The old saying, “time heals all wounds,” rings true for Siphokazi Mpofu. This East London rape survivor shares her journey of overcoming mental breakdowns, toxic relationships and losing her eyesight. She is also the author of a self-published Xhosa novel, Zajik’izinto, a book about racism in South Africa that focuses on young male initiation and other community issues.
It took the East London-born Mpofu (45) 34 years to pick up the pieces. Mpofu likens her childhood to climbing a mountain, just when she reached her peak, she plummeted with no safety net in sight.
As a young girl, she enjoyed reading and strutting the runways of local pageants.
“I divide my life into three parts: the first 11 years, when I was a smart, beautiful, and a full-of-life girl who competed in and later ran community beauty pageants.”
She especially enjoyed her uncle’s Xhosa novels including Umntu lilahle elinothuthu, UDike noCikizwa, Umqol ‘uphandle, Amaza, and Inene nasi isibhozo.
“Reading those novels brought out the spirit in me. Some believe my mum was intended to be an author since she enjoyed reading and writing. Danielle Steel, Mills & Boon, and Chase were among her favourite authors.”
A horrific incident changed her life
Her life changed forever when she was raped in 1988. Her attacker was her 20-year-old neighbour. She recalls that fateful day.
“I was sent to my aunt’s house to pick up something, and the only route to my aunt’s house is to cross the stream. I tried to fight, but I was defeated because I was a minor and only 11 years old at the time.”
She became the talk of the town after her rape. Instead of sympathising, her peers ridiculed her.
Mpofu was also born with visual impairment. When her eyes started to deteriorate in high school, she was taunted about it and had problems keeping up with her school work. She also became a teen mother and was forced to drop out when her baby turned six.
She matriculated from the Moses Mabhida Senior Secondary School in 1995 and enrolled to East London College, King Campus to study fashion design. Due to her deteriorating vision, she however, dropped out of school.
Down but not out
Mpofu married in 2005 and has three children. She says that her marriage was not as beautiful as she had hoped.
“My divorce was a wake-up call for me; I realised I had missed out on a lot of who Siphokazi was.
In 2012, I enrolled at City Varsity College in Cape Town to study film. After that, I wrote a book titled Zajik’izinto.”
Zajik’izinto was published in 2021, the same year Mpofu established the NPO Izibazana women’s organisation [a space for counselling and humanitarian activities].
Healing the inner child
In March 2022, she entered Mrs. BCM [Mrs. Buffalo City Metro], a beauty contest for women aged 21 to 45. The BCM beauty pageant is all about giving Buffalo city residents a chance to build and brand themselves, breaking the spirit of the ‘pull her down’ and ‘abantu bazothini’ syndromes that stop some people from doing everything they set their minds to.
In March 2022, when she should have been getting ready for the contestant administration, Mpofu had a mental breakdown.
“Our family history indicates that my mother had a nervous breakdown in 1986 for a year and a half, and my grandfather as well, but I’m not going to allow any life diversions to bother me anymore.”
When she comes to her sense of purpose, it’s clear that she wishes to serve those who have given up hope, survivors of domestic violence, people trapped in abusive or toxic relationships, and those who have been bullied because of who they are as individuals.
If you were a victim of rape, contact your nearest police station.
Other organisations that can help:
- Tears Foundation: 010 590 5920
- The Trauma Centre for Survivors: 021 4657373
- People Opposed to Women Abuse: 011 591 6803
- Families South Africa: 011 975 7106/7