Mathabane’s mother and father believe in witchcraft, that any misfortune that befalls them is the result of “bad voodoo.” One day, his mother is arrested for not having the permit to live with her husband, and their father has to spend all their money on a bribe to free her. They both risk deportation back to the tribal reserves and have to live “the lives of perpetual fugitives” in order to keep their family together and remain in Alexandra, where all of their children were born. Mathabane’s mother is desperate for work and realizes that witchcraft is not helping, so she tells local evangelists that she’ll become a Christian if God gives her a job. His father demands that she never speak to the evangelists again, but in secret, she takes her children to church a month later to be baptized.
Mathabane’s father must use all of the family’s money to get his wife out of jail, which sets them back where they started, rather than being able to invest that money into paying rent or stocking up on food. This demonstrates how apartheid’s structural oppression holds black families in poverty. When they could be saving or slowly investing in a better life, the government routinely takes that money from them through fees, bribes, and fines, keeping them locked in the lowest socioeconomic bracket possible.