This and that with Maluphosa - Just like that
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The soldier prodded Sibekle with the butt of his dilapidated rifle, forcing him to walk sideways like an obese, pregnant woman struggling up a narrow stair-case. The soldier himself did not help matters; he shuffled close behind Sibekle, hobbling like a toddler who has both legs in one trouser leg. I must say he was nothing close to a military machine - just a cartoon of an abandoned, starved, filthy street kid. His torn faded camouflage gave him the perfect look of a weather-beaten scare-crow. Sibekle was confused and scared. The man kept giving him instructions; "Manya!" and the poor child would stop, thinking the man was assaying mana!
Almost suddenly, there was a legion of these Majeni's ghosts as if they had slithered from under the humus. This was truly thriller night! Together, they looked like a large anarchic platoon of bats streaming disorderly from their stinking grotto for their first meal after a long snowy winter. They all had their guns at the ready and looked nervously about. That was the start of our political games, and our nocturnal childish children's games were substituted for what the comrades called 'mabhesi', every night, everyone was ordered to trudge up the nearest kopjie with plenty sadza and huku. There was no excuse for missing these meetings, unless you were dead yourself.
The night for us the youth, or mujibha, according to these men, started with conscripting the villagers for the all night political indoctrinations. We would stay with the comrades while we waited for the villagers to trek up the small mountain with loads and loads of 'take-aways'. The villagers appeared in small, terrified, subdued, silent, apprehensive groups - struggling up to the flat summit of the kopjie They sat down quietly, resigned to their fate. One of the comrades would stand up abruptly: "Pamberi ne wodo; Pamberi ne chimkeremu; Pamberi na Samora Machel - - -" and "Pasi na Smith, Pasi na Mzorewa - - -." Not that we knew or cared about any of these people, or what they stood for, or what these guys said about them - "Pamberi - - - Pasi"? This was purely foreign. But they taught us - from the history of the arrival of the whites to that day! They taught us to respond to their pamberi -pasi jingles. And they made sure everyone responded accordingly.
Life as we knew it had changed over-night; we were introduced to the true path of life - the bumps, the detours, the pot-holes and all the humps. It is during these meetings that we also witnessed our first murder case, or elders being beaten and maimed, or girls and women being raped. One could be killed for a lot of reasons - from missing base, whispering during an address by the comrades, bringing vegetables instead of meat, reporting the presence of the comrades to the then security forces, and many other funny excuses.
To the young and the old alike, umacatsha became a life and death issue where we had to hide from the comrades and the security forces. Bantwa-bantwana became a really siyesaba affair - one was never sure how safe it was to go home. A seemingly perfectly peaceful evening could be spoiled by the message that the comrades wanted everyone on the hill, now! Ingqobe became a real touch of death; if zazingezakho, the comrades would maim or kill you that evening. A dog barking in the distance would grind and churn your system to near disintegration.
These new developments forced us to drop our childhood bedtime stories - like UMampara lama zimu or lo Zigogo by Barbara Makhalisa. The Literature Bureau used to visit schools and communities selling these marvellous stories. After the all night meetings, all the young girls and women were forced to remain behind. We heard a lot happened there. What I can say is that instead of playing ubaba lomama, our sisters carried real babies that suckled, wet their nappies, cried, and got sick - unlike the imaginary ones. I remember my sisters wearing long muddy torn skirts and over-sized blouses and droopy dukes, so they looked like hags that had atrophied from the wear and tear of menopause. They were not in the list attractive and the comrades never lusted after them.
Things changed drastically one day; amakhiwa introduced a curfew. They declared it was a crime punishable by 'killing at first sight' to be seen out of doors after six ntambama. During the day, we were allowed to go on with our activities of daily living. But honestly, this curfew was unlike the 80s one. The 80s one was grossly inhumane; life came to a halt. No one was allowed out side, regardless of the time of the day, and the red berets made sure of that. No one was safe- home and away. Death was so untimely. The chances of one being killed even without a reason increased exponentially with each passing day and survival to the next sun was an extra-ordinary challenge. People were killed from spite and malevolence, rather than for a reason. But this is a topic done to death already. Suffice to say not many people were killed during i-curfew yamakhiwa.
More people died emabhesini than from disregarding the curfew. I remember the comrades killing ngesihluku u N'thunywe Yinkosi, while we all ululated, whistled and sang. 'N'thunywe yi Nkosi' was some kind of police or messenger for us'komitshi. Whenever they had a message for you from the District Dommissioner, they'd say, 'N'thunywe yi nkosi'. You could recognize them nge khakhi uniform and military tan shoes and belt, and a cap. The comrades pinned his heels together with some twelve inch nails, broke his back with zivaro zankhomo, cut off the upper lip of his mouth before smashing his head several times with a rock. That was oh so barbaric! But there is this man who thought he had had enough of the comrades demanding sadza ne huku. He sensed that soon these guys would wipe out all the poultry he had. He asked his embattled wife to kill the oldest cock, umgcina-muzi, for the family, hoping the comrades would not come that night. Kanti kabuzanga elangeni. The mjibhas arrived to announce that the comrades wanted everyone entabeni now. The man ordered the wife to cook imihwabha for the selfish and carnivorous comrades, and leave the qhude for the following day. When they came back from the base in the morning, a gola jumped out of the pot, having summarized all the meat. Just like that!
Maluphosa can be contacted at email@example.com
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