I Will Not Grow Old Here: The Air We Breathe

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In episode two of three, Mary-Ann steps out of her comfort zone to explore parts of Alex she's been warned about her whole life. Her search for answers leads her to places where past and present overlap. How will she find her way out of Alex when the legacy of apartheid lingers, practically in the air she breathes? Meanwhile, things in Mary-Ann’s personal life take a turn for the worse.

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Mary-Ann (scene): OK, today’s the 1st of June 2022. I’m at Heritage Museum in Alexandra. This place is actually opposite where Nelson Mandela stayed. So I’m guessing that’s the house he stayed in…

Mary-Ann (narration): Hi. Mary-Ann Nobele here with part two of I Will Not Grow Old Here. As you know, I live in Alexandra Township, a place I love but I also can’t wait to leave. Yes. Both things are true. I live with my family on Lion Crescent. Actually, it’s been renamed for another lion. Japie Vilankulu – a famous protest leader in South Africa’s youth uprisings of 1976.

Mary-Ann (scene): Whenever you talk about apartheid and history, it’s always Soweto, but a lot of people don’t acknowledge Alexandra for its history and what happened to it during apartheid and why it’s like this…

Mary-Ann (narration): I’m visiting the Alexandra Heritage Centre because I want to get a better sense of the history young people, like me, contend with – especially the 70% who are unemployed.  And I also heard there’s a black and white picture of Japie here. The last picture ever taken of him. He was 23. Like me.

Mary-Ann (scene): I’m gonna give you a little tour. On entry there are these like screens…

Mary-Ann (narration): The museum should be packed with visitors but they have slowly stopped coming. Museum staff, they told me people were getting mugged and harassed outside on the streets. So, today I’m the only one here. It’s not what I expected. But like, OK.  Nobody will look at me like I’m crazy for talking to myself.

Mary-Ann (scene): It says, “Alex, where our human spirit triumphs.” It says, “Our lives in Alex have always been very challenging, but our human spirit has triumphed again and again. During our oppressive past, Alex was one of the few urban areas…”

Mary-Ann (narration): I love all the big beautiful murals in here. The ones celebrating life and our fight for freedom and how creative people from Alex are. I stand on the shoulders of so many. But there’s a dark history here, too. It’s all around us in Alex, practically in the air we breathe.

When you say 1976 in South Africa, immediately you think of Soweto. That’s because on June 16th, students in Soweto refused to write their exams in Afrikaans. Which seems fair. It wasn’t their language after all. In protest, they walked out of their schools and marched peacefully through the streets. On day one, the police fired live ammunition and tear gas at the students. Dozens of protesters were killed. On day two, workers joined the students. They raised their fists in the air, screaming, “Amandla!” They set fire to trains and buses, and government buildings – including the schools. The police deployed nearly two-thousand officers and they shot into crowds of people at random. At kids! By day three, June 18th, the riots spread to Alex. Japie Vilankulu, he led the protests.

Mary-Ann (scene): Ah, here’s a picture, actually. Wow. I never noticed it before.

Mary-Ann (narration): In the picture, a few people run for cover. But Japie, he stands in the middle of the street defying a police crackdown, holding a round dustbin lid in his left hand.

Mary-Ann (scene): So he’s literally using it like Captain America, like right in front of him and he’s like kind of squatting down and he has a brick in the other hand. And I’m guessing these are the police, but they’re literally headed for him. So apparently they shot seven bullets.

Mary-Ann (narration): Seven bullets. One pierced his shield hitting him in the head. It killed him immediately.

Wally Serote: Alexandra is represented by that young man with a dustbin lid, who was blocking bullets on June 18th, 1976, here in Alexandra. As they were shooting, he tried to block the bullets with a dustbin lid.

Mary-Ann (narration): That’s South Africa’s poet laureate, Mongane Wally Serote. Quotes from his poems and speeches are all over the museum.

Wally Serote: In the year 2022, Alexandra is still existing worse, much more worse – I grew up here – much more worse than it has ever been. It is a grievous fault of this country.

Mary-Ann (narration): Even at the Alexandra Heritage Centre – this place of celebration and pride – all you have to do is look out the window to see corrugated iron shacks. The lack of space and privacy. It all reminds you, people here are struggling. “Alexandra. I would have long gone from you.”

The story of Alex is a little murky. Most historians say it starts in 1904. That’s when a wealthy farmer bought the land. He hoped to sell the plots to white families. But the land was wet and muddy and white people refused to move in. So in 1912, the farmer went with plan B. He offered plots to Black tenants. That’s how Alex got its start as one of South Africa’s oldest black townships. People came from all over the country  to find work closer to the city. But they didn’t have many options. The education system was designed to push black people into unskilled work. In fact, manual labour for black people was the law. Men could become miners and gardeners. Women, nannies and cleaners. They were the black workers who built white South Africa.

Mary-Ann (scene): So how did it feel the first time you actually saw a white person?

Mary-Rose: I thought they all looked the same.

Mary-Ann (scene): [Laughs] Really?

Mary-Ann (narration): That’s Mary-Rose. My grandma. She was born in a bantustan.  Bantustans existed to keep black people away from white areas unless they were working there. And even if they were working there, they weren’t allowed to establish themselves and make a new home there. She moved to Alex when she was 19, around 1977. I thought she’d have a zillion stories about apartheid and the old days. She had none.

Mary-Rose: I’m thinking even me it did not affect me much. I hear my parents talking differently that they don’t like it. They hate it. But for me, if I were to do things in my way, this new government that we have, I never really liked it because I knew such things were going to happen. Ja, I knew I could see it coming, that it was going to be like the way it is now.

Mary-Ann (scene): So when you say you weren’t affected, like wha-? Compared to the way your parents spoke about it, how do you feel like you weren’t affected?

Mary-Rose: You see, you cannot feel something that did not happen to you. That’s what I mean. Ja.

Mary-Ann (scene): And did you experience like racism, like where white people looked down at you or treated you badly? Did it ever happen to you in apartheid?

Mary-Rose: No.

Mary-Ann (narration): I won’t lie. I’m slightly confused by this. Just imagine what life was like for my grandma. She lived through the worst years of apartheid. Her family was separated. The police raided Alex, constantly. She was forced to carry a passbook, which meant the police tightly controlled her movement – the movement of everyone really, who wasn’t white. Schools were segregated. Sports were segregated. Apartheid literally touched every aspect of life. And, yet, she says her life hasn’t changed since the end of apartheid? My grandma says she was lucky. She had a job outside of Alex. And her white boss was nice to her on the daily, so I guess she was somewhat insulated. But, if she feels she had it relatively good during apartheid, what about now? Black people have it so much better now. She must surely see how many more privileges she has post-apartheid.

Mary-Rose: Uh uh. No.

Mary-Ann (scene): Between apartheid and now like you still living as the same Mary-Rose Diana, going through life, trying to make the best of it and everything.

Mary-Rose: Ja.

Mary-Ann (scene): I think that’s a blessing hey. I really think you’re blessed to have experienced life that way, like never been beaten up because you’re black or denied opportunities because of the colour of your skin. I don’t think many other black people can actually say that.

Mary-Rose: Ja, it’s true.

Mary-Ann (narration): One of the things my gran says still surprises me. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it. My gran prefers the old days. She says strip away the apartheid, do away with the racism and the oppression, but run the government like it was back in the day.

Mary-Rose: It would it would be much, much better.

Penny: Personally, I would really change it to be back to what it used to be compared to what it is now.

Mary-Ann (narration): My mom, Penny, she agrees with my grandma. She says Alex, as bad as it was, was better back in the day.

Penny: It was not the cleanest place. It didn’t have so many shacks like it does now. We had a pavement. Now we don’t have pavements. There’s just water all over the street because there’s a tap or drain or whatever that’s burst and the mindset of the people has changed. They want everything for free. There’s too much entitlement. People feel they need to get everything for free. Water, electricity, but obviously when you get everything for free, you don’t look after anything. So I would change for everything to be back to what it was, not back to the apartheid era. No, but there was a time when I was growing up and this place looked better than was it is now.

Mary-Ann (narration): My mom and my gran are not alone. Many South Africans who lived under apartheid blame the current government for our problems. I get it, but sometimes I feel like they forget our past. And like my mom, they sometimes even blame my generation. They call us lazy and entitled. I’m not so sure. Some young people I’ve met are just tired. Tired of waiting for life to get better. And then there are the people who live in the hostels. I wonder how life could possibly get better for them.

Phindile: Now most people are scared. They are scared to enter the hostel because of their history around it. Although they don’t know it has changed. It was no place for a female. It was only for male.

Mary-Ann (narration): That’s Phindile Nkosi and she offered to show us around. Phindile is a long-time resident of Madala Hostel. She also helps the youth living in the hostel to do their homework and to buy sanitary pads, and she even finds a way to provide them with a daily meal.

Phindile: We are heading to the main entrance. Right now we are walking on the side of the hostel…

Mary-Ann (narration): I never thought I’d dare to come here. People have always warned me to stay away from the hostels. And looking around, I’m still worried.

Mary-Ann (scene): I’m still kind of, because I’m looking at the people through the windows. They’re, like, looking at us and I’m just trying to figure out, what are they thinking?

Mary-Ann (narration): There are some boys staring at me. Maybe it’s because I’m wearing pants. I’ve heard that men who live here expect women to only wear dresses. But Phindile tells me it’s OK.

Madala Hostel is five floors of exposed brick and raw concrete. It looks like it’s been through a lot. The roof is missing from dozens of rooms on the top floor. There are broken windows everywhere, and satellite dishes sprout like mushrooms from the side of the building.

Phindile: OK, we are entering into Madala Hostel. We’re using their steps, but unfortunately there’s no infrastructure, so you gonna jump the sewerage because… Can you jump, guys? Can you jump guys, ne?

Mary-Ann (scene): I see no choice.

Phindile: Yes, you don’t have a choice. Let’s jump this sewerage so that we go…

Dhashen: That’s a big jump.

Phindile: No, no, no, no. You compromise. This is a compromise…

Mary-Ann (narration): That’s Dhashen. He’s my producer. You’ll hear him from time to time.

Dhashen: Do you want to describe this puddle?

Mary-Ann (scene): Yoh, it’s – it’s gross. It’s green. It’s bath water, toilet water.

Phindile: This water has been here forever. Since forever. Let’s just say since forever.

Mary-Ann (narration): When Phindile moved into Madala Hostel with her mom, she was five. That was over 30 years ago. She  knows everyone here. She is proud of the hostel. She wears it like a badge.

Phindile: It has days to be quiet, it has days to be scary. It has days to be like a happy family, like all other places.

Mary-Ann (narration): Hostels have a long history in South Africa. The government wanted to build 25 hostels in Alex in the 70’s. Big dormitory-style buildings for the migrant workers who crammed into Alex. The government claimed the hostels would offer better housing. In fact, the government literally described them as “luxury hostels” in “park-like surroundings.” In reality, hostels were largely about control – crowd control for starters. If thousands of people are living in one big building rather than separate homes, authorities can restrict movement more easily. They also controlled population growth. Men and women had to live in separate hostels. Which meant that married couples weren’t allowed and obviously there was no space for children. In the end, only three hostels were completed in Alex. Madala was built in 1971. Today, it’s home to families who come from all over the country in search of a better life. Phindile says there’s probably around ten-thousand people who live here, but it was built for less than five-thousand.

Dhashen: And so what do people pay to stay here, Phindile?

Phindile: No, no, no. This is not a paying place. No one is paying. As you can see they’re packed. All of them have people inside.

Mary-Ann (scene): Really? Not even one is like…?

Phindile: Not even one is empty. All of them are occupied. All of them are occupied.

Mary-Ann (narration): Each floor has its own communal bathroom and kitchen. They’re shared by hundreds of people. And at night, residents walk along pitch black corridors because the lightbulbs are missing. I also noticed these massive steel doors on each floor. They were meant to seal off sections of the hostel to control access and prevent protest. But they don’t work anymore.

Nelisiwe: I never had a first night because I was born in here, so I don’t remember the first night.

Mary-Ann (narration): One of the first people we met is Nelisiwe Nxumalo. She’s 23. She’s lived at Madala her whole life. And like me, she volunteered at Alex FM. But she’s not there anymore. Now she’s studying so she can find a good job.

Mary-Ann (scene): So just kind of looking at the hostel, what are some of the things you like about the space?

Nelisiwe: Is there anything I like about the space? OK, what I can say I like about the space is… What is it that I like about this place? Oh! Is that the people are welcoming in this place. I can just say that most people around the location they believe that this is a very – I’d say a violent place so… It’s not like that, it’s not like how they believe. So as you just entered right now, maybe you were expecting something?

Mary-Ann (scene): Vele! I was worried…

Nelisiwe: So you have seen right now that OK, it is happening sometimes due to whatever circumstances that I may not understand, but it’s not that that’s –  that’s who we are. That’s how we live.

Mary-Ann (scene): It’s not that different from the rest of Alex.

Nelisiwe: It’s not different from the rest of Alex, that’s what I can also say.

Mary-Ann (narration): Other people we spoke to talked about how welcoming this community is. But, we also heard about robberies at night, shootings. Fights over access to water. Bad plumbing. One person said the best thing to do would be to demolish Madala and start over.

Dhashen: No there’s a new mayor – Mpho Phalatse. And I know she talked about Alex and she said, “We need to repair Alex,” and she got voted in.

Duduzile: No, that’s music. That’s a music.

Mary-Ann (narration): That’s Duduzile Mthembu. She’s 68 and one of the leaders of Madala Hostel. Duduzile has lived here since 1994. She’s heard the city’s promises many times over the years.

Duduzile: The nice music are going to replace Alexandra, are going to fix Madala. That’s a nice music for everybody. Everybody they are come here, they are making promises, promises, promises, but they didn’t fix the promises.

Wally Serote: No human being was born to be a subject of history.

Mary-Ann (narration): This is poet Wally Serote again.

Wally Serote: All human beings were born – and we know it instinctively in us – that we cannot be subjects of history. We know inside of us that the greatest gift is to be masters of history. So if it is so for everybody in the world, why are some trapped in a place like Alexandra?

Mary-Ann (narration): Wally moved to Alex when he was eight-years-old. He went to school here. He made it out of Alex in his mid-20’s. But during that time, he got to know the place and its people. We asked him why Alex has only gotten worse.

Wally Serote:  My answer to that is that somebody somewhere planned and said, “We’ll keep these people there so that they depend entirely on us, and because they depend entirely on us, we have to have absolute control over them. And because we have absolute control over them, then they should do what we tell them to do.”

Mary-Ann (narration):  If Alex was designed to trap us – and it sure does seem to have worked – what the hell are young people in Alex supposed to do? Wally and I talked for a long time about the 70%. About how poverty traps. And how I don’t want to be trapped. Wally said some of his friends made it out of Alex. They became doctors and lawyers and journalists. I mean, even Wally is a renowned poet. That’s inspiring to hear. But…

Mary-Ann (scene): There’s a big sense of hopelessness and that getting out of Alex or being able to live comfortably or successfully outside of Alex is – is a dream. Like the difference between our two generations is that your generation had dreams and chased them and saw them as things that could be real, whereas for mine it’s like they want to chase them, but it’s like, how? How real can it be?

Wally Serote: First of all, if we were to assess what happened to my generation, I believe that the majority fell through. They were done. I believe it’s the same now. The majority will be done.

Mary-Ann (narration): “The majority will be done.” That’s a dire prediction. The truth is, poverty is punishing. Social welfare helps people survive when they’re out of work. But, let’s be honest, there ain’t nobody getting rich off of those tiny checks.

Phindile: OK, this is the place we are here to see, where the mother and the – his two, three daughters reside.

Mary-Ann (narration): Back at Madala Hostel, Phindile introduces us to Busi.

Busi: This is my home. This is my two sisters, my twin sisters…

Mary-Ann (narration): Busi is only 19 years old. She lives with her mom and her two sisters in a single room, around three square meters in size. She showed us the two beds for the four of them.

Busi: And this is our table. Sidlela lana, having dinner. Then lana sibuka i TV. And this is our fridge and i khabethe lethu leli ya.

Mary-Ann (narration)::  We’re not using Busi’s real name. She says complaining about the couple who live right next door is risky because she’s seen them walking around with guns. She hates them. Her family hung a curtain and cardboard to divide their space from them. She says nights are the worst. That’s actually when the yelling starts.

Busi: Sometimes when they are drunk? Yoh, we have to go outside siyolamula, mebasilwa, yah that’s boring. Basivusa ebsuku mak’lelwe or something like that…

Mary-Ann (scene): She’s saying they get loud, and then they have to go out and kind of stop the fighting and that sort of thing. So – and that makes them up like, because you’re sleeping and it’s like, you know, I have to go stop other people’s fights that have nothing to do with you. It is annoying.

Mary-Ann (narration): We’re chatting next to a small fridge. Busi told us it’s empty. No food. She says her mom is still a few days away from payday. Busi’s mom receives a child support grant and it covers the basics like food and odds and ends. But it’s not much. It’s less than 30 dollars a month.

Busi: Yeah…

Dhashen: Not yet, payday.

Busi: Yeah, it’s not yet payday.

Mary-Ann (narration): We’ve only been here for like a little over five minutes but I’m relieved when Dhashen tries to wrap things up. I want to leave.

Dhashen: Thank you so much for showing us around and letting us come inside your house.

Busi: No, it’s OK. You can come anytime you want.

Mary-Ann (narration): I mean, I appreciate this family for letting us into their home, but I felt uncomfortable knowing that there was nothing I could really do for them. I didn’t want to be those people who just show up and give false hope. Because just like them, I’m also looking for a way out. Phindile told me this before we left: “The people who live here are like birds. The hostel cuts our wings.” I know what she means.

You know, I left Alex for a while.. My mom, my stepdad,  my sister and I we moved into Lombardy East for a while. That’s another suburb of Johannesburg. We lived there for about six years actually. And I thought, “OK. Here I go. I’m out of Alex.”  While I was living there, I really got to fully experience the suburban life. Huge yards. Having a pool. Privacy. Security. The works! But, long story short, my mom needed to move to a smaller apartment. That meant there was no more room for me and my sister. We had to move back to Alex while my mom figures out how we can comfortably live together again.

So yeah… This bird didn’t fly too far… But wow. That trip to the hostel, it reminded me that I’m still one of the lucky ones. Sometimes, I wonder what makes me different.

Mary-Ann (scene): This is Mary-Ann and I’m reporting live from the Steve Biko Foundation talk. It was a discussion about how black – young black females who are unemployed because they…

Mary-Ann (narration): Oh my goodness! Is that what I sounded like? That’s me from a few years ago. I was a youth reporter at Alex FM, our community radio station. I know I sound like such a newbie! But, hey, we all gotta start somewhere, right? Even back then I was interested in unemployment.

Mary-Ann (scene):  … Unemployment is such a big thing in South Africa. How were you lucky enough to actually find a job?

Interviewee: Well, firstly, I always say I am blessed, not lucky. I was one of the scholars for Primedia…

Mary-Ann (narration): Working at Alex FM really changed my life. It gave me the confidence to be me. I learnt about my community by conducting interviews. And I’m a better public speaker.

Speaking “good English” in this country opens a lot of doors for you – it opened them for me. It’s a sign of good schooling and let’s be honest, the way you speak in South Africa is a sign of your privilege. In fact, I was just talking to my sister Hloni about this not too long ago.

Hloni: I’m not going to say, “People in Alex, English, what what what,” or anything, but I feel like it’s benefited me in a way that I can speak English much more clear – like, I’m well-spoken. Let me see that I’m well-spoken. And you know, whenever I speak English in Alexandra to people in Alexandra, it’s always like, “Yoh o buwa sekgoa yoh! Her English! Posh posh,” and everything, you know?

Mary-Ann (narration): Hloni and I hate it when people say, “Oh, you’re stupid because you don’t speak English.” That’s SO not true. Because English has got nothing to do with how stupid or clever you are. It’s got to do with the education you received. Hloni wants to study at University to become an English teacher.

Hloni: Yeah, I really want to help people get better in English just so that we don’t have this thing of, “Oh, you can’t speak English. Ha ha ha. Bye!”

Mary-Ann (narration): “Ha ha ha. Bye!” My sister’s pretty funny. But she’s also right. A lot of entry level jobs will say ‘English is a requirement’ for this position. And speaking it well, sets you apart from the crowd. In Sesotho we talk about people who speak English through their nose. You know… people who speak like this? My friend Sthe hasn’t always felt at home around people who speak like that. When we first met at Alex FM a few years ago, she was surrounded by it.

Sthe: Like, I felt like, “You know what? I don’t belong there…” I honestly felt like, “You know what? I don’t want to do this.” Like, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and be like, “OK. I don’t want to be here. Even when I came there, I’d be like, “No, I didn’t want to be there. I wanna go, I wanna go home.”

Mary-Ann (narration): But Sthe stuck with it and stayed on at the radio station. She got over my posh accent and realised we actually have so much in common. Yet partly what separated us is our schooling. Let me explain. The difference between rich and poor schools in South Africa is startling. On one end of the spectrum: there are rich schools with everything from private recording studios to Olympic-size swimming pools. On the other end, there are schools with overcrowded classrooms and crumbling infrastructure. In some cases, they have no water or proper sanitation. And big surprise, a lot of these schools are in the township. Sthe went to school in Alex. It’s not the worst, but show up late to class, and she wouldn’t have a chair to sit on for the rest of the day. Just a plank.

Sthe: Like, imagine the whole day on that – pshhh, yoh! Even the plastic is tiring. Imagine the plank.

Mary-Ann (narration): Me, on the other hand. I attended a Model C school outside of Alex. During apartheid, these were exclusively whites-only schools. But they’re integrated now. So I learned a lot at my school including how the other half lives, or should I say, how the 1% lives. There was this one boy. A short white kid. He didn’t seem to care about school. There I was studying all the time, participating in class and working hard. But this kid was just coming to school to tick a box. I even asked him one day, “What’s your story? Don’t you care?” He told me his parents owned a bunch of companies. His future was already laid out for him. No need to study. That? That’s white privilege for you. ​​My mom paid something like $200 a month to send me to that school. I never really knew how much it cost. My mom didn’t like talking to us about money.  But I knew she worked hard to provide for us. Going to a  Model C school standardized English in my life. Because of that, speaking English comes naturally to me. It’s not like I’m proud of it or anything, but it has helped. I guess that’s ‘cause we’re still living in the white man’s world… But, the real reason my English is what it is, is because of my mom. She made sure to teach us English even before we got to pre-school.

Penny: If you think about it, everything is in English. Business world is English. So if you are confident and you know how to put yourself out there, it makes life easy.

Mary-Ann (narration): My mom also went to a Model C school. Black people were finally allowed to attend whites-only schools in the 1990s when the restrictions were loosened. My mom was one of the first black kids from Alex to get in and it gave her an advantage over her peers. She’s given me that advantage, too.

Penny: I believe that Mama did her best for us and I couldn’t do less for my children.

Mary-Ann (narration): When I start a family and live outside of Alex, I’ll make sure my kids have those opportunities. But when? When? Because life is really messing with me right now. Just the other day, this happened….

Mary-Ann (scene): So I was I wasn’t really up last night, I just barely slept and I realised that as much as like my mental health is probably better than it’s been in a very long time. I’m a very stressed out hun.

Mary-Ann (narration): Back in 2020, I had a serious battle with myself. Of course, there was COVID. Everyone was struggling. But, I fell off the ledge and had a mental breakdown after years of not taking care of myself.

Mary-Ann (scene): I’ve just kind of been dealing with these thoughts and just a bit overwhelmed about my life and my future.

Mary-Ann (narration): Anyway, fast-forward to 2022 and I’m lowkey freaking out again. I’m living in Alex and I’m wondering: Who am I going to be? Where? Doing what? Am I going to get stuck here? And it’s all because of something that happened at work. The one aspect of my life that I always had “together” suddenly felt like it was falling apart and I’m thinking, “Am I going to join all the young people who don’t know what’s happening with their life?”

Mary-Ann (scene): I spoke to my manager and she was basically saying how as much as I’m doing my work and whatnot, she just feels like I’m not growing so much in the organisation. That maybe I need to start looking at what it is I actually want to do in my life. And mean, in that moment, I felt that kind of broke me. Because I felt I felt fired, first of all, like, geez…

Mary-Ann (narration): Maybe a lot of 23 year olds feel like this – insecure, anxious about what’s next. But, what stressed me about that conversation with my boss is that I’m a 23 year old living in Alex! Like what am I supposed to do? I can’t just be taking risks. I know I’m young, and I know she’s right, this job isn’t serving my development anymore. But how do I take risks? How do I push myself to grow when South Africa makes it so difficult for young people who live in communities like Alex to find work? This was my most consistent job. This was my safety net and without it, I don’t know what’s next.

Mary-Ann (scene): So, like for for about a week after that conversation, I just wasn’t really OK. Turns out I’m not 100 per cent okay because I’m tearing up right now…

Mary-Ann (narration): I have no intention of becoming part of the 70%. I will not let that happen. I will not.

Mary-Ann (scene): Yeah I’m a mess. Not gonna lie.

Lesedi Mogoatlhe: Next time on the final episode of “I Will Not Grow Old Here”…

Mary-Ann (scene): Let’s say you were to paint a picture on this white wall of the three of us ten years from now. What do you think that picture would look like?

Penny: It would be a picture with your baby pictures. Me as a mummy, obviously and you guys with the nice garden at the back and… You know? Me holding.

Mary-Ann (scene): Each of us?

Penny: Yeah, on my sides. Mm-Hmm. And this beautiful… You know, we’re dressed like those old old old, you know, when we used to dress in dresses and gloves?

Mary-Ann (scene): Like on Bridgerton?

Penny: Yeah, yeah. Like that! Yeah, we’d dress like that and we’re just posing and beautiful pictures like that.

Mary-Ann (scene): And life’s great.

Penny: Something like that, yeah.

Lesedi Mogoatlhe: This episode of “I Will Not Grow Old Here” is dedicated to Alex FM DJ and music manager Joshua Mbatha, who was shot and killed after being robbed at gunpoint while walking home last week.

This series is produced by Radio Workshop and the Children’s Radio Foundation. Dhashen Moodley is our Senior Producer. Jo Jackson is our Managing Producer and created our episode artwork. Rob Rosenthal and I edited this podcast. Additional production assistance, Martha O’Donovan and Ashley Ellis. Original music by Luyanda Mafiana, Selective Hearing, and Zack Mallobo. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions. Sound engineering by Mike Rahfaldt. Our studio technician is Danny Booysen.

A special thanks to community radio station Alex FM station manager Takalane Nemangowe, and Sammy Ramodike.

And a big thanks to Radio Panteion and Nick Naoum for their support of our team in Athens.

This episode of “I Will Not Grow Old Here” and the work of the Children’s Radio Foundation would not be possible without the support from the Open Society Foundation. Visit our website for more information and to support our work at childrensradiofoundation.org.

I’m Lesedi Mogoatlhe.

‘Til next time.