Author: Prince Themba
Do you remember the day when you heard the news on the radio that ‘a legend of Maskandi music, Mgqumeni Khumalo has resurrected from the deceased?’
Yes you remember. You were surprised and shocked at the same time. You did not believe it was true. You went to a Spaza shop and bought Isolezwe newspaper, to satisfy your eyes with his pictures which were in the front page. The photographer of the pictures was far away from the person he photographed; so you were not sure whether it was really Mgqumeni or not. You flipped through the pages to a full story on page five. You read the full story. Towards the end it was written that the next day all people were going Nqutu to see their darling musician!
You, as an avid follower of this musician when he was still alive you packed your backpack and you were ready for the trip. With hope you went to your employer and told him you did not feel well, you needed a week off work. Fortunately he gave you consent. Your heart galloped like a horse on a racing course, filled with happiness and delight. On your way home you passed by your pal in the neighbourhood, Vusumuzi Mangena.
‘Hey, bra Vusi. Did you hear about the king of Maskandi?’
‘Mgqumeni, and resurrection from the dead?’
‘Sure mjita, I heard.’
‘Are you going to Nqutu, to see him? I think of going there.’
‘Let’s go my man. Even though I don’t believe it. Since when such things happen?’
‘We have to go and confirm for ourselves. Mysteries happen nowadays!’
‘All right, tomorrow morning neh?’
Early in the morning, before dawn you and Vusi at Vosloorus, you climbed on a taxi to Nqutu. It did not take more than twenty minutes for a taxi to pile up, like any other ordinary days. Today, all the people, even those that did not support or listen to Maskandi were heading to Nqutu. Who would not like to see Lazarus? And he had been on a grave for two years now. Soon the taxi departed. You passed Standerton and Volkrust, those are the cities you noticed. Past Volkrust you were ‘Welcome[d] to Newcastle Municipality’, the north of KZN. The clocks were ticking nine. You thought you were closer to Nqutu, a friend had told you it is just next to Newcastle. But the taxi passed Newcastle and travelled for an hour. You could not wait. And you were afraid you would find people packed up to a point that you would be far away from Mgqumeni and not see him. How disappointing that would have been to you!
But then your face brightened up when you saw a board written ‘Encome Blood River.’ You knew you were in Nqutu. Encome. This was where the Zulus, under the leadership of Dingane, were gunned down by the Afrikaners, led by Andries Pretorius. Dingane’s impi was on one side of the river. On the other side were the Afrikaners with gun powder. As you may know Zulus impi used spears as their weapons and so they had to come closer to a person before they could kill me. But with a gun you just send a messenger which runs faster than an aeroplane, to the flesh then a person falls to the ground visiting his ancestors forever. So when the Zulus tried to cross the river to the other side, Afrikaners sent their messengers—the gun powder. Zulus did not make it to the other side of the river but died in water leaving it flow red. More than three thousand Zulus were wounded and killed, and only three injured from the Voortrekkers side. After that incident the name, ‘Blood River’ was conceived. It is a gloomy story to narrate but true, the Zulus impi was warded off there. Their blood flowed like a river.
From Encome it took you about twenty minutes to Nqutu town. You were welcomed by Charles Johnston Memorial hospital on your right, and a big Brown’s Store retail supermarket on your left. Then to an old Nqutu rank, where most people climbed off, rushing to the taxis to Sigqumeni where people had gathered to see iDlamanzi. You were hungry by then, so you asked a taxi driver to take you to a new rank next to Nqutu Plaza. At Shoprite you bought two breads and R40 packet of meat, and a two litre coke. You sat facing the R-68 road. Opposite the Plaza, across the road there was the first Nqutu double-storey house which belonged to Dr Sosobala Mbatha. You were enchanted by this, you had been hearing stories about Sosobala’s house and his magic; you did not know some of his possession were still standing.
‘You remember Sosobala had an aeroplane?’
‘Yea, I’ve heard. The one he bought with money that transformed to papers afterwards?’
‘Yea. See after the road there is a vast open space? That was his plane’s parking.’
You glowed with excitement when you heard all these stories, and seeing with your eyes. You finished eating then you went to the old rank and took a taxi to Sigqumeni. You passed the beautiful hills covered by green grass and rocks. It was the first time you had visited KwaZulu-Natal, it was an exciting journey. And you from townships with no mountains like these. They made you happy. Just about two kilometres from Nqutu, via R-68 there was a waterfall from a mountain. You withdrew your phone, and took a photo of that waterfall. You told Vusumuzi you were going to post it on Facebook.
After about ten minutes from town, you passed a river with the name ‘Gwebeni.’ Then after it there was a road turning to the right, with a brown board written; ‘ISandlwana Lodge.’ You wished you could get off the taxi, forget about the man who blossomed from the grave, and go to Sandlwana. As a person who loved history you longed to see the mount-Sandlwana. You knew about the Anglo-Zulu war that ensued in 1879, between the British and Zulus. You suggested Rorke’s Drift must have been around, because you reminisced that the British when they lost battle in Sandlwana on the 22 January 1879, they absconded to Rorke’s Drift, with Zulus in pursuit. And then another war broke-out there at Rorke’s Drift.
You desired you could go see those Battlefields with your eyes, take some pictures to post on Facebook. You also wished you had come with your ABSA card, so you were going to visit Isandlana Lodge—a five star hotel built below a mountain, how beautiful! From the hotel it would have been convenient for you to go to different battlefields…
Finally you arrived at Sgqumeni. You were surprised to see so many people, a crowd that slayed a snake! The taxis did not get into Sgqumeni, they left you next to a tarred road and pointed to the direction of the crowd, a distance away from the road. Business was good for them taxis, they were rushing back to town to get other passengers. There were people from all over South Africa, including a few which came from Swaziland. There was more two thousand people on that day, all stuffed at Sigqumeni.
You found your way through the crowd towards the front. The time was one o’clock now, other people were whining that they arrived in the morning, and they were then hungry. There was a group of people selling the goods such as fat-cakes, kotas, fruits, cool drinks and juice in a bucket of ice. A paper cup of juice was R1.50 on that day, and pure water without even ice was R0.50. You laughed to yourselves when you saw such prices. You were happy for you had eaten in town.
‘Sizisizile sadla edolobheni! We helped ourselves by eating in town!’ Vusumuzi said.
‘Yea, you see those prices?’ You said.
‘Look,’ Vusumuzi pointed at a Police truck, a distance away from you. You looked up. The crowd screamed loud. There he was on top of the truck, with the Police around him. He went back to the truck immediately, shy perhaps, you thought.
‘Did you see?’ Vusumuzi said.
‘Yea. The king of Maskandi is back to life,’ you said.
‘Do you think it is him? This one looks yellowish. Mgqumeni was dark.’
‘You never know. The guy has been soaked on soil for almost two years.’
He emerged again. They handed him a Police loudspeaker. He cleared his throat and started speaking. He was not buried, he said, what the family thought they buried was isilwane; for the two years he was somewhere—he did not know where but, he ate milk and earth. After his speech, the crowd started shouting out to him ‘Zibongele uma uyiDlamanzi ngempela!’ You also joined the crowd, to the top of your voice you shouted with the crowd: ‘Zibongele!’
‘Wo-ow ho-ow wabisha…!’ He went about, stuttering, unlike the real Mgqumeni who was fluent in this department of music. People grumbled amongst themselves, others flung their hands at him, ‘this is not Mgqumeni!’ Some women screamed in joy, ‘It is him! It is just that he does not look the same anymore! Hooray!’
You, you were intertwined. You did not know whether it was him or not.
‘This is not Mgqumeni. We have wasted so much money coming here,’ Vusumuzi said.
‘You never know,’ you said.
The people approached the Police truck while others left, grumbling: ‘Nx! We have wasted so much money! All the way from Johannesburg, for this shit!’ A hulk of a man with goatee beard said. The Mgqumeni guy went back inside the truck immediately. Then the Police truck left the scene, leaving most people disappointment.
You did not get a chance to go visit the Battlefields at Sandlwana and Rorke’s Drift… It was a disappointment a week later for you to hear on the radio that, the guy you had went to see in KwaZulu-Natal was some other guy playing luck games. A man’s real name was Gcabashe…
Thanks to Gcabashe, you were never going to visit my hometown—Nqutu!
Thembelani Sithole, known as Prince Themba, is a KwaZulu-Natal born author of poems, short stories and novels. Born in Nqutu, he currently lives in Pretoria, where he is currently studying at the University of Petoria.
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