You can’t wash off the brutality of poverty
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.