“Constant police raids” run Mathabane’s family’s liquor business out of operation, and they close it a year after it opened. Mathabane’s father starts drinking and gambling their money away once again. Aunt Bushy and Uncle Piet both drop out of school to help Granny, but Aunt Bushy becomes pregnant soon after, with no husband to provide for her. Mathabane’s mother gets pregnant as well, and when the baby girl, Linah, is born, “the family [is] dead broke” and can’t afford what they need for the baby.
Mathabane’s family swings between periods of severe poverty and brief respite, though never manage to permanently improve their fortunes. This demonstrates the fragility of life in poverty, where any setback becomes a major crisis that compounds with additional problems.
One morning, Mathabane’s father wakes him to ask for money for his bus-fare, since he gambled away all of his own. Mathabane refuses, since he needs his money for “books and baby food.” When his father screams that he is the man of the house, Mathabane screams back. His father demands that he give him money or leave his house, so Mathabane dresses, packs his things, and leaves. His father shouts that he’ll send Mathabane “to the mountain school back in the homelands.” Mathabane knows that he and his father are bound for conflict. He values education; his father hates it. His father believes in the value of tribalism, while Mathabane sees it as a dead end, a nostalgic longing for a way of life that is never coming back to Africa.
As Mathabane grows up, his view of his father falls further and further. As Mathabane matures, his father occupies less of a fatherly role than a hindrance to Mathabane’s success in life. This parallels his father’s gradual fall into obscurity as the world progresses without him, leaving him and his tribal values behind. Mathabane’s belief that his father’s tribalism is a dead end suggests that he will readily give it up in order to pursue modern education and success.