Thobile Maso: Journey Of My Soul


It was a short while; I left for East London, with my father and mother. We boarded a bus from Lady Frere to Queenstown and then a train from there to East London. Again I had mixed feelings about moving but since I was now used to my mother I felt better. I felt secure with both my parents around me. In East London we stayed at B section in Ziphunzane, nicknamed ‘Ezembeni’, only a week after our arrival in this place my father left for work in Botswana, then called Bechuanaland. Between my memory and scattered information, I gather he was working for a construction company called Murray and Robertson.


Dynamics of the Road

A poem by Thobile Maso©2002 Thobile Maso

The road to humanity is full of wolves and hyenas
Laughing dogs with sharp canines
Media of gossip with cold news
Money has no loyalty color
Application of unusual dance in global arena
Cha – cha – cha – zigzag salami tactics

The journey has begun

Weeds and seeds in a democratic soil
Dual existence of unique being in hostile soul
Period of storm and stress stepping on toes
Soon or later one way or another
Hold on the part of our being is drifting away

Sharp curves, detours, different compasses

Different faces but essence is the same
The car heading direction the driver wants not
Taming and domestication of the tiger
Life of selling our beings to the octopus
New human is struggle to be born

Many crosses one intersection

Many ideas to the few setting no masses in motion
While walking, others flying, paddling along
Moral and physical destruction leaving capable behind
Hercules has snatched the others from mother earth

These are dynamics of the road!


My mother was not working when father left. When things started getting really tough for us she started selling fish. At that time this seemed the only coping and livelihood strategy she could devise. Whatever little money was still left went into the fish project. The fish was bought from Irvin & Johnson Company, selling fish company in Westbank, at seaport. Sometimes mother sent me to buy fish. As this was a common income generating activity for communities around the port, one had to be there early in order to buy and go back to prepare and sell. It was about 20 km from where we stayed. So we had to leave home at 4:00am. We had to pass through Parkside, the area predominantly for coloured people. The risk was if we children were not in the company of the adults, the children and some gangsters in Parkside would chase us and sometimes robbed us of our money or even fish if they caught us on our way back.

Life in B section had its ups and downs. People were not allowed to stay in these areas unless they had identity document called then dompass and having a permit to stay in urban area. Most of women like my mother in particular were coming from rural areas did not have these identity documents and had to hide from the municipality police who usually searched the township from very early in the morning, many would wake up and stay out in the field until later in the morning when the municipal police have left. My mother would leave me sleeping. When police came the first thing I would experience is the bright light of the touch in my face, they would roughly remove the blankets, look under the bed and force me to stand up to make sure that I was a child.

Unfortunately, the fish selling business was not lucrative enough to afford us a rent payment. We had still not received anything from father and we had to leave B Section and stay with my mother’s friend in another area called, C section. There was no difference between the two sections, it was just that mother could not afford rent anymore. Only a river separated the two sections. They both had one or two roomed houses and public toilets. By this time I was used to town life and soon forgot about rural life. We used to fight with stones with boys of B section and the older ones fought with knives. There was a boy who was good in stabbing called ‘Nhafish’ and those days in the township, a good stabber was taken as hero.
Mother’s friend made a living through selling sheep heads, skull-kop or smiley in township language. My mother was very strict and would keep the house tidy and that made me handy with house chores. I also assisted with cleaning and preparing skull-kop and sheep legs for cooking. The nice thing about it was I always had the brains to cook alongside the pots with a tin. This was a delicacy I enjoyed very much.

This was a very tough time for me and was made worse when my mother took to drinking. She started behaving in a way that used to make me very angry and dejected. She would sell the clothes she had bought me so that she could buy beer. Also she would stay away from home for days on end and only appear to disappear again without any forwarding address. One day she came back and decided to take me with her to a coloured area called Buffalo Flats. She found a job but did not send me back to school. Again our stay here was a brief one. We soon went back to C Section. My mother continued with her lifestyle and ultimately disappeared for good leaving me with another friend.

Life was tough for me as the new family was not all that kind. Somehow my mother, got informed and came back for me. She took me to another friend at the same C Section where she again left me with this friend and went. This was the family I came to stay with.

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Autobiography of Thobile Maso©Tobile Maso 2007

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