Janette was from DRC. Raised in SA, though. Her English was Model-C style, from her schooling in Grahamstown. You wouldn’t know she wasn’t South African if you didn’t try speak Xhosa to her or something.
But some people know. The lady behind the counter at Home Affairs knew. “From where? From DRC? You think you can come here and tell us what-what? Well you can kiss Mauritius goodbye.”
And she blew a kiss at Janette, right there in front of everybody, then went back to playing solitaire on her PC.
But Marie was going. She also didn’t have a passport. But somehow she managed to get one in three days. Some guy called Peter.
The girls had both made the finals of this beauty pageant. To be held at some resort in Mauritius. All expenses paid – flights, accommodation, food, drinks, everything. It’s Janette’s big shot at the big time, maybe. But now, this thing with the passport.
She gets this Peter’s number from Marie.
“Can you help me?”
“Ja. Ja, sure. But you gonna have to come up to Joburg. Can you meet me at Rosebank on Wednesday morning?”
Janette was at Rosebank Square at 9am. She’d already confirmed with the pageant. Registration was the next weekend and they needed her passport. She’d told them she had a South African one.
So now she needed to get one…
She spent the whole of Wednesday in that square. She must have had seven sparkling waters that day. And almost a box of bummed cigarettes.
Peter wasn’t answering his phone.
That evening Janette stayed at a backpackers in Corlett Drive.
Somewhere around seven he calls. “Sorry, I was really busy today. I can meet you at Rosebank square at 10am tomorrow. I’ll see you there.”
He eventually shows up at 6pm. Pulls up a chair and says, “I’m the guy. I can make things happen. But you’re not going to get this passport for free, you know. I need to know what you can do for me. You’re going to have to do me a favour.”
“That favour. You know what I’m talking about.”
He wanted her to sleep with him. And she’d never slept with anyone.
“No thanks, Peter. I don’t need a passport that badly,” she said, Left fifty bucks for the bill and walked out. That was almost all the money she had left. She had to take three taxis to get to the airport.
At Cape Town airport she was pulled out of the arrivals lounge, marched to an interrogation room, interviewed and searched for drugs. She’d never seen drugs.
The police said they’d had a tip-off.
Peter was the guy. He can make things happen.
When they released her from interrogation, Janette went straight to home affairs.
“I have lived in South Africa for 15 years,” she said. “I would like to apply for a permanent residence permit,” she said.
There had to be a way. Even if it took a year. By the time next year’s pageant happened, she was going to be there.