Maria falls ill, so Mathabane’s mother takes her, George, and Florah, to a clinic, leaving Mathabane home alone. He spends the day doing chores and in the evening goes out to the road to join his friends in jeering at the “shit-men,” migrant workers who empty the outhouses in each neighborhood every two weeks. Because of their role, other black people look down on the shit-men. When their truck arrives and the workers see the boys laughing at them, they chase them down, catching Mathabane.
Although apartheid oppresses black people by placing them at the bottom of the race hierarchy, the abuse that the “shit-men” suffer indicates that black people form their own hierarchy within their community, suggesting that they imitate the cruel oppression they receive from white people, passing it on to others as well.
Mathabane howls with terror, but the shit-men make him show them where he lives. When they realize know one is home, they place a large bucket of human waste on the ground and force Mathabane to climb into it. They laugh as Mathabane does so, and threaten to make him eat some of it, but decide to let him go. After Mathabane climbs out of the bucket, the men dump its contents at his family’s door and leave. When his mother gets home, she chides him for making fun of people stuck in a job they don’t want to do, and states that Mathabane is lucky they weren’t harder on him. From that day on, he resolves never to “jeer” at anyone ever again.
Mathabane’s mother’s lack of sympathy implies that she despises mimicking apartheid’s oppressive hierarchy within their own community. Her tough-love attitude toward her son’s humiliation suggests that for black people like themselves to be treated equitably by the people above them (white people), they themselves must treat the people below them (such as the shit-men) equitably as well. Mathabane’s new resolution marks this as an important moment in his personal development.