“I remember I was staying with my grandmother when my parents came to pick me up to take me to Swaziland where they left me. I was dressed up like umakoti, I was young and confused and didn’t understand what was happening I cried the whole time. When we got to Swaziland my parents told me that I was now married. I asked how and to whom but didn’t get an answer. Later that night umamazala (mother in-law) took me to a hut where there was this old man, she then told me that he is my husband, I started crying again and he told me that even if I cried there is nothing I can do he paid lobola for me and I am his wife.
The same night he said we are going to sleep together but because I was young I didn’t understand so I took the blankets nga lala phansi, he said no you are my wife we will sleep in the same bed. I refused he grabbed me, took off my clothes and he had sex with me. I cried the whole night thinking what have I done to deserve this, why are my parents doing this to me. In the morning his sisters woke me up to go fetch water and wood, when I come back I would start cleaning, bathing their kids and cooking. When I asked for help I was told ngi wumakoti so I should act like one. I was young and when I saw other kids playing on the streets I would wish to go play with them but I would not be allowed because I am married.
Every night this man would force himself on me; having sex with me without my permission he didn’t even use protection. After a few months I woke up feeling dizzy and nauseas and I told my mother in-law. I didn’t know what was happening because I was vomiting and had all the signs of being pregnant but because I was young I didn’t understand. After telling her she got excited saying sibonga aba phansi, and I asked her why is she saying that she told me that I was pregnant. I was not exited because it was not my choice. Then I had my first born child. During the pregnancy I would still be doing the house chores and they didn’t help me. After my child was born the abused started again. This man would bring other women into the house, I would be asked to sleep on the floor with the child while he slept with the other woman in the same house and they would have sex. I asked him why he was doing this he would beat me up telling me that he is the man of the house, he paid lobola for me so I must get used to it.
Life was hard and I didn’t know where to run to because I was in another country. After a few years I was pregnant again with my second child. The abuse went on until we moved to Johannesburg. In 2005 I was pregnant again with my third child. One day this man came home from work. He owns a construction company. When he got home, he told me we had to talk and he told me that if we want to be rich and live comfortably, he needed to do something to grow his business. I asked him what he wanted to do. He told me that we must use our first born child. He will take my child to an inyanga where they will use her blood to grow his business and I should not tell anyone where the child is. I refused and he told me that because I am refusing I will die.
He started beating me up and verbally abusing me. I was thinking of my kids. I didn’t care what he would do to me but I wouldn’t let him use my kids. One morning I woke up while he was at work packed my clothes and took my kids and ran away back home where my parents were staying. When I got home I told my mother what had happened and she told me that ushadile and as a married woman I should bear it. I didn’t understand why my mom would say something like that to me, after taking away my childhood now this. I told her I was not going back, I would be staying with them she told me that she won’t be able to maintain me and my kids (angikwazi ukuphakela wena naba ntwana bakho).
I stayed at home for a few days and she was not happy about it. I then ran away to Johannesburg thinking I would get a place to stay and a job so that I can take care of my kids. When I got to Joburg I didn’t have a place to stay so I stayed with the kids on the streets after a few days I realized that the streets were not safe so I took the kids back to my mother’s house and I went back to stay on the streets. Life on the streets was tough because we would sleep without blankets, always fighting for safety because there would be a man who comes and want to sleep with us. I would use a box as my blanket and sometimes metro police would come at night and chase us away taking our boxes and saying we don’t belong there.
In 2011, I met a pastor who helped me get a shelter where he was paying for my rent. I then registered my construction business but getting clients was hard as I was not educated and I don’t know much about construction. Atleast now I have a place to stay I also have a phone so I could check up on my kids. Life became better as I had shelter and I know that my kids are safe with my mother.