The Transformer

Nomusa Neo Shuping

© Copyright 2024 by Nomusa Neo Shuping

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On a cold Winter morning, after a long night with the baby, Mosa is shaken by a loud bang.

She had been up all night nursing the infant and so, when this happens, she’s still asleep, almost drowning in sleep. 

There’s a tremor, almost like an earthquake, with dust spreading across the room. This sound is only heard for a brief moment and as such, cannot be an earthquake but there’s still dust. 

The entire two bedroom house is covered with dust from the ceiling. 

As they walk into the living room, a transformer is hanging, still attached to the green and red wire cables attached to the wire pole from which it was hanging. 

It was originally bolted onto one of the street lights but looked as though it had collapsed. For many years it had remained bolted. Whether it was the wind or the rain, or rather the weight of it against the wooden pole, nobody really knew how it fell.  

At no point did they think it would ever collapse and fall onto their house. 

No one from the municipality thought to check if the wooden pole it was bolted on was still rock solid after so many years. 

The transformer had fallen, still dangling by the electrical wires. 

The strings of the electricity could still be seen hanging from the transformer itself. 

It had destroyed part of the roof and wrecked the TV and the TV stand that stood right below where it stood. The wall had also caved in, where the transformer hit. 

It had swung from left to right, cracking the wall of the living room. 

No one could touch it. It’s electricity after all. 

Members of the community hear the sound and start swooping in. 

Tshepo, who had just knocked off from his night shift as a security guard, sees the house from the main road. 

Corner left,” Tshep says to the driver. 

The driver stops the taxi and he gets off. 

People from inside the taxi are in awe. 

I wonder what happened,”

From outside the main road, the right side of the house looked halved, as though it had just caved in. 

I think it’s a transformer,” said the driver. 

I’ve been using this road for years. It’s definitely a transformer,” as he holds the steering wheel up close, bending his shoulders and ducking his head, to look through the glass window of his taxi. 

He looks on and points to the pole and says, “You see right there, that’s where the transformer always sits.”

Tshepo is at the gate now, enters the yard and sees Mosa and her grandmother sitting under the shade of a tree. 

What happened?” 

It’s a transformer, it fell in,” responded Mosa. 

Tshepo puts his bag down, looks at the damage from the doorway and says, “This requires the expertise of the municipality.”

He takes out his phone from his front right pocket and starts to dial. 

It’s too early. We’ve tried,” said Mosa. 

Their call centre line just rings and rings. No one picks up.”

Really?” said Tshepo.

Yes,” said Mosa.

We’ll give them a try a little later on,” said Tshepo.

Maybe at 9am, the start of business day,” he says. 

Scores of neighbours start entering the house, asking each other what happened. 

Kimberley people are close knit. 

They protect one another and when something like this happens, they become worried. 

Again, electricity has cut across the portion of the neighborhood. 

Some of the cords are left broken. 

Electrical connection to some of the houses are broken.

People in this part of town are known to spread news like wildfire. Word of mouth is like a broken telephone. 

While others come to help, others come to help, while others come to see if the transformer truly did destroy the house. 

Not far from where the transformer fell, are groups of ladies walking in. They sit around in nightgowns, especially in winter, unbathed to talk about the most recent sensational tale of the day. 

Cindy, the gossip committee spokesperson, with a high pitched voice, snuff (tobacco) in one hand, lifts the container to her nose, sniffs in the one nose and up into the other, before continuing to tell the tale of what happened. 

She sits on the crate of beers. They all sit, some on white water containers, others on chairs, while others on make-shift wooden seats and while others on crates. 

One by one, they walk in, some already having tasted the first sip of alcohol. 

These are ladies, not old women but ladies who have lived in Kimberley for many years. 

This is normal for especially unemployed women with kids. It’s cold and so, the heat from the sun acts as an insulator from the cold. 

Cindy starts to talk, “Hey, let me tell you,” as she claps her hands laughing in disbelief. 

Mampho was apparently naked when the transformer collapsed. She was bathing,” she said. 

Bathing, you mean, naked naked friend,” 

I mean naked,” 

She was in the small gray basin, busy washing her feet. People in the taxi saw him,”

Everyone starts to laugh. 

It’s always entertaining listening to Cindy, even if nobody really believes much of her stories. 

She hardly ever witnesses anything but knows the nitty gritty details about everybody’s life. 

The ladies are drinking, some exchanging the beer bottles. 

The ladies pass around the snuff, while the beer bottles move from one mouth to the next. 

There's a  camaraderie amongst alcohol drinkers, nobody thinks of hygiene.

You laugh, some of us are affected by this transformer falling. I don’t have electricity now,” said Johanna. 

I’ll come to your house to bathe,” said Johanna.

It’s fine, friend, bring your children as well,” said Cindy. 

Even with her vile demeanor, she will still help but best believe, the entire neighbourhood will know that you and your kids needed help and she swooped in to save the day. 

Rosey doesn’t even wait for Cindy to finish narrating the story, she leaves without even muttering a single word.

They look at each other, the remaining ladies, as if to say, the story will definitely spread. 

And surely did multiple stories fly. 

Nobody knows for sure how the story reached Mosa but it certainly had some spice.       

Some had already called the local newspapers, while others were sitting outside the sun narrating absolute gibberish. 

Meanwhile, back at the house, Mosa still awaits to see if the municipal officials will arrive. 

The municipal officers arrive, some from the risk management team while others from the engineering side. 

They firstly go to the pole, make sure the energy is completely switched off and then go into the house to inspect the damage.

They then use their equipment and harsens and whatever other tools to pull out the transformer from the rooftop. 

As they attempt to finally pull out the transformer, another loud band is heard from spectators, who stood eagerly outside the house to see what was going on. 

The wall falls completely flat.

People start screaming while the dust continues to rise and spread across the yard.

Nobody can see what is going on now, their vision is obstructed.

There’s an outright pour of shock. 

Nobody can believe it, Mosa and the grandmother are in awe, saddened and angry now.

The grandmother cannot look. 

They manage to create a much bigger problem than before. 

The driver and the one directing are clueless.”

Gossip committee mongers clutch their purses. 

It’s a mess.  

The workers are gutted. 

Clifford has worked at the municipality for years. 

He’s responsible for the electrics but on this day and much like any other day, something could go wrong and this was one of those days. . 

He, together with Jomo, have been on the same team for over 10 years. 

The communications team will have to do some damage control,” says Clifford

We’ve done our part, responds Jomo. 

What time do you think they are coming?”

I don’t know. Listen bro, we’ve done our part. Let’s leave the others to do theirs,” says Clifford. 

It’s late in the night and it’s almost time to go. They don’t bother to speak to the family but instead believe their job is done.

Mosa is fuming and tries to speak to the men but the family stops her. 

She’s absolutely gutted.

Clifford and Jomo manage to finally remove it from the home.

The transformer is back up, bolted on the very same pole. 

Clifford knows that this pole is not strong enough to hold it again but because of financial misconduct and an ailing municipality, there’s no money to install a new one.

He’s aware that this is not a battle that will be won easily but goes about his job anyway. 

As they pack up their tools, he looks up at the sky and rain clouds gather. 

Let’s hope it doesn’t rain,” remarks Clifford. 

Ey bro, let’s hope.” said Jomo.


Mzamo, Mosa’s lawyer cousin comes through and says, “You can come to my house, while we build you a temporary structure. By tomorrow, we should be done.”

Mosa, the baby and the grandmother drive off with Mzamo but concerned about their furniture being stolen, asks his cousin brother Sipho to keep watch. 

It’s cold but still manages to sleep in the room that had not been destroyed by the transformer. 

They all drive to Mzamo’s house. He gets out of the car, opens a large devils fork gate. Opens the garage manually and comes back to the car. He drives in. 

They move from the garage, right into the living room. 

The wife is cooking. 

She quickly wipes her hands and walks over to greet Mosa and the grandma and then guides them to the bedroom. 

This situation is not ideal for any of them but they stay the course and bare it. 

Mosa is disturbed, unable to sleep, firstly by the nappy changes, the feeding and the peeing baby and also the thought of losing furniture that has been left behind. 

Although at a decent house, she still wants to go back. 

Mzamo’s house is beautiful but it’s still not home. 

The two toss and turn in the night, worried and concerned about the money, firstly to repair and reconstruct the house. 

The collapse was sudden, it came at a surprise, especially with a new born baby in the mix. 

Luckily the baby is safe and sound,” said Mosa to her grandmother Maria. 

We’ll recover, you’ll see,” said Maria.

Maria has always been one to dream. She had seen a house collapse in one of her dreams but didn’t understand what was going on. 

She knew it could be a sign of what’s to come and instead, went to bet fafi, a lottery system of people of the township. 

Fafi relies hugely on the dreams and she wins a lot. 

It’s not a lot of money. This is not the lottery, it’s merely putting in chump change and betting on dreams and their interpretations.  

I didn’t see this one coming, didn’t think it would happen for real,” said Maria. 

Who would have known grandma? What could you have done?” asked Mosa.

She lifts her head to make a short prayer and dozes off. 

Mosa on the other hand, stays awake and for a brief moment is able to sneak in a little rest before the little one wakes up. 


It’s early morning and everyone is awake. Mzamo switches on the geyser but there’s no way everybody will be able to bathe. The geyser is too small. 

They however use geyser water and pour a kettle full into small wash basins.

Mzamo’s wife Mapaseka helps the granny carry her bath basin to the bedroom, where she will be able to bathe. 

Just the important parts, granny,” said Mapaseka. 

Yes, just the important parts,” responds Maria.

Mosa carries the little luggage and plastic bag and walks to the car. 

They drive a little while and reach the house. 

As they are about to turn the corner, they see some activity at the house. 

There’s some drug users inside the yard. 

Mzamo gets out of the car, “Haai you, what are you doing over there, get out!”

They run off with an iron and a kettle. Scrumming through the rubble, he manages to get out of the yard, through the front entrance. 

As soon as Mzamo goes for a chase, they are gone. 

These junkies are fast, aren’t they,” he said as he hurries back, breathing heavily from attempting to chase them. 

Nobody knows where they disappeared to. 

Meanwhile, Mzamo’s cousin is fast asleep. 

Heard absolutely nothing. 

Zakes!” shouts Mzamo, knocking on the door to the bedroom. 

People are busy stealing here and you are sleeping. Wake up.” said Mzamo, still unable to breath, panting heavily and now fuming with rage. 

He wakes up and as if he too had not slept there, drinking away at a local tavern. 

This is what you get for trusting people!” exclaims Mzwamo as he holds his hands around his waist in shock and disappointment. 

Zakes finally wakes up. Still wearing the clothes he had worn yesterday. 

Unlocks the door and walks out. 

He sits on a man-made bench, still wreaking alcohol. 

The municipal people will be here, I'll make sure of it,” said Mzwamo. 

Turning over to Mosa, “I’m going to the office, I’ll come back later to see how things are.”

Ten o’ clock hits and the municipality arrives with journalists. 

They bring food parcels, diapers and food. They even bring in a temporary structure for the family. 

Groups of men arrive and assemble the corrugated iron to make into a shack. 

It takes less than an hour to assemble. 

They then move the furniture into the shack dwelling and move the family in. 

Cindy visits Mosa inside the shack dwelling. She knocks at the door but Mosa is not amused at all. She definitely knows she’s only there to search for information. 

She opens the door and walks outside, refusing her any entry. 

At this point Mosa wants nothing to do with the gossip mongers, she’s absolutely distraught and wants these people far away from the house. 

Cindy with her awfully fake sorries, tries to console Mosa but she walks her to the gate as if hurrying her to leave. 

So what are you going to do Mosa?” asks Cindy. 

My cousin Mzamo is on it, that’s all you need to know,” responds Mosa. 

So are you going to fight?” asks Cindy. 

Mosa is angered by the multitudes of questions thrown at her. 

Cindy is intrusive and unashamedly so. 

She’s relentless with her line of questioning and Mosa just snaps and says, “Listen here, I don’t have anything to say about the matter, leave me alone please.” 

There’s no reason to respond in this way,” says Cindy as she leaves the gate. 

Mosa returns to her grandmother and the baby but she’s at ease because she’s inside the yard now and the furniture is safe. 

The masses have dispersed. 

They are back to their normal boring lives. 

There’s nothing more to see, the municipal officials are gone and the family has a temporary structure. 

Mosa to her grandmother Maria, “Do you think they will come back? To rebuild the house?” 

We must put our trust in God,” said Maria. 

We must also speak with Mzamo to see if there’s any plan to reconstruct,” said Mosa. 

Three months passes and no one has come back to rebuild the house. Municipal officials are nowhere to be seen. 

The journalist returns after some few months and realizes the house has not been built. 

He writes the story time and time again and it makes headlines. 

Nine months pass and still the municipality refuses to budge. 

The family say they don’t have money for lawyers. 

They refuse to wage a war. 

There’s too much at stake. 

One day, I’d like to work for the municipality or even for the government,” said Mosa to the journalist. 

What if they refuse to hire me?” she asked.

Kimberley is a small town. The main employer is a few businesses that hardly pay well or the government. 

She wrestles with the idea of being unofficially blackballed by the state. 

It’s the fear of everyone living there. 

Please don’t write any of that down, it will get me in trouble,” says Mosa.

The journalist assumes responsibility and says, “I’ll come here every now and again and remind the municipality of what they failed to do," he says. 

We are a daily paper, we can throw them with every angle they know how,” he said. 

And he kept his promise. 

He makes it there every three months, to follow up on the story. 

With every request for an update and every non-response, it would be written. 

He makes it a point to point out how irresponsible and unaccountable the municipality is but this is Kimberly, everyone is just so complacent. 

After much pressure from Mzamo and the newspapers, the municipality finally raises a few rands to rebuild the house. 

Gossip monger Cindy has heard of the activity but nobody goes to see the construction. 

You know grandma, they only come when there’s drama, never when there’s something positive happening,” said Cindy, as they prepare to move into their newly renovated home. 

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