In May 2008, South Africa was beset by violent xenophobic attacks on foreign, migrant workers. 62 people died and many lives were affected. This is a diary entry from my journal during that time.
Stomp, our resident Zimbabwean Man-Who-Does, got his name as a result of losing half a leg when he was hit by a car in Sauer Street in 1978. He more or less rules our little compound, mends fences and steadfastly refuses to indulge my yen for a Zen garden; constantly perfecting his wavy flowerbeds with a sharp spade.
We bought him a prosthesis some years back, but he prefers to go about his business with a cane and with his stump wrapped in one of Original Bunn’s old ballet stockings and manages a sprightly trot twice daily with the dogs, doffing his hat and making ribald suggestions to the local nannies.
He has been a third parent to The Bunn in her growing years and exhibits tireless patience; he once spent three hours in a wardrobe when a neighbour child popped over the wall and he Bunn promptly forgot that she and Stomp had been engaged in a game of hide and seek. He frets about her diet and berates me for the lack of bread and butter as accompaniment to all our meals. He is wild about television and becomes impossible to deal with if – for any reason – he misses The Bold and The Beautiful.
Every year, Stomp saves part of his monthly wages in a Post Office savings account for a Big Present for a family member back home. When the Big Present is purchased a complicated series of phone calls leads to us taking a long drive to Beit Bridge, where a relative (who is rewarded for the service) meets us to collect the Big Present and sundry grocery items and take Stomp off for his annual month-long visit. To date there have been: a sewing machine for his wife, a typewriter for his daughter (a school teacher) and an arc welding machine for his youngest son; amongst others.
This year, the Big Present is a bicycle for his grandson.
It is the custom, on the first Sunday of every month, for Stomp’s wife and eldest son to wait, at 10am, at the public telephone outside the general dealer in their village, where Stomp will call them. It has now been three weeks since he encountered the disconnected signal on the general dealer’s public phone.
There is a shiny yellow and black bicycle in my garage, waiting for a little boy.
There is a very sad old man in my garden, not worrying much about anything on television, except for the news.
Stomp died in June that year.
We received a call late this afternoon to tell us that Stomp passed away at about 5.20pm. He had been suffering from a bad cold for a while and we took him in to the hospital on Thursday. We were told he had pneumonia.
Despite the contradiction to his cultural tradition, we have no choice but to have Stomp cremated. When things are a little calmer we will arrange for his family to have his ashes.