You can’t wash off the bru­tal­ity of poverty

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Noga Kobe

I HAVE long taken a de­ci­sion that I will not wash my car at the es­tab­lished car wash out­lets in town or the town­ships.

This was af­ter re­al­is­ing that the rate of un­em­ploy­ment was ris­ing so high. I told my­self that my car would be washed by the car at­ten­dants that dou­ble as car wash­ers at the park­ing lots of ma­jor su­per­mar­kets. In that sit­u­a­tion, there is no mid­dle man whom I will pay and later pay the car wash­ers.

One guy was lucky to wash my car in con­sec­u­tive weeks and a re­la­tion­ship de­vel­oped. We be­came brothers in an em­ployee and em­ployer kind of re­la­tion­ship.

My at­tempts to make him re­turn to school and com­plete his Grade 12 did not suc­ceed. He talked of his fam­ily as one that un­der­stands func­tional poverty at first hand.

He said as things change for the bet­ter in other fam­i­lies, his is still trapped in the same poverty as dur­ing apartheid. I even­tu­ally gave up my per­sua­sion. He said if he could wash a min­i­mum of four cars in a day, that al­lowed him to af­ford ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties such as chicken feet and no name maize meal.

It hap­pened one day that I ar­rived ear­lier than ex­pected at the park­ing lot. I was en route to Gaut­eng and wanted a quick out­side wash of my car.

In the ab­sence of my reg­u­lar washer, I picked one who was avail­able and dashed to the of­fice. On my re­turn, I found po­lice sur­round­ing my car.

The guy who reg­u­larly washes my car found the “new” one busy wip­ing it. With­out ask­ing any­thing, he picked up an empty tin and threw it over to the other guy. The tin flew straight to the guy’s skin and the next thing he was ly­ing down bleed­ing pro­fusely.

The per­pe­tra­tor did not run away, he in­stead stood still, re­al­is­ing the ex­tent of in­jury and pain in­flicted on a fel­low car washer.

I could not help but shed a tear when po­lice es­corted him to the back of a po­lice van.

From the sto­ries he told me about the state of his fam­ily, it was ob­vi­ous that no­body would pay for his bail or fine.

My friend had in­vested so much in his tem­po­rary job that he was ter­ri­to­rial in his op­er­a­tions.

He could not stom­ach the fact that some­body else was do­ing what he re­garded as right­fully his and that he would not get that day’s share.

My friend is lan­guish­ing in jail while my one-time car washer is re­cov­er­ing in hos­pi­tal. In the wake of all this I can­not help but say had it not been for the bru­tal­ity of poverty, some­body’s face would still be in­tact.

Un­til my boys are old enough to wash their fa­ther’s car, I will never let any­one wash my car. Polok­wane

DE­SPAIR: Poverty can drive good peo­ple to poor judg­ment and bad ac­tions.

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