The Books | The Poetry | The Stories / Positive Survivors
Vigs / deur Janetta Helena Boonzaaier
“Jy is H.I.V. positief!”
ek kan dit nie hanteer,
my huwelik was kuis
ek sweer by U bloed en kruis!
Ek voel verslae, verlate wees
gelaat, kan dit moontlik wees?
Ek was troueloos bedrieg!
Kinders jonk met een in die wieg
ons almal dalk nou besmet
deur onnosele hoë risiko katelpret!
Uit watter oer-moeras, mos-grot kom die virus-vos,
die sluwe bose ontwykende virus-tokkelos?
Hy is by gesienes tuis tussen sy en satyn
tot by krotte se armoedige samesyn-
Gladnie kieskeurig sonder kwel
deel hy luukse bed tot skaap-slaapvel
en grynslag berekenend by owerspel
se onkuise dobbelspel!-
Hy skaterlag oor vurige jongmens-wellus
se onbeskermende seks en nadraai vuurblus
se grysdooie noodlots-as
soos ’n Mara-bitter-als!
Hy sluimer vir jare bedrieglik onder die vel
vorder slakkegang-slymstreep en skielik snel
ontwaak slaan hy toe,
gesondheid en vreugde van nou af taboe,
siektes en peste
uit vreemde geweste
storm en bars deur immuniteitslinie!
Jy slaan vure dood verswyg opinie
van hoe en waar en wanneer,
want wie gaan jy blameer?
Jy kan nie onthou
daar was soveel ontrou-
En die jongmens van geluk eens dronk
se lewe is gestonk,
deur ’n bose virus-nikker!
’n Gewetelose vektor
het dit uitgestort
deur seksroulette te speel,
’n toekoms is verwoes, verspeel-
En al die wêreld se medisyne
salf nie die gewetenspyne
van wroeging en skuld
oor leed aan ‘n huisgesin se onskuld!
You Must be Crazy / by Prudence Mathebula
You must be crazy to think that
I’m incomplete without you
That I need you to breathe life into my lungs
That my brain is a minute arrangement
That my being female is an impediment
That my future rests in your hand
I made you the King of my Kingdom
To rule this fragile heart of mine
And protect the innocence in my eyes
To sing sweet melodies with no words
And share your dreams with my fantasies
But, you chose to be a dictator
Assigning impossible tasks
Expecting me to march at your command
Moulding me to be your perfect being
Forcing me to detest myself
Polluting my body with cocaine
Addictions leading me to prostitution
Alcohol became my medication
Your cruelty has destroyed me
But it will never perish me
It destructed my physical self
But it will never stroke my soul
You must be crazy to think that
While I’m dying in this bed
Slowly losing my breath
Thinning skin fading
Eyes ballooning out
I will let you have my soul
You had the best of my body
But won’t get the last of my soul
You must be crazy
Because I was crazy enough to love you
Mishandeling / deur Charmlynn Solomons
Los die kinders en vroue uit,
dit is glad nie hulle skuld.
Geen ander manier om te pleit,
diep in my binneste maak dit ’n bult
Noord en suid, oos en wes,
roep die slagoffer van mishandeling.
Dokters en sielkundiges doen hul bes,
vir die nodige, beste behandeling
Groot en klein word nie ontsien,
vriend en vyand word betrek.
Tog is daar hoop vir die gene wat dit nie verdien,
Al voel die tou styf om hul nek
Mishandeling is nie die moeite werd,
Wie gee om in hierdie tyd?
Al raak dit als te veel,
Hulp kom van wyd en syd
Waiting for Boeta / by Renée Muller
Tommy stands with his fingers hooked in the mesh wire of the rusty
fence separating their house from the house next door. Not that it
keeps anything in or anything out. The neighbours’ chickens are
pecking at his toes, maybe hoping to discover a seed or a worm in the
He nudges them away with his foot and gazes at Errol. Errol’s big
brother, Jason, is teaching him to play soccer in their yard.
“Look, Errol,” he is saying, “this is how you must dribble the ball
forward. Look, like this. No! No! Keep the ball on your foot like this!”
Tommy can see that Errol is trying his hardest to please his brother but
he’s making a big mess of it. He’s so useless, falling over his own feet all
the time. Maybe it’s because he’s looking at his brother’s face instead of
looking at the ball.
Tommy feels a heaviness in his chest. Boeta… if only his Boeta was
His brother will teach him to be a soccer star in just one day. In one day
Boeta will teach him everything about soccer that a real player has to
know. How to tackle and pass, how to strike the ball properly, how to
score a goal every time, right between the goal posts. Everything. Then
when Boeta and Jason have gone off to work, he will go into Errol’s
yard to help him. He will quickly show Errol just how one must control
the ball properly. He will show Errol how easy it is to play soccer.
Boeta…! Boeta…! If you’d only come home, Boeta!
To stop bad thoughts coming into his head, Tommy turns around
quickly and aims a kick at the chickens along the fence. “Skoert! Go
home! Go back to your own place!” The chickens shuffle off in all
directions, ducking and fussing. Telling him what they think of him.
He lifts his arm, pretending to throw a stone at them.
Tommy wanders into the kitchen, looking for something to eat. His
mother is sitting at the table reading a crumpled letter.
“What can I eat?” Tommy asks. “I’m hungry.”
He’s always hungry. His mother doesn’t answer.
“Why do you read that old letter all the time?”
His mother turns her head away from him. He can see that she has
tears running all over her face.
“Why are you crying again?”
“I’m not crying,” she replies, wiping away the tears as she stands up
and walks to the sink full of dirty washing. She picks up the heavy
enamel bucket and pours water into the sink. She doesn’t look at him.
“Take a piece of bread out of the tin and go and play outside.”
Tommy opens the tin and takes a slice of bread and starts stuffing it
into his mouth. “When is Boeta coming home? Do you know? When
is he coming back from that mine where he’s working?”
His mother’s voice sounds funny. “Will you stop asking me that? I’ve
told you a hundred times I don’t know. And don’t talk with your
“But when do you think?”
“I suppose it will be when he gets his holidays. But who knows when
that will be…” Her voice goes quiet.
Tommy knows that she’s lying. Whenever he mentions Boeta she gets
that look on her face. Not the angry look. The other look. The look
that frightens him. Because it reminds him of his dog the day before he
died. A sort of a lost, empty look. That’s how old Boel looked that day.
Just before he started dying.
Tommy turns away, chewing the bread. Looking at his mother’s face
makes the heaviness in his chest worse. It’s easier to breathe outside.
The day drags on. It’s hot. There’s nothing to do all by himself. His
mother is moving about inside the house like a sick dog. His father is
out again, looking for a job somewhere, and Boeta is away working in
the mines far away.
Tommy starts to make a race track behind the house. The day before
he found a heavy plank of thick wood on the rubbish dump in the
open field opposite their house. He plans to make a road by pushing
the piece of wood through the sand. The road is going to start at the
back door and end at the dead tree stump on the side of the house.
It’s going to be very hard work. He’s going to be very busy.
He also has a plan in his head to make a car out of an empty plastic
crate, with a steering wheel made from some wire that he also found
there amongst the empty tins and broken bottles across the road. He
is still thinking about the wheels. It would be nice to have wheels. That
would make the car go much, much faster. Just one push from Errol
and off he’d go. Otherwise, without wheels, Errol would have to push
him all the way. They could take turns.
His race track is just getting to the back corner of the house when he
hears his mother’s screams. Tommy drops the piece of wood in the
sand as he runs around the house.
Some people are standing outside their front door. Some of them he
knows but the others are people he has never seen before. Amongst
them he recognises the parson from the church. He is reading aloud
from a newspaper that he holds in his hand. His mother is standing
there in her old jersey and track suit pants. She’s screaming, over and
over again, “Not Boeta! Not Boeta! No! No! Not my Boeta! It’s a lie!
It’s a filthy lie! He’d never do a thing like that! Never! Never!” She’s
trying to rip the paper from the parson’s hands. Her heels are lifting
out of her slippers as she flings herself forward. He can see some of his
mother’s friends holding on to her, trying to drag her back into the
house. Tommy sees that his mother still has her curlers in her hair. He
notices that one has come loose and is starting to roll down the back
of her head.
Tommy can’t breathe properly. He bends down to pick up his mother’s
curler that’s fallen into the sand. But he can’t get hold of it. His chest
is burning too much. He sinks to his knees and covers his face with his
hands. He doesn’t want to see his mother screaming and crying like
that. Maybe he’s going to throw up.
He feels a hand on his head. It’s the pastor.
“Son,” he says, “you have to be strong. Your mother’s gone inside the
house. Perhaps you should also go inside to comfort her.”
“What’s wrong with her? Why is she crying like that?”
“I had to give her some bad news.”
The pastor pats Tommy’s head a few times.
“It’s about your brother,” he adds, taking hold of Tommy’s shoulder.
Tommy scrambles up from his knees.
“What news? Is Boeta coming home?”
“He’s not coming home. No. He’s not coming. Not for a long, long
“You lie! You lie!” Tommy shouts. “It’s a great big lie!”
“I’m afraid it’s true, Tommy. He’s not coming back for a very long
“What’s happened to him?”
The pastor stretches out and grips his shoulders with both hands.
“Listen, son. I have to tell you this. He did some very, very bad things.
He’s gone to jail. I don’t think he’ll come back before you’re a grownup
man yourself one day.”
Tommy shakes off the pastor’s one hand and wrenches himself free of
the other. He runs off and disappears around the back of the house.
Savagely he begins to wipe out the race track with his feet, kicking up
sprays of sand. He can hear his mother still screaming in the house. A
cluster of chickens are scrubbing at the back door. Letting out a fierce
bellow he runs towards the startled chickens. A cloud of dust rises up
in the air. As the agitated chickens scurry in all directions, Tommy
dives towards a large, stringy hen and falls down on top of her, pinning
her to the ground. Putting both hands around her twitchy neck, he
gives it a violent tweak. He flings the limp bird aside and stumbles up,
shouting, “I’m going to catch every one of you stupid chickens! And
I’m going to break your necks until you’re all dead! All good ’n dead!”
As Tommy runs to and fro, to and fro after the squawking chickens,
Errol’s big brother, Jason, jumps over the fence and gets hold of
“Hey there, you little shit! You stop killing our chickens, you nutter!”
he shouts, shaking Tommy to and fro.
“Let go of me! Let go of me!” Tommy screams.
“No! I’m first going to kill you like you killed our chicken, you
lunatic!” shouts Jason, putting his one hand around Tommy’s neck.
Tommy feels the burning in his chest again.
“Pa! Pa!” he calls out, suddenly seeing his father lurching through the
gate and coming towards them.
“Pa! Come and help me! Pa! Tell him to let go of me!”
Jason now also spots his Pa and calls out: “Hey, mister, you’re just in
time! I was just going to kill this child of yours. Now you can come
and do something to him yourself. Here, take a hold of him! He’s gone
quite bleddie mad. He’s crazy…”
His Pa comes zigzagging towards them, swaying right and then left
past them and stumbles into the house through the back door. Tommy
goes limp in Errol’s big brother’s grasp. He knows his Pa is falling
down somewhere inside and that he will just lie there where he falls
and will stay there until he has slept off the booze. Jason at last lets go
of him and gets back over the sagging fence with the dead chicken in
his hand, swearing loudly, using every bad word that Tommy has ever
heard and then some very dirty-sounding new ones.
Tommy just lies there in the sand, not moving. He can see in his head
how his father collapses in the passage and lies there in a stinking
bundle. He sees his mother walking up and down, up and down in the
cramped lounge with the sagging sofa and broken-down easy chairs.
First she goes to aim a vicious kick or two at his snoring Pa, pulling the
rest of the curlers out of her hair, flinging them around the room, then
sinking down into one of the broken chairs, holding her head in her
hands, digging her nails deep into her skull, between the little bundles
of curls that she hasn’t combed out yet.
She won’t be going to any party tonight, he can see.
At last Tommy lifts himself up out of the sand and walks slowly towards
the back door. He hears his mother talking to herself about all of them;
Pa, her husband, who has given up on finding a job and has gone bad;
Boeta, the first-born son she loves so much, the son who has lost his
dreams and has now also turned bad; and her laatlammetjie, her lastborn,
her Tommy, who is also going to follow in their footsteps and go
bad one day, as sure as the Lord is in Heaven. She weeps as she talks
about herself, she herself, who is now also going to give up hope very
soon and go bad like all the others.
Slowly Tommy walks through the house. He walks past his Pa’s snoring
body, stepping carefully around him, not wanting to see his open
mouth and sweaty face. He looks at his mother. She has stopped crying
now. She’s just sitting there on the maroon easy chair with the stuffing
coming out of the bottom, staring at nothing. She looks tired and sad.
On the floor lies the newspaper cuttings about Boeta and the things he
did. She has torn it up. Shreds of crumpled paper lie all over the place.
“Is Boeta really not coming back home?” he asks. His mouth is very
dry. He can hardly get the words out.
His mother turns her head to look at him.
“He’s not coming back… he’s not coming back…” she whispers.
He sees her lips trembling, trembling.
A feeling of love for his Ma floods through his body. He goes to her,
kneels down and puts his arms around her broad hips, resting his
head against her soft breasts. She folds her arms around him and starts
rocking him like she used to do when he was still a baby.
A tear drips on his neck. He closes his eyes. He breathes deeply, the
heavy feeling in his chest is starting to go away. His Ma is still here
and while she is here with him, he knows that he is going to keep
on believing that tomorrow will be a better day than today, and
better than all the yesterdays that came before. While his Ma is here
close to him, with her arms tight around him, he’s going to go on
Tell Them My Story / by Francoise Lempereur
I was born to a polygamist father with three wives. I am a triplet.
However, the other two of my siblings did not make it beyond six
months and now I am the only one left of my mother’s womb. I do
have several half brothers and a sister from my father’s other wives
but we were never quite close. My father was a huge man and feared
by everyone else in the family. One knew not to cross him or else one
would get the beating of a lifetime. My mother often bore the brunt
of his anger and frustrations because she never managed to give him
a son, and in the eyes of society she deserved it because a girl cannot
carry on the name of her father. I always wondered why my mother
never left him or ran away, especially after every beating and seeing
the pain in her eyes and the bruises on her body. On one occasion
when I plucked up the courage to ask her, she just shrugged and said,
“He is my husband and I must obey him.” As a result I often wished
evil upon my father.
After having attended school only up to Grade Seven my academic
skills are quite limited and poor. My father removed me from school
having decided that it was a waste of money to send a girl child
to school when her ultimate role is to stay at home and look after
the children. I felt crestfallen. That gesture signalled the end of
my educational career and dashed my hopes for a bright future. I
remember fantasizing about owning a worldwide business, but I guess
those were just what they were, fantasies and nothing more. My main
tasks were to look for firewood, assist in the fields, take turns to herd
the cattle, fetch water, do the washing, cleaning and cooking. I had to
do all this while watching my brothers go to school, enriching their
lives with the most important tool of life while mine just got wasted
away under a load of chores. Forgive me for being envious but truth is
I wished and hoped every single day that my father would change his
mind, but I guess I did not do it hard enough because those prayers
were never answered. Every day I cursed my father for not giving me a
chance to prove myself, as I knew that I had a better intellect than my
The years came and flew by as I grew older, entered puberty and began
to develop into a woman. At 15 years of age I met Martin, at 17 we got
married, and I became pregnant with my first child. One of the reasons
I got married so young was because I just wanted to leave home – my
father constantly complained that I was ripe for marriage and was just
another mouth to feed. So for him the sooner I got married the better.
We moved to our new home in the city because Martin had found a
new job in one of the Bata factories as a junior supervisor, so at least
we could afford a small house in the high density suburbs. I was able
to start my own little vegetable garden which brought in a little extra
income to help with the household expenses. In September of that year
God blessed us with a sweet, beautiful baby girl and for the first time
in my life I felt extremely happy and blessed. She was our very own
little “bundle of joy”, the ray of sunshine in our life, and we named
For a while things were beginning to look better until two years down
the line, disaster struck. Martin developed lung cancer. The doctors
told him that it had developed considerably and now it was too late
to do anything and he did not have much time left. We were both
devastated. True enough, Martin only lived for eleven months. Martin,
my love, my soul mate, gone and left us alone. He was never going
to see his baby girl grow into a woman and she was never going to
know her father. After Martin’s death I was lost, all our dreams and
hopes dashed. It sank hard that here I was, unemployed, a widow at 19
years and with a baby to look after. Every day I asked God why he had
taken away the person who had made my life worthwhile, but I had to
push these feelings and thoughts away because I had to be strong for
Portia. After that life continuously dealt harshly with us. We hardly
had enough to eat and could only manage one meal a day. Portia grew
horribly thin and I almost thought I would lose her. For some reason
my little vegetable garden was always under attack from pests and
produce was always bad. It was a struggle getting enough just to pay
I had to move back to my father’s rural home because I could not
afford to remain in our house. Old age had caught up with my father
and he was also struggling to make ends meet. My presence back home
seemed to make things worse. My mother had passed away just two
months after I married Martin. I believe she lost her will to survive
because of the constant beatings and suffering that she endured at the
hands of my father. A person can only take so much, and I have never
forgiven my father for that. Sometimes I feel bitter against all men for
all the pain and hurt that he caused, but common sense always tells me
that one cannot blame the whole world for the sins of one man.
Years passed by, and in 1987 I met Edward and remarried the
following year, and God blessed us with two more children, Elvis and
Edward Junior. In 1995 disaster struck again. My husband fell ill and
died; he had contracted the deadly HIV/AIDS virus. I felt like a part
of me died inside, the man whom I was committed and dedicated to
had been unfaithtful to me. I knew I had to get tested too, but I just
could not bring myself to go to the hospital. Finally I plucked up the
courage and to my wonderful surprise I was not infected. I praised
God that day and knew that God had spared me for a reason, to look
after my children.
Soon I managed to get a job knitting jerseys for a local
businesswoman. It was not much but at least it brought in a few
much-needed dollars. I could manage to keep my children in school
and feed them. Life was at least bearable. They say that sometimes life
throws challenges at you only to make you stronger. My son Edward
developed epilepsy, and since he was continuously having fits I had
to remove him from school. Once again another challenge had been
thrown at me. I went to all the doctors I could afford but still nothing
changed. I went to traditional healers who told me lots of stories and
gave me lots of concoctions but still nothing improved. I could not
afford to send Edward to the special school for people like him, so
I had to devote more time and attention to him twenty-four hours
a day, so that he would not hurt himself during his fits. The local
businesswoman I worked for went bankrupt, I lost my job and that
meant no income.
Today I survive only with God’s grace. If we have a good harvest I am
able to sell a few produce just to send my Portia and Elvis to school and
to put food on the table. I am glad both are doing well even though
they have to walk miles to and from school on a daily basis. As for
Edward, he is growing into a young man and I worry that with no
skills, no education and a disability, what will happen to him when I
am gone. I can only hope Elvis and Portia will look after their sibling.
Due to poverty and discrimination life has been terribly unfair and
difficult for me. I try to take one step at a time. I have been unable
to achieve my dreams and goals. If I had had the opportunity to have
an education maybe I would have been able to give my children a
better life. In this world no education means no qualification, which
means no job and without such, prospects of excelling in life are not
so appealing. By telling my story I mean to give a simple lesson to all
parents and children.
Parents, send all your children to school; and children, know that
education is a fundamental tool for survival. Particularly to women,
we have been previously disadvantaged and discriminated against,
times are changing and the platform for women to be heard has been
established. I know that there are many women out there against
whom violence, abuse and many other injustices are being committed.
Many believe they have to endure that for the sake of their children but
honestly it’s not worth it. A child will never be happy in a home filled
with violence and abuse, and studies have also proved that this tends to
have a negative psychological impact. Some end up as criminals or even
abusers themselves, hence I repeat, it’s not worth it. So one should
always strive for the best, no matter what the circumstances are.
Tribute to my mother, for in so many ways she has taught me to be
a strong black woman, she has taught me respect, she has taught me
endurance, she has taught me love but most important of all, she has
taught me survival in life.
“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the
means of inspiration and survival.”
Sir Winston Churchill