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Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy


by Mark Mathabane

Kaffir Boy Chapter 6 Summary

  • Papa is laid off temporarily and told he'll be recalled.
  • But a few weeks later, when Papa hasn't been recalled, he realizes he needs to look for a new job.
  • So he heads into the city to get permission from the Bantu Affairs Department.
  • On the way, he's arrested, for being unemployed. The crime of unemployment was one of the worst that a black man could commit.
  • Though Mark had hated his father, now he missed him, and especially missed his paycheck, as they begin to go hungry.
  • Mark and Mama discuss how his father struggles to keep his pass book in order, but it's impossible. The passbook is important: it is "the black man's passport to existence" (6.18).
  • Mark still doesn't understand, and wonders why he doesn't have a pass book. Mama tells him that he'll get one when he turns sixteen.
  • Mama cannot get a permit to look for work, so the family exists on one meal each day. They slowly start to starve. Mark begins to faint regularly. Mark wants to know why they don't borrow money from the neighbors, and Mama begins to laugh. None of their neighbors has a penny to spare.
  • Finally, the landlord comes around to evict them, since they can't pay the rent. Mama begs for some time, and he gives them until the end of the month. Then they have to pay the three months' rent they owe him.
  • One day while she's out looking for money, two Zulu warriors come to the house and strip it of everything of value – the wardrobe, chairs, and table. They claim that Papa owes them money.
  • A few weeks later, Florah and George become very sick – their stomachs so swollen, it looks like they'll burst.
  • They're starving to death. When they do get some food, they throw it back up.
  • The family can't afford to celebrate Christmas that year.
  • Usually, families would go to the Indian shops on First Avenue and buy new clothes for the children.
  • They would slaughter chickens or goats and hold feasts. This year, with no money, Mama locks them inside their small shack.
  • She goes into the township and begs for food from people, hoping to get enough to help keep them all alive.
  • When Florah cries because she can see her friends dressed in their beautiful new clothes through the window, Mark consoles her, saying that next year will be better.
  • Mark begins to get suspicious of his mother. He notices that her stomach is getting bigger and bigger, even while he and his siblings go hungry.
  • Is she eating food and starving them? He begins to watch her carefully, waiting to see when she eats in secret.
  • Finally, he asks why she has gained weight. Has she been eating too much? No, she says, but her stomach will go away when she brings a baby back from the clinic.
  • Mark wonders why she wants another mouth to feed when they don't have enough already.

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