The strangest thing took place at my house last night around 7 p.m. I was sitting on one of the sofas eating my dinner while watching the news on e.tv. My twin eight-year-old brother and sister sat on a grass mat, breaking the chicken bones like there was no tomorrow. They way they love meat, it’s no wonder chickens run in the opposite direction whenever they come across these two; they can probably smell the scent. Anyhow, I started to hear loud voices of a man and a woman outside on my street corner arguing. I pressed mute on the TV and I looked out the window to see what the fuss was all about, but I couldn’t see anything because it was really dark. The arguments grew louder and stronger up to a point where my dogs started to bark. Then all of a sudden I heard something that sounded like lightning; it came from the woman’s face as the guy slapped her really hard.
Women getting beaten up by men is something that is very common around here in my community of Tintswalo, South Africa. Men feel that it is their duty to discipline women by beating them up if they feel women are doing them wrong. These men are so proud of it and brag about in public. Once a woman gets involved with a man, the guy thinks she is his property to do whatever he wishes with. I have asked a number of women why they allow men to do this to them, but they all just give me the same crazy answers: it is not abuse, when your man beats you up he shows he is just showing that he cares. It is his duty to punish you when you do something wrong. I find their answers to be very disturbing because abuse is taking place all over the world and many women are getting killed by their so-called lovers.
I could hear the girl screaming for forgiveness, asking if they could go the guy’s house and talk things through, but the man was not having any of that. He was accusing her of cheating on him with another man, and he wanted her to admit to this, but she denied it of course. Her scream went straight to my heart and I felt sorry for her. After feeling more of the heat coming from her boyfriend, the girl somehow managed to set herself free from his grip and ran away, straight into my yard, but he caught up with her. I watched from the window as the guy kicked her to the ground and punched her like he was fighting with another man. I could hear her pleading with him to let her go, but the boyfriend just kept punching her and pulling her braids out of her hair. I just froze in my living room and couldn’t do anything to help her since I was the only grownup in my house. I quickly lost my appetite and went quiet.
A few minutes later, the girl managed to escape again, but this time she came running straight into my house and she locked herself in, and leaned again the door with all her strength to make sure that it was two times locked. Her whole body was covered with dust, and she was also bleeding. I didn’t know her name. But I sure knew her boyfriend. He is my neighbours’ nephew, Patrick. My siblings and I were so shocked that we didn’t know what to do, all we could do was stare.
Her crazy boyfriend came and knocked on the door. She pushed the door against it. Patrick threatened to break the door down if she didn’t come out at that instant, but she refused. Finally I tried to beg him to stop because she was badly hurt, but he kept on insisting that she had done him wrong and she was going to pay for making a fool of him. Eventually she went out, and Patrick grabbed her and pulled her straight to his house.
This morning I saw her walking hand in hand with him to her house like a couple in love. It was as if nothing had happened, and I was the only one who seemed to be startled by their fight last night. One thing is for sure; I will never understand how people’s minds work, no matter how hard I may want to.
Thandi Mkhatshwa is a reporter with The Amazwi Villager, a newspaper written by rural African female journalists of Sotho and Shangaan descent and distributed in their home communities within the lowveld region of South Africa. Amazwi, a non-profit organization, publishes the Villager monthly. To read more, visit: www.amazwivillager.org