The American Novelist James Arthur Baldwin once said that “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” This statement has never held any significant meaning to me but that was until I met a rather brave and inspirational young man named Mbu Maloni, the author of Nobody Will Ever Kill Me.
At age 18, Mbu has faced and lived through more hardships than most individuals his age. Born in Graaff-Reinet on 18 January 1993, Mbu tells the story of a child left to fend for himself.
“My mother couldn’t find a job. So we had to move to Cape Town when I was five.”
Mbu was forced to leave everything he knew behind; his brother, Mavusi, friends and grandmother. They moved to Masiphumelele Township where their only refuge was a shack – a lack of food, no electricity and the fear of what each new day would hold.
“It was never easy, there were nights and days when there was no food and drinking water was a way of keeping your stomach filled,” says Mbu.
But no matter which obstacle was placed on Mbu’s path he was determined to have a better future. The dream of an education became his motivation to struggle through early mornings and cold and lonely nights.
“I had to focus on being in school and getting an education. If I wanted to succeed I knew I would have to work very hard” says this proud Grade 11 learner at Masiphumelele High School.
After Grade 1 Mbu’s world was turned upside down once more. His mother decided that he would have to move to Masizakhe in Graaff-Reinet where he would be live with his, brother and strict grandmother. Even though he now had a home to return to, life didn’t get any easier. Each year held a new challenge; the death of his brother, being falsely accused of rape and eventually his return to Masiphumelele in Cape Town. Arriving with all his belongings – which filled only two plastic bags – he wandered the streets. He had no home to return to, desperate he found his way to HOKISA’s (Home for Kids in South Africa).One and a half years later Mbu can say with a smile that HOKISA is a place where he received the necessary care and love, where he was treated with kindness and respect and was encouraged to further his education.
“I came here because I wanted to focus on school. I didn’t want to worry where I would find my next meal or where I would sleep. I wanted to concentrate on my school work and here at HOKISA, I can.”
It was at HOKISA where Mbu met founding co-director Lutz van Dijk, who has played a major role in the writing and publishing of Mbu’s novel.
“The novel wasn’t my idea. Mbu came to me with the idea, I gave him a book and a pen and three months later he had written Nobody Will Ever Kill Me. We edited it together, Mbu discovered more errors than I did”, says Lutz while laughing.
“When we were done, he started reading it to the other children in HOKISA . They loved it so much that just after Christmas Eve, they crowded around him to hear how the story ended. It took a lot of courage and was entirely Mbu’s choice to write about his experiences.”
So what inspired Mbu to take this extraordinary step?
“Looking back I can say that it was the combined effort and help of my two best friends Yamkela Dangisa and Atie Rwanqa that made most days in Masi bearable. I stayed with Yamkela before I met Atie. Whenever I was sad he would play songs to me to make me feel better. He composes his own music and I am sure that he will be a famous musician one day,” says Mbu.
Then there was Atie Rwanqa who was more than a year younger than Mbu, yet he became Mbu’s big brother.
“Atie took care of me when I needed it the most. He always shared; made sure I had a place to stay and food to eat. He taught me a lot and motivated me to stay in school. Sadly, on 23 October 2010 Atie was stabbed and died on his way to the hospital. I was distraught and wanted to speak about what Atie had meant to me. It was Yamkela who encouraged me to write a speech for the funeral and I did.”
After the funeral, some of the friends and family who attended wanted to know whether they could get a copy of the speech.
“It is tradition to throw the speech into the grave,” says Lutz “so there was nothing left of what Mbu had written.”
Knowing that there was a story that needed to be shared with the world, Mbu put his pen to paper and started writing. Nobody Will Ever Kill Me has now been published in both English and German. All royalties that Mbu receives from the book sales will be placed in an account to pay for his studies. He dreams of studying Journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
“Every street child has a story to tell. And although Atie’s death was my inspiration to write this book I want children who are facing similar or the same circumstances, to know that you can have a future. You can get out and you can live your dream. You just have to believe you can do it and find and accept support by others” says Mbu.