— By Akhona from South Africa
Farm Juliets is what the big town dwellers refer to us a given that a lot of us come from a small town with nothing but a church and school for entertainment. If we are lucky, we can see an already out of the box office movie sometimes. I guess we have a certain unappealing swag about us that only the city folk can identify with, but one thing for certain is that once the city bug has bitten someone, that person never wants to go back to the folklife. Whatever it was….
My name is Akhona Zibonti and I was born and raised on the outskirts of the Indian Ocean in a rural town called Port St. John’s. From a very young age I have always felt that I didn’t belong in PSJ (as we fondly refer to it). I have always felt the slight suffocation with the idea of spending more than a few seconds in the town. I guess one can say I was never really in love with my hometown from the very beginning because I am ashamed to say that I have never fully gave myself time to know and explore the much interesting parts about the town.
I think Joburg caught my eyes from a very young age. I remember I had always dreamt of coming to Joburg and my day dreams where always situated in Jozi… I felt that the city understood my personal desire for bigger and better things. For a while I believed Joburg understood me better than anyone. If I recall correctly 2002 was the year I told myself I was not going to spend another precious moment in PSJ, sadly it was also a year I was grieving my grandfather. A tall salt and pepper proud, gentle yet strict old man with a look that could stop the universe and a kind soul that could make one want to get closer to God.
So I had made a plan, which never materialized though. I guess I felt there was no point in staying in a place where some of the people who made me feel safe were no longer residing there. It might look as though it was an outcry of a grieving soul but for a split second Joburg made me feel like I was living in Never Never Land and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it for a long time. My naïve soul believed everything and everyone in Joburg was good.
Fast-forward to 10 years later and life has shown me a thing or two. I have always known and felt that my calling was helping people. When I was introduced to Khanya College I felt that I had found my purpose. Khanya is situated at end of Inner City Johannesburg in a building called the Freedom house. This organization falls under the Khanya umbrella which fights for different social-oriented causes. When you first see the building you get the idea; an inner city’s dilapidated situation with crimes, buildings without running water or electricity but always full of occupants, from toddlers to adults. Khanya is situated in Prichard Street diagonally opposite to where prostitutes operate. It always catches me off guard when I enter the building with a polite guard and a functioning elevator. The elevator is even serviced when it needs to be! The organization prides itself of having a large area for the press as well as a full-functional kitchen. Their programs attract people who don’t trust the Inner City given all the good deeds that they have done over the years.
Khanya is draped with many good deeds. As a former worker, I can only tell you of the psychological damage one faces from the hands of Maria whose narcissist ways ensure that you are isolated when she showers her wrath on you with degrading words. I felt as though this was a form of oppression and made me question my abilities that constantly would come up in conversation …
I remember Thuli, another coworker, would always say to me “Don’t let her break you, because she wants you to break and make you beg for your job.” Thato, Nokuthaba also felt her constant torture and after years passed all I had left was Palesa. The place with its uplifting ideologies suppresses its workers while overworking…. At one point she had said to me about how she had to beg the Director and other in charge for me to get the job and that I should be grateful to her to have this job. To be honest I was petrified of losing my volunteer position.
Even though I was promised a larger salary than the one I was getting, I never questioned nor did I want to disrupt the status quo. It is sad that a number of South African or non South Africans live under constant fear everyday. When it was time for me to open another chapter in my life, I left without a heartbreak or bitterness towards her, because I finally learned that throughout the time I worked myself to a zombie and this will not change a thing. Regardless of what I would do, she was a narcissist who always thought she was superior to me. In retrospect, I had realized that I should always steer clear of self-doubt and stop it in its tracks. What is left now is figuring out: what is next?