Posted by: howvoicebegan | 08/09/2011

Tsotsi in the House


It’s a word that everyone in the township is familiar with. It’s a person whom everyone eventually encounters.

Tsotsi. Thief.

What do you do when a tsotsi isn’t robbing you from the outside, but rather from under the same roof that you share?

First it was a cell phone. Then it was R100 from a church member visiting the home. Then a purse, phone, and money of someone coming to volunteer with cleaning. Next it was Hilda’s watches and jewellery. Yesterday it was R200 from Hilda. And these are only the known cases.

We gathered the two tsotsis together and took them to the police station. No amount of pleading and warning previously meant anything to the thieves, so it was time to take them to a higher authority. Today they are sitting in jail as they refuse to account for R100 of the missing money.

In dealing with this kind of case, your mind stays unsettled with what to do.

“But these poor children have such terrible backgrounds, we should be nice to them and recognize that they are troubled in their soul. The stealing is not their own doing.”
“These ‘poor’ children will grow up to be anti-social adults. Throw the book at them.”
“If we’re too harsh, they will just toughen up and only get worse.”
“That’s the way this place, these people are. Give up on them and move on to a more fruitful ministry; they want to remain in this lifestyle.”
“But that’s exactly why we are here at the orphanage- to make a small impact on the community.”
“Never be friends with these kids again; always treat them like the tsotsis they are.”
“No; if I don’t forgive, then how can God forgive me?”
“I can’t believe the police officer just hit the child in the face.”
“They got what was coming for them.”

As much as I believe that their overnight stay in jail is the most beneficial, and maintaining a spirit of loving discipline to follow is the right thing to do, there’s still something chilling about watching “your” child being taken to jail. You don’t want to believe what you are seeing. You want to believe that they are inherently good; you want to address their prior pains caused by their family and wipe away any harshness in their life.

While we talked through the matter with the police social worker and police officer, my attention was drawn to two children in the room, brother and sister. My eyes started to well when I realized the problem. Freshly abandoned children. Two more children soon to become children of the court, forever tossed about among the system. If we had room, they would likely end up in our home. It’s where it all starts.

While I hope for a wake-up call for the children, in honesty I can’t help but think that this will only help them further learn the system and how to bypass it. They’ll either learn from their mistakes and never be called a tsotsi again, or they’ll learn from their mistakes and improve on their criminal activity.

Finally, why am I here? What are the lessons God has in store for me? Why am I being thrown into the midst of very difficult discipline issues when I’ve not had even my own children? What is the specific reason that I am here for this; what do I possibly possess to contribute to their upbringing?

Let’s keep these children in our prayers– all 17 of them– so we can begin to see a brighter future for Mamelodi.



  1. That’s a tough one for sure. It sounds like you did the right thing, but I can understand the second guessing. I will be praying for you and all the children.

  2. You are being prepared for things you can not even yet guess at. Just like those two children, every moment is a crossroads of choice. For better or worse. I’ll remember you in prayer.

  3. Lifting you up in prayer, my friend. Hugs from me, the kitty, and the dog…

  4. […] when it seems everything is going exactly the way it shouldn’t. After dealing with the tsotsis I wondered if any of us in the home were making any sort of progress with the children. The […]

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