FunDza Story: Losses and Detours – Baeletsi Tsatsi

Today is a day of celebration. My first 14 chapter story is published by FunDza Literacy Trust. I wrote the story under the impeccable mentorship of Rosamund Haden.

Join thousands of FunDza readers by reading the story here: Losses and Detours.

Photo: Baeletsi Tsatsi


Who celebrates the rest – Baeletsi Tsatsi

“Good Morning class,” Ms Mpitsi greeted the grade 8 C’s. She was the youngest teacher at Fundani High School and she taught history. A lot of her friends often asked why she teaches history out of the many subjects she could teach. Some could not even understand why she chose teaching out of the many options that are available in this day and age. But she always said that “I have made it my responsibility to make sure that generations that follow after me know the history and not only that of our country but that of the world. And not to only know it but to understand and love it”.

Ms Mpitsi was a very cool teacher and the learners spent their lunch break discussing her outfits. She was up to date with the latest fashion trends and she had a very strong opinion about the world and current affairs of the country. She was never shy to share her opinion with her learners; she encouraged them to know what is happening around them, to read and to never take things at surface value.

“As we all know,” she said to start the lesson, “July is Mandela Month which is usually highlighted with Mandela day, where people get to honor the father of our nation by dedicating 67 minutes of their day to doing something good for fellow South Africans.”
Ms Mpitsi continued to tell the learners that an organization will be coming to their school to paint 3 of their history classes in celebration of Mandela Day but before she could continue to tell the learners how they could participate, there was uproar amongst the learners.

“Remember, it is important to have an opinion, but it is impossible to talk over each other,” Ms Mpitsi reminded the grade 8’s the golden rule. Unlike the other teachers she had very minimal rules. As long as your work was done and neat, she was happy.

The learners could play music through their earphones while completing their class works, they could chew gum, suck on lollies as long as your work is done and neat, she would always emphasize. And as a result, most learners loved the history class and always looked forward to it.

“Yes Zama”, she said to one of the quiet learner. Sometimes she was amazed at Zama’s perspective on things but she was always impressed with her reasoning.
“Maam,” Zama started. Her stuttering voice was the main reason she preferred to keep quiet in classes, “Why do we only celebrate Tata Mandela as our hero? What about the other heroes we have learned about in our history books?”

“Yes!” the class cheered in agreement with Zama.

“We will take all the questions and then have a discussion at the end in attempt to answer them,” Ms Mpitsi said. The learners loved the discussions, one of the learners said they made him feel like they are part of a panel that changes the world.

“What celebrations are put in place to honor other heroes?” asked Tebogo, the cool kid of the school. Outside the history class he was the guy every girl wanted, the way he switched into a young revolutionary when he got to the history class always surprised Ms Mpitsi.

Masego, the school poet and head of the debate team asked, “If the organization comes to paint three classes, what about the rest of the school?”

“Ok, I think we have enough questions to start our discussion. You have all raised and asked very important points and I think you have the ability to make suggestions as answers to the questions” Ms Mpitsi said. She always told the other teachers that the secret to successful learners and impressive results is to complement the learners on the work they have done. That encourages them to do more.

The class discussions were always led by the learners, Ms Mpitsi will only come in if the chaos was unbearable. After accumulating the questions, the learners would elect a committee made up of a scribe, who would stand by the chalk board and try to write as many of the learners’ opinions, a chairperson who will select who speaks next, and a jury of three people who will choose one of the suggested solutions ad give reasons. Every learners wanted to be a part of the jury, they had the true power.
The chairperson opened the discussion by asking Katlego to speak and he highlighted that South Africa has more than 12 heroes, so maybe each month can be dedicated to a hero. Another learner said that if more heroes are celebrated then more classes can be painted and more good deeds can be done. The discussion went on and Ms Mpitsi sat at the corner beaming like a proud parent. She was impressed with her learners’ suggestions and as the bell rang she decided to tell them a surprise she had been burning to share with them the whole week.

“Ok, 8C,” Ms Mpitsi called out, “The jury will announce their decision at the start of the next class, for now I have something to share. As part of my Mandela Day celebration, I have managed to get the principal to allow me to treat all the Grade 8’s to a day at the museum. To learn more about the history of our country”, Ms Mpitsi said to a class that was now cheering as she handed out indemnity forms for parents to sign.

“Where are my friends now?” she asked herself as the last learner walked out of the class, waving her indemnity form with joy.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

POEM: date night in the city centre – Nkateko Masinga

we are painting the city black tonight
– not red
if we paint it red they will say we asked for the bloodshed
that we offered our bodies as a sacrifice
but these are mourning clothes disguised as skin
and those of us still living
will hold hands and be the walls of the city
and those who can’t stand will sit and be its pillars
and those who can’t sit will lie down and be its pavement
and by morning
(through our mourning)
we will have rebuilt the city

and if we could levitate
we would be the sky too
but if we stay out late enough
we will blend into the night
and the stars will come out
saying we can make a wish

but we don’t make wishes anymore
we only pray
and i am praying for life

i am praying for another chance
to have a date night in the city centre
and make it home alive

Let’s Talk Text: DITABA

September is the literacy month and boy can you feel it. One book fair after the other. I spent the better half of my weekend in Newtown attending The South African Book Fair. Which was well attended by authors, publishers, aspiring writers and book lovers of all kinds. I sat on a panel with Sibongile Fisher, the winner of the of the 2016 Short Story Day Africa prize for short fiction and Busang Senne, blogger, journalist and writer chaired by FunDza’s content developer Ros Haden, talking about innovative reading and writing with youth.

The programme was made up of talks of various topics ranging from queer rights to getting published and I attended a few. My highlights being Getting Published during which, Niq Mhlongo said that getting published requires patience, something that young writers don’t have.
Here are some of the quotes from the South African Book Fair.

On Sunday I read Home and Holes from Brittle Paper, written by Eric Atie. The piece highlighted the extent to which women make sacrifices in marriages. Read it here.
Story Bosso

Nal’ibali’s multilingual storytelling talent search is back. Storytellers of all ages can enter and this year’s focus is on African folktales. To enter, click here.

Friday Magic
This week’s story The bus that we missed is written by Malefu Mahloane. After reading this story, you will believe them when they tell you that everything happens for a reason.

I’ll be talking text with Nkateko Masinga on Thursday, watch out for the interview.

Baeletsi Tsatsi

The bus that we missed – Malefu Mahloane

My uncle says it would not have happened if he hadn’t been driving at a speed of 140km/h on a 100 km/h limit road. I remember that morning every waking day, the day when my uncle and I missed the 05:40 a.m. bus to work. It was a Monday morning in the chilly winter. We usually get up at 04:45 a.m. to prepare, first my uncle wakes up and heats up enough water for the both of us. It takes about 16 minutes for the water to get heated and within those 16 minutes, he lights the heater to warm up his room. Once the water is heated he brings the heater to my room and goes on to bath. It is a perfect arrangement. Although we both start bathing at the same time, I find that I only finish +/- 10 minutes later than him. This frustrates him, you will hear him muttering insults beneath his breath out of frustration, but instead of lashing out at me, he will kindly ask me to please watch the time. No matter how much I try this is the one thing that I do that dissatisfies my uncle – I cannot keep proper time.

On that chilly Monday morning I was a proper 18 minutes late. We ran from our house up to the bus stop but two blocks away from the stop, we saw the 05:40 bus leave the stop. We watched it as we mourned with regrets under heavy breath. I could not even look at my uncle because it was entirely my fault that we had missed the bus. I should have just picked clothes to wear the night before instead of changing outfits 4 times that morning.

So we starred at the bare bus stop, all our fellow commuters were gone, it would just be the two of us now – standing by the side of the cold tar road without the luxury of squeezing in between other people to hide ourselves from the breeze. The wind whipped us from all sides and we were silent the entire time. That’s how I knew that my uncle really was mad at me because he usually a motormouth. Other commuters will tell that, “John? He always has something to say that man – always something to complain about. That guy is never happy with anything, he can even complain about you while you’re there in front of him, but he’ll be using 3rd person expressions to refer to you.”

There I was, a girl who made her uncle late standing 1 meter away from him, starring down, waiting to catch the first glimpse of the next bus when eventually, I could see its green and orange lights. It was the 06:00 a.m. bus and the nice thing about it as we discovered, is that unlike the 05:40 bus that collects people from 9 stops around the town, this particular one only stopped at 3 locations. Ah! I was happy that we would not be far behind time after all. My uncle was still very quiet and he covered his nose with his hood. He could not be all chitty-chatty because we were with a different squad of commuters. He then uncovered his nose and like a man who had just regained his freedom; he took a deep breath. Like, being quiet for too long suffocates him. “Hell, just look at black people – already taking snuff so early in the morning. Don’t you know that it is unlawful to smoke in public? Jesses!” He said about an old lady who was sniffing tobacco three seats in front of us. By the way my uncle is a health care servant, so he knows the rules of public health. If he was a policeman, I am sure he’d arrest people everywhere he goes because he’s very observant of public misconduct. In our usual transport, there are always people supporting his complaints, even though it is not the same people all the time. However, no one seconded or refuted his lament this time. I never bother to pile up or offer an alternative view to his complaints because child, will he shut you down! After a couple of breaths noticing that no one was open for dialogue he reverted to what he normally thinks are internal conversations but mistakenly utters out loudly, “I don’t know why I just don’t take my own car to work. People behave like these busses belong to their ancestors.” He then covered his nose again.

This particular bus was a single coach and it was already full by the time we reached the second last stop, but the driver allowed more and more people to hop on. The passage way of the bus was occupied with young school boys and girls, old ladies and timers. Close to us stood an old man in his Transnet overalls, my uncle poked the gentleman who was sitting in front of us and asked him if he would not get up and give the old man the seat. The man looked at him once, frowned with disgust and faced forward again. “Hey man, I’m talking to you. Young men these days!? You are such a disgrace. Just because you are wearing some white shirt and a blazer to work you think you are better than an old man. Yikes!” He continued, but still not a single word from the gentleman. People in this bus were peculiarly quiet, even the old man who my uncle was speaking for did not say a word or show any form of sentimental expression.

Our drive went on and on until we reached the last stop and then the bus drove off to N8 – the road that has taken more lives than the apartheid government did in one year. Nevertheless, the bus driver went on at a speed of 120 km/hr on a 100 km/hr road. It was then that some of the voices started to emerge; people saying, “Step on it driver!” “Driver of the year!” “We will be in the city in no time with you my brother!” Following these cheers, the driver accelerated some more. My uncle was now starting to look around at these voices and smiling since everyone looked happy at last. You could tell that he wanted to be a part of this bus’s culture so he also added on, “Step on it man, it is not yours! Do you all remember that song that we used to sing back in the 80s when we were coming back from school trips? How did it go again?” Some of the old souls laughed at this and one man from the back sang it out, “E gate Joe! Ga se ya gago Joe!” Yes, that was the song. More people joined the chorus and the singing went on and on until we reached the crossroads of the next town where we were met with a road block.

We learned that there had been an accident between a bus and a VW Polo. The Polo driver had lost her life instantly and 14 of the 134 bus commuters were severely injured and the rest were in an okay state, including the driver. This was the 05:40 and the woman who was driving the Polo was a girl from down the road on our street. She was recently divorced after being married for 6 months to a 40 year old soldier, who apparently found out that she had allegedly used a false pregnancy to get him to marry her. Reports said that she was drunk and others said the bus driver was driving at high speed.

My uncle says, he wonders why the drivers of this bus company are always rushing to because 89% of accidents on the N8 involve buses. He says, “These drivers – you wonder why they are rushing to because they are already on their jobs. We the commuters are not in any hurry, that’s why we take buses at the times that won’t affect our work schedules. No man, it is a tradition of theirs, you can tell.” He said this to the father of the girl that evening when all neighbours went to offer their condolences. I looked at him with disgust. To think that he was one of the people who were encouraging the other driver to accelerate. But that’s my uncle, they will tell you, he complains about everything even when he’s had a hand in it. I wonder if he saw it, though. I still wonder if he sees that the bus that we missed was to some extend a blessing in disguise.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

A Pair of Gifts – Boipelo Maetla

The boys in my street are singing struggle songs again.

And prison songs.

No one knows where or when they learnt these prison songs. There is an irony where these melodies meet. There is so much passion in their voices, you can tell that something dies inside them when these words reach their lips.

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Marang and The King – Baeletsi Tsatsi

Marang sat on her bed, half listening to her grandmother heaving on the other side of the room separated by a worn out curtain lace and half impatiently waiting for her friend Leah to respond to her text. Before her grandmother got bedridden they used to make jokes about how most of the things in the house are older than her and on the good days her grandmother would tell her how she acquired her furniture, but all that Marang wanted to hear today was Leah to say that she will go with her to the party on Saturday.

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The GONE Collection

I started the year with a writing team of five writers, but due to unforeseen circumstances three have pulled out of the team. I’m sad to compile this collection but I’m so proud of the work that the writers produced during their stay here at Naane le Moya. I continue to wish them only the best as far as their writing and their creative careers go.

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Heart Beads – Malefu Mahloane

It was on a late afternoon in summer that an old lady sat with her granddaughter sifting beads according to size, age and make. The old lady and her granddaughter sat there in silence, a happy sort of silence. Even though they were not saying anything to each other, every now and again they would simultaneously glance at each other with laughing eyes and peaceful smiles. The relationship of the old lady and her granddaughter, the daughter of her young son, had matured with every sitting of beads sifting. They had grown to be best friends even though they barely spoke.

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