On our way home

We are
creased commuters, squashed between mama and the silent man with the itch in his side. After-robot! Now we can nurse life back into a tingly leg.

We are
drivers with our windows open and the radio up, we’ll chance metal against our temples because the air con’s broke and it’s a long wait at a dead robot at 5.30pm on a weekday.

We are
the man selling sunglasses at the corner. And the one selling mangoes. And the one selling clothes hangers. And the one selling a massive neon bouncing ball.

We are
the lady selling chances to numb your guilt.

We are
the one giving her money, thinking her child seems too old to be carried. “Look, his legs dangle past her knee,” we mutter while fishing in the ashtray for the car-guard’s change.

We are
taxi drivers, battered emperors of the tacky tarmac. Don’t be so insolent as to believe you have any right of way over us.

We are
12 year olds at the roadside, wielding spark plugs for just one shot for glass to rain. Just one chance. One cellphone. This is the difference between today and tomorrow for me.

We are
the people who shoot them. Thieving bastards deserve it. Damn, he looked older when he smashed my windscreen.


You may have heard/read this in the news. Crime has made something ugly of us all, the victims and the perpetrators. See how the lines are blurring.

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I am a writer and photographer (look up my work on www.shootcake.com) based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have an MA in Creative Writing from the university currently known as Rhodes. My writing accolades include winning the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and the 2020 Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize for my debut collection, Zikr.

10 thoughts on “On our way home”

  1. It is always terrible to hear a story like this. In my county recently a couple of teenagers stabbed the other teenager in a tram because he gave them “a bad look”!!!
    Where this world is going to? I think that kids need to shout down damn tv for a while.

  2. the problem: crime.

    the possible solutions: guns, emigration, high walls, security guards, surveillance systems, tracker.

    those are just the ones that come to mind… wtf is the police? wtf is the government policy on the death penalty and the God-given rightto defend one’s self by any means necessary.

    too angry, too little time.

  3. Joburg changes so much everyday. From the grey and dark into bright and green. And those street kids laugh, cry and shout in single expressions. When I look at people like me, I see them fading into general shades of ugliness behind veils of material possessions.

    Fuck … the assumption of morality sickens me more than what they own. The well fed babies grow into disgusted old men and women who are cloaked in the Sunnah, lie daily prostrate with stomachs full. As if somehow they’ve stolen less than the thief and shared more than the filthy beggar? Liars. If our crimes are victimless, then this child is faceless and the gunman is noone.

    Shariah .. don’t even go there. Law and punishment are more than external outcomes, they are a societies internal commitment. Every tax evading chacha has stolen more.

    Good post. Marriage isn’t making you sentimental is it.

  4. Agreed. There is NO excuse for theft. kid may not have deserved to die but he did deserve punishment and the so called “justice system” sure as hell wasn’t going to inflict it. Maybe a potential thief hears about this and thinks twice before smashing someone’s window.

  5. The media story was a complete mockery of our country.. Someone shoots a 12 YEAR old that STOLE and everyones in uproar yet a BURGLAR shoots a 12 yrs old kid in his home is considered everyday general news..

    I mean cmon.. Get real.. Since when are we protecting criminals let alone care for them..

    I know the plight of the less fortunate are not in our hands and we havent a clue as to wat they go through to live on a daily basis.. But theft is theft..

    Be it from a 12 yr old or a 32 yr old.. Shariah law is existent at present and not only in Omar (AS) time.. I’ve seen a live limb removal in Saudi few years back.. And strong Islamic states such as NIgeria etc still implement it..

    But as ‘n’ said.. Laziness is NO EXCUSE..

  6. You know whats our major problem is that everyone is selfish, not only South Africa, its a humanity problem. We need to start looking beyond our noses, not just my family, my race, my religion.

    Gooky, if someone close to you was responsible for the cellphone theft and met the same fate, would you be so accepting? Maybe this boy was someone’s brother or son.

  7. zk

    FWIW shariah law ie. removing the limb, in the time of Omar RA, he stopped this temporarily because Medina was going through a terrible famine.

    I think the same could apply here, the kid has no choice but to steal to feed himself.

    Flipside of the coin, 9/10 times, thieves in Za land simply steal because:
    a) its their ‘right’ to do this
    b) lazy to work, i see it, i want it mentality
    c) justice system cant do squat, so i’ll carry on with my ‘work’

  8. according to the law you can only shoot if your life is in danger…
    a 12 year old stealing your cellphone so he can sell it for some food is not a danger to your life…
    I dnt agree with stealing on any level and chances are that when he is older it will become a more serious crime then just the cellphone theft…
    i also know that South Africans are tired of all the crime…
    BUT i still do not think he should have been shot DEAD!!!!
    I think our problem is none of us look at the heart of the problem…What drives them to such theft and honestly its the lack of work and food. Yes sure i cannot blame everything on poverty but chances are if these issues were addressed the likelihood of some one stealing would be minimal also steeper measures need to be implemented to deter such activity.
    Maybe Shariah law…theft = removal of limb…

    Then again who are we to judge?

  9. well, i think a lot of people’s cellphones got saved
    …AND…perhaps lives too – who knows what the little bastard would’ve done later on?
    blurring lines? I think not, my dear friend.
    If enough criminals get shot/maimed/woundedbeyondrepair, then perhaps wannabe criminal types would reconsider and we’d all be a little bit safer.

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