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Burying the promise of all our nephews

Johnny Masilela

A youngster who is good with his hands and has a brain to match - but his future doesn't look good.

Nayope user. (Madelene Cronje)

I am not about to divulge my nephew’s real name.

Instead, I choose to call the boy Mzukulu, for reasons that should become clearer as you read this piece.

The moniker mzukulu translates into “nephew” in the Nguni languages.

Mzukulu, he of the girlish accent and tender heart, is an average township youngster.

Everybody in the family agrees that Mzukulu should become a priest or even a teacher, because of the boy’s remarkable patience with both young and old.

Mzukulu has left his parents’ house to live with friends in a shack on the other side of the township of Letlhabile, outside the North West town of Brits.

To his credit, Mzukulu’s dad taught the boy a thing or two about fixing cars.

From time to time local motorists continue to enlist Mzukulu to fix their cars, something that has come in handy to bring food to the table.

He has also on a number of occasions flagged me down, pleading for a few rand to buy bread. I always stop the car to assist, whenever I can.

Mzukulu has dabbled with other sources of income, such as pushing around a lawn mower to tidy up things for neighbours.

Let me take you back to the day I recently visited his parents in another part of town.

I found that Mzukulu was also visiting, but clearly to lay his hands on something to eat.

While Mzukulu was preparing a meal in the house, I was offered a chair under the shade of an avocado tree. His mother had tea with me.

Then suddenly three schoolgirls, beautiful in the navy-blue uniform of the local Tshepagalang Secondary School, arrived on the scene.

The girls filed into the RDP dwelling, where they indulged in what sounded like dead-serious conversation with Mzukulu.

My curiosity nudged me to inquire from the mother what the visit was all about.

The answer left me stunned. The schoolgirls had been sent by the maths and science teacher to get Mzukulu to assist them with an assignment.

According to the mother, Mzukulu is often stopped in the streets by pupils from various schools seeking his wisdom on matters of maths and science.

But then, you may ask, why is Mzukulu not in class like all these beautiful kids?

The short answer is that Mzukulu and scores of other youngsters have been consumed by a drug concoction called nyaope.

Lo and behold, for township and village gravediggers have their hands full as the South African nation continues to bury a generation.

Johnny Masilela is a journalist and author

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