It was a chilly March evening during the first week of the National Lockdown when Grace found herself opening the door to her angry fiancé. She had never seen Themba so angry. Storming into their four roomed Brakpan apartment, Themba shouted, accusing her of infidelity. Before she could answer for herself, he was beating her. He did not stop until she was on the ground.
“I tried to escape, but he was too strong. He kept pushing me onto the floor and beating me. I did not understand what he was accusing me of. I had never cheated on him” says Grace.
“I begged him, but he did not stop, I thought he was going to kill me.”
Grace shouted for help, but for a while no one heard her, except for their two-year-old son, Mpilo who was suddenly awoken. He screamed and that was the only thing that stopped him. For a while, Themba regretted his actions, at once he ran out of the apartment looking ashamed.
I picked up Mpilo and told him to hush, l told him everything would be alright,”
Said the soon to be wife. But things were never okay after the first incident. He began to beat her more often. Grace’s joy suddenly turned into a nightmare. Mpilo was no longer his concern, no matter how he screamed, the father paid no attention.
The two had met three years earlier at church. It had been the perfect relationship. They were engaged only after five months. Two years later they had Mpilo. Everything was fine until the lockdown came along. Themba had bought the rings for their impending marriage. He was planning to finish off paying lobola by end of April before their planned May wedding. He had been working well as a sales agent in town, managing to pay all their bills and make a few savings. Suddenly, he was told to stop coming to work with no pay. All his dreams shuttered, he started drinking alcohol excessively, to try and drown his sorrows away.
Grace blames herself for Themba’s sudden violent behavior,
“He drank all our wedding savings away. Maybe it was my fault that he turned into a monster. I’m the one who was pushing him to finish paying the lobolo, he would not have been under so much pressure,” she says.
Themba’s behavior affected Mpilo. He was no longer the happy child he had been. His father had turned into a monster.
“I worry about my child every single day, now all my plans for marriage seem meaningless.”
During the first week of May, Themba was arrested and taken to Modder East Prison in Benoni. The violence had escalated. As usual Themba came drunk, to prey on his defenseless fiancé. Neighbors heard screaming and called the police.
I was hospitalized for a month and Themba stayed in prison for three months.
Now that Themba is out of prison, he comes asking for forgiveness. Grace is considering taking him back. But it seems prison did not change him. He has already started beating her up.
But Grace is afraid of reporting him to the police lest he returns to prison.
I will try to be a better woman; l am the one who provokes his anger. He will change, l know he will,” she says.