The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 3 – Unanswered Questions

MantzariscoverBongi hated it when suddenly his ex-school friend called him out of the blue and asked him to meet him for drinks at ROOM 319 , at the ROYAL HOTEL.He knew that his friend was a little bit shy at been seeing at the ZULU JAZZ CLUB , but sometimes he overdid it. Everything was forgotten however when he entered the spacious room and saw his old friend relaxing on the comfortable lounge watching American wrestling and sipping greedily a double scotch on a tall glass as usual.

It was sometimes incomprehensible in Bongi’s mind how Gapon Khumalo had reached the pinnacle of a career so fast after 1994 and suddenly became the envy of everyone in Section D Umlazi, who kept complaining still that he owed them money from the old school days. They complained bitterly that even though the Ramaphosas and the Motsepes always ensured that that they spent time to their old townships the same was not true of the new Black Diamonds in their city, like Gapon, especially him. Their main theme of conversation was that now he had made it and lived in the suburbs, he had forgotten his Umlazi roots. This was described as arrogant, uncalled for and incomprehensible in their language.

All these things became instant memories for Bongi as his eyes travelled momentarily through the opulence of the double room, decorated with kitschy, but well painted African art, red Persian carpets and expensive duvet covers.
The pleasantries became almost exaggerated when Bongi discovered that the old mate had stocked the mini fridge with at least two dozen HEINEKENS.
Bongi let him talk for three minutes at the most . Gapon spoke slowly, seriously and in a calculating tone, almost like reciting a three line poem in Standard three in front of the Boere inspector of schools.
There was silence, momentarily. Read more

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 4 – Tea For Two And Two For Tea

mantzariscoverBongi walked through the dusty road leading to the community hall. Some children around five to six years of age were playing hide and seek making a lot of noise. Some others were practicing soccer in the make shift ground, taking passing more seriously than dribbling, something that could have made Gapon accuse them prematurely of been following the dictates of the Eurocentric pattern of the game. For Gapon’s understanding of soccer dynamics, Lionel Messi was more African than Didier Drogba because he could dribble better. Possibly one of his ancestors was African.

These deep thoughts were interrupted when he reached his destination.

He stepped into the shop casually. It was empty. He felt like whistling, but he abstained because he was never sure how the owner would react. The Chinese are the product of a great intellectual inheritance, he could be offended. This was the last thing Bongi wished. He walked towards the cage protecting the cashier-owner in the small opening where the customer could bargain, or pay. The owner looked at Bongi without any interest, his eyes glued behind Bongi’s head, towards the abyss.

“Good morning, Sir, can I ask why the protection?”
“I do not understand, Sir.”
“Why are you in a cage, sir?”
“This is not a cage, Sir, it is a VIP.”
“Very Important Protection, Sir.
“Sounds interesting, so how will you call a toilet?”
“NES, Sir.”
“Non Existing Service, Sir.” Read more

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 5 – Memories

mantzariscoverHe 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

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 6 – Goldfinger

mantzariscoverThis 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

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 7 – Fong Kong (Counterfit Goods)

mantzariscoverAs 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

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The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 8 – The King Is Gone But He’s Not Forgotten

mantzariscoverMost 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

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