Home » Viv Vermaak: “A R5, A ‘Voetsek’ and a Burning Loin”

Viv Vermaak: “A R5, A ‘Voetsek’ and a Burning Loin”

I come home to find Samson under the big tree in the front garden. He’s made a fire and looks disgruntled that I am so late. Those were the days before I installed the security gate. The days only schizophrenic dwarfy hobos with a moerse houding would dare to sneak onto your property while you […]

I come home to find Samson under the big tree in the front garden. He’s made a fire and looks disgruntled that I am so late. Those were the days before I installed the security gate. The days only schizophrenic dwarfy hobos with a moerse houding would dare to sneak onto your property while you were not there – and start a fire.


I am so de bliksem in, I mock-charge him with my car as if I have lawn-rage and screech to a halt just as his eyes can’t go any bigger and I wonder if it is really worth it ramming into the tree with just a hobo as an airbag.

“What are you doing here? Who said you could come in! What the fuck? You are lighting fires on my property! Voetsek!”

Samson looks at me as if he is Bambi and I just shot his mother?

“Wat Veevjaan. Ek het net hierdie vetkoek en Vienna parbeer warm maak. Ek het dit gakry by die mense in die straat waar ek in die tuin gewerk het.”

“What do you mean, Vivienne? I was just trying to warm up this vetkoek and Vienna I got from the people whose garden I was working in.”

“Jy kan dit nie jou vienna op my fokken eiendom warm maak nie!”

“You can’t warm your Vienna on my fucking property.”

“Oh,” says Samson. “Well, if I am not allowed to warm it, warm it for me in the microwave.”

The blooming cheek. Doesn’t say ‘please’ or anything!

Samson can see the flames rising in me and comes back with a different tactic:

“I haven’t eaten for 2 days and they stole my money at the sleephouse. They hit me and threatened me with a knife.”

He shows me the bruises and wounds.

I look up the street to see if my sister is on her way, because she wouldn’t have stopped the car, she would have gone straight through the tree.

I sigh.

“Kill that fire,” I say, taking the precious vetkoek and Vienna combo. “I will warm your food, but don’t make a habit of this.”

“Make it very warm, Veevjaan!” Samson shouts as I walk to the house. “Very, very warm!”

I give him his food, a R5 coin. “Voetsek nou.” I say, physically ushering him out.

I go in and get numbers for people installing security gates.


A while later, Samson comes a-whistling at the security gate.

“Pwheet! Phuweet!” It sounds a bit like a Piet-my-Vrou that is in a bad mood. “PHUWEET! PHUWEET!”

I told him previously that his whistling made too much noise, so he started shouting at the gate: “Veevjaan! Veevjaan!” I settled for the whistling. My friend Ron now calls Samson ‘Tweety’.

So this time Tweety is at the gate. He is asking for a place to sleep that night, because it is unsafe at the sleeping house and the people at Number 21 have kicked him out of their garage, where he has been staying.

“No!” I say. “You can’t sleep here. My sister won’t allow it and it is my house, not yours.”

Samson is desperate. He miaows like a kitten.

“No, Veevjaan, it will just be tonight. So I can sleep. Last night I slept under the trees like a bloody bird. I can sleep under that bush. Just where they can’t get at me with the knife. Just to rest. You have this whole house and garden. I just want to sleep under the bush.”

“It is my property, I will do with it what I want,” I said… but I knew he had me in a grip. He had made me think.


Here we were two white women on a large property with a large garden (compared to many others). And yes, it was my property which I had worked hard to maintain, but it had also been in the family, which made it easier. I had an upbringing which made life easier for me than for him, fair or unfair or whatever.

Here was a man, asking to sleep under one of my shrubs for a night.

So I let the man sleep under the shrub. It is one of those bushy shrubs that makes the pretty puffy pink flowers. The next morning early, I let him out.

hizeye 3

“Phweet! Phweet!” Samson at the gate. He’s not wearing the blue overall top I gave him recently. It sort of pisses me off because what did he do with it? There are burn marks on the tracksuit set (which I also bought for him) as well. He always wears both sets of clothes, even in summer. I suppose he has nowhere to put them.

“What the hell have you done to your clothes?” I ask.

“Ek het amper uitgebrand, Veevjaan!”

“I almost burnt out!”

“What does that mean? How did that happen?”

He explains they were making a fire in the early hours of the morning below the tree at the Circle, using pieces of cardboard and sticks. He looks at the burn wound on his crotch and giggles. I also start giggling, because of the sparkle in his eyes.

“Het jy seergekry?” 

“Ek is oraait. Ek het gelukkig twee broeke aangehad. Net my pielietjie het bietjie gebrand.”

“Did you get hurt?”

“I am okay. Luckily I was wearing two sets of clothes. Just my ‘thingy’ got a bit burnt.”


I start laughing. He starts laughing. We start laughing together. At him. At the situation. At his burning ‘pielietjie’.

“The woman at the circle says to me,” Samson continues, “Hey, Shorty! You are burning!” Some people call him Shorty.

“I say to her, Voetsek man! Where am I burning? Then I look down and I see my blue overalls are burning out.”

We laughed from the belly. From the soul. The laughter of friends. The laughter of EQUALS. When you laugh like that, you cross bridges that cannot be crossed any other way.

And I look at Samson. And I SEE him. And when you look at a person, really look, it is very hard to look away.

“Listen, you can sleep in the shed tonight. But just tonight, okay? And don’t make a noise. We will both be dead if my sister finds out.”

Om dood te gaan, is ‘n klein ding”, he says. “Dit gebeur vinnig. Dis niks.

“To die is a small thing. It happens quickly. It is nothing.”


And that is the story of how a R5 coin and a ‘Voetsek’ became a ‘hobo in my zozo’ and one of the most intense and difficult relationships and friendships I have had in my life.


All photos and text © Viv Vermaak, and republished here with her kind permission. This article first appeared on Viv’s blog – Hobo in My Zozo – read it here

Liked this? Maybe you will enjoy the story of when Samson came into contact with solar power for the first time.

Catch Viv Vermaak on Edenvale Radio Station, follow her on Facebook and read her Food for Thought with Viv blog here.