Thembakazi Salman


77Thembakazi Salman,  East London,  1983. I came to MWP, in 2004, because my husband was looking for a job in Cape Town while staying with his half brother in MWP.  When I arrived, we all stayed with my half-brother in his shack in A section.  I came from a rural area, Tshabo, near East London, and didn’t know the life of the shacks.  In my village we lived in a rondavel.  The shack seemed so small after the rondavel where we were living together in no separate rooms.  But there was no electricity in my village, and here, in MWP our shack had electricity and it’s very close to the sea.  In Eastern Cape, there is little transport; it’s expensive and if you want to go to town you have to wait.  If you miss the 8 am taxi you’ll have to wait until noon.  Here in MWP the transport is more frequent and cheaper to get to work in town.  If you’re looking for a job, there is a free paper;  it comes on a Thursday and you can find it from Harare.  In that paper almost all the jobs are in Cape Town and so it’s important to have cheap transport, like the train, which costs R6.5 to go one way to Cape Town.

How did you become a church leader in Monwabisi Park?

In the Eastern Cape I went to the Zion church with my mother and my youngest sister.  We went to church on Wednesday afternoon and Sundays.  I went to church because I was told and felt if I didn’t go to church I could end up with no future.  The church helped me in different ways.  Once when I was doing standard 8 I had a very bad headache that lasted a month.  The founder of the church prayed for me.  I was living at the church because I was very sick.  I had gone to the hospital but they could not find anything wrong with me.   The church prayers helped me get better and has since given me a strong connection to the church.  And, more importantly, I found a husband in that church.  At that time, he was not a pastor; he was a church member.

78When we arrived in Monwabisi Park,  we looked and saw that most of the churches here did not have branches in our villages in the Eastern Cape.   It’s an important consideration;  if anything happens to me, if I die here for example,  I want the church here to help my family organize my burial back in the same church in my home.  If you belong to a church in MWP that does not have a congregation in the eastern cape and you die here, no one is going to follow you back. Through our church there is a connection between people living here and those living in the Eastern Cape.

My husband and other people from our village founded a Zion church in MWP in 2005.  We wanted to do so because we felt it was important to have a church with people whom we knew from our time in the village.  That’s how it started.  But now our church has grown and we have about 80 members from other villages in the Eastern Cape.

What do you do in MWP as a church leader?

We have service on Wednesday early evening and Sunday from 11am to noon in my house.  To prepare for having 80 people in my two room shack, I have to take all of the furniture out of the shack.  We do not go to my house every Sunday, but one Sunday each month.  Each Sunday we rotate the venue, and although we change the location, I go to the shack ahead of time to make sure it’s ready for the service.  For example, we need to have candle sticks and seven candles, and our drum for singing.

Church members also help out when other members are having problems.  For example, if someone loses their possessions in a shack fire, we’ll help them buy new blankets and food.  If I have a lot of dishes or someone else has a lot of clothes, we’ll share them with church members so that person doesn’t feel such pain.  And if someone is not working, and can’t afford   school fees, the church will help them if possible.  The church committee, five members, makes these decisions.

What current challenges do you face as a church leader?

80To be a church leader is a big responsibility because many people have problems that I have to try to solve.  For example, sometimes we have to counsel church members about their marriages.  Both men and women come to the church and church leaders will talk to them about how they can save the marriage.  I talk to woman, and the pastor talks to men.  Another example would be how to help children who are members of our church but whose parents are not members and who have problems with drinking.  So we try to help children stay in school when their parents are not sending in the necessary forms when they transfer from primary to middle school.  In this case, my husband has to find a school, meet with the principal, and give all the information about the child’s education to the principal so the child is enrolled without missing any time.

What changes do you  want to see happen both in your church and MWP?

Here in MWP, all I want to see more people going to church, more churches, and less people going to shebeens.  I hate shebeens because in shebeens when people drink to too much they destroy themselves.  For instance, if a man has a problem the shebeen doesn’t do anything to help him solve the problem.  Men spend too much money in the shebeen.  At the end of the year, men who are working get a bonus, and women will cry because that money is not being used to buy food and clothes for the rest of the family.   If people go to a shebeen, they don’t go for one or two drinks, they go to enjoy themselves and often drink too much.  They get into fights, sometimes they are robbed coming back.  It’s dangerous.  I would like the shebeens to be controlled.  The patrol is helping close shebeens that are staying open too late, but this is just a start.

We need more public space, community halls, where our young people can meet to do plays, dance troupes, and other things.  Men could come to play pool and have cold drinks.  But my children love to be here, even me, and so I want them to have a better education, and better jobs.