About Brothers for Life

There's a new man in South Africa

Jimmy shares his story with Brothers

I grew up in a loving and caring middle class family in the affluent neighbourhood called Diepkloof Extension, in Soweto, which makes me a so called “Cheese Boy”.

Growing up with the label of a cheeseboy , a township reference to children from well off families brought many challenges to my life in my youth, the fact that I am light skinned and soft spoken also made things worse in a highly patriarchal society.

The primary teachings I received at home were about Ubuntu, but what I experienced in my community was often the opposite, dog-eat-dog world, an ongoing rat race of status and materialism. Since I spent only about 40% of my time at home and the rest at school and in the streets in my youth, I was faced with a number of challenges adapting and conforming.

At soccer they called me ‘Sister Khumalo’ instead of ‘Doctor Khumalo’, girls always told me I was cute, but they like me as a friend instead of a boyfriend or they would claim I did not love them because I did not beat them up, guys called me chicken because I didn’t want to cross the freeway to go play in the field or go to neighbouring neighbourhoods to go fight with the guys there, etc… Long story short, society told me I was not man enough…

All these ongoing incidents and the need to be accepted caused my self esteem to drop and sent me on a quest to prove my manhood. I then started to give people what they expected from, i.e. start fights, initiate risky activities like dog fights, steal bicycles in neighbouring townships, hang out at the shops and terrorize girls and bully my peers, start smoking, etc. These behaviours progresses throughout high school and got worse by the time I was in tertiary, smoking dagga, stealing cars and car radios, engaging in credit card fraud and occasionally carrying a gun and threatening people. This new lifestyle of mine landed me in police station holding cells detained for hours, a day and sometimes for a few days, but that did not matter because I was getting the street credibility that I had always wanted, even surpassing many of those who ranked higher than me in my circles. I finally became the man society expected me to be…I believed.

This new me was doing me well in the community, but was killing me inside because it was not who I really was wanted to be and it also tore me away from my parents teachings, but thank God for time, because in time we all learn and grow and realise who we are. I soon found out that my antics were not pleasing everyone, then upon pondering how to please those people who were taken by my manhood, I was then taken on the 360 degrees of proving that hold up guys, that guy you see isn’t really me, this is who I am.

I soon realized there were people who will accept me the way I was and also, and that allowed me to reconnect with myself and re-discover who I was and am. I started to embrace the fact that I was cheese boy. I started being grateful for having parents that could afford to raise me the best they could, financially and otherwise (we were not rich, but we were not poor either). I changed my friends and changed ways. I became a new boy. And that boy has finally grown into a man. And that man is still learning and growing. But most importantly, a man who learns from his and other peoples mistakes, and actively tries to ensure that those mistakes do not happen to others.

My story is no different from many other men out there. All I am saying is any man can change! Having two sisters, one older and the other younger than me, I then took a different view when I started observing their relationships and even going as far as confront their boyfriends whenever I saw them cry. But I was just as guilty as those guys who abused my sisters physically and emotionally. I then decided that for me to be able to stand up on the pulpit and correct the next person, I had to make the change myself.

It is sad to see the same pattern of abuse in young and older men in our communities today. I thought it would have ended with my generation of 30somethings, but sadly, it is evident even in primary schools where we see children recording acts of violence against each other on their cell phones. The police statistics also echo the cries of women and children as they hit high notes of cases reported every Monday after a weekend of alcohol binging. The clinics also suffer a similar spike of those who want to get tested after a weekend of infidelity.