Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Mathabane’s last encounter with the Peri-Urban police, they becomes a constant presence in his life. By 1966, when he is not quite six years old, police raids occur in Alexandra on a weekly basis. His mother starts having premonitions about which days and hours the police will arrive, and often she is right. However, though she and the other woman flee and escape, most of the men think it “cowardly and unmanly to run away from other men” and are often captured. If they can pay bribes, they are released, otherwise the police throw them in a “notorious” black prison in the city. Repeat offenders are taken to Modderbee, a maximum-security jail that turns decent men into “brutes.”
Mathabane’s constant expectation of police raids suggests that repeated traumatic experiences condition his behavior and shape his childhood. The men’s refusal to save themselves and avoid extortion or prison indicates that their own ideals of masculinity play a powerful role in their behavior, even when it causes further disruptions to their or their family’s lives. This indicates that such ideals of manliness and masculinity will feature in Mathabane’s retelling of his childhood.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Despite constant raids, life in the ghetto runs on a “predictable, monotonous course.” People like Mathabane’s parents work all week and struggle to survive. On payday, tsotsis (gangsters) come to extort some of their money. Over the weekends, black people in Alexandra drink away what’s left in order to “forget the troubles and hardships of black life,” and then, hung over, begin again.
The cycle of suffering, corruption, and alcohol to cope suggests that black people’s pain under apartheid feels endless, “monotonous.” Such a cycle demonstrates how difficult it is for someone like Mathabane to rise from poverty and overcome the obstacles apartheid thrusts in this path.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon