Johannesburg the city of gold, a city fathered by crime and murdered by greed. I left my dear country Nigeria in pursuit of knowledge and greener pastures only to get here to realise that the grasses at home are greener. There was nothing out of the ordinary happening that bright and beautiful morning as I alighted from the taxi and walked through the path that led to my school, I had my headphones on blasting Adele's "when we were young" into my ears but as loud as the music was playing I could still hear someone screaming, at first I thought it was my imagination but when the screams wouldn't stop I raised the headphones away from my ears and turned around only to see a very young lady who was obviously a student like me screaming at the top of her voice, it took me couple of seconds to decipher what she was saying.
"Tsotsi !!!" She kept on screaming.
If you don't understand the basics in zulu language then I bet you won't believe that the 'Tsosti' she was screaming means 'Thief' in English, she had just been robbed by the street kids right in the middle of the city but no one paid attention to her except I who was still not used to the M-i-n-d-Y-o-u-r-O-w-n lifestyle of the people of Johannesburg. People walked past her as if what happened to her was a normal thing, I looked around and saw two street kids jogging, not even running, they were jogging with a school bag and a phone in their hand, I didn't need an Einstein to know that it was the girl's phone and bag they were jogging away with, I thought about chasing after them but the last time I chased after a street kid that stole from an old woman, I was the one that ended up in the police station myself, but that's a story for another day.
When it dawned on me that I couldn't help the poor girl in any way, I fixed my headphones back on and bounced to school. I got to the school's gate, brought out my school's I.D card, swiped it with the machine and the gate turned round. I walked in with my special type of swag into the class after keeping back my I.D card together with my headphones into the bag.
"Lagos!" One of the guys in the class hailed as I entered.
"Kinshasha!" I hailed the guy back.
He calls me Lagos because it's the most popular city in Nigeria and I call him Kinshasha which is the capital city of Congo Brazzaville where he comes from. I dropped my bag right beside my seat, sat down and said a little prayer before standing back up to greet everyone in the class like I always do. I zigzaged my greeting around with the intention of making the last stop at Vanessa's table, there she was with a smile that could turn any man's worst day into his best.
"Vanessa," I stressed out her name with joy in my heart and smiles all over my face.
"Olu" she called back with the same manner in which I called her too, I could feel a million butterflies in my belly as she smiled when I held her hand in mine, I could bet she was the best and most beautiful that ever sprung out of Mozambique. I was about to kiss her hand when Chief entered, I quickly jerked back and rushed to my seat as the whole class laughed at me. Chief who's one of our lecturers insisted that we refer to him as 'chief' because he is a titled man back in Cameroon, his country. According to him, he is a very respected and high titled man in all of Cameroon.
"You want to take her to Lagos ehn?" Chief joked and the whole class laughed again, I turned around and saw Vanessa still staring, I winked and looked back at Chief who had already started lecturing. He lectured us on Project management which happens to be my favourite class so I paid maximum attention as Chief went on and on. We were about to take a quick test when another Lecturer entered, he looked scared and out of breath, he whispered something into Chief's ear and fear was written all over Chief's face immediately.
"Good morning class" The lecturer that just barged in greeted.
"Morning sir" We all replied.
"News just reached us that there is a train filled with armed men from Kwazulu Natal and they are headed for Johannesburg, they are coming here for just one reason, to kill foreigners." The lecturer announced. The atmosphere in the class changed immediately, fear could be felt in the four corners of the class.
"Xenophobia again?" Vanessa asked the lecturer with a shaky voice.
"Yes, Xenophobia." the lecturer replied.
"What is Xenophobia?" I spoke out my thoughts loudly out of reflex.
"Xenophobia is basically the fear of foreigners," Chief replied.
"I still don't understand," Tsumba, the guy that I refer to as Kinshasa replied chief.
"Xenophobia is an act that occurs when a citizen starts killing foreigners and destroying their properties," Lunga a south african dude in our class stood up to explain. "We have had cases of xenophobic attacks in the past but the most significant ones are those of 1994 and 2008 which left many dead, both foreigners and citizens."
"How does this attacks occur" I asked again, now on my feet.
"It's just random attacks, they corner you, speak a south african language to you and failure to reply them attracts death or them leaving you half dead with beating." Tebogo also a south african lady replied.
"Or most times, they will ask for your south african identity card," Keabetswe cuts in and was about to continue when a student from another department rushed into our class.
"You guys should come to the reception immediately" The guy said and ran back immediately, without waiting for each other we all rushed to the reception and there it was on the news, the Xenophobic attackers were in Johannesburg already and had begun to attack foreigners, according to the information being read on the news, they were just a few distance away from our school.
Chief rushed back to the class and we all followed suit, he got to the class, picked up his car keys and was about exiting when Vanessa spoke.
"Chief are you leaving us behind?" asked Vanessa. "We are also foreigners too," Vanessa started shedding tears.
Chief paused for some seconds and stood transfixed like he was calculating some things.
"How many foreigners do we have here then" Chief asked and I, Tsumba and Vanessa stepped forward "Okay, take your bags and let's go."
We followed behind Chief as he rushed to the car park, we got into his car and just as he was about to reverse, a girl rushed towards the car and begged that we help her out too because she's also a foreigner. After little consideration, Chief opened the door for her and she joined Tsumba and Vanessa at the back seat while I sat at the driver's side. We were yet to get to the gate when we saw a Bus filled with armed men parked at the gate of our school, Chief saw them just in time and immediately turned back and drove into the school, Vanessa and the girl that joined us had begun crying and screaming already while I and Tsumba just kept looking at the gate where the armed men where striking and clamping metals and weapons at, the securities tried to hold them back as they broke the gate but they stabbed and killed the three security men at the gate. I saw as one of them thrust a dagger into one of the security men and fears ran through all my body, it was then reality dawned on me that everything happening was not a movie, on seeing that the gate was widely opened and those guys were hot on our trail with their bus, Chief parked the car and we all ran out. We ran towards the school cafeteria and we locked it from inside as we watched through the small window as foreign students and school staffs ran helter skelter to save their lives from the savages, those that were apprehended were beaten with planks, heavy metals, some were stabbed. We all dodged as one of the attackers sighted us peeping through the window but it was too late, the attacker that saw us beckoned on his fellow attackers and they approached the cafeteria, I quickly went on ahead to drag a large table and placed it behind the door and held it firmly, Tsumba and Chief quickly joined me in holding the door but the attackers at the door increased in numbers, we couldn't hold them anymore, we all stepped back when we noticed that the door was cracked and there was no holding them back again, immediately the door went down, they all rushed in and attacked us, one of them hit me with a machete at the back of my head, I fell down and they started hitting me from different angles, they went on and on until I couldn't take it no more, I closed my eyes and said my last prayers, I still don't know if they thought I was dead when I closed my eyes or maybe they felt pity for me but I know immediately I closed my eyes they moved away from me. I opened my eyes a little bit, enough for me to see what was happening but not enough for them to see that my eyes were opened, I watched as they hit Chief and Tsumba with all manner of weapons, I watched as they bled to death but I couldn't do a thing, I watched as they violated Vanessa and the other girl but I couldn't do anything. I struggled to keep my eyes opened but I couldn't and I blacked out.
I woke up on an hospital bed a day after the incident with pains all over my body, I watched as the doctor and some nurses examined me, they all stared at me with pity and I was wondering why, I survived a massacre and the least they could do is to be happy for me but there they were giving me the W-h-a-t--a---p-i-t-y look. I was about to ask them what the problem is when I realised something was not right, my mouth felt empty, I opened it wide to say something but nothing came out, the doctor then patted me on the shoulder.
"You don't remember, do you?" She asked
I wanted to talk but I still couldn't, it was like there was nothing in my mouth, I shook my head to reply the doctor.
"Those savages cut out your tongue," She said to me and I just stared at her coldly, she expected me to react but I did nothing. I didn't react because I saw no need for it, I felt useless for not being able to save Vanessa the woman I love, I felt that living without a tongue is the least punishment that I deserve for being.
Here I am now sitting at Vanessa's grave, writing a story to no one in particular, writing a story about the best girl I never had, writing a story about the incident that took everything away from me, writing about the worst day of my life, writing about Xenophobia.