AND STILL WE RISE

Everson Luhanga

To celebrate Women’s Day, Scrolla.Africa met up with three of the toughest women in SA’s toughest places.

A shebeen queen’s life is not for the faint hearted

She was born in 1957, the year that the Russians sent the first satellite into space, so her Dad named her Sputnik.

Sputnik is a shebeen queen.

Her Dad, an ANC soldier, Hosia Maruping Seperepere died in exile in Tanzania in 1981.

She grew up during the dark days of apartheid, fighting against armed police officers in the streets of Alexandra township.

In an interview with Scrolla.Africa at her shebeen (closed due to the alcohol ban), Mary-Anne Seperepere – famously known as Sputnik – said life in a township is not for the faint-hearted.

Her neighbours will tell you that Sputnik has taught many men and women ‘manners’ through her ‘Chinese kicks’ that she dishes out when you step on her toes! 

Since 1984, Sputnik has been selling alcohol from her premises, a business she took over from her late brother.

“I was arrested numerous times because I fought the apartheid police when they raided us for selling alcohol.

“They would confiscate all our booze and demand a lot of money to give it back. At some point, it got so bad that I had to fight them physically to save my business.

“We used to make our own petrol bombs. When police threw tear gas at us we used to throw bricks and petrol bombs back at them,” she said.

Now she says she is not afraid of criminals: “If anyone messes with me, I deal with them myself. I don’t go through the depressing and unsuccessful route of reporting them to the police only to get disappointed with case dockets being thrown away because you are nobody.”

“Police will only thoroughly investigate and prosecute high profile cases that give them promotion. Not us, the poor,” she said.

She said the most recent example of dealing with people messing with her was a man who was pushing his luck proposing love to her.

Sputnik said the day President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the level five hard lockdown, she also gave the man a ‘complete lockdown’…

“I couldn’t take the pressure anymore from this married man asking me to love him. 

“No matter how many times I rejected him, he kept on coming.

“I got so pissed off I moered him. 

“The following day he came back with his brother for revenge. I was not scared of them. I wanted to beat them both, but they escaped before I discharged my hot klaps.

“I will die a happy woman after beating up this man. He was a pain,” she said.

She says the man has since now stopped threatening her.

Besides being arrested for selling booze, Sputnik said she also got on the wrong side of the law for:

  • Assault to inflict grievous bodily harm (GBH) after she punched a woman’s face for blocking her driveway
  • For theft after she took a wristwatch belonging to another woman who came to her house
  • Malicious damage to property – for breaking down the walls of a housing structure a man was trying to build next to her late brother’s room

“The time I went to court for assault GBH, I told the magistrate that she must throw me in jail for more than five years.”

“None of my cases went as far as a conviction. Judges always released me for lack of evidence,” she said.

She said her life has not only been characterised by violence and fights. “I have helped many struggling families in my neighbourhood”.

“I used to pay school fees for children whose parents couldn’t afford the costs. 

“I have buried many families who could not afford to give a decent funeral for their departed members.

“I am a good person,” she concluded, in tears.

Next up, meet Mpho, who has triumphed after years of abuse and Thembi, who has honoured her late husband for 44 years even though her in laws took everything.