Two Zu­l­u­land women - worlds apart

Zululand Observer - Monday - - ZO OPINION - Val van der Walt

IN her 61 years on this Earth, Vir­ginia Ma­fuleka never once had a hot shower.

What you and I do at least once a day, and take for granted, is be­yond her means.

Who is Vir­ginia Ma­fuleka?

She is my grand­mother, my Gogo, my neigh­bour.

You see, for two years I,

Val van der Walt, lived in the KwaMbonambi Zulu Re­serve area.

The young­sters called me uMlungu and the adults called me uVan der Walt.

To ev­ery­body else I was Van der Merwe.

One gets the im­pres­sion black peo­ple think all whites are ei­ther Van der Mer­wes or Bothas.

With her SASSA grant Vir­ginia looks af­ter three tod­dlers crawl­ing around her shack over rot­ting av­o­ca­dos and all kinds of filth.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to keep them clean.

In the evenings, af­ter a wipedown with wa­ter from a bowl, they watch soapies such as Bold and the Beau­ti­ful and Mu­vango un­til bed­time.

The three young ones sleep on the bed and she on a mat between the bed and TV.

She doesn’t mind sleep­ing on the floor be­cause that’s how she grew up, but she hates it when those big cock­roaches climb over her.

For an ex­tra in­come Vir­ginia makes brooms from the leaves of lala palms and sells them.

She’s a good soul, old Vir­ginia… ex­cept when there’s a protest in the area.

Then she lets her anger out and gath­ers all the stones the chil­dren play with.

Last month, while throw­ing a road­side tantrum, she took out a po­lice van’s side win­dow. It felt good!

Dis­creet tantrum

I also know an­other woman.

I sup­pose I don’t re­ally know her, but see her ev­ery morn­ing when I stop at the En­gen Quick­stop to buy cig­a­rettes.

I call her Mrs Span­dex.

She’s white.

Like Vir­ginia she’s about 60 years old.

She’s al­ways in span­dex, in the morn­ings, be­cause she goes to spin­ning class and has yoga af­ter­wards.

She doesn’t need to work and never had to be­cause she al­ways moved in the right so­cial cir­cles and mar­ried a man who now takes home a six fig­ure salary.

She loves her life, es­pe­cially now that the boys are at var­sity, be­cause she doesn’t need to help the maid clean the house any­more.

Some­times, like Vir­ginia, she also gets an­gry.

Last week at the Quick­stop, to buy her daily bot­tle of flavoured wa­ter, be­fore she spins off for the day, Mrs Span­dex threw a tantrum.

I saw it and found it quite in­ter­est­ing.

Her tantrum was just like her life, dis­creet and re­served.

The doors were locked be­cause the cash-in-tran­sit van ar­rived, so she couldn’t get in.

She had to wait five min­utes and that was go­ing to make her late for her yoga class.

I could see she wanted to throw a brick through the win­dow but, in­stead, just stood there mak­ing rude com­ments un­der her breath and flex­ing her span­dexed tights in frus­tra­tion.

Vir­ginia’s one daugh­ter, Siphiwe - who hap­pens to work there - was star­ing at her through the glass, not un­der­stand­ing why wait­ing a bit is an is­sue.

And I, look­ing at Mrs Span­dex and think­ing of Vir­ginia in her shack, re­alised some­thing.

I re­alised that in this coun­try we have peo­ple who are worlds apart and who will never un­der­stand or get along with each other.

Zu­l­u­land Let­ter

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