Youth gives voice to street children’s pain
By Munyaradzi Makoni
The young man in the stiffly pressed shirt is standing awkwardly, sweating lightly in the crowded book shop. He takes the microphone and begins to read, nervously at first before finding his rhythm.
Mbu Maloni is reading in public for the first time to a packed-in audience attending the launch of his first book, Nobody Will Ever Kill Me. What’s remarkable, though, is that at just 18, the Grade 11 learner from Masiphumelele has plucked up the courage to share his life story. And, despite his young years, it’s a story filled with hardship and adversity.
Starved of love by his biological parents, Maloni became a street kid and, like so many of the city’s homeless children, became addicted to drugs and alcohol to numb his pain. A move to the Homes for Kids in South Africa (Hokisa) in July 2010, where he found a mentor and adult support for the first time, marked a turning point in Maloni’s life. The murder of his best friend a few months later was a painful reminder of why he had changed his life.
In his brutally honest account, Maloni relives the pain of being a neglected, abused and homeless child and tells of how he survived on little more than hope and resilience. In doing so he has given a voice to the thousands of children still living on the streets.
[The Big Issue] Why did you choose to tell your story?
[Mbu Maloni] This is a story that I wanted to share because I wanted people to know what I went through as a child. I wanted to tell the truth about my real life. I wanted the pain and anger that I felt to go away; I wanted to be at peace with myself. I wanted to make people who view street kids as criminals change that image of us and realise that we are not. It is also a tribute to my best friend, Atie, who was there for me many times and who was killed on October 23, 2010.
[TBI] What was the trigger to you actually picking up a pen and starting to write?
[MM] There were times I could not open up to anyone. I lived in my own world of pain. This changed when I moved Hokisa. There is a sense of belonging there. I was taught how I could share my experiences — it helped. Then Atie died…and I spoke at his funeral and saw that my words touched many young people there. A few days later I asked Doc Lutz [Dr Lutz van Dijk, co-director of Hokisa and a published author] whether he could help me write a book about Atie and our life together. That is how it all began.
[TBI] What do you hope to achieve by sharing your story?
[MM] Hopefully it will encourage other young people to see that drugs and alcohol are no solution. Maybe they will see that I did not give up — so they also must not give up. I also hope it will help more people understand those many, many children who suffer because they have nobody.
[TBI] Education is a recurring theme in your book — why?
[MM] Education is very important. If you are poor that’s the only way to get of the trouble, out of poverty. I also want to encourage other youth to stop taking drugs. There is a better way out of your problems; education can make you understand your life better.
[TBI] How does it feel to know that other people are reading your life story?
[MM] It just feels good. I am happy.
[TBI] What has been the reaction from your friends and community?
[MM] They have been giving me support and encouragement — not everyone, but most of them…Their response has been comforting.
[TBI] What are your plans for the future — do they involve writing or activism?
[MM] I want to write more, maybe later as a journalist. But first I must do matric next year.
[TBI] Your story is a moving one — are there any plans to make it into a film?
[MM] That would be wonderful, if it turns out that way. But it’s not in my power to decide on this. A movie would be great, though, as it could reach even more people. © The Big Issue SA / www.bigissue.org.za
This article appeared in the 6-27 January issue of The Big Issue and has been reproduced with permission. The photgrapher is Chad Chapman.
We have featured Mbu under Our Writers