I am reposting this.  With our rains in smelling-distance, Stomp would have been very busy getting his garden ready …

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 one 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.  We were told he had pneumonia. 

Despite the contradiction to his cultural tradition, we had no choice but to have Stomp cremated.  With the help of friends we managed to get the bicycle to Zimbabwe…



  1. May his dear soul rest in peace. I felt a warm smile take possession of my face when you describe those wavy “spade” edged flower beds. We had a “stomp” of sorts – only our stomp was fond of a tipple or two. He worked for so many members of the Tripepi family – Alfred once decided to take Daniele for a walk to the my sister in laws garden – she was our neighbour – without telling me … chaos erupted. I miss his toothless smile and quiet, slow soul. TB took our Alfred. We all miss him still. xxx jan

  2. We don’t realise how important a monthly phone call can be to keep in touch with family and all the arrangements that have to be made for this to take place… In some ways things just don’t change do they? Migrant workers really have it so hard! My man, Hartwell, and his wife live in South Africa while his children live in Zimbabwe with their grandparents. He has gone ‘home’ for a month every Christmas, but this year he went midyear as well. Imagine seeing your children twice a year…

  3. Beautifully written. Tears. Dear, sweet old man. I hope his family was okay … Thanks for sharing this piece with us, Cindy.

    We are at opposite ends of the seasonal roll … And you are opening your day, posting and commenting, when it’s the middle of the night or early a.m. here …which is when I do a lot of work …

    Have a lovely day, Cin.

  4. I remember your posting about Stomp and the bicycle for his grandson. I chuckled then about his missing an episode of the Bold and the Beautiful, and chuckled again at the thought.

  5. A bitter sweet story…xenophobic behavior seems to be worldwide…local and national government officials find it easier to blame our current woes on foreign, migrant workers than to accept their role in the poor financial management of our resources.

  6. An extraordinary and heart-wrenching story, Cin. Thank you for including it. We have a young Zimbabwean friend who now lives in California, but her mother and sister both live in Zimbabwe. I have tried for some time to get her to tell me what would be most appreciated by her family that we could get for them and send. Her mother is a teacher and does not have a telephone. She must walk several miles to her other daughter’s house to make a phone call. Do you know off-hand if it would be possible to send a pre-paid cell phone to her mother over there? I don’t know if there are certain services that work or not, or if it is possible to send a phone by mail to Zimbabwe in light of some of the recent problems there.

    Grace is very shy about telling me of her family’s needs, which we understand, but we are so blessed, we would like to be able to help in some practical ways.

    Right off-hand, I do not know the name of the township in which she lives, but I will find out and let you know if that makes a difference in terms of satellite signal availability. Thank you, Cin!

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