The Books | The Poetry | The Stories / Journey to Recovery
Mmamotšatši / by Elizabeth Magakoa
Go rilwe ke a ratwa,
Mme ka mimiela,
Ka bitšwa ka Mmamoratwa,
Bothata bja tšwa ka kgoro,
Ke nna Mmamotšatši.
Le le lešweu ke le apere,
Dipholo tša wa ka lefase,
Melodi le mekgolokwane tša kedietšwa,
Ka tšwešwa ntepa le thito.
Moya wa lethabo,
Bohle ba be bathabile,
Go thabile le mongmabu,
Mabu a tlala ka monola wa megokgo.
Matlaba a nkaparetše,
Matlaba ke ge ke sa bone,
Yeo ke nyetšego le yena.
Bošego le mosegare,
Go yena go no itshwanela.
Naa ke tla leka bjang?
Maleka ga se makgona,
Go kgona ke ge nka leka,
Ke wa ke tsoga,
Etse mosadi ke maano.
O šetše a fetogile lefela,
Ke no dula ke le lefela,
Ke aparetšwe ke bohlologadi,
Dikobo tša gona ke tše ditšhweu,
Ke nna “uzilile”
Diporogwana di tsena di e tšwa,
Go botšiša ke a botšiša,
Ke fetolwa ke legoswi,
Bobete bo ikalele lepai,
Naa ke bolai mang?
Se sola ke ya sola,
Empa diruiwa di šetše di ena le mogopo ka gaka,
Naa waka monna o bitšwa ke eng?
Motsotso ka motsotso o dula a kitima.
Ruu…ri! Nakana mosadi wa nkhakhara.
Maropeng go a boelwa,
Matswele a Mmathari ga ana hloya.
Lesedi ntlhahle ditsela,
“Nkabe ke ngwana morago”.
The Noose / by Leah Gharbaharan
Because he looked at me with love;
Possession and adrenaline entwined.
Because he said the pain was a trophy
Like i was his.
Because when he looked at me;
His eyes were my addiction.
The fix that gave me reason to live
As i died in his gaze.
i cherished the smear he placed
On my life.
On my skin.
On my mind.
Because i thought the death he gave me
Was worth more than the life i owned
The blinding halo he wore became
My tightening noose.
And i choked on my own fragility;
The shattered crystal
Refusing to see the resolute fragments
Of who i am.
Because one day she spoke to me;
Told me to destroy my puppet life.
And i did.
And she smiled.
Through the scarred remains of her face
Smiled even as I shattered the mirror.
Because the hostage died that night
And she lived again.
Because she emerged from the ruins
I live again.
Harass’n’ my Ass / by Duduetsang Makuse
You holler at me as though I was some hoe
I can’t stroll through this street
I can’t cut past this corner
You insult me with your declarations of a vain affection
Wooing me with woe
You’ve never known treasure so you chase after a fraudulent figment
Slippin’ a slimy “sweety” in my ear
Placin’ a bad breathed “baby” on my butt
Ogling me with your fingers while you fondle me with your eyes…
You grab me with your claws in an attempt to caress my skin
You desire my death, the death of my soul…
The deranged, darkening soul’s peerin’ at me through your eye holes
Tellin’ me that I should be afraid…
That I should fear this power-hungry shell that is emptiness
Emptiness that is you,
You wish to turn your hollers into my horror.
What is this holocaust of harassment?
Demeaning the bloody sweat of those who laboured for this freedom
The same freedom you tried to rob me of when you tried to
invade my body
You want to imprison me in a dungeon of violation
Of Violence born of Lust:
This is a perverse pus that festers in the pants of many a
My face, My waist, My thighs – Mine
My smile, My heart, My mind – Mine
My joy, My affection, My strength – Mine
Mine, mine, all mine.
This self that is only be shared at my discretion
How DARE you harass my ass!
My Healer in Thee / by Boitumelo Lekalakala
Never did I think that the one person that I had dedicated my life to,
for happy days and sad ones, would ever lay his hands on me. Only,
I thought, he would do so to caress me and keep me safe, warm and
loved. But no, his intentions were to bruise me, hurt and devalue my
being and for long he did succeed. I got beaten up almost every day of
my life for small, stupid and selfish reasons. Reasons that even a ten year
old would not dare to believe. But because he was the provider and so, I
thought, I would never succeed without Thabo, I stayed there for years.
I remember that one day when he came back from work he beat me up
so badly with the suitcase he was carrying that my entire body felt numb.
For what? Because he had to knock twice instead of once before I could
open the door.
Immediately after that he told me that he was coming back and that I
should prepare a meal for him. I was so badly hurt, I was wondering why
I let a five-lettered-named man overpower me. I mean, I am Cynthia,
I have seven letters to my name, which is two more than him. “The
things I said to empower myself”. Anyway, that made me tick because I
knew that seven is a very powerful number and of great importance. On
the seventh day God rested after creating his masterpieces, and so forth.
These things are things that I used to tell myself. One might think they
are stupid but they are the ones that slowly but surely boosted the little
bit of confidence I had.
The moment I took out the pots a silly thought came to my mind, but
it made me aware that I also had my own sort of power. So I decided to
follow it. I went to the bathroom, opened the toilet seat and drew water
from the toilet. It went straight into the pots. Then I started cooking with
joy in my heart plus a feeling of power. My intentions were never to harm
Thabo’s health or anything; I just felt that I also had power. I was not
feeling any numbness anymore, but power, just power. I cooked like I’d
never cooked before. I made a salad that just popped in my mind. I fried
the chicken and spiced it like I had never spiced it before. The vegetables,
mmm, were such a pleasure to the eye. I’m sure the neighbours could
hear and smell what I was cooking and probably thought that Thabo
and I had fixed things. Then he came back, with such pride. I took out
a loaf of bread, sliced and buttered it and made a cup of tea. I dished
up for him and I ate the bread while he ate the delicious meal cooked
by his wife. Observing that I was having bread instead, he said, “That is
how real women live, with bread and tea and their husbands with meat, I
guess you are not so dumb after all”. I smiled, knowing exactly how that
meal was prepared and the power that I had in my hands.
I continued cooking for him every day in the very same manner, going to
the bathroom, opening the toilet seat and drawing water from there to
cook. I actually started enjoying cooking and, for the mere fact that I was
preparing delicious meals around that time, I got fewer beatings. But the
point is that they were still there. That Sunday, I felt like going to church
and it was no surprise that Thabo wanted to walk me to the gate, “So
that I would not look at other men”. At the gate seeing the priest, Father
Mthethwa, passing by, Thabo greeted him, “Yes, small boy”. And the
priest just greeted him back appropriately and continued walking. I sang
like I had never sang before on that Sunday. It was probably because of
the little power I felt around that time. For some reason, that very same
day they wanted volunteers to cook for the next Friday’s meeting, and so
forth. I laughed to myself, thinking of how I prepared meals back at my
house and how someone enjoys them dearly. I decided to join, “since I
had become a good cook these days” and was enjoying it. I actually went
home fulfilled that day.
After church, I went straight home because I did not want Father
Mthethwa to ask me anything about the way Thabo had greeted him.
Arriving home I knew what I had to do. Cook. Amazingly, it felt so
wrong for me to draw water from the toilet. The thought felt disturbing.
I cooked but with clean water and although that meant that I was letting
go of my power over Thabo I still felt good about cooking. So this time
I dished up for both of us as the food was clean. But I got a beating for
I forgot that my meal was bread and tea. The week commenced like it
usually did, with me getting my punishment every now and then. We
cooked on Friday, when Father Mthethwa gave us a proposal. He was
given a catering tender and was looking to hire individuals who were not
working to be in charge. I joined, which meant that I was now employed.
Arriving home I told Thabo and got a beating for that.
The next morning I had to ask for money from my husband so that I
could take a taxi to our catering venue. He kicked, slapped and punched
me badly. I was crying and the more I cried the more he kicked. He
told me that I should go and sleep with Father Mthethwa since he was
making me ask for money from my husband in order to see him. He
punched me like I was a punching bag, swore at me and left for work.
I lay there crying and told myself that I did not need him, I could take
myself there. I took my apron and walked, walked and walked. Luckily,
one of the members of the church passed me on the way and helped
me there. Everything went well but when I got home I found my bags
waiting for me at the gate. I picked them up and went slowly with my
heart in my hands to the house. When I opened the door I just heard
“Foetsek! Go back to that Father of yours”. I turned immediately, fearing
for my life, took my bags and walked and walked and walked. I had no
idea where I was going but kept on taking a break to relax a little. While
I was relaxing I starting thinking about my life and started crying my
heart out. I felt lost and hopeless. A young man passed by, recognised
me from church and asked me what was wrong. He took me in his car
to Father Mthethwa’s home. I was not ready to talk but they gave me a
back room to sleep in.
In the morning, Father asked me if I still wanted to join them in the
catering project and I insisted “Yes”. We arrived there and I behaved
normally and enjoyed preparing the meals. Every day went by like this
but every night I cried myself to sleep. I would wake up the next day
and go and cook with the other women, and immediately when I got my
hands on the pots I felt a sense of relief. Unaware, I was slowly opening
up to the women I was working with, especially when I was chopping
and peeling. At the end of the month, I had revealed all I had kept inside
and was ready to succeed as the best cook ever. I was missing Thabo, but
I took it one step at a time. But I thank him, because it was through him
that I discovered that the pot is my best friend.
Here, I am / by Kazeka Mashologu-Kuse
I have never forgotten the first time I saw an erect penis. I’d never seen
my dad’s or anyone else’s before. My parents had shielded me well from
sexual difference. It’s strange that after all these years I still remember
his penis. I could describe it in court if I had to, in detail: its length, its
anaconda size surrounded by its pubic bush, its smell and its serpent-like
It angers me sometimes that I remember the graphic details of his penis,
yet I can’t describe the memories of molestation in consecutive detail.
The memories themselves are fragmented components of the whole
experience of being molested – approximately five years, falsifying my
Sipho is the one I remember the most, as he was my most frequent
molester. Never mind the many others during his time that followed to
investigate my body, my vagina: its clitoris, its floods and its hole. My
breasts: their nipples, their circles, their density – falsifying my body’s
I’ve fantasised about taking him to court but I know the frenetic manner
of my memories would render a “not guilty” verdict. “I’ll allow her
sexual history,” I imagine the male judge saying. I feel like Khwezi in the
Jacob Zuma rape trial – silenced before you’ve spoken, seen as a political
conspirator instead of as a rape victim. Law and justice are two different
coins. We deserve more.
I’ve been waiting patiently, angrily, shamefully, sadly for you, My
Frequent Molester, to say: “I am sorry. I’m sorry that I began the
journey of violating you. Because of my underhanded fingers all over
your holy body, you attracted further down the path predators of your
flesh. Because of me, you dated sexually abusive men because that’s the
energy I gave you. Even when I was seducing you, an eight-year-old
girl, to touch my seventeen-year-old penis, I was slowly seducing you to
penetration. My strategy was becoming increasingly intense as the years
went by. Now I was making you watch pornography every weekend. I
was pushing the boundaries; I had gotten away with much more already.
Before I was done with my plan, you left for another town. I had thought
of raping you – gently. You might have been a prostitute, for you had
thought of becoming one since I had taught you your worth is in your
sexuality. When I made you watch that porn again and again, you began
to believe that female slavery was female sexuality. Had I raped you, you
might have acted on that ‘prostitutional’ thought.
“I told you many times you were fat; you tried diet after diet in your
teenage years but the energy of my words reverberated in your being.
Your diets were unsuccessful because your fridge had become your
psychiatrist. You unconsciously moved from a size 32 to 38. Your friends
called you plumpy and round like an African woman, when in fact your
weight spoke volumes of your silent pain.
“I am sorry that I invited all three of my younger brothers to join me in
exploring your body. We’d investigate you one by one as the colonist, Jan
van Riebeeck, investigated the lands of the Cape. No more the lands of
KwaZulu, now it was Natal. No more the lands of amaXhosa, it became
the Transkei. The territories of the motherland had been annexed. I had
annexed the territory of your body. The maps of Africa had been revised.
I revised the maps of your destiny.
“I am sorry, because of me, you attracted a sexually abusive man. At
eighteen you thought you were in love, but you were actually responding
to the reincarnation of me. This time, I gave you more than just sexual
abuse – I gave you ‘the disease’. Had I not started this experimentation
on your body, you probably would have never been attracted to him to
begin with. I am sorry that I contributed to that disastrous script of your
“I am sorry that I robbed you of creating your own life’s script. In
violating your body I violated your body’s wisdom. You feared your own
body instead of revering it as an instrument guided by your spirit. You
feared your greatness.”
It’s only a play in the stage of my mind, My Frequent Molester apologising.
He would have to be highly enlightened to understand the magnitude
of his actions and the multi-layered effects of it. I want to hate you but
hate would turn me into Mugabe, Hitler or Verwoerd. By the words
of Tsitsi Dangarembga in Nervous Conditions: “I feel many emotions”
– unforgiveness is the one that scares me the most.
In the play I would say: “Thank you. I’d blamed myself all these years.
I thought my body, by virtue of its make, was a shame. I thought my
vagina, because it was a vagina, was offensive. I thought my vagina meant
‘penisless’, therefore abnormal. I forgive you though. I forgive you so
that I can move on. If we ever do meet, please don’t expect me to be
nice. Though we are maternal cousins, I don’t have the heart to like you.
From this moment on, I release you from my consciousness. I release
you from every vein in which my body holds you. I release you because
I want to feel clean again.”
The journey to recovery begins by giving yourself the very thing
that you want from your perpetrator. For me it was an apology, an
acknowledgement of the uncountable molestation events and the chaotic
afterlife, the experiences occupied in every sphere of my life.
My healing began the moment I read Iyanla Vanzant’s words in her book,
In the Meantime, where she writes: “Now you are seven or eight…you’ve
learnt that your little body, which was once cute enough to be exposed
to everyone, is…offensive. You must keep it covered and never…make
reference to it in public. You may not be quite sure what ‘public’ is but
you know it lives on the other side of the bathroom door where there
Flashbacks of the years of sexual abuse came back like an angry God on
judgement day. For the first time, I told myself the absolute truth – I
admitted that I had been molested by different people for five years of
my childhood, mostly cousins and adult family friends.
I admitted the pathetic reality of my current situation – I had begged
a man who had cheated on me, sexually abused me and then had the
audacity to dump me. I was in a relationship in which I was using the one
I was with to get over the one that left. It was a real mess.
“Go test for HIV,” my spirit was gently nagging me. I lied to myself that
I’d rather die not knowing than live knowing and I told myself, I am not
going to die alone. If I am infected so will another. “I never asked for it,”
I shouted. He could have told me. Defensive as I was, the internal spirit
“The one that I was with” pressurised me into having unprotected sex
with him. “I don’t want to play like that,” I said as I refused the first
time he made the suggestion. He accepted. Next time he pressurised for
unprotected sex, I gave in. “He should take my vagina; take it like they
did so many years ago! He should take the HIV with it also!” I angrily
reasoned. Flesh to flesh – he enjoyed it; I never felt the difference. The
symptoms were all there – night sweats, coughing for over two weeks
but the courage to get confirmation ceased to exist…but in my spirit I
Leaving East London for Port Elizabeth gave me a false sense of comfort
that I was leaving the demons of the past behind, but your spirit follows
you – always there, reminding you that life is reaped by the consciously
For a while life was better in Port Elizabeth. I was happy to be out of
home, studying at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. I eventually
broke the silence to my mom. Despite being hurt that she couldn’t have
protected her only child, she was a healing river. I can remember her
words: “It was not your fault. You mistook the sexual abuse for brotherly
love.” She took the words right out of my mouth. Mothers are God’s
way of saying “I am here with you, in all ways.”
She told my dad, who never said a word to me. His silence cut deep. I
wanted him to say: “Why didn’t you tell me, I would have protected you.
I would have killed them if I knew. I would never have stood right there
and watched them do that to you.” It reminded me, when I was a young
girl, when I stood there next to my mother as she relayed to you how
I had relayed to her that your colleague caressed my bum whenever I
was left in his care after school. You stood there, took no gun, expressed
no anger and, later down the years, even took me to his wedding. I
remember the energy of disappointment I felt when you didn’t become
the knight in shining armour from a Mills and Boon novel. I wanted a
Jesus was the male saviour. I projected all my unmet male needs onto the
Church’s image of him. I went to church twice on Sunday, attended cell
groups, prayed and did everything else to earn God’s love. I was on a
high, spiritual opium. I spoke in tongues, fell down on my knees during
worship and hoped Jesus would miraculously come down from heaven
and pick me up, raise me like he raised Lazarus. When I opened up my
eyes I was still there with my hands raised sky up, looked around, noticed
some of the people looking at me and felt like a fool. Why hadn’t he
come to pick me up, save me? I didn’t want to be saved from fires of hell;
I wanted to be saved here, in Earth’s misery. I swallowed my thoughts.
My devoted church experience worked for a while until I began to
question. The emotional experience of protestant worship opened the
doorway to spirituality. I began to observe the emotions of doing a
BCom degree that felt like a slow death. I watched closely the emotions
that arose from being persuaded to believe I was the rib and bone of
Adam. I felt my dislike of the view that the amandla spirit of female
sagacity, no matter how powerful it is, would reach its ceiling at the
beginning of male law.
I felt the resentment of kneeling before a religion that views my female
body as a figure of temptation and downfall. I wondered about the God
who endorses a male code. I concluded, to be a good Christian devotee
I would have to crucify my sense of reason.
I owned my reality: that I was dating an intellectual man but an emotional
baby boy and that I was the same: an intelligent woman but an emotional
baby girl. I decided to choose to be a grown woman. I let it go.
At the time I started to own my feelings, a call from a childhood friend
changed the course of my life. “Tshomi, uBoboyi has died.” My heart
sank, I knew it was coming: the confirmation. “He died of full-blown
AIDS.” Iyanla Vanzant words – “The minute you even begin to think and
feel you need a change; the forces of the universe will rise to meet your
request” – came into life. I finally went for that HIV test and it confirmed
what my spirit had known for two years but refused to confirm. I was
diagnosed with HIV.
My first thought – death. I decided if I was going to die, I’d rather die
happy, living a full and conscious life. I decided to change from doing
a BCom for three years to doing a Media degree full time. My mom
was not impressed. Three years of investment down the drain. I could
understand her position and that she could not comprehend my urgency
of heart as I had not disclosed my HIV status to her. I humbled myself,
asking for her blessing. I wrote her a five-page letter explaining that only
now was I beginning to lead a life of my own design and not the one
in reaction to my molestation experiences. She gave me the go-ahead
and was even there during the registration. “Bhelekazi, you are God
Doing the Media degree was one of the best decisions of my life. I
bathed in the prescribed reading material: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi
Dangarembga, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Frantz Fanon’s The
Wretched of the Earth and the philosophical articles of Kant, Kristeva,
Nietzsche, etc. Studying isiXhosa, my native language, awakened a
cultural consciousness that had been lost with western civilisation. I
was in awe of my forefathers’ social intelligence, despite their sexism.
After reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, I declared myself a
feminist. Every day felt like a miracle because I was taking control of my
life. The more I did, the more I loved me. I was slowly making myself
whole. I realised, “I am the love that I seek”.
I changed my surname from Kuse to Mashologu-Kuse, representing a
change in consciousness. I meditated rather than prayed. I read instead
of attending cell meetings and now I go to a spiritual centre instead of
going to a church. At first, I was terrified of stepping into new ground. I
was even more terrified of transgressing a white male God who required
me to obey irrespective of my feelings. I was scared that God only protects
a woman who is within a male code. I felt Jesus was giving me the same
possessive look Adam gave Eve every time I followed the voice within.
Strangely, I felt more alive and peaceful than I have ever felt in my life
so far. Every day the inner voice becomes louder than the external noise.
Every time I act on that inner voice, I discover God in many ways. More
profoundly, I discovered that I am not evil and never was. I am actually
ok and that’s all that matters.
Weirdly, my view of Christianity transformed. It transcended into an
internal Christ-like consciousness that transcended doctrine. Jesus no
longer became the pathway to earn God’s love. He became the example
of how to manifest the Divine on this earth. One day, on my rocking
chair, I hope I can proudly say “I’ve chosen to live my way, my truth,
Here I am, 2008, three months away from obtaining my Media degree,
salivating every minute of it, feeling that the road has been worth every
tear, every acquaintance, every false friendship, every illusion of love,
every ounce of pain; shame, guilt and sickness have been spiritual teachers
clothed with eternal truth. Here, I am, remembering that emotional,
spiritual, health and wealth abundance is always there. It’s for me to
claim. Here I am, choosing to experience abundance in its complexity,
bit by bit. Here I am, proudly proclaiming “I am a grown woman and I
am still growing.”