Seeing an impossible future.  

At the height of rampant violence in the apartheid South Africa, my time of displacement, I lived with my grandfather, at the heart of one of the violence ravaged townships. While many people lived in constant fear of police brutality on the streets of the township where I lived, I was faced with a demon of another kind in my grandfather’s house.

My step-grandmother had, without success, sought to use me in her plans to harm and shame her step-son. In apartheid days, life was cheap, killers would brutally torture, maim and murder as if they were swatting flies. My step-grandmother had also caught the ‘life-is-cheap’ virus, and saw this as a way to remove any rivals to my grandfather’s inheritance. Not that my grandfather was a rich man by any imagination, but such was the brutalised state of mind of people in apartheid South Africa, that pension savings of a public servant were regarded as a fortune.

Due to my stern refusals to participate in my step grandmother’s schemes, she deeply despised me. She often threatened to “swat me like a fly” and make me disappear from the face of the earth since no one would even notice that I was ever there. She continuously reminded I was a nobody and I was living on her borrowed time.

One gloomy morning, my grandfather and her, summoned me to account why the house gate had been left unlocked the previous evening. This was of course unforgivable in their sight, as my grandfather, being a policeman himself, was constantly at risk of being attacked by anti-apartheid activists. This call to account was rather baffling as it had never been my responsibility to lock the gate; this had always been my uncle’s, whom I related to as my brother as he was the same age as mine.

My punishment was severe, not a hiding, not chiding, but a curse. This curse went like this; “You have quickly forgotten where I picked you up! You struggled to get food and here you get a warm meal every night. You were in the dark, never knew electricity, and here you have electricity to study your books. Your mother drinks herself to death while your father is running around with women; your house is like ashes blown about by the wind. Since you have shown such carelessness and jealousy upon my house, you are destined to be nothing. In fact as soon as I let you out of my house, your future is finished, you are going to end up a nobody like your parents”.

At that very moment, an unstoppable spirit of gust of determination rose within me like a runaway train. “NO it shall not be so”, I sternly retorted; “not if God has anything to do with it”. My response surprised even me. “I will make sure that the whole household is lifted up from the ashes”, I later continued.

Unsurprisingly they found this laughable, and dismissively chuckled at my response. Little did I know that I had planted a seed of a mustard tree in my heart. Less than a decade later, after obtaining my degree in geography, I landed my first full-time job and bought my parents a house.

Living in my grandfather’s house taught a few important things; resilience, unwavering faith, unquenchable hope, diligence and spiritual vigilance. It was my life’s training ground. I learnt to be strong and to laugh even when things were not well. I learnt to create a future within me that was in contrary to all evidence around me. It was a future where a distressed, lowly and scorned poor young girl would become a formidable woman of substance and influence.

I ask you, what do you see in the midst of your troubles? What future do you see? Although these experiences could have destroyed me, yet God used them to strengthen me and to mould me into who I am today. If God could do this with me, He can do it for you.
Fruitfully Yours
Nhlanhla