We live in a society that does not respect its women. It’s not just a South African thing but a universal thing. If
anything South African women have it good but that’s not the point. In the Arab world women are treated as though they are things, worth nothing and have virtually no rights. Did you know that in Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the world women do not have the right to drive? I mean does that even make sense to you. Sitting here crying asking to be raped by these men’s friends is just an example of how low as a woman you can be made to feel. They had all the power and I had none. I realized that if my friends endured this ordeal by themselves then I would have no friends at all by the end of the day.
Nicole asked as soon as I entered. They all ran to me as the tears ran down my cheeks. How could I tell my friends that this evening, they were going to be forced to have sex with several men? I just did not know how to say it.
“Its happening isn’t it? He confirmed that the party is on?”
Thandeka said nonchalantly. She was very pragmatic even more so than Khanyi. I could not even answer as I choked on my tears and cried. Khanyi walked away and looked out the window I think resigning herself to her fate. Thandeka did not cry. She folded her arms across her chest and went and sat on the bed. Nicole however was the one who saddened me the most. She wept pitifully in front of me and not one of us could comfort her because we were all in the same boat. All, I mean, except me.
“Ok guys crying won’t solve anything! We need to prepare for this, Nicole, get yourself together!”
Thandeka said to her friend coldly. This girl was hardcore. You know that saying that says “Show me your friends and I will tell you your future” Thandeka for some reason gave me hope that we will get out of this. She was so straightforward and focused it made me wonder how she ended up with Nigerian men in the first place.
“Thandeka is right Nicole; if we fall apart we won’t survive this. We should never have come to this shit country in the first place!”
She said. Forgotten were Dubai Mall and all the designer boutique shops. Forgotten was how hard we worked to convince Sam to send us here and how many times I had put out to keep him happy. Forgotten were all the lies we had told to get here, all the lies and then there was Neo, my poor Neo. He had warned me that liking things would destroy me and look where I was right now! I thought I knew better and I knew it all. I did not.
“But guys how do you prepare for such a thing?”
I asked the girls. I know I was sounding defeatist like Nicole but I could not see how we could prepare for this no matter how hard I tried.
“Mfethu you were the one motivating us all along, what’s up kante?”
Thandeka asked suspiciously. It’s true before I went to see Ahmed I was the one who was motivating the girls.
“From now onwards we must speak in Zulu. They have cameras everywhere even in the bathroom. He showed me a video of us bathing. I have never been so humiliated!”
I told them in the midst of my tears. Thandeka buried her face in her hands and cursed out loud!
She had made a fist and punched the air. She was so angry.
“This is messed up! Who does that?”
She asked out loud and went to sit down next to Khanyi. Even now I don’t think we had all fully accepted what was happening to us. We were powerless and the more we resisted openly the more we will be punished.
“He said that I won’t be in the room with you. I begged him to make me join you so we suffer together but he refused. I am sorry guys!”
I told them.
“Don’t be stupid! Why would you want to do that? If you can save yourself then save yourself for at least one of us will have been spared! We all wish we were you right now don’t we girls?”
Thandeka asked but neither Nicole nor Khanyi answered. If anything I saw hatred in Khanyi’s eyes.
“Oh come on! We are already fighting amongst us before anything has happened! What will happen then when we come back? Khanyi? Who is going to comfort us? Don’t be ridiculous now!”
Thandeka said to the two girls. Khanyi remained absolutely quiet. She crawled into a foetal position and cuddled herself into a ball on the bed. Nicole just sobbed.
“How good is your Zulu?”
“Its sufficient enough I can hear you speak but can’t answer!”
“Its fine, Nicole will translate if she has to.”
Thandeka said and before I could even compose myself enough to concentrate on her she spoke.
“We need to get to a phone. That’s our one and only priority. If I can steal a phone tonight I will but it’s of the utmost importance!”
I got the jist of what she was saying but where was she going to steal the phone from. I directed my answer at Nicole in Tswana since she is Pedi.
“How do we know who has a phone and what happens when we get caught with this phone? Those stables are real guys!”
I told her. After Nicole translated, she burst out laughing. Imagine at a time like this.
“Did I say something funny?”
I asked her a bit confused of which Nicole translated.
“No you didn’t! Just reminded me of a picture I saw, a donkey tied to a chair, not even tired and I think it had a caption which said, ‘oppression is only in the mind'”
I was not sure where she was going with this and thankfully she continued.
“The point is what if the stables don’t exist? He scared us with that and without a shred of proof we concluded it was true!”
Well yeah, we had concluded that but the threat had been made with violence included so it was possibly true.
“How can we prove it wrong? The only way to do that is to find yourself in those stables and I am sorry I am not ready for such!”
I told her making her understand that the joke was only for her not us. It was actually funny seeing Nicole try to change languages and with all the joy taken from us, this little bit of humour was a moment worth cherishing.
“You are right; I am just saying this thing could be a lie that’s all. I will get the phone though don’t worry about that!”
That was the last translation. I was not going to discourage her because I needed that phone badly, we all did.
“Ok then. I am going to lie down, I need to sleep!”
I told her and she said she was sleepy too. We all went on to the bed and we lay down. No one slept though. The fear of tonight was etched in our brains so how do you sleep through that? Good question.
“Ladies it’s time to get ready!”
Was the next voice I heard and it was Fatima’s. We had not slept since we lay down but this was a good three hours later. We had lay there in silence yet the time had flown so quickly.
“You need to start by eating but for today only; food will be brought to you!”
She said. What was going to happen on other days then? No one answers.
“Girls I said get up or else we all get into trouble if you are late!”
She said with more urgency in her voice. The food was brought in by two other women I had not seen so far. They did not look us in the eye either. It smelled good and remember we had not eaten all day.
She said and walked out. At first none of us moved but when food smells good, your stomach can betray you very fast as mine was making embarrassing noises.
“She is right, we need to eat. We don’t know what’s going to happen tonight and if we manage to escape we will all need a full stomach!”
I told Nicole in Tswana who then translated to the others in Zulu. They were reluctant but after the first bite, the cravings took over and they ate. About 20 minutes later a man walked in whom we did not know. We all huddled together in fear.
“Don’t worry am not here to hurt you. I am the doctor. I am going to check you.”
He said in a rather broken English accent but he was an Indian no doubt. Was he even a real doctor? I was the one in front as I had tried to shield them so I went first.
“We are not all bad men. I could be a friend!”
He said trying to reassure us.
“The bad news is we already checked your bloods and for STIs when you arrived and were unconscious. You were all clean and virus free!”
“Why is that bad news?”
Thandeka asked him defensively,
“Its bad news because if you had infections they would have let you go. It’s good news for them!”
He explained. Forget the questions asked these people had done things to us when we were unconscious. I wanted to vomit but I only managed tears.
“I know you think I am a bad person for doing this but my family needs the money back home. I have to do what I need to do for them to survive!”
He said as he checked my blood pressure and other things. He proclaimed us all healthy. He liked Khanyi best because he spoke to her right through her test. Even the other girls noticed.
Could this be the ally we needed?
Was this just a trick by Ahmed to hear our plans?
Must we speak to him about escaping?
Help me think!
Michael Nkululeko Maphoto (fb)
I am honoured to have you read my letter. Thank you for your loyalty to us the readers.
I am 24 and I just a new job as a teacher. I have been dating the same girl since high school and she finishes her schooling this year. She will be having a Chemical Engineering degree. I have helped to subsidize some of her fees for the last two years since her mother died and was the main breadwinner in their home. My parents know about her and what happened to her so they understood. The problem is lately I feel jealous and intimidated by her. I used to feel pride and respect for her but ever since the beginning of the year when it fully dawned on me that she will be earning three times my salary I just felt stupid. Some of my friends tease me saying that I won’t be able to keep her on my teacher’s salary and it’s starting to sink in. I really don’t know what to do? Right now she still depends on me for some things but once that’s done what’s to keep her from leaving. I have already applied for further studies through UNISA because of this jealousy in me. Am I wrong to feel like this? I feel guilty for no longer wishing the best for her because of my insecurities. Another person said I should make her pregnant and she too has hinted to wanting a baby. For me to do this I will be doing for all the wrong reasons. I am stuck brothers and sisters please advise me before I mess this up.