Dry heat and feuds in KZN

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@ city­press. co. za Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency

Mr Mbatha made a fa­tal mis­take. When a stranger asked him for a light, he stopped to as­sist. As he reached for his pocket, two bul­lets were fired at him. Within min­utes, he lay dead in the streets of Joburg. The code on the streets is very sim­ple: don’t talk to strangers. The line “Angik­wazi awungazi” (I don’t know you and you don’t know me, so move on) was coined for sur­vival.

Mr Mbatha was not a gang­ster, but a fam­ily man, with only two pay cheques to go un­til re­tire­ment. He had been look­ing for­ward to it, as he once told me.

Un­for­tu­nately, he was “eaten by the moun­tains of Joburg”, as the id­iom goes. These “moun­tains”, of course, are noth­ing but mine dumps. Even in death, Mr Mbatha main­tained his dig­nity. He came from Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal. It is a dry place, hot and hos­tile to hu­mans, said to be hos­pitable to witches, chick­ens, goats and ghosts.

Peo­ple live here. Their fields are small and hard to till. The veg­etable gar­dens are small and tightly se­cured with twigs and rusted pieces of wire to keep chick­ens and goats out. When the rainy sea­son fi­nally ar­rives, it is as if the heav­ens are at war, fir­ing bolts of light­ning that make the lo­cals be­lieve the weather is at the mercy of the witches.

This was the seat of the Bam­batha Re­bel­lion, and these hills have not been calm since. “Yin’ uk­ufa?” (What is death?) the com­man­der barks. “Yiz’ uk­ufa” (Death is noth­ing), his army replies. “Ayi­navalo ay­ih­lasele.” (The reg­i­ment has no fear. Let it at­tack.)

Thank good­ness this is only a cer­e­mo­nial dance, but that war cry gives you a glimpse into the his­tory and char­ac­ter of this land.

The blood feuds here have been run­ning on for gen­er­a­tions, cre­at­ing rivulets of blood. They span as far as Dur­ban and Joburg. There’s an eerie tran­quil­lity by day in Msinga, the kind you feel at a game re­serve just be­fore night­fall.

The only dif­fer­ence is the preda­tors are hu­man, and so is the prey. Even the “oxen”, as they are called, are not the bovine an­i­mals that pro­vide meat and milk, but bipeds who kill for money.

There are no jobs here, as in many other ru­ral ar­eas. Once in a while, you see a boy and a girl walk­ing into the dis­tance and you know in nine months there’ll be a baby.

Like in many parts of the coun­try, a young woman walk­ing to the shop can still be ab­ducted and forced to be the third, fourth or fifth wife to some old man.

There are no young men – only old men, old women and chil­dren, some with chil­dren of their own. The young men are all in Joburg look­ing for em­ploy­ment, and some never re­turn, which is why Khum­bul’ekhaya is such a pop­u­lar TV show.

Three cheers for govern­ment grants. They feed these fam­i­lies, who by no fault of their own have no other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

It’s time to bring “a last­ing bet­ter life for all” ev­ery­where. Busi­ness can con­trib­ute enor­mously in chang­ing that sit­u­a­tion, but the Trea­sury needs to re­duce its level of greed and think of the fu­ture.

It should re­duce taxes for busi­nesses that op­er­ate in ru­ral ar­eas on a slid­ing scale. We should also bring back na­tional ser­vice for young peo­ple – this is a way, at least, to earn an in­come.

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