of me.  I couldn’t hear anything else because the fear was so much that I blocked my ears.  My heart was beating so fast that I could feel it in my throat.  We stood for a while in the front of the office while the wardens were sorting out the totals for each cell in that section, trying to balance their books so that they put more in the cells where there was the fewest number of prisoners.  Eventually, they put me in Cell 10.  I can remember everything like it was yesterday.  I got into the cell with absolutely nothing except for a toilet roll, toothbrush, body soap and one single sheet to sleep with.  The wardens locked me in that cell.  The öuens”were already standing, aware of the “stimella” arriving.  One of the men that were hanging around in the toilet told me to enter the room and stand behind the door.  I did as I was told.  While I was standing behind the door, two guys came towards me, bearing in mind all the noise I heard while I was outside.  The cell disappeared.  It was absolutely silent.  Everybody was sitting on their beds.  The two guys stood in front of me.  One of them greeted me in Tsotsi language and asked me for my name.  I told them.  They asked to which gang or group I belong to in here.  I said to none so they told me who they were and to which gang/organization they belonged to.  It was their job, they said, to make sure that I did not have any sharp or dangerous weapon that could be a threat to their organization and they dealt strictly with money, matches and any kind of thing that could be smoked, dagga, tobacco, and cigarettes.  I told them that I had nothing.  After that they told me to wait there, the.  They went back down the passage and disappeared into one of the passages on the right, a few seconds later they stood in the middle of the passaged and call out Hom, Hosh, tow men from the left side of the passage appeared and stood in front of the two men that were already standing there.  I just saw hands coming up and signs were being made.  I couldn't hear a single word that was said. These men disappeared back into those passages and then suddenly two men from the left side of the passage came marching towards me and gave me instructions to follow them.  I went with them.   I followed until they entered the last passage (Dzegang) on their left.  They ordered me to take a seat on one of the beds, opposite the one where a very dark in complexion man sat.  I sat, holding my prison stuff in my hand.  The man in front of me said “Welcome to Gormorro.  I was confused and afraid as I sat there, a million things running through my mind.   This black man started a conversation with me while he was rolling something that looked like a dagga roll.  He asked me if I smoke and without thinking, I said yes.  The man that had brought me from standing behind the door to this cell vanished for the longest time.  I tried to gather my thoughts.  I could not get my mind straight or clear because I had seen that the whole passage, left and right, was covered with curtains (Udiyadiayas).  You could literally not see a thing behind the closed curtains.
 Eventually, this black man sitting across from me this long thick zoll (thick dagga roll); as thick as my thumb.  He told me his name was Zorro and then gave me the zoll.  I tried to hold it still because my hands were shaking so badly.  I brought it close to my lips, took a long deep puff, inhaled and kept it in for a few seconds before I blew the smoke out.  I could feel that this was a good joint of the first grade.  I started to relax and enjoyed the zoll.  I started talking freely and before I realized it, it was dark outside.  The roll was near the end.   Zorro told me that I should not worry about anything and that whatever I wanted or whatever problem I had, I should speak to him.  He told me that from now onwards I would sleep on the bed I was sitting on.   He told me to kick off my shoes and relax on the bed.  He got up from his bend, and from underneath his bed, he pulled out a box.  Inside were clothes.  He took out a pair of shorts and a red t-shirt and told me that I could wear the clothes so long because the clothes I was wearing needed to be washed.  He gave me a face towel and soap, which was Lux soap, not the same type of soap I had got from the office.  I took the things from him and then he shouted for Samora, who was the man who had brought me to his door.  He told Samora to show me the shower and to give me the run down on all I needed to know while I was showering.  I followed Samora to the bathroom, all the while listening to the do’s and don’ts.  I took off my filthy stinking clothes that I had been wearing and sleeping in.  They were disgustingly dirty from sleeping on old sponge mattresses and dirty blankets from the charge office cell.  I got into the shower, opened the hot water to check the temperature and to my surprise the water was cold.  However, I continued to stand under the tap, applied soap in the face towel and started washing myself in that cold water.  For a moment my mind was taking me for a ride.  I could hear all those remarks playing over and over in my head.  “Jy’s myne vanaand, jou mooi ding”,  (You are mine tonight you lovely thing) and all those other nasty comments.   I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind as I hurried up and got myself dried with that little face cloth and into the clothes Zorro had given me.  I took my stinking clothes and threw them into a bucket I saw standing there and washed my clothes.  I then hung them from the window.  I went back into the room.  Most were in their beds, some were playing cards, others were playing a game called stokes.  As I got into the passage where Zorro slept, I saw bread on my bed and a small bottle of cola.  Zorro told me that it was for me.  I looked at him and thanked him.  I took the plastic with the bread in it and sat down and ate the bread because I was so hungry and thirsty from the dagga zoll I had smoked.  When I was done eating and drinking, Zorro told me to look underneath my pillow.  Underneath the pillow were three cigarettes and matches.  Zorro said that they were for me in case I got a craving while he was asleep. I wondered why this man was being so friendly to me.  Maybe he is just a friendly person I thought to myself.  I kicked off my shoes, reclined on the bed and lit a cigarette.  Zorro rolled another zoll and lit it.  By then I had finished my cigarette. 
As I lay on my bed, my mind was just not in a right state of mind.  I replayed the time I was in court when I entered the finishing cell, the guys robbing the people in that cell and the attack on the people who would refuse to be searched.  The person refusing to be searched would be kicked until he collapsed.   Zorro called out “skuif”and when I looked at him he handed the zoll over to me.  I took the zoll and smoked it finished.  That was the last thing I remember as I lay on my back.  When I looked up all I could see were two rows and a mattress.  I must have fallen asleep.  
As long as I live, I will never forget what happened next.  I felt something heavy on top of me.  When I tried to move, I heard a voice whispering in my ear, “If you move one more time you are dead”.  Immediately I opened my eyes.   I felt this hot, hard pole, that felt like a penis, touch my bum.  I realized that I was naked, my shorts and underpants had been pulled off of me without me feeling anything.  I tried to move in a way of pushing Zorro off me.   I felt an ice cold, sharp knife against my neck.  “If you want to die, make one more move”.
I was very scared and I lay dead still.  He forced his penis into my anus.   It was so sore that I wanted to scream, but his hand was over my mouth.  I did not know what to do.  The tears rolled down my cheeks as he continued hammering his penis into me.  I felt like it was the end of my life.  Until today I feel ashamed.  I feel guilty because I should have known better than taking things from Zorro.  For days it was difficult for me to go to the toilet.  Blood would come out with every bowel movement.  My whole backside would burn.  I could not work properly. 
The morning after the rape, Zorro told his fellow prisoners that I was not feeling well, so when the wardens came to count us before they gave out breakfast, they reported me as being sick.  I did not feel well and was so weak, it was difficult to walk.  For days I lay there on my bed; hopeless, helpless and lost.  I lay on that bed for days.  Zorro threatened me that if I said a word, he would make my life miserable and I would regret having put my foot in prison. 

Ever since that day, I have kept this as my secret.  I am sharing this with you, Dianne, because I feel I can trust you.  You have made me realize that I am carrying a heavy burden.  This is the most painful story that has happened in my life.  I now feel light and free because I have shared this secret with you. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Kite Flew Me!

Yesterday I managed to get into and out of the bath on my own – and got myself dressed.  That was an unexpected small miracle.  One of the small miracles I have wanted for a long time is to learn to fly a kite and yesterday was the day!!   The wind had come out and Patrick took me into the park to show me how it is done.  The only problem was that it was not small kite, but a 2m one.  No worries, I said…full with enthusiasm and confidence.  “Babe, this kite is a professional kite.  They use these things for kite surfing”, said, my dear husband.  “Don’t worry – we can handle this”, I responded.   He gave me two strings with straps as handles and told me to hold them tight, so I wound them around my wrists and had them firmly gripped in my hands. I sat down on the park bench, smiling away at the passers-by and not paying too much attention.  He walked down the length of the strings to the kite, did some adjusting and then lifted it. 
With no warning, the kite took off with me being pulled right off the park bench and touching the ground now and again for about 30 meters, landing with quite a thud on the grass.  I did not fly the kite.  The kite flew me!!  And to add insult to injury, I had landed in a patch of dobbelintjies (small star-shaped thorns).

But I am not giving up – Patrick will find me or build me a smaller kite, one that I can be in control of.  I will still learn to fly a kite, but this time I will make sure it is a kite for a child and not a professional surf jumping kite.   I might not have flown my kite yet, but I am still winning.  I will get up again and learn to fly a kite

Monday, November 13, 2017

I am Still Winning

I had a few small miracles I wanted in my life before I die – one of them was to swing on a swing and feel the wind blow my hair back.  This weekend I did that – it was not quite what I had imagined, but I went for a swing in the park.  I had been sleeping for most of my days over the previous week, but that need to swing was overpowering.  There are other small miracles I want; like learning to fly a kite.  That will have to wait a while.
This morning I decided I would bath, knowing my nurse was in the house, I thought I could do it alone.  I got in slowly, sat on my knees and then slid each leg out from under me and I bathed.  But I could not get out.  I tried and tried and then I started shouting for Vimbai.  She was outside and did not hear me.  So I sat in that bath, every now and then attempting to get out on my own.  I lost the battle, shouting once more for Vimbai.  She came and it was a struggle for even the two of us to get me out.  I was exhausted to the point that she had to dry me, dress me and put me back in bed.

Another piece of my independence has gone and I value my independence so much.  
And I cry for one more thing I can’t do on my own.  There is less and less I can do on my own and for myself.  Many say miracles can happen and I could be healed, but I no longer believe that.  It is what it is.  That is why my miracles are small; like swinging and flying a kite.   I am more determined than ever to die on my own terms.  I will not allow myself to be totally dependent on others for my every breath, nor am I prepared to suffer what is insufferable.  But until then, I will continue to write and to connect to others via social media.  While I can still do that, I am still winning. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Small Dreams

Chronic illness is one of the most isolating experiences.  You become isolated because people just do not understand your reality.  They slowly move out of your life and get on with the lives that you used to be part of.  You feel left behind.  I am not lonely, but I am alone in this reality of mine.
People don’t understand me anymore – we talk past one another.  They have no idea of what my reality is like, but I remember what the reality of a healthy person is.  I hang my head in shame now that I remember my chronically ill grandmother and how little attention I paid to her.  She just could not leave her bed so did not take part in any family activities and would lie in a darkened room day after day.  Yes, I remember bathing her and sitting and talking to her as a young adult, all the while hoping that the visit could be over.   I understand now how isolated and neglected and starved of human company she was.    I have social media but in those days, there was no such thing.  How lonely she must have been.
Words cannot describe the horror of waking up sick every day and of being sick every minute of every day.  Some days are better than others.  Some days I can handle the pain but I get those days when I think I can’t take it anymore and just want to end it all. 
Miracles do happen and I am defying the odds to become part of the “normal” world again.  The verdict of “there is no cure” just refuses to sink into my brain to take me to a place of acceptance.  Every day I live by grace, minute by minute and some days hour by hour.  How I wish I could go to a park and swing like a child again, to walk on the sand picking up bits of driftwood and seaweed or to learn to fly a kite.  My dreams are no longer big dreams but rather dreams of normal things that I know will lift my spirits.  I know I won’t be able to walk on a beach again, but I could sit and watch the waves.  I know that I could be taken to a park and I know I could sit on a swing and soar through the air as though I have no care in the world and I know that I could be taught to fly a kite.  

But who will take me?  Who will teach me?  Who will hold my hand while I pursue these dreams of mine?