The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 20 – Show Me The Way To The Next Juba Bar

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mantzariscoverThe small crowd in the tavern was as loud as ever. Some of them debated the forthcoming elections while others, especially those on a holiday caught up with the latest gossip that had escaped them while digging gold in Gauteng or platinum elsewhere. It was obvious that they were missing the place of their birth and hopefully their last home of rest. While they drowned their happiness in the BLACK LABEL quarts they listened attentively to the latest news.

A number of the younger ones, few of them, were fighting over the results of the MISS NDUNDULU competition and the pros and cons of the selected beauties. Bongi felt that the discussion was growing a little bit out of hand, but this was expected of youngsters with strong opinions about beauties and judges.

The mkhulu seemed very relaxed as usual and Bongi could see that his eyes and ears were eagerly attending   all conversations. All that with no attempt on interfering or getting involved. Distant, yet so close. He could see that the old man was in a philosophical mood, but this was not something new.

As he calmly sipped his IJUBA, his eyes turned to Bongi.
“See, Mfundisi, if we don’t study our History correctly then we are bound to be blind to our victories, our defeats, our success and failures. Now some days ago we were having some jubas with Mr. Hu and he said something that has stuck in the back of my mind.”
“What did he say?”
“He said “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever”.”
“It is a very wise Chinese saying.”
“Mr. Hu is a very wise young man; the only problem with him is that he does not trust people.”
“What do you mean, Mkhulu?”“Don’t you see how he has armed his shop; it’s like Shosobala’s fortress in Nqutu.”
“Shosobala, you’re talking about the dead nyanga (traditional healer), right?   I think Mr. Hu is worried about crime, everyone is.”
“He’s overdoing it, Mfundisi, there is nothing to steal in his spaza shop, anyway.”
“What do you mean, Mhkulu, he has stock.”
“What stock, Mfundisi? Mielie meal and this tasteless tea and vuvuzelas.”
“What do you say Mkhulu?”
“I say that how can you run a spaza without goods?”
“Possibly he knows very well what people need, people are poor here.”
“That’s what he says.”
“It’s the truth.”
“People are poor, Mfundisi, but they need to eat. People have money to eat, the government has given them grants, the gogos can buy things for their grandchildren .What I say is that Mr. Hu is not a business man, look at his stock, it’s pathetic, and when you ask him about this the only thing he does is throwing some Chinese slogans. He is like uMsholozi and Shenge before the elections, throw some slogans and you think you thrill the people, you convince them to vote for you, things are not like this, Mfundisi.”
“You are trying to say something to me, Mkhulu.”
“I try to say nothing, Mfundisi. I just make a statement of fact. By the way I saw you were very excited the other Saturday at the competition. You were even making notes, what are you going to do with these notes, Mfundisi, are you going to use it in your work?
“I don’t really know, Mkhulu, its part of the job I suppose. You go, you listen, you make notes, and then you go back and look at them again and decide what to use and what to leave out.”
“I saw you were very interested mostly on the iscathimiya, am I correct?”
“Very correct, I was interested on everything, but those boys were really something, Mkhulu, the passion, the singing, the dancing, the moves, the content, the expression, I must say I was very thrilled. This traditional music grows on you, even when it’s not the music you like. The choral, the movement of the body, it’s like you’re you are digging into the past.”
“You see, Mfundisi, you the town people miss out on a lot of things, because these boys are the voices of history, they listen to their fathers and learn what their fathers learnt from their fathers, who learnt them from their fathers. This is why we still remember the names of our Isandlwana commanders Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza and Mavuvumengwana kaNdlela Ntuli, the Great Shaka’s brilliant military strategies .This is the real history, Mfundisi, not the history of all these Mfundisis at the universities. You see, Mfundisi, our ancestors have spoken to us, through their mouths and tongues and their graves, and we all know now that King Shaka and our glorious Kings were never afraid and never imitated the European style of military operations or fire power. Our amabutho (warrior) regiments attacked the enemy using the horn formation. They surrounded them from the left and the right, and the chest, the central main force and the loins operating as reserves. This they did to destroy the enemy completely under the coordination of the izinduna (headmen). By using this tactic there was no chance for any army to resist or survive. This is the lesson of history.”
“So all these things you say exist today because of the mouths and the tongues of the forefathers.”
“The forefathers are only a part of history, Mfundisi, but you ought to know better than me that every single rock, in the open field, or hidden underneath the soil, every single tree covering our Kings and regiments footsteps, every hole on the ground, every cave from the West down to the East, every single whisper of the wind coming from the mountains tells the story of our people. Why are you taking notes, Mfundisi?”
“These things you’re telling me are important, Mkhulu , you’re talking about rocks underneath the soil and trees covering footsteps, holes on the ground, wind coming from the mountains. You make me feel like thinking that our kings were tokoloshes.”
“There were not tokoloshes, Mfundisi, they were ghosts. Now you see them attacking from the West and the next moment they disappear and you see them two miles to the East attacking and destroying the enemy. It’s like you see these machines the children play at the shopping mall in Empangeni.”
“Yes, Mfundisi, ghosts, because the udibi (very young warriors) and the ibutho lempi were able through their beauty and capability to chase the enemy ghosts away. We know these things because it came to us by people who saw them with their own eyes.”
“You say that the troops had many ways to become invisible from the enemy.”
“They were invisible like ghosts, they danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee, exactly like Mohamed Ali in the Battle of the Jungle. Have you seen the movie?”
“What do you think of the movie?”
“I liked it.”
“It was good, but I think this young boy could never play Ali.”
“He’s too handsome. I think we must have the last juba for tonight, this Miss Ndudulu competition was too much for me.”
“You mean the during or after?”

The old man’s eyes smiled.
“That was a little bit sad for me that I could only watch all these young beautiful girls and their mothers. At my age, I do not have money to go and see these muthi men in town, but the party afterwards, thanks to you, was too good to be true. You are a very good and generous man, Mfundisi.
“Thank you, Mkhulu. You are a very generous, highly educated and wise man.”
“Thank you, mfundisi.”

They completed their beers deep in silence, shook hands and walked away, one towards the East and the other towards the West.
Bongi smiled to himself on his way home. If he was Mr. Hu, he would shake his head in agreement with the saying that a single conversation with a wise man is worth a month study of a hundred books.

Next chapter: Chapter 21

©  Evan Mantzaris – The Ndundulu Invasion – Rozenberg Quarterly 2013 – ISBN 978 90 361 0201 8

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