Dreaming of a new Jerusalem

FAITH (not her real name) is in her 20s, tall and slender. She wears a red T-shirt. A checked cotton skirt peeps out from under the threadbare maroon towel wrapped around her waist. Her blue-cloth shoes have seen many washing days. She carries her 21-month-old daughter in one arm and clutches a phone in her free hand. Faith has lived in Jerusalem, an informal settlement between Boksburg and Germiston, since 2006, but only started playing Fafi last year.

She is one of many. Gloria Azwidohi Ramasunzi, 52, one of the first residents and proprietor of the only crèche in the settlement, says Jerusalem was created in 1998 after the Jordan Mining Company closed. Ramasunzi came to Jerusalem in May 1998 from Goodhope. “People said Jerusalem had space. So we came and started to build shacks.” The shacks are made of old bricks, iron sheets, car tyres, cardboard and whatever materials the residents come up with.

There are salons, a metal furniture shop and spaza shops. There is no electricity. Many of the women who have no jobs make a little money through gambling. Faith speaks softly when she talks about the Fafi numbers game. “Fafi or the China Game is about a Chinese girl who used to gamble with black p e o p l e ,” she says. Players choose which numbers to gamble based on what they dreamt the night before. A group representative takes the bets in one bag to the “China Man”, or “Fafi ”, as they call him.

“He comes at 12.30pm and at 5pm,” says Faith. “We bet on numbers ranging from 1 to 36. He gives  number and each person who wrote the winning number wins.” From memory, she recounts the numbers and their meanings, giving insight into the dreams of those who play: “1. King. 2 Monkey. 3. Big Water. 4. Dead. 5 Tiger. 6. Cow. 7. Knife. 8. Pregnant woman. 9. Hat or blood. 10. Eggs. 11. Small car. 12. Dead woman. 13. Big fish. 14. Granny. 15. Bitch. 16. Cloth. 17. A beautiful woman. 18. Silver money or gold. 19. Girls. 20. Cat 21. Elephant. 22. Big car. 23. Horse. 24. Mouth. 25. Big house. 26. Soldier. 27. Police. 28. Shoes. 29. Small water. 30. Pastor. 31. Fire. 32. Money. 33. Boys. 34. Fees. 35. Hole. 36. Gun.”

“When I dream about my father,” she says, “I know that when Fafi comes, I will write 1 or 4 or 30. I choose the numbers that represent my dad.” Bets and payouts are limited, she says. “If I bet five bob [50 cents] and my number is the one Fafi says, then I win R14. If I bet with R2, Fafi pays me R56 if I win. (Read full article: Dreaming of a new Jerusalem March 3 2013 )

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