He awoke up as the thunder assaulted the mountains around Ndundulu and its surrounding areas and the wind was trying to uncover the mysteries of the jacarandas that whispered prayers to the Lord begging for some sunbeams.
He did not even have a shower. He jumped into the car as the first glimpses of the morning light escaped the prison of the clouds.
He drove around endlessly, measuring distances, stopping here and there to take notes. He wrote down how many communal water taps were on the way, how many were vandalised. He greeted children walking bare feet to school and spoke to them. Lay people call this scoping the environment, others call it reconnaissance. He called it the first step. He passed Sexiwa and Qubuka, stopped in Bhonkolo for a HEINEKEN but ended with a CASTLE LIGHT and chatted with the school principal in Nomane. It was an easy game to con people. He was an mfundisi after all. Rural people love talking to people with a big title before their names.
Then he moved in the opposite direction from Memezi to Manawe and from Mabungu to Nogwaja, exotic names tarnished with poverty and deprivation, children built into the mountains, God having stolen the sea from them amongst other things.
Subconsciously he thought of the first time his father took him to the Durban beachfront when he was four. He was in awe when he saw the sea for the first time .He felt like an angel, he almost felt the scent of Lord Jesus resurrection. Then he saw two White little boys swimming. He cried, to himself “this is the light, not the abyss”, this blue massive liquid looks like the abyss, it’s so distant, but it is the light, not the abyss.
But this light was too distant for him on January 1958, too distant.
He drove back to Ma Dlamini’s Bed and Breakfast and passed out.
There was no time for emotions. Time was of the essence. A job had to be done.
His dreamless sleep was uninterrupted from painful memories.
Next chapter: Chapter 6
© Evan Mantzaris – The Ndundulu Invasion – Rozenberg Quarterly 2013 – ISBN 978 90 361 0201 8
This time the meeting place was a three star Bed and Breakfast place in Empangeni.
As Bongi walked through the entrance encircled interestingly with two bull horns, the tall blonde 50-something White woman who introduced herself as Dolores welcomed him cordially, but without a smile , more or less formally. He introduced himself and she asked him for his particulars, with emphasis on formal identification. She in fact insisted on identification, possibly it was his Afro and his genuine POLO t-shirt that made him a suspect in her deep blue eyes. In fact he noticed that her eyes inquisitively searched the POLO pony emblem in his red shirt before they moved from its top to the bottom. She seemed to be an expert on t-shirt authenticity, as it was obvious that she was aware that those POLOS imported from China became rough in the edges after a couple of washing exercises.
She examined his passport as thoroughly as the New York CIA operatives examine the bearded tourists before they take their photographs and search the 60 million names in their suspected terrorist data base engines.
She inquired whether he was a South African and why he had not acquired a green identification card denoting his South Africanness. He explained that he was a South African and an African and he did not need a green I.D. to confirm his history and identity. She seemed taken aback by his vocabulary, which she had possibly mistaken for arrogance, but her attitude did not bother him. He was here to do a job and he was determined to complete it, despite the mental hurdles presented to him from people with a false sense of superiority, or stupidity for that matter.
After a tiring process filling of forms and other B and B formalities, she announced the prices for a single and double room and queried the purpose of his visit. He told her that he had arrived to pay ilobolo (dowry price) for His Majesty King Zwelithini’s 24 year old daughter and was expecting his best man to discuss the details of the delivery of the 120 cows.
He felt she was taken aback by the casual announcement and sensed a glimpse of admiration in her eyes, but possibly he was mistaken. He also informed her that the best man would be paying the bill as he was the go between in arranging the marriage because of his closeness to the royal family. Read more
As he walked lazily towards his destination Bongi was trying to figure our whether the decision to accept Hu’s invitation for supper last Saturday night was a wise one.
His eternal philosophical conversations with the wise Mkhulu and his supporters in the tavern, while tasting the well done cheap meat in the outside cheesa nyama (meat place) were at a full force when Hu entered the place. He greeted everyone by bowing down and muttering some pleasantries in deep rural isiZulu .It was obvious to Bongi that the whole atmosphere following his entrance was that of a deep respect shared amongst those present.
MaKhumalo carried a green tea pot for Hu, a movement that did not raise an eyebrow, a sign that the patrons were used to such a treatment.
While the discussion carried on, Hu kept silent, sipping his tea with an aura of dignity. He was perhaps bored, or a man with mixed feelings about the environment.
After he finished the last drop from the pot, he stood up bowed his head at everyone’s direction and turned to Bongi.
“Sir, we have only met once, but it will be a great pleasure for me and my lovely wife if you could do us the honour to be our guest for supper next week. I leave the choice of the day to you if agree.”
Bongi was drunk at the time, he could not even think.
“The honour will be all mine, Sir, Tuesday will be fine with me.”
“Thank you, Sir; I’m looking forward to meeting you again.”
“Me too, Sir, see you on Tuesday.”
After Hu left, the conversation continued as usual, until Mr.Dlamini raised the issue of Bongi’s invitation stating that he was a lucky man because Hu’s young wife was the best cook around. The agreement of those present made Bongi realise that he was not the first to be invited to Hu’s house for supper. This made him feel better as he approached the modest three bedroom traditional house.
He knocked on the door holding tight on the plastic bag with the six PERONIS and the Johnny Walker Green Label whisky. A young, beautiful African woman in her early twenties opened the door, holding a new born baby on her arms. She held her eyes nailed to the shining floor and bowed her head and knees. Her knees almost touched the ground.
“Good evening Mfundisi“, she muttered. “It is a great honour to have you in our humble home. Welcome. My name is Sbongile, and my daughter is Bhuhle, Bhuhle Hu,” she added with pride.
“My name is Bongi and the honour is mine, Mrs. Hu.”
He witnessed the pride in her eyes when she was addressed in her married name.
She led him to the small tidy living room. Mr Hu was standing, waiting. Read more
Most of the time he was so peaceful and excited in Ndundulu that he did not even feel like driving to Melmoth or Empangeni.
Sometimes, however, he felt the need to see some different people, faces and places.
In addition there were times that MaKhumalo took advantage of his weaknesses and convinced him to drive her there for shopping. She was extremely nice to him and he felt her warmth and hospitality everyday, so in most occasions it was impossible for him to refuse a favour.
On the other hand he was able to learn a lot of things useful to his mission because MaKhumalo was the CCN of the area and her knowledge encompassed a very wide field of data gathering and dissemination.
She was such a wealth of information, based on solid fact and research and not pure rumour or gossip that sometimes Bongi felt obligated to buy her pizza, her favourite food. This was one the major achievements of marketing, he always thought, when he saw her enjoying her seafood variety chewing well the tasteless prawns.
Some times Bongi was close to telling her what a prawn was, but he abstained, because he knew that would be the last time she would set food at a pizzeria.
He left her at the cafeteria in the mall, chatting with Mrs. Dlamini, a nurse at the hospital who was married to MaKhumalo’s brother Bongani and entered the supermarket. He needed toiletries, macaroni and tinned fish. He searched carefully the shelves and he was astounded by the variety and the prices, many of them more expensive than Umhlanga Rocks. It was, however, end of the month and there were chords of people shopping, chirping and debating issues loudly. As he looked around the shop he felt this urgency to shout loudly welcoming Europe in Africa, but he was afraid people might take him for a crazy old man shouting obscenities.
He finished his shopping and moved towards the cashier pushing the trolley. He felt a Breath behind his ear. It was not fresh. He did not want to fight. He kept his appetite for fighting during the Amazulu game, at 3 p.m sharp, King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi. Read more
It was a job that ought to be done despite his deep hatred of it. His principles and beliefs were that when you violate one’s privacy, above all, you violate yourself. Now next to his carefully installed VODAFONE Internet device, he felt violated no end. A job had to be done; the fact that he did it because of need and not want was merely a footnote of History, if that.
He googled the name “HU FONG”, just to start, before he moved to more sophisticated improvisations. The first item “ HU FONG SHIPMENTS” . The second HU FONG Heavy Machinery PTY. Ltd, Haihu Ayuan No 285.1, Du Dong Da Dao , Shanghai , 2001 29. Interesting. He felt that space annulled his memory, his history, his past and he was afraid to look at his future. He moved the mouse. He read:
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- Track your competitors import activity
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– And I thought I gave a new spin in Native Intelligence, he thought. These guys made it so simple for the competitors, they even avail to the enemy their suppliers name and addresses, but who could guarantee that they would provide the correct information?
He remembered when he first read the full text of Michael Porter’s “COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE” for his Marketing IA class. He smiled and moved on.
He moved to the next item
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His sorrow was annulled .His humanity was annulled together with his dignity, his knowledge, space became a gigantic “elsewhere”, a new consciousness of the mind and body , most time searching for facts and creating new ones, mostly imaginary. Read more
He was driving lazily. Thandiswa’s CD blaring in the car, the young girl singing alongside.
The traffic was bearable. Driving on the left lane gave to opportunity to the girl to absorb the peace of the surroundings, far away from the ENGEN refinery and the noise of the second hand MERCEDES passing as brand new one.
They were silent, only this Godly voice mixing with the few fumes from the sugar mills here and there. He did not even bother to check his rear view mirrors, there was no hurry, they were booked at the BB. His cell phone was off.
He did not even notice the bright red YARIS that passed him. Only the girl felt a little shaken, because her body felt like frozen for a few second.
“He was fast Daddy”, she whispered.
“Ah, you know young people, they drive fast, but we are not in a hurry, are we?”
“No”, she replied and moved her body closer to him, almost falling asleep. Read more