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Culture, Reality

The Township Will Mug You

by Dudumalingani Mqombothi / Illustration by Rob Foote / 07.10.2013

The train departs from Cape Town station at 20:25. What time will it get to the township? How many people are going my way? These are some of the questions that ripple through the carriage. The conversations veer into other less serious things; laughter and smiles.

But as the train gets closer to the township worry seems to, at once, dominate everyone’s thoughts. Commuters in a bid to get home safe begin to telephone a brother, sister, father, mother, boyfriend, friend to collect them from their stations so they will not walk home alone.

A sinister laughter echoes through the carriage; the commuters begin to ask if anyone is getting off at Site C, Site B, Kuyasa or Chris Hani and which way are they are taking. Strangers unified by the fear of getting mugged.

A lady sitting across me, shortly after making a call, disassembles her mobile into pieces. She takes out her sim and memory card and puts them inside her shoe. She keeps the phone in her pocket. The muggers can take the phone, a phone that she has worked hard to buy. She has made peace with that. I think immediately of rape, I suspect everyone is, including her along with everyone else in the carriage, but if I bring it up, if anyone brings it up, what is one to suggest she does when the muggers try to rape her?

As soon as she disembarks, venturing into the dangerous township, taking all my thoughts with her, another lady seated in the far corner of the carriage disassembles her phone. She follows the routine: telephone someone then remove sim and memory card from the phone and stuff them inside your shoes. She takes out all her money from her wallet and hides it in her bra. She ties her shoes and is ready to run, should she be inspired to.

She and I get off at the same station. I tease her about the muggers, not sure why, perhaps to distract her from worry or perhaps to distract myself.

* Illustration © Rob Foote

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