Johannesburg, Where My Life Went South

Johannesburg. A city I’ve grown to love these past four years; a city full of warm people, who are hardworking and resilient. It is here that, for the past four years, I’ve called home. Of course, I had another home—the main home—back in Nigeria. At the thought of going back to Nigeria in two days’ time, my heart was torn into two. I can’t wait to see the face of my family members again—my father, with his wide, infectious smile, my mother, with her sparkling eyes, which spoke of simple joys, and my younger sister, with her annoying, but quite loving nature—after all these years. On the other hand, I’ll miss this place, most especially, my closest friends, Lethabo and Khayone. And there’s my girlfriend, Cindy.

I and Cindy have been dating for two and half years now, and we’ve not really addressed the issue of what we would do when it was time to leave. I loved her, yes, but I do not know how my parents would take the idea their only son getting married to a South African woman. And whenever I brought it up, she would tell me not to worry about the future, that things would take care of themselves. Yeah, right.

As I was walking back to my room to make the final packing before heading out with the boys for one last round of drinks, I opened my Facebook account and froze. I saw a video where a Nigerian man was being mauled by a mob. As I gawked at the video, unable to pry my eyes off the hideous scene, he was set ablaze. He was too weak to scream, and as he ran from one end of the mob that encircled him to the other, one of the people hit him on the head with a stone. The stone cracked his skull and his brain tissue spilled on the tarmac.

That was the height of it for me. I couldn’t hold the retch that came up and I ran to a corner of the now deserted street to throw up. The jollof rice I ate twenty minutes ago at Professor Mpho’s place was deposited on the ground, alongside a major portion of the meat I ate with it. After a minute, I calmed myself down, and walked briskly towards my house.

About three feet to my door, I heard the crack of a pistol and hunched instinctively. I heard the sound again, and this time, it was closer. I bent in half and ran into my house, praying that this wasn’t what I thought it was.

There have been a recent series of attacks on Nigerians by xenophobic South Africans, but they were all isolated attacks. I had wondered why people would do such a thing, we’re all Africans for crying out loud. Shortly, I heard the shouts of people in the street. There were gun shots, the sound of glasses breaking and the shouts of people—Nigerians—I knew in the street. I looked for a place to hide, but in the one-room apartment where I stayed, my options were nil; I can easily be spotted. I just sat only chair, praying that by some luck, some magic, some miracle, I would be spared.

Just then, my phone rang. It was my father. I contemplated on whether I should pick it up or not, but decided to pick it up.

“Hello Dad,” I whispered, darting a look at the door.

“Chinedu, I’ve been hearing of the attacks on Nigerians. How’re you?”

“I’m fine, dad. But some people are destroying properties in my street. I think they’re among the attackers. Dad, I’m scared.”

“Can you go to the police station?”

“I can’t dad. The streets are filled with those people. I can’t even—”

My next words were stuck in my throat as my door was brought down and two people barged in, with a look in their eyes I’d never seen before, at least not directed at me. They were looking at me with so much hate and acrimony that I cringed at their stares. They were Lethabo and Khayone, my best friends. And they had cutlasses in their hands.

“Oh no guys, you can’t do this. I’m your frie—” That was as far as I got before Khayone raised his cutlass and brought it down on my skull.

The last thing I thought of was my sister. She had asked me to rush back to Nigeria in order to entertain her with tales from South Africa as she awaited her results, which would enable her to come here to study.

I guess it’s my corpse that would tell the story of how South Africa is for Nigerians—really dangerous.

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