The Soweto Affair

I actually didn’t want to go anywhere for the weekend, I preffered to stay in and do my writing instead. Mum wanted me to accompany Koi and her mum to some kids’ festival where Churchill was to be in attendance, but I refused flat out. Jones to a kids’ festival? Doesn’t sound so exciting.
But I wasn’t to stay at home all the same. I was to take my cousins Bobo and Nyambu back to my grandmother’s place in Soweto. I made a resolve that although how much my grandmother might beg me to stay over for a few days, I would only sleep at that place for one night. It wasn’t like my writing would do itself. To lend credence to my resolve, I didn’t carry with me any change of clothing. Heck! I even left behind my toothbrush!
So we arrived at Soweto at dusk and as usual, Shosh was excited to see her favourite grandchild. We chatted for like 30 minutes then she left for the kitchen to make me some tea. I used this chance to leave the house for a breath of fresh air and also to perambulate around the ghetto.
Soweto is sandwiched between Githurai 45 and Kahawa West. The residents of this place don’t like it when you decide to call a spade a spade and refer to the place as a slum. They’ll take it more kindly if you sugarcoat it and refer to is a ghetto. ‘Ghetto’ makes them feel bad-ass, while on the other hand ‘slum’ implies that they are veritably poor.
Soweto is where I grew up as a kid, though I’ve got no idea for how long. Most of the houses around this place are made of either tin or mud. It was really dark as trudged along the narrow corridors that separated the houses, but I had no worry about my security. You will be surprised that though the streets here look seedy, the levels of crime in this slum… err, ghetto are relatively low.
Some of the places smelled vile, but the ordour was within manageable levels. I stepped on a squishy paper bag, prayed that it didn’t contain human defecations, and hopped, jumped and skipped over various brooks that ferried sewage across the slum. I was taken aback by food vendors who were selling their githeri and fish just besides these pools of fetid sewage. But when my mind flashed back to the stuff we used to take in primary school, I suddenly put a moratorium to my disdain. In fact, I reached into my pocket and removed a pound, with which I bought mutura from the nearest vendor. The mutura might have contained enough salmonella to bring down a grown African bush elephant, but it was the sweetest thing I’ve tasted since Moody Awori ceased to be our VP.
I continued forth with my perambulation while wondering why so many sewage streams riddled my path, while none of the houses in Soweto were self contained. I finally found myself at a lagoon where all the sewer brooks poured in their contents. These lakes were surely a health hazard, as the place was open, unprotected and judging from the acrid stench that emanated from it, untreated. There were children playing football around that place without a care or worry about how dangerous the area is to their health. The way they carried on their business with reckless abandon, you’d think they were in the precincts of State House. I looked around and then the answer to my earlier query availed itself when I saw some lavishly built apartments in the upper horizon. Those people had self contained houses but the municipal council had not designed their drainage systems well. Instead, every time an affluent person flushed their toilet, their shit would trickle down to the Soweto, where it would be channeled to the lagoon. SMH!
Lost in thought, I forgot I was blocking way for other pedestrians, and was brought from my reverie by a kid pushing a wheelchair who asked me to give way. As the wheelchair was pushed past me, I got a chance to glance at its occupant. My heart sunk with empathy and remorse when I spotted the sprog who sat on it. The Kid had deformed limbs and neck, an observation that pointed to an erstwhile polio attack. It beat me why, fifty years after independence, our children are still being decimated by preventable diseases such as poliomyelitis. Judging from the sewer around that place, I concluded that the mortality rate in that place must be quite high, because if polio doesn’t deform them, Typhoid will most certainly send them to an early grave.
The proletariat of this place surely needed some help. The children especially needed a saviour. A true altruist who won’t help them just because they want to use their poverty to fleece cash out of NGOs. I resolved to myself that when I become rich (and that’s very soon) I’ll become a humanitarian and dedicate my energy, time and resources to the kids of Soweto and slums all over. Make sure they get good healthcare, decent clothing and quality education. This is a promise I’ve made to the kids of Soweto. I won’t renege.
Not surprisingly, I started making up scenarios in my head of how Soweto will be like when am finally a part of it. A swimming pool to keep the kids busy and away from mischief, a Jowal-sponsored football team, a hospital nearby… Like a bolt from the blue, it struck me that I couldn’t manage all this by myself, even if I had all the money. I needed someone by my side. Someone like a soul mate.
Most of the girls I knew back at the university were so ostentatious none of them would even last a day in the ghetto. I knew that my wife would probably go postal if I suggested we visit the ghetto, and would protest vehemently if I asked to tag the kid along. True, not many of the girls I’d met were humble and down to earth to take a walk in these debilitating slums. Most of them are used to a life of unadulterated bliss. To make them stay even a night in Soweto where toilet paper (even the toilet itself) is a rare luxury will truly be a Herculean task. It was when I started missing Del’s simplicity. Her favourite snack, Mutura, spoke volumes about her axiomatic minimalism. But she was my past, I wouldn’t want to go back there.
How about I got a girl from the ghetto? She could be my soul mate, who knows? The fact that she has been brought up in the ghetto will mean that she understands perfectly what the ghetto’s daily struggles are, and will be able to offer the best help based on first hand experience. But then again I had my doubts.
Most of the ghetto chicks don’t make it beyond high school when it comes to education. And when they do, they usually end up scoring D’s and that signs a death warrant to their academic dreams. But there ought to be one or two diamonds in the rough, don’t you think?
Again, most ghetto girls are sluts. HIV here in the ghetto is as common as common cold. You know, when you are a girl growing up in the ghetto, there isn’t much form of entertainment so you just engage in coitus as a favourite pastime. Abortions are the order of the day, and nearly everyone born around here is an unwanted child.. Also, with such high levels of poverty, very few girls would resist the temptation of having sex with a man for as little as two hundred shillings. I knew it would prove a very hard task to find a girl with closed legs around here. But I hoped there were one or two diamonds in the rough.
I aborted my long train of thought when I realized I’d made my way back to my grandmother’s gate. Outside the gate stood my cousin Nyambu, conversing with another short but incredibly cute girl. Had the gods heard my thoughts and decided to answer my prayers with this cute girl now standing in front of me? There was only one way to find out. I moved forward to say hi to the girls….

Lukorito Jones

Lukorito Jones is a columnist and correspondent with Kenya's leading newspaper, Daily Nation. He also dabbles in fiction works at times, hoping to be the next Stephen King. Sometimes he takes time out from writing to perfect his deer-dancing and goat-screaming skills.


  1. I love this post, and all the others I’ve read -not all of them though, but i’m putting them top of my priority list. your words create perfect imagery; i feel like i actually walked the same places you did, and even though i feel your pain and profound desire to change soweto, i couldn’t help laughing all through because you brought it out so light-heartedly… i love your sense of humour 🙂

    • am glad that you like my posts, and am really glad i’ve made you smile 🙂
      perhaps one day i’ll take you for a walk through Soweto 😛
      keep visiting and i promise to keep you smiling

  2. I’ll hold you to that…

  3. Hahaah real piece of creativity you got there! keep up writer.

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