11 January 2033
Towards the turnstiles of the Chartwell Gautrain station, Tengo saw Gerhhadus. They were both on their way to the factories of Modderfontein to begin another day of labour. Out of his pocket, Tengo took out his port to send Gerhadus a vibration to acknowledge his presence.
The ports, originally known as portal devices, were introduced to the Federal Republic of South Africa in 2030, 3 years after the civil war and the subsequent federalisation. After the government collapsed due to in-fighting, and large businesses took over the running of the country, citizens received these ports to access and interact with corporate services. After the paying of the monthly port subscription, they were given access to the New World as it was called by the Corporation.
Today wasn’t just an ordinary day for Tengo. It was the trial day. As he sat down on the train seat, he placed the port glass on his eyelids and closed his eyes. Immediately, he found himself in the centre of the atrium of Fourways Mall, the Johannesburg North High Court of the Corporation Department of Justice.
“Can you please state your name”, the court facilitator asked him.
“Tengo Jabavu”, he replied.
“You have been brought here on charges of falsifying your origin in order to receive Corporation privileges. How do you plead?”
“I plead not guilty”, Tengo replied.
Around the atrium, he could hear the gasps from the other avatars who had also joined in on their morning commute to work. “But he is obviously lying, just look at him!” exclaimed one onlooker. “Look here! In December 2021, he posted a picture of himself in Amathole!” said another.
After signalling for order, the facilitator asked: “from where are your family origins, Mr Jabavu?”
“Many of my family are buried in Gqumashe, in the State of Emaxhoseni, but many my line have been in the State of Gauteng since 1991, when it was still part of the Transvaal” explained Tengo.
“But do you not know that the role that you applied for was an affirmative action role, reserved for the sons and daughters of the soil of the State of Gauteng who did not have access to the privileges of the past your family had?” the facilitator questioned.
“Yes, but we suffered too!” Tengo pleaded.
“What suffering!?” one of the onlookers retorted. “I grew up hearing the taunts of your grandfather to my father about the ‘Jabavu family line’ when he worked for him. Nywe nywe all my brothers and sisters and their children went to university nywe nywe”.
Collectively from their ports, the various onlookers signalled to send justice shocks to Tengo. After the number of signals had reached a critical mass, from his train seat, Tengo felt the painful electric surge from the port receptors implanted in his body.
“Did your great grandfather and siblings not go to Fort Hare, Mr. Jabavu?” the facilitator questioned.
“Yes, at least that’s what I’ve been told”
“Was your grandfather not an executive at Transkei Development Corporation”, the facilitator further enquired.
“Maybe he was, but I’m, just a factory worker in Modderfontein” Tengo pleaded.
“After 1994, did your grandfather not then become an executive in MTN in Johannesburg” the facilitator asked.
“What does it matter? My father lost everything, and after the civil war we were left with nothing. I’m just an ordinary person like everyone else”, sulked Tengo as tears started rolling down his eyes.
“Ordinary what!? Don’t come to us with that nonsense!” said someone. “When you used to come out of the gates of Dainfern Golf Estate with your expensive car your father bought you, were you ordinary?”
“I think we have heard enough. And the time left for the morning commute is nearly over” motioned the facilitator. “Can the jury of onlookers signal your vote with your portal devices to decide whether Mr. Jabavu here is guilty or innocent within the next 24 hours. Mr. Jabavu, I expect to find you back here tomorrow morning for the verdict.”
As he opened his eyes on the train and removed the port glasses from his eyes, his hands couldn’t stop shaking. As he looked around the train, he could see strangers looking at him with disgust and disdain.
“Approaching Marlboro station”, the automated voice signalled.
As soon as the doors opened, Tengo rushed out of the train, and down the stairs of the train platform to escape the weight of judgement hanging over his shoulder.
“Tengo!”, Gerhadus shouted as he ran after him. “Wait!”
“I don’t need to hear your disgusted thoughts on me”, said Tengo as he brushed him aside.
“What are you talking about”
“Weren’t you at the trial too? I’ve already lost everything! Now I may not even be able to get another job!” shouted Tengo.
“What trial? What the heck are you even talking about that?”
Calming down in the comfort of Gerhadus’ ignorance, Tengo quickly tried to change the subject. “Never mind bro. Anyway, how are your plans going to escape your cog in this factory?”
“Hey man, we are just ordinary folk. Those fantasies are for those Lanseria grootmen”