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My Father My Monster

April 17, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 312

Title: My father My monster

Publisher: Jacana Media

Author: McIntosh Polela

Year: 2011

My Father My Monster is the story of pain, child abuse, and murder. This is a true story - memoirs of a South African TV journalist cum spin doctor, McIntosh Polela.

Polela is the only man I know who has changed his surname three times before the age of 40. At first, he was Shezi, his mother's surname. Towards, the end of his high school years and as part of him dealing with trauma brought about by his own father, he controversially decided to use Nzimande, his father's surname. In the last few years after his father refused to repent, he has ditched Daddy's surname and chosen to name himself after a river...Polela.

The story begins when Polela was five years old. Polela and his sister Zinhle had simply been packed and taken on a bus ride to Underberg, just a two-hour drive from South Africa's east coast, the tiny town nestles beneath a majestic mountain range, known as the Drakensberg for its spiny outcrops that resemble a dragon's back. They settled in a small village named Pevensey. Nobody told them the reason for the move nor explained why Delisile Edista Shezi their mother was not with them.

The first sign that all was not well in the new home was the state of the homestead. The hut there were ushered in was made of wattle and daub with a thatched roof. It smelt of woodsmoke, musty grass, dried cow dung and dried mealies. The floor was of dried dung, but unlike the house of their previous babysitter, it was cracked, dusty and littered with food scraps, discarded bones and fallen thatch. This was a far cry from their Durban house which had proper modern furniture, a loving mother and immaculate lawn. The second shock was that all their clean 'new' clothes were distributed among the children of the homestead. And, soon, Polela was told of the division of labour - herding cattle each day was but one new task. He had never encountered cattle before.

Polela's first day at herding cattle wasn't really the welcome he had hoped for. They boys prayed a cruel prank on him. They told him of a special egg of some sort called iqanda lenjelwane. They said a rare creature dug a small hole and then carefully laid an egg in it. However, to find an egg, the nest had to be raided quickly before the egg vanished as if by magic. He was told to dig in the spot where in a special egg had been laid. To his surprise, he found fresh, stinking human turd - and the boy rolled around the grass with laughter at his expense.

One day while at home with the other boys, and the elders were away, the real nightmare began. It all started innocently as Polela recalls - he and his sister were told to play a special game - march like soldiers. It turned nasty quickly. They began to smack Zinhle whenever her marching in their view wasn't good enough. The marching went on and on, and so was the smacking. It stopped being funny. Tears began for the two. The teasing and smacking graduated to something more sadistic. Zinhle was told to sit on a large wooden bench. Because her legs weren't long enough and her feet dangled in the air. They instructed her to keep moving he legs up and down so that the bottom of her things thumped against the bench with every movement. She had to carry on until the skin on her things turned bright red, and still they wouldn't let her stop. Polela was forced to watch as her own little sister was abused. The tormentors quickly upped the game; they shoved Zinhle towards a red hot stove that had burning wood. From physical abuse to psychological warfare. "When they weren't tormenting us physically, they loved to tell us scary stories," Polela tells us.

As all the drama folded, nobody mentioned anything about his mother and father. However as he grew older, he got a hint that his father actually killed his mother. So mommy wasn't coming back after all. He began to plan his revenge; he learned how to make home-made guns. He sold some to the ANC that had a raging violent clashes with the IFP in the 1990's. However, he kept just one - to use at shooting his father. The young man was so consumed by hate and anger that it affected many aspects of his life.

It was not until a chance encounter with a nun named Sister Von Ohr. At this time the young Polela had dropped out of school. He was a nomad. This encounter changed Polela's life. The Sister negotiated for him to return to school, and from there on so many angels of mercy nurtured him into a real man. Zinhle had earlier been given a lifeline by the other set of nuns who adopted her.

After years of counselling and discussions, Polela finally met his father. The father refused to own up to his dastardly deed. Polela forgave him all the same, and so many people who tormented him and his sister.

The book is a devastating account of a boy whose childhood was stolen by a monster, his own father. The story reads like a horror movie except that it has a happy ending at least for Polela and his sister. It is an impressive and fast paced barrage of detail, dreams, prayers of survival narrated with such dry and lucid precision that it bring to mind JM Coetzee's prose, Alan Paton's theme of redemption and more. It brings to bear the human capacity for pain, for survival and forgiveness. It is an important manuscript in a country still searching for its place in the sun after years of apartheid. It says, it's possible, if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Polela is now a spokesperson of South Africa's elite police unit, the Hawks. He holds a Master Degree from the London School of Economics. Zinhle completed her studies and is now happily married. Polela's father is still a monster that torments his new family; he has reached a point of no return.

Bhekisisa Mncube is a specialist web-content writer, media relations specialist and managing director of B74 Media Lab. He is also a columnist at the Witness Newspaper as well as a Media/Political Commentator at the Gagasi99.5 FM. He is a member of the Book Review Panel at the New Agenda academic journal in South Africa. Mncube has been a writer for 12 years. He is a widely published in newspapers, magazines, websites and academic journals. You can network with Bhekisisa through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook or write to

Source: EzineArticles
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