Two Zululand women - worlds apart
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!
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.
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.