Featured Image: Rockey Street in Yeoville. Photo: Delwyn Vetasuan/Financial Mail
By Andile Mngxitama
“Everyone knows you don’t leave valuable stuff on the back seat of the car,” said my daughter upon hearing the story told by her brother in the most animated fashion. I had parked the car outside with other cars during a primary school inter-school rugby event. After the match I found security guards surrounding my car. I knew what happened because I now remembered I left my laptop bag at the backseat. I was angry at myself and the little thieves who broke the window and disappeared into Yeoville’s human maze.
St John’s College, located in Houghton, is a rich kids school across the cosmopolitan African settlement called Yeoville. The people of Houghton have everything. Yeoville hustles to live. Houghton is therefore a gift of sorts to its less fortunate neighbor. I got caught in the cross fire. They were not taking from me, I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Collateral damage!
The violation of being broken into and stuff taken from one, turns one into a blood thirsty neo-Nazi. For a split second you just want the bastards brought to book. I cleaned the shards of glass seething with rage whispering to myself, “fuck you too Gift”. Then you remember, you are black conscious and your relationship with the black excluded is mediated by a different logic.
Anyway, as I was cleaning up after the hit, a security guard of the church next to the school came over and explained that he knows the guys who did this. Then there was a conversation between the security guards. Part of it goes like this, “no its not the mousy one, its Gift the short one.” Witnesses confirm the description. The 24/7 security guards further add that Gift is wanted for day light robbery a week before. He apparently confronted a rich kid and displayed his shinny knife and demanded an iPhone. The rich kid surrendered the instrument without a fight. Gift walked brazenly away to sell his wares. Gift along with Mr “Mousy” live across the street in the streets. The security guards assured me that Gift would be back at his place of sleep that night. We agreed to come back later and see if we could catch him in his sleep.
But, as luck would have it, the security guards I was talking to knocked off having reported the matter to a new guard in the next shift. The new shift was manned by overzealous guys who didn’t wait for me to arrive before they raided Gift and his friend. But there was a problem. No one had laid an official complaint according to the records. Not with the security nor with the police, so they had to let Gift go. When I arrived the guy who sleeps in the same place as Gift and Mousy explained that the security had arrived and arrested them, when they returned they took their things and left. So we started the great search for Gift and Mousy with the assistance of the overzealous one and his team. There are many men who sleep all over around Joe Slovo road. They sleep under the bridges and in the open veld. So the ritual of waking up sleeping bodies covered in blankets head to toe started. We must have gone through 50 such grisly motions when I asked for a halt of the demented exercise. Gift was gone and we had to make peace with this.
The overzealous one adviced that I go to the police and open a case of theft. This would allow him to apprehend Gift on sight. I refused. The message I left with the guy who shares the space with Gift was that I don’t want trouble for him, I just want the opportunity to buy back the computer. I understood very well that Gift is not the problem. The problem is a society that creates people like Gift.
There is something endearing about Gift. He has decided to have agency. He refuses to sleep hungry when so many others have more than their fair share. I respect a person like that. The poor and defeated break my spirit and that is why I refuse to look them in the eyes. The destitute remind me of how racial capitalism can reduce a person into a complete broken soul that lives on the mercy of the over fed.
The poor of Johannesburg steal from me at a rate of once in three years. Its an agreeable frequency. One year they broke into my house in three consecutive months. I began to fear for the worst. Still, they were not begging they were taking action and that for me brings great hope. Society teaches the poor to be obedient. To live in poverty and hunger because, “crime doesn’t pay”. The poor have been brainwashed into believing the capitalist lie that the rich are so because of hard work. Society, hides the fact that the poor are a byproduct of the wealth enjoyed by a few. Sandton creates Alexandra. Poverty is a direct outcomes of wealth. Gift is a perfect creation of white society.
I have some admiration for Gift who gifted himself with my laptop which contains three important documents including a manuscript of a book (thank God I sent a version to a friend to read). The car window is fixed, I got a new computer, the temporary inconvenience created by Gift is being sorted out. But I know, so long as our country is based on an economic system that benefits a few at the expense of the many, a new army of Gifts will be born everyday. Hopefully, like Gift, they shall refuse to accept the rotten morality and sermons of the relatively well off.