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After Tears

Niq Mhlongo

Publication Year: 2011

 Bafana Kuzwayo is a young man with a weight on his shoulders. After flunking his law studies at the University of Cape Town, he returns home to Soweto, where he must decide how to break the news to his family. But before he can confess, he is greeted as a hero by family and friends. His uncle calls him “Advo,” short for Advocate, and his mother wastes no time recruiting him to solve their legal problems. In a community that thrives on imagined realities, Bafana decides that it’s easiest to create a lie that allows him to put off the truth indefinitely. Soon he’s in business with Yomi, a Nigerian friend who promises to help him solve all his problems by purchasing a fake graduation document. One lie leads to another as Bafana navigates through a world that readers will find both funny and grim.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page

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One: November 22, 1999

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pp. 1-4

That was it. I had had enough of Cape Town. The cold Atlantic Ocean, the white sand beaches, Table Mountain, the Waterfront, everything I had once found so beautiful about the city, had suddenly turned ugly. I decided right there, in front of the notice board, to go and pack my belongings and leave for good. The compass in my...

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Two: Tuesday, November 23

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pp. 5-12

The concourse of Johannesburg Park Station was busy as always that Tuesday afternoon, but as I emerged from the stairs that led down to platform 15 I couldn’t help but see Uncle Nyawana, next to the Greyhound bus counter, flashing his dirty teeth at me. Standing next to him were three people, but I only recognised Dilika and...

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Three: Wednesday, November 24, Soweto

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pp. 13-18

I was still in my boxers, the first cigarette of the morning between my fingers, when I heard someone approaching the house. I knew that it was Mama because she walked very slowly with a heavy tread. I hadn’t expected her to visit us so early in the morning as a few months earlier she had moved in with her lover, Uncle Thulani...

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Four: Thursday, November 25

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pp. 19-25

The following morning, before she went to work, Mama passed by our house in Chi again. To my utter astonishment, she asked me to draft an advert for the sale of our house. At first I thought my ears were playing elaborate tricks on me, but when she insisted that I should send the advert to the Sowetan newspaper offices in...

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Five: Tuesday, November 30

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pp. 26-32

Five days after I had placed the advertisement for the sale of our Chi house with the Sowetan newspaper, an old man walked up our dusty driveway. He stopped and looked up at our house number that was scrawled on the unplastered brick wall outside the front door. He looked at least seventy, or maybe a bit more; both his hair...

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Six: Wednesday, December 1

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pp. 33-39

The following day I found myself sitting behind our family house next to Uncle Nyawana’s fruit-and-vegetable stall. In his left hand, my uncle was holding what he called his dream notebook, which he used to play fah-fee. Verwoerd was curled at my uncle’s feet with one eye open, watching me. I was sitting on an empty beer crate...

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Seven: Thursday, December 2

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pp. 40-48

At eight forty-five the following morning I was already inside a minibus taxi on my way to town. Mama had given me R30 for the journey, but I had specifically waited for Zero’s taxi as I didn’t want to pay the taxi fare to the city. “You’re dressed very smart, Advo,” said Zero, as I sat in the front...

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Eight: Friday, December 3

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pp. 49-56

The next day I finished trimming the lawn just before midday. On the grass I put four two-litre plastic bottles, all filled with water. My uncle had suggested that if I did that the township dogs, including Verwoerd, would be too afraid to come and shit on our lawn at night. This was not some township myth, he insisted, it really...

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Nine: Saturday, December 4

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pp. 57-63

In the morning, I was woken up by the rise and fall of two female voices. It was Mama and her friend Zinhle. Sis Zinhle worked as a sister at the Harriet Shezi Children’s Clinic at Bara Hospital in Soweto, but it wasn’t because of her work that I called her sis. In fact, she had warned me several times that she wasn’t old enough to...

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Ten: Monday, December 13

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pp. 64-75

The wind was whistling in the green trees along Commissioner Street when the minibus taxi dropped us next to the Gandhi Square Bus Terminus. In front of us I saw a big-arsed lady’s skirt lifted up to her navel by the wind, exposing her full cotton bloomers, but I pretended not to have noticed when Mama looked at me...

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Eleven: Friday, December 17

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pp. 76-83

That Friday it was Mama’s turn to hold the monthly stokvel. In the morning, before everyone arrived, Mama called us into my uncle’s room to talk about selling the house. My sister, Nina, was there as well, looking pretty in her embroidered bootleg jeans and multicoloured V-neck T-shirt and with her shoulder-length dreadlocks...

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Twelve: Saturday, December 18

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pp. 84-92

Mama came to Chi early the next morning so that I could help her count the profits of the previous day’s stokvel. She had hidden the money we had made under my bed and, by the time she arrived, I had managed to steal about R150 from the bag. “This matter is stressing me,” said Mama, sighing. “Yesterday...

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Thirteen: Saturday, December 25

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pp. 93-102

It was ten o’clock on Christmas Day and a popular kwaito song by Mandoza was busy playing loudly from inside PP’s BMW. Mama had invited her friends, including sis Zinhle, over to our house for a braai. Uncle Thulani was working, doing the Christmas shift at Sun City. Uncle Nyawana had also called his friends, PP, Dilika and...

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Fourteen: Sunday, December 26

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pp. 103-110

“The only time to visit inmates at Sun City is at the weekend between seven in the morning and midday,” Uncle Thulani said to me as he reversed his old yellow 1972 VW Beetle out of the paved driveway of his Naturena home. “And even then you can only see them for forty minutes.” It was already ten o’clock...

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Fifteen: Friday, December 31

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pp. 111-117

It was still only nine o’clock in the evening, but there was already great excitement in our street. Most of us kept glancing at our watches in anticipation of the special New Year to come. In just a few hours we would be entering the new millennium. No one, including small kids, was prepared to miss the excitement and drama that...

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Sixteen: Wednesday, January 5, 2000

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pp. 118-126

It was a few days after my uncle’s accident. The millennium had come and gone and Jesus had stood Soweto up. The computers at the banks hadn’t crashed either, but my uncle was still in hospital. That morning when Mama came back from work she passed by Chi to see me. I had just bathed and was still in my boxers and...

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Seventeen: Tuesday, January 11

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pp. 127-129

In my room in Naturena, I packed the clothes that I had just ironed into my sports bag. Mama had already gone to work, but she had left me a brown envelope with R22 000 in cash on the kitchen table. It was the first time that I had ever had such a large sum of money on me. I said goodbye to Yuri and Aunty Manto...

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Eighteen: Wednesday, January 12

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pp. 130-131

The morning of the following day, Yomi called to say that my degree was ready. In the back room of his internet café I collected the document that was printed with the words: AT A CONGREGATION OF THE UNIVERSITY HELD ON THE 12TH OF JANUARY 2000, BAFANA KUZWAYO WAS ADMITTED TO...

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Nineteen: Thursday, January 13

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pp. 132-141

It took several loud knocks on my door for Ms Zitha, the B&B owner, to get my attention. I looked at the time on my cellphone and realised that it was already half past ten in the morning. I should have checked out of the room thirty minutes earlier. With the five minutes Ms Zitha gave me to check out of the room,...

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Twenty: Friday, January 14

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pp. 142-147

A headache was hammering away inside my head when I woke up on Friday morning. As I boiled water in my uncle’s blackened pot on the double hotplate, the harsh reality of my swollen lips and sore ribs made me face facts: I had no cellphone, no watch and no money. Luckily, the thugs hadn’t taken my fake degree certificate...

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Twenty-One: Monday, January 24

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pp. 148-156

On Monday, a week after we had all gone to see my uncle in hospital, I secured a place to run my office from at the Mangalani BP Garage complex in Chi. It was a large room that had been a hair salon up until recently. Yomi was to operate his new internet café next door in another large room that had been a spaza shop. There...

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Twenty-Two: Monday, January 31

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pp. 157-161

A week had passed since I had opened my office in Chi, but my headache was still how to find clients. The internet café was making money as the unemployed youth from Chi and neighbouring Mapetla and Protea used it to apply for jobs and type their CVs, but the internet café wasn’t part of my business, it was Yomi’s. It was...

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Twenty-Three: Tuesday, February 1

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pp. 162-167

I was sleeping in Naturena when I was woken by a call from a sergeant Nkuna from the Protea Magistrate’s Court. It was half past one in the morning. He told me that somebody by the name of Lifa Makhanya had been arrested for assaulting another man in a shebeen and had named me as his lawyer. It was only when I spoke...

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Twenty-Four: Monday, February 14

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pp. 168-179

Although the sale of the house in Chi had still not gone through, I was spending more of my time in Naturena. I had met a girl called Lerato and she lived quite close to Mama’s place. My business still wasn’t doing very well in terms of making money. Most of the clients I represented were poor and paid me in small instalments,..

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Twenty-Five: Tuesday, February 15

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pp. 180-183

At about half past nine in the morning the ringing of my cellphone forced me to wake up. My head was heavy from the night before, but Vee was already outside my office in Chi and she wanted us to talk seriously. She was back from Zimbabwe. Mama had gone to work and there were only Aunty Manto and Yuri in the house. Aunty...

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Twenty-Six: Sunday, February 20

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pp. 184-200

It was a Sunday morning. The day of my uncle’s funeral. It was a very hot day and Mama and her uncles, whom I had never seen before, had hired a big tent to accommodate all the mourners who had come to pay their last respects to Uncle Nyawana. The tent was spread right in the middle of our street in Chi, and both entrances...

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Twenty-Seven: Tuesday, February 29

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pp. 201-205

About a week after my uncle’s funeral I was at our Chi home when Mama and sis Zinhle arrived. Mama wanted to introduce me to the people who had bought the house before I left for my office, as well as begin the process of moving some of our things to Naturena. My uncle didn’t own much and if it hadn’t been for his old bed, I’m sure...

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Twenty-Eight: Friday, March 3

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pp. 206-209

The taxi dropped me at the corner of Bree and Harrison Streets at about ten in the morning. The hawkers along Harrison Street’s congested pavement looked at me with envy as I was wearing my formal black suit, a black tie and a white shirt. Before I could even enter the Home Affairs building, at the corner of Plein Street, a...

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Twenty-Nine: Tuesday, May 9

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pp. 210-212

Two months after I had started my self-imposed exile in Diepsloot squatter camp, north of Johannesburg, I found myself at Germiston Station waiting for the Shosholoza Meyl to whisk me away from the blinding Jo’burg lights. As I waited for the train, my mind wandered over everything that had happened to me...


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pp. 213-216


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pp. 217-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444023

Publication Year: 2011