Am I a cockroach?
I grew up in a flat that had an infestation of cockroaches. The whole building had that same problem. You would be sitting with visitors in the dining room, next thing madam cockroach would start walking down the wall, going straight for the visitor’s hair. It always seemed like they only came out when there were visitors in the house. I grew up vowing that I would never stay in a house that had these little creatures. I grew to despise them. I was on a mission, if I saw a cockroach, I would have to kill it. And I killed a lot of them.
What I hated about them is that unlike other insects, the ladybug that was known to bring good luck or butterflies that look so elegant with their pretty wings, cockroaches were just bland; they had no purpose. What I hated the most about them, is that they thought that they were equal to us, humans. They had no qualms about climbing onto your plate of food and wanting to share in your pap and chakalaka. In the oven, they thought they deserved your roast chicken that you had worked hard to prepare. In the bread bin, they held parties, as though they knew the route to the bakery. Cockroaches had the audacity of thinking they had rights in my house. I worked tirelessly to ensure that I win the fight against cockroaches. If it meant I would spend an extra few minutes before bed, cleaning the kitchen and killing any of them that came to sight, I would do just that. I would celebrate when every few months we would fog the house with poison, that would kill them by the hundreds. I would help with cleaning up the house, certain that the next few weeks would be blissful, without these unwelcome, entitled intruders. I was the cockroach hunter.
In an interesting turn of events, in recent times in my country, I can’t help but feel that the hunter, has become the hunted. As a woman living in South Africa, I am hunted every single day. I am treated as though I don’t belong here, as though this land that I live in, doesn’t belong to me. I am treated as though I have no purpose. I am being treated as a cockroach who has the audacity to think I have rights in my own country. I live in fear of being killed at every corner of this country, as though I am the cockroach headed for a visitor’s head. I am treated as a nuisance, an infestation, because how dare I think I have rights? How dare I think that my life matters? How dare I think that I am equal to my hunter, a man? Until my hunter understands that we are equal, that my life is important, that it has a purpose, outside of just being in the kitchen and bearing children, and being owned by them, then I will continue to be fumigated. To be killed in broad daylight. To be hunted for no reason, without mercy. Until my hunter understands that my life is worth something, that I am human, I will continue to be killed without any remorse.