I’m sitting on a hard, cold, wooden bench. My bum and back are sore, it is as if this structure was built for a boneless creature. It is cold here and I am hungry. It has been 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock and now it is 12:30. My food was taken away at the door after it was seen in the scanning x-ray machine. My nail file was fine, but my apple and banana were not.
The Small Claims Court. It is my third time here. I can never quite prepare myself enough for the experience. I am here because there are people in the world who will always take advantage of a kind personality, a giving character, someone who, to them, has no value or economic weight.
My story is pretty mundane but the stories that other people shared with me were exhausting, infuriating and cruel. I felt as if I walked in carrying a child on my back, after 4 hours that child had grown into a fat, tall adult and had died still tied to my hungry frame. It was heavy. Too heavy.
I must begin first by pointing out that I have never seen a white person in the Small Claims Court, it has always been tired looking black and coloured people, mostly women, because as we all know, the darker the women, the less we have to care about her……
My story started in 2011 when I found myself in a position to help a colleague of mine. I had bought myself a scooter with money that I had earned from sewing performance costumes and doing random promo jobs. I had saved up for 2 years to buy myself some transport.
As winter hit, I found myself falling off 7-too many times and began to fear my scooter. I then arranged a lift club situation for myself.I drew up a contract and began hiring my scooter to the above-mentioned colleague. R 100 per month for a scooter is nothing. I felt that I was being really kind, clever and business savvy.
It is now 2016, I have no idea where my scooter is, when I will be getting it back and why this whole mess was not sorted out in 2012 like I had wanted. This colleague is now in Johannesburg living a happy, worry free life. I am in Cape Town unable to register any vehicle in my name because of a huge fine from the unpaid license and because I did not report my scooter as stolen.
Now, from where I am standing, I’m stuck. I can not report my scooter as stolen because the interaction began as contractual. I can not get help from the Small Claims Court because 3 years is the longest amount of time that these things can be left to lie before you open a claim or a report ( I learned this after 5 hours of waiting in line yesterday.).
So here I am, sitting in a cold, corridor, on a hard bench, surrounded by women and some men who have been forced to ask for help because people are heartless and selfish.
I am so tired of being made to feel like I don’t know how to do things properly. Why don’t I know these things? Why did I not learn these things at school or while I was studying? How is it that people with money will always and forever be in a position of comfort, will never have to step into the basic structures that are created to deal with us, dark, incompetent scum of the earth?
There are many stories. Nomvuyo sat next to me, crying because she has just paid R 13 000 cash for a wendy house to be built in Khayelitsha for herself and her 2-year-old. She paid, they built the wendy house but built it 1 metre off the ground. No steps, no covering to close off the space between the ground and the floor.
This company has been ignoring her calls. They sent a “big ,white man” to come and look at her wendy house. Nomvuyo explains that he promised that when he got back from Joburg, he would sort it out. That was in March. In the meantime Nomvuyo is made to feel like she has failed at life. She is living in a neighbour’s spare room. The wendy house stands there waiting to be robbed of windows and door handles.
Nomvuyo, her name means with happiness or to have happiness. I ask her if she is happy. She cries, cannot say no and then she slowly falls asleep.
Where are the structures that work for us? I come from a very different background to Nomvuyo, I can go home to my parents when I need to cry. I can sit on my partner’s couch and weep if I need to but the bare bones of the matter is, that Nomvuyo and I are both black women working hand to mouth. She probably earns more money than I do to tell you the honest truth.
Where are the structures that work for us?