Sikhumbuzo Majozi stood on the platform at the station near his home at eNkandla. He felt excited. And he felt a little scared. He thought he heard his heart beating under his shirt.
He picked up his small suitcase and got onto the train. He went to the window – and said goodbye to his old father and brothers.
The train started to move slowly. And then it moved faster and faster. Sikhumbuzo closed his eyes. This was his first time on a train.
He opened his eyes and looked out the window. He saw some mountains and lots of trees. Then they were gone. He saw some huts and cattle. Then they too were gone.
Sikhumbuzo held on to his suitcase. He held it tightly. He had never left his home before. For all his 16 years, he has lived with his famiIy at eNkandla in Natal.
He thought about his father. In his mind he saw his father busy outside their small house. He saw his father making a chair. His father knows how to make beautiful things. He worked in a furniture factory for many years. But now he is old and he can’t work anymore. He sits and waits for his pension – and his wife.
Sikhumbuzo’s mother works in eGoli – the city of gold. She is a cleaner in a hotel. Every month she sends money to her husband and six children.
Sikhumbuzo had not seen his mother for two years. He tried to remember her face. But he couldn’t. He held his suitcase even tighter.
He looked out the window again. The land was dry and cracked – just like the fields at home. He felt a tear in his eye. He remembered his father’s best cow lying dead near the dry river bed.
The cow lay with its mouth open. The cow didn’t look like a cow any more. H is father’s best cow looked like a sack of old bones. And even in death the flies didn’t give the old cow any peace.
Sikhumbuzo’s fami Iy once had 25 cows. Now they have only 10 cows. “1 wonder how many I will find when I get back?”, Sikhumbuzo asked himself.
The train went through a tunnel. Sikhumbuzo could see nothing. “Where are we?” he shouted.
“Don’t worry my child,” said a voice from the darkness. “we are in the Majuba hole.”
Sikhumbuzo said a little prayer. And then the train came out the tunnel – and it was light again. Sikhumbuzo shook his head and smiled. “God is great,” he whispered. He held onto his little suitcase all the way to eGoli.
We found Sikhumbuzo sitting on an old rusty bicycle in Market street in Johannesburg. He was ringing a bell and shouting, “Ice cream, ice cream”
“My mother came to fetch me from Park Station in Johannesburg,” he told us. “My mother knew I was coming. I wrote her a letter. She knew I was coming to eGoli in my school holidays.”
“She took me to stay with a friend of hers. His name is Ngcobo. He stays in a small room near the hotel.
“One Sunday afternoon Ngcobo took me to a soccer match at the George Goch stadium. I love soccer. I have always loved soccer.
“We got thirsty. But we couldn’t find any water. Ngcobo said we must buy some ice cream. We found a man selling ice cream.
“The man who sold ice cream was very friendly. He spoke to us. He told us about his job. He said his boss needs more people to sell ice cream.
“Ngcobo took me to the ice cream factory in Doornfontein. The white man in the factory gave me a bicycle and a bell. And so I started to sell ice creams.
“I did not know the streets of Johannesburg. But I made friends with another ice cream man. He showed me around the streets. Now I know my way.
.”1 work seven days a week. I want to make lots of money. I want to pay for’ my school fees and books. I must also buy my grey and white school uniform.
“I make most of my money on Sundays. On Sundays I go to George Goch stadium. The men from the hostels bring their girl friends to the soccer. And they buy their girlfriends lots of ice cream. Last Sunday a man bought his girlfriend four ice creams.
“I have seen many strange things in eGoli. People don’t walk properly. They walk like they have a pain in their hips. And women wear trousers like men. They also smoke cigarettes. I don’t think I will take a wife from this place.
“I once saw a man put his hand in another man’s pocket and steal his money. One day I saw two men fighting. They were fighting over a can of beer. I wiII never Iive my whole life in eGoli. This is a very different place.
“And the police – they arrested me early one morning. They wanted to see my pass. They took me in a van to the police station in Hillbrow. I found many other people there.
“I was very scared. I don’t like to say this but I was crying. I thought I was going to die. But when I showed them my school pass they let me go.
“And yesterday three white men jumped out of a lorry. They grabbed me by my shirt collar. I was too scared to say anything. They spoke to me in a funny language.
“They put my bicycle on the truck. And they took me also. Then they changed their minds. They let me go – but they took my bicycle.
“I quickly ran to the factory in Doornfontein. I told my boss what happened. He phoned somebody. They brought the bicycle back but many ice creams were missing.
“But there is one nice thing about eGoli. Back home we have no water. If there is some water, the water is muddy. Here in Johannesburg, there is plenty, fresh water.
“I’m going back home at the end of January. I must go back to school. I want to be a doctor one day. I have much work to do. Ice creams, ice creams.”