The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 23 – (W)Hu Do You Love?

mantzariscoverThey were sitting on the tightly and beautifully decorated veranda overlooking the valley. The mkhulu and Mr. Dlamini, the chief induna were sipping ijuba and had their eyes glued on the television box watching Chiefs versus Moroka Swallows. Sometimes Bongi witnessed them shaking their heads, questioning their team’s present state of affairs, a team that could not string two passes together, with David Mathebula the main culprit.

After Lifa Tsutsulupa scored the second goal for Swallows, the house leaders decided there was no hope for their team coming back. It was too late, five minutes to go. They joined the host and the guest at the veranda.
They made themselves comfortable, respecting, however, the space of the others. They started, slowly at first, chewing on the hefty pile of cow meat that Mrs. Hu had prepared for all the guests. These two were obviously the most regular guests at Mister and Mrs. Hu’s hospitable pad. However, it was known that they were not the only ones. Young and old took turns in visiting in reciprocity. Mr. Hu for the villagers and the surrounding community was a part of the valleys and the rivers, the trees and the bees, the atmosphere spoilt by the relentless  environmental degradation, perpetuated by the chemical fumes of the nearby sugar mills. He was a part of the area.

It was the second time that Bongi was invited and the more he looked around the valley, the more fell in love with the place, its people and the surroundings. Of course there was gossip, rumours, back-biting, envy and jealousies, even underground power struggles between groups and individuals, petty theft, unwanted pregnancies and child headed families. However, things seemed to be a little bit different in this place, despite the mkhulu’s perpetual cynicism and deep bitterness related to his perception of the complete absence of ubuntu amongst the locals.

There were things that were evident in every single dirt road in the deep rural areas in KwaZulu Natal that Bongi had visited and researched, a keen, sometimes mindless servant of his duties and responsibilities as a teacher, scholar and seeker of the truth, as a true son of the soil he purported to be.

Sometimes when he returned to the relative opulence of his worldly relative small possession, he found it hard to sleep .The deep and unrelenting deprivation of the population disturbed him and before he slept drunk he pointed his eyes to the skies thanking himself and his ancestors that he was relatively healthy, his young family was healthy and never starved, unlike millions of people in the under-developed and undeveloped rural landscapes, steeped in eternal beauty and daily misery. Sometimes he felt that he was obligated to pray to God for what he got, but he perpetually postponed it. He felt that it was more appropriate to offer his prayers of thanks to God when next time he visited AmaHlongwe or Jozini hunger would have been contained to some degree and children would have some proper feeding school schemes for a change. Read more

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 24 – It’s Now Or Never

mantzariscoverBongi finished his breakfast at 10 a.m. and took a lazy, long bath. He calmed his Afro meticulously and put on his casual wear. He took a very deep breath as he walked out of the front door.
He stood at the top of the hill. He looked around casually, observing the gogos selling bananas in front of the clinic. Ntokozo was whispering sweet nothings to her boyfriend on her PEP STORES cell phone. He placed his binoculars in his eyes after he adjusted them. He turned them towards the South.
Mr. Hu was sweeping the floor of his gated spaza with the discipline only accustomed to Chinese intellectuals following their return from the rice fields after the Cultural Revolution. He called this a landscape view. It took him a couple of minutes before he completed his reconnaissance.
He returned to his room, locked the door and opened the suitcase. Sometimes the way he was forgetting things was frightening. It was perhaps age, or maybe lack of some vitamin. He never entertained the thought that senility was creeping into his life. He was not young anymore, but he was not old either. He was prepared for the worse, and kept on laughing when one of his casual friends suggested MEMOREX. Even the name made him laugh. He never tried it.

The search of the suitcase contents was as exhaustive as it could be. He was aware that he should ensure that all tools of the trade were there. He took out his printed catalogue on his left hand, the manual on the right and started ticking with his red pen. He had to follow Gapon’s and the manual’s instructions to the minute detail. According to Gapon, who considered himself at least as good a spy as 007, this checking up was the first and final path to completing the mission successfully.
No sloppy, half-baked anthropological research here. As Gapon put it, even when sober, the dialectical process of preparation almost guaranteed the ultimate completion of the mission. “You flop in the preparation, your mission is doomed to failure”, was his favourite saying in between consuming vast amounts of expensive scotch whisky. Hence the minute detail in preparation had to be accomplished.
For a man used to the sacred anthropological research methodology of participant observation, such a meticulous preparation was a pain, but it had to be done. He completed the counting of the tools one by one, took each one out, tried them for functionality and put them accordingly to the sequence that had to be followed, from step 1 to step 50. He put them in sequence, from left to right. Read more

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 25 – A Hard Day’s Night

mantzariscoverShe finished her job on her knees and washed Gapon’s mess on the floor with the red cloth assigned for this body dirt.  She never understood why a Zulu man loved this Eurocentric drivel so much.  She had her theories, and those bitches from Mahlabathini at BUTTERWORH HOTEL were responsible for this degeneration. She regretted she never majored in Anthropology, although she took the course up to second year they never came close to examining the significance and pleasure levels of oral sex.
She stood up, checked carefully again and walked to the kitchen to prepare breakfast – three eggs well done, two slices of pizza for the kids, three sugars in the coffee, kiss good bye , drive the kids to the Model C schools, another day’s work.

Gapon was moody. He touched her breast, playful. She looked into his eyes.
“Didn’t you have enough?”  She murmured.
“I never had enough of you Buhle (beautiful)”, he replied.
She knew he meant it. These exiles were sex maniacs; they did not have enough those days, who will give them, anyway, the Russian or the Bulgarian women during the exile days? In their dreams.

She drove the kids to school and turned towards the Pavillion. Another day, counting the minutes and the hours, planning to confront Gapon and tell him that she was tired of this poor White neighbourhood, Bellair, where all the Boeres used to live, why can’t we move to La Lucia, like the Sitholes, or even Westville like the Radebes. Who are these people anyway, the Radebes moved from Nqutu only seven years ago and they took advantage of the falling prices, they bought a palace in Westville North for only one million in an auction, a set up by ABSA.  She never understood how these Radebes made all these contacts, they were rural pumpkins as far as she was concerned, making a couple of millions through their IFP connections in Ilembe, when the IFP were top dogs there.

She was well prepared how to tackle Gapon; she would tease his wounded pride.
We are a respectable family, she would tell him, you are a senior intelligence official at a Deputy Director General salary why do I have to demean myself in Bellair, rubbing shoulders with teachers and nurses? Gapon, we are a part and parcel of Black Diamonds, we deserve better.
She knew the answer, what is wrong with Bellair, there are laarnies here, and don’t you know the richest Greek with the biggest ship chandling business in the country is our neighbour? I love it here.
Then he would get more drunken, demand sex and start snoring. Read more

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 26 – Inside Looking Out

mantzariscoverThe young flowery lady asked him to sit on the leopard sofa and make himself comfortable.
She asked him whether he had breakfast and if not what kind of breakfast he preferred, American, English, Mediterranean, East, West African or Southern.
He thanked her profoundly and said he would love a coffee. Plain filter coffee would be fine.

She ordered it via a satellite dish to a lady called Patricia, wearing a dark red overall and spotting dark black eyes and Coco Chanel deep red lipstick.
“The Chief will see you instantly, Sir. He asked me to apologise on his behalf, he won’t be late.”
“Thank you, mom”, he murmured sipping the coffee silently.
He was midway when the green bell on the left hand side of the ceiling rang three times.
“You can go in, now, Sir. The Chief is waiting for you. Fourth floor third door to your left.”
“Thank you very much.”

He finished the coffee, straightened his tie and walked in the corridor, avoiding looking around. Taking the elevator he was aware that he was monitored by a number of eyes, either human or electronic, possibly both. He stopped on the third door to his left, no signage. He knocked.
“Come in, please.”

He entered the bare looking office. The tall graying man, immaculately dressed, showed him the chair opposite him. No hand shakes, no good morning, nothing.
“How can I help you, Sir?”
“My name is Bongisizwe Stalin Khumalo.”
“How can I help you, Sir?”
“I worked under the mentorship of Mr. Nkosinathi Gapon Khumalo; my Code name was given to me as No Z 24624 MFUND. I made this appointment with you to report and claim my two months fees and my reward.”
“Give me a moment, Sir.” Read more

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Bamanya: Books in the Jungle

Honoré Vinck
Portrait by Ingrid Bouws

Mbandaka is the centre of the world, if you stand in front of a world map and draw a diagonal cross. It is where Henry Morton Stanley founded an ‘outpost of progress’: Equator Station, the beginning of the history of this small town on the equator. Nowadays Mbandaka is one of the biggest towns in Congo, with an estimated population of 100.000-150.000 inhabitants. Located on the river Congo, it is a poor town, with little or no industry.

Traces of ‘l’époque coloniale’ can be found in the town centre. Along wide streets stand beautiful houses, or their remains, where the colonials once lived. Thirty years of decay have not left much intact. Mbandaka is the capital of the province of Equateur. The region is looked upon with some condescendence by the rest of Congo: it is the land of hunters and fishermen.

The mission village Bamanya is located ten kilometres outside of Mbandaka. The sandy road that leads there is paved with gaps and holes, many of them filled with yellowish water.

On the first morning of my stay there, the sound of jubilation wakes me up. Some two hundred children’s voices singing make the best alarm ever. Once a week the children of the mission school walk to a village nearby, singing the whole journey.
It is six thirty. I take a cold shower and when I get dressed, sweat is running down my face. Read more

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Time to say Good-bye

September 20th 2009 – a short walk through the busy city of Brussels: Journées du Patrimoine and Dimanche sans Voiture – though using the car is apparently not forbidden it is widely accepted not to use it. Nevertheless, the streets are crowded.

The sun is shining, and it is ideal for people from the Belgium and European capital to enjoy lovely day outdoor. Not just the Grand Place is reminiscent of a modern version of Pieter Brueghel’ s paintings but the main streets are occupied by colourful ado. Variegated syllables in different languages, the sound of music from everywhere and the people in their various dresses: simple and modern, jaunty and a little bit frivolous or conservative-respectable. Men, women – showing their faces au naturel and others who still look more like a masque of themselves – despite the vibe of the folk’s fair, despite people apparently taking over the lead.

And it is in the middle of this hassle and bustle and bursting joyfulness that I begin to get contemplative: Finally a decision had now been taken – a decision that stood in waiting position since some time, but loosely only, still needing confirmation. And a decision that is not really a single event – it is part of a series of events, decisions, part of a long development. A historical decision? A fundamental change?
So many decisions had been taken and are frequently taken – though they seem to be large or small, we do not really know what their meaning is in the historical development – a history made by men, a history that is made by us and nevertheless weighs as nightmare on our shoulders.

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