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U3A Writing: Don't Call Me Madam

Zelda Margo tells a sad South African tale.

My Medem, she hang in bedroom. She hang by neck, dress smart, no shoes. The Master scream, Granny scream, me scream, everybody she scream. Medem, she hang.
Policemens, doctor, ambulance, all peoples come. Medem very dead.

They say: “Anna, you know why Madam do this terrible thing?”

Me say: “Aikona, baas”

When I come for job – maybe 1990, maybe 1989 – l-o-n-g time… Medem she say:

“Don’t call me Madam.”

“Yes, Medem”



“I’m Bianca Chemowitz. My husband Dragush Chemowitz. My mother Granny. Understand Anna? Mr and Mrs Chemowitz and Granny.”

“Yes, Medem”

Medem shake head.

“Granny she no speak English. She speak language from country, is Yugoslavia. She teach me cook, bake, make pudding e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! Granny she very good white one.”

‘One day Medem she tell me, Master much important somebody in Yugoslavia. Is trouble with politic. Must run away quickly.’

“Anna”, she say.

“We come here. In South Africa, have nothing – nothing. Granny make the sewing – v-e-e-r-y nice dresses. Sew all time. All work, too much work. Now my Medem got big house, big garden, plenty furniture, nice car. Lots friends, plenty parties. Me? I cook, make cakes, wait at table. The people says –

“Anna, you make nice cooking, hey?”

‘My Medem, she’s got smart shop selling dresses, too much expensive. The Master make printing. Many time the Master shout Medem, she cry, make Granny too much sad. She walk kitchen, lounge, bedroom, back in kitchen, talk allatime – not talking to me.’

‘Now Medem, she dead. Granny go place old people. The Master say, “Anna, please you stay.”

‘I stay. When he drink too much he shout. Sometime he cry. Now he got young woman. Is better, not so much shouting.’

I go on bus to visit Granny.

“Granny, me Anna.”

‘Granny she’s hold my hand. I talk to her my language- tell husband hit me, no work. Son he have job, give little money to father. Master stop drink too much when young lady come. I tell Granny too much things, speak Zulu all time. Granny understand nothing. She hold my hand and look happy.’

‘When must go, she crying…

‘I’m telling her.

“Yimpilo, Gogo.”

“Shala Kahle, Granny”


Aikona - No
Yimpilo - That’s life
Gogo - Old woman [Granny – respectful form of address]
Shala Kahle - Go with God [goodbye]


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