Everyday after a knocking off work, Anthony dreads going to his small shack in Plastic informal settlement. As a waste picker working from inside a dump near Brakpan he makes little money, yet he does everything in his power to make sure that there is food at home. Everyday he passes through the shop to buy goodies for his three children, but his wife shows little or no appreciation. He is only lucky if the small plastics he brings home are not thrown into his face.
Antony is a Mozambican national. When he left his country in 2015 to try his luck in South Africa, he had no idea that life would not be as rosy as he thought. After failing to find a job his friend introduced him to waste picking. At least he could manage to collect recyclables and sell them in town. He would send some money and groceries home. His wife would tell him that she wanted to come and live with him in Johannesburg. But knowing that she would never accept his current life he discouraged her.
In January 2018 Antonio received surprise call. His wife Lucia was in Johannesburg at a relative’s place. She had brought the children with her and they were here to stay. He was left with no choice but to go and fetch his family. He hoped that his wife would understand. When his wife set foot in the informal settlement which was to be their home, problems started. She did not understand that her husband had made sacrifices to help build a future for her and their children.
“I come home every day only to be insulted. Sometimes l find that she has not left any food for me. She accuses me of degrading her standard by making her live in a shack.”
Antony feels belittled. Sometimes his wife slaps him and throws weapons at him. When she sees him talking to women she goes on the rampage. She has been known to fight with other women for just greeting her husband, but he dares not fight her back as he knows better not to hit a woman.
“Not that l have never thought of hitting her but that would reduce me to an abuser. I want to set a good example for my children.”
People in the informal settlement feel sorry for Antony. Some tell him to leave her, others tell him to teach her a lesson, but he dares not.
The past three weeks of lockdown have been bad. His wife seemed not to understand that recycling firms were closed. She used the opportunity to bruise his ego. On two occasions he even slept outside because Lucia refused to open the door. She accused him of spending money on girlfriends and threatened to pour hot oil on him. Every night when he sleeps, he must watch his back lest she strikes. Sometimes she does not stop talking until the early hours of the morning.
“This is the horrific life that l have lived for the past two years. It is shameful to tell other men that my wife abuses me but that is the reality of my life.”
I know for a fact that like myself many men out there are suffering silently,” says Antony.