Chapter 5 & Character profile: Lerato Shababgu-Grootboom.
Born in tembisa in the early to mid eighties, Lerato Grootboom, was actually Born, Lerato Shabangu at tembisa hospital on a windy and cold night in the middle of august. Ma-shabangu had been up all night trying to trace her husband, Petrus Shabangu who had not returned from his meetings with the youth of the volatile township. She feared for his life, in the 1980’s suspiscion was quickly followed by necklacing ( being burned alive, with tire restricting your arms and your torso while you burn to a crisp) this punishment was not meted out by any court, four hostel dwellers, constituted a court in the streets, justice is swift and without mercy. Ma-shabangu was about seven months pregnant on the night that she ventured out of vusimuzi section’s railways to find her radical husband.
Petrus was extraordinary by many accounts, he was said to have returned from John Vorster police barracks twice, both via the hospital’s head trauma and internal bleeding section. Be kwi ndoda eqinile, a hard man indeed, he was one of those patriots who was ignited by the thought of freedom and not political alliance. By virtue of neutrality he lived a dangerous and watched life. He was called upon at a time that,when many innocent people were being slautered on trains on the way home from tiresome work, more often than not paying slave wages.
Petrus was able to stand hobbling from side to side to keep balance and focus, his second exit out John Vorster was exhaustive and had taken all the life and stength he had to survive. He was a destroyed figure of a man, his back would never be straight again, his walk would never be proud again. The stylish petrus shabangu, was now a hobbled and scarred cripple, reliant on sticks to hold himself up.
But still here he stood in front of these cowardly animals who saw themselves as political leaders, he despised these little rascals, hotheads who were being used by the securiry branch to fuel terror and fear in the townships. Was there ever any plausible and practical reason for two black organizations to be at each other’s throats, while the enemy state still controlled all the levers of power.
Petrus was not an man of many words, his invitation had not come from the young leaders, it had come from senior party cadres, who were hoping that Petrus, the legend could make the both sides see eye to eye.
Standing at the center of the meeting, a small house off main road, sangweni section( there were no street names then, bantu education, didn’t require us to be able to give directions, he he he!! I can laugh but its a serious, impediment and deprivation of humity 2 be without education in a time of new discoveries and new ideas. This country still suffers today as a result.)
Okay bad place to joke, back to the profile, I’m getting to lerato,” chillax dude” as my lil sister would say….
Petrus never chose sides he erred on the side of right, not righteous, just right- As in oppressing or killing people was wrong, no reason required or justified. What noone knew was that his aunt her daughter, his beloved uncle Joe who also had not chosen sides and were simply on their way home, when the train was attacked by 8 cowards who had entered the trains at Germiston, 16 people died in that coach, some people tossed themselves out of the windows. It was complete bloodbath, women and children everywhere, lying dead, bodies covered in blood and riddled with ak 47 rounds.
How does this connect to lerato? You ask, simply put this was the precursor to her birth.
When Ma-shabangu arrived at the meeting house, what awaited he confirmed her worst fears, as she neared the house. She had seen smoke and amber lights in the distance. The meeting house was on fire, neighbors and passing strangers tried in vain to extinguish the flames that had engulfed the house. The police and fire-truck had not arrived on the scene, it wasn’t too much of a concern to them then.
The scene was complete chaos, the people who had been outside never knew what hit them. One minute there is a humming of muted conversation and the next there was a loud explosion and the house was covered in flames immediately. Doors were blown wide open, so noone could understand why the 10 or so men did run out after the blast.
Only Ma-shabangu knew that reason, she was struck with complete horror, she realised that Petrus had actually taken his key to the weapon case kept in another yard down the road. And on his return he had absent mindedly left the coat in the kitchen, what she discovered corroborated the police investigation, a hand grenade had exploded near a large fuel canister inside the house.
Petrus had taken his revenge and in full, he was disgusted and torn because these animals that killed his aunt and uncle. Had been sparred the hangman’s rope because he refused to talk and inturn took beatings that literally tore the life out of him. A brave dark and big man had been reduced to a hobbling cripple, for what, animals that kill innocent people.
Unfortunately our actions don’t only affect us, the act, robbed Lerato, of her biological parents. Ma-shabangu suffered a mild heart attack and hung onjust long enough for an c-section at tembisa hospital.
Born into chaos and disparity, Lerato was never to know her parents, no relative ever came to claim her, no callers ever asked about her mother. Her name was given to her by a kind nurse, Mevrou Bertie Grootboom. Bertie was a large and jovial coloured lady who was married to a xhosa man from transkei, Xolile. Xolile or X as he was known, was the one that taught lerato how to read people and situations, he was a kleva, never had a real job in his life. Bertie on the other hand was an old warhorse, she handed out beatings at the drop of spottie (hat). In her neighbourhood, esiziba be bam biza uchesa mpama. Thrashing her husband was a weekly ritual, he would go out and inevitably come back completely wasted, some weekends he behaved but, on the days he would demand some ass (sex), Bertie would hand him his ass quickly, she wasn’t a fair fighter, she used anything and everything when she fought. Lerato had learnt a lot off moves.
Given that Lerato was a big girl, if that wasn’t enough she very dark, you could hardly call her ugly, but she wasn’t hot either. She was a 4 by all acounts. Little kids are cruel but they quickly learnt, that Lerato wasnt the person you want to direct insults and jokes towards.
When she was born, the doctor said she was a fighter, boy was he right. She born two months shy of 9 months despite this she developed normally like any child. Its seemed that she was doubling in size every year, by the time she left primary school she weighed 70 kg and that’s massive for 13 year old.
Primary school was an especially difficult, “fatty boom boom” as sort of her unofficial name and what called her in the presence of trusted friends, otherwise “otla bona masepa ka pila’ you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
Freda claasen was a sexy and leggy, afrikaans girl in primary school,@ 14 she was a real stunner, xena type body( Kaptein van die onder 15 span), an amazon with deep black and long hair, her eyes almost sparkled despite being black as night. As primary politics go, the popular girls normally run shit as in they are often looked at as role models by lesser beings, Freda was a proud girl and quick with her tongue too. During a heated argument with friends she decided to showout and use lerato as an example of fat girl. In fairness It was honest assessment bt this was primary school emotions run deep n news fly.
By the way this is how Tebza spotted Lerato, Lerato had been a quite the docile type although she was queen in the hood, she struggled at school and she was self concious about her coloured afrikaans accent, which was a little odd on big , dark girl. It was Tebza, who got wind of the comment, she started by belittling Lerato and telliing hw disappointed at the fact that she allowing this white girl,gore a dlalle modimo gagao.( Allowing the white mess with) As the broken telephone goes…Freda’s words had been twisted and added 2, by the time it got Lerato, freda had called her “the fattest black girl I ever seen in my lewe” do remember what I said about tebza, provocative and a master manipulator of note.
This brings us back to the story remember, the mexican stand off between dikeledi and tebza for lerato’s allegiance and loyaltly….
…..Lerato stayed in magagula’s car and they made off into the sunset. …. Why ….you ask yourself……
Lerato never got the chance to smack Freda silly, Tebza had it taken care of….on the eve of the netbaball open challenge for schools, all the netball teams had camped out to ensure that the girls were focused and well rested.
The under 12 team had all stayed together at the senior boarding house. This was the perfect place for tebza to effect serious revenge for the slur on Lerato, she didn’t really care about Lerato her issue was with Freda, she hated being no. 2 to Freda ( being vice captain was nt enough), the fact that Freda was white made even more of a problem.( I’ll explain a lil later)
The night before the opening game, while the girls were eating, at the dining hall, Tebza pretended to need the bathroom, but she made her way to the rooms, the effects of her handiwork had shocked Freda half dead, with shame and embarrassment. Her teammates had laughed so hard that she had quit the team and tournament, the coach had tried so hard not to but she couldn’t her self and also broke down In stitches as soon as Freda left.
Tebza had pulled off the greatest upset in primary, she had injected peroxide into Freda’s moisturiser, which knew Freda would spend at least 20 minutes lavishing her beatiful, long and silky hair, it was a routine, she really loved her hair, she as proud of it. So you can imagine the shock of being woken by snickering laughter, because she looked liked a dirty rat crossed wiith a zebra.
With patches blonde strands and deep black undergrowth of her natural hair
This is how Tebza earned her loyalty from Lerato.
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