Fiction Friday | 'A Family Affair' by Sue Nyathi

30 October 2020 - 12:43 By pan macmillan
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How long will the protagonists in Sue Nyathi's new novel be able to hide behind the façade of a picture-perfect family?
How long will the protagonists in Sue Nyathi's new novel be able to hide behind the façade of a picture-perfect family?
Image: Supplied

Family is complicated...

Meet the Mafus, a close-knit, traditional family with three daughters. As leaders of their church, The Kingdom of God, Pastor Abraham and his wife Phumla are guiding the community of Bulawayo in faith, while trying to keep the different branches of their family intact.

Independent and feisty Xoliswa returns home, after a hiatus abroad, hoping for a fresh start and a chance to steer the family business; rebellious Yandisa has met the love of her life and is finally getting her act together; while dutiful newlywed Zandile is slowly becoming disillusioned with her happily ever after.

The Mafus always present a united front, but as their personal lives unravel, devastating secrets are revealed that threaten to tear the family apart. How long will they be able to hide behind the facade of a picture-perfect family?


Walking into Genesis nightclub, you are immediately enveloped by the thick and smoky air. The blaring music greets you long before you even set foot inside the club. The music is the draw card and it never fails to whip the crowd into a mad frenzy of dancing. Laughter is floating in the air and voices rise above the loud music in a cacophony like hens in a chicken coop. Genesis is always crowded, always with the same faces. Some beautiful faces and some not so beautiful but everyone dressed in beautiful clothes. A myriad of colours flash across the heaving room, pulsating with the vibrancy and energy of the people inside the club. There are the twenty-something-olds on the come-up wanting to make their mark in life. The established thirty-something movers and shakers who have made their mark or if they haven’t, are faking it. Then, of course, the forty-something-olds cruising through midlife, trying to reclaim their youth on the dance floor. Not far from them are the teenage wannabes, the young impressionable girls who want to fit in and be in the ‘in crowd’. They grow up way too fast in the dark corners where the lighting is dim, casting shadows of doubt. So illusive and so seductive. Yandisa is a regular patron at Genesis and the host always reserves a table in the VIP section for Ladies Night on Wednesday, Happy Hour on Thursday and Friday nights, because that’s when everyone goes clubbing, and on Saturday nights, and tonight is no different. Her boyfriend, Wesley, picked her up from the house after the wedding after insisting she go out with him, even though she initially didn’t plan to go out. He arrived in his BMW G-string which was painted a brilliant yellow and had tinted windows. It was the only one like it in Bulawayo and everyone knew it was Wesley’s car and because she was always seen in his car, she was referred to as Wesley’s chick. Wesley was accompanied by his two mates, JB and Charles. JB made room for Yandisa in the front seat and migrated to the back.

‘Aren’t you going to come inside at least and greet my sisters?’ asks Yandisa as she settles into the front seat.

Wesley shakes his head dismissively, he doesn’t want to tell her that he knows Xoliswa. ‘We don’t do masalad parties,’ he says, using the derogatory term to refer to the kids of affluent black families who live in the low-density suburbs of Bulawayo and were educated at the city’s private schools. And who are deemed to be cultural outcasts who’ve adopted the so-called ‘Western’ way of life and frown upon their own cultural traditions.

‘Look, I can’t just leave my sister’s wedding, Wesley. We are going to the groom’s place in a few minutes.’

‘I am not leaving you here, Yandisa,’ says Wesley. ‘And stop acting like it’s your wedding.’

‘Wesley, my sister needs me.’

‘I need you more,’ he says, looking at her imploringly.

Yandisa needs no further prompting and Wesley drives away, one hand on the wheel and the other on her fleshy thigh. No one tries to make small talk because he turns the radio on full blast and the sounds of Mdu fill the interior of the car. Yandisa taps her feet to the repetitive beat. Wesley had introduced her to the world of kwaito music, a popular brand of township music imported from South Africa. Prior to that she had been a strictly rap and R&B fan, lost in the world of The Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliott and SWV. Before she met Wesley, she had only clubbed at more upmarket places like Talk of the Town and Visions but now she frequents places that are considered seedy like Mzilikazi Gardens, Top Ten and shebeens out in the locations, with him. But that night he suggested they go to Genesis, the chic nightclub on the outskirts of the CBD and so that was how she found herself sitting in the VIP section of the club, tapping her foot to Foxy Brown and nursing a glass of brandy.

Wesley and his friends are embroiled in a heated debate about the controversial OJ Simpson case. All the men are in fervent agreement that OJ Simpson had been justified in killing the bitch and her lover. Yandisa has nothing of substance to contribute to the conversation so she turns her attention to her Nokia 3210. She has a slew of missed calls from her mother from earlier in the evening which she had ignored and there are several text messages from her sisters asking her where she was but she ignored those too. She texts her friend from work, Sunette, and asks if she’s coming to the club. Sunette responds that she is ‘like 50 kilometres out of town’ but promises that her and her boyfriend will come past later.

‘Are you okay?’ asks Wesley, draping his strong masculine arm around her, peering to see who she’s chatting to on the phone.

‘I think I am,’ replies Yandisa. She doesn’t want to offend Wesley but she would like it if he paid more attention to her than his friends but perhaps she should stop being selfish. After all, she always has his full attention when they are alone. ‘Don’t you want to dance?’ she asks him.

‘I’m not in the mood,’ he says dismissively. ‘I had training today. I’m exhausted.’

She likes the song that’s playing because it’s the song that was playing the night her and Wesley met. She had been out with her girlfriends, celebrating a birthday when he had picked up their tab and then called her to sit at his table. She had gone willingly, proud to have been singled out by him. Not only did Wesley play rugby for the Zimbabwean national team, he was considered one of the hottest guys in Bulawayo. His reputation as a bad boy preceded him and that was what Yandisa found the most alluring about him. Plus his muscled torso and broody eyes.‘I want to dance,’ she says to him, pouting her lips.

Wesley isn’t moved, ‘I’m not in the mood,’ he responds with finality. So Yandisa stands up, excuses herself on the pretext of going to the bathroom but only goes as far as the dance floor. She squeezes in amongst the bodies that are moving rhythmically to the beat. Soon, a nice-looking guy sidles up next to her. He is agile on his feet and before long, him and Yandisa have picked up a steady rhythm together. They dance in sync, almost as if their movements have been carefully choreographed. Soon, people are making a circle around them and Wesley bamboozles his way into the circle and quickly whisks Yandisa away.

‘Wesley, leave me alone!’ she hisses.

‘You are making a spectacle of yourself,’ he says to her through gritted teeth. He smiles as they walk past some fans on the dance floor. It’s a tight smile that disappears as quickly as it appears. ‘Yandisa, I don’t want you making a show of yourself! You are my woman for fuck’s sake!’

‘Wesley, I was just dancing. Do you have to be so uptight?’

‘I won’t have my woman dancing like that,’ says Wesley. He grips her arm roughly and pulls her towards the door. He motions to his friends to alert them of their sudden departure. Yandisa is flushed with embarrassment as he drags her out of the club and tries to shrug him off but he tightens his grip, squeezing her so hard that she grimaces in pain. He loosens his grip when they are in the parking lot.

‘I was just having some fun! I didn’t do anything wrong!’ she shouts.

‘You’re behaving like a whore!’

‘Don’t call me a whore! How dare you call me a whore!’ she yells at him.

‘Shut up, Yandisa. You’re drunk!’

‘No, you shut up!’ she retaliates. She feels a stinging slap across her cheek. It is so unexpected that she looks at him, stunned. He has never hit her before. She rubs her inflamed cheek almost like she’s making sure that just happened.

‘Get in the car!’ he shouts at her.

She doesn’t argue and slinks into the passenger seat like a frightened animal. She hopes he is going to take her straight home but instead he careers in the direction of his flat. When they get to his flat, he parks the car and demands she go upstairs with him.

‘I’m not getting out of the car,’ she says, folding her hands across her chest. ‘How do you get to slap me across the face? Even my own father doesn’t hit me!’

‘Maybe he should. You are out of order, Yandisa!’

‘No, Wesley. No. You have no right to hit me!’ she argues.

‘Okay, I’m sorry,’ he says. ‘Now get out of the car.’

‘I’m not getting out of this car,’ says Yandisa stubbornly.

He pulls her out of the car, puts her over his shoulder and carries her up the stairs to his flat on the third floor. All the while she is kicking and screaming but he carries her with ease. Wesley disregards her protests and instead smothers her cries with kisses as he throws her onto his unmade bed. He pins her down to the bed. Yandisa eventually succumbs to him, tearing her nails into his back while she fights back her own tears.

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