The snakes that are eat­ing our kids’ fu­ture

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

To this day I look at the Bles­bok River with love and awe, be­cause it is the foun­da­tion of the myth­i­cal sto­ries that carved my child­hood. It was home to two leg­endary wa­ter snakes. The smaller one, uMaMlambo, preyed on Chris­tians who came to be bap­tised.

It waited for them to get into the wa­ter, and when uM­fun­disi was dunk­ing the faith­ful, it came from un­der­neath and pulled them into the deep wa­ter, and the bod­ies would never be found again.

But some­times, uMaMlambo only wanted to snack.

So, she ate out only the eyes, the tongue or any­thing that would scare a child, and then let the body resur­face.

The sec­ond was the larger mon­ster snake, called Inkanyamba.

It rarely moved, but one day it was dis­turbed, and it de­cided to aban­don its home for an­other river.

It flew past our town­ship, Payneville, and in its path a rav­aging tor­nado fol­lowed, de­stroy­ing homes and killing peo­ple.

If you don’t be­lieve me, there is a sec­tion called Tor­nado in KwaThema; this is where the peo­ple who lost their homes were moved to. Pity my only two wit­nesses have passed on. Bra Jus­tice saw its head, and Un­cle Tom saw its tail.

As a child, I was glad that we got our drink­ing wa­ter from the Vaal, and not from this deep and stag­nant dirty river that hid mon­sters and snakes.

Cross­ing the Bles­bok to­wards Mpumalanga from Gaut­eng, I drive back to a time of cor­rupted in­no­cence.

The cos­mos have bloomed ex­actly as I re­mem­ber them as a child – pure white and ma­jes­tic pur­ple. They are all over, as far as the eye can see. What is glar­ingly miss­ing on this road are the beau­ti­ful Ndebele houses that once stood there.

The world-ac­claimed pho­tog­ra­pher Peter Magubane saw it com­ing and tried it to pre­serve it in his great book, Van­ish­ing Cul­tures of South Africa.

It is warped progress, be­cause in one place where some of these ma­jes­tic houses stood, flavour­less RDP houses and shacks have been erected.

The coun­try­side is ask­ing a pierc­ing ques­tion: “Is our past our best?” I ar­rived at Les­lie. I hadn’t been here for years, but as I was driv­ing slowly I heard some­one shout: “Sawubona, Malume.” Isn’t that the beauty of Africa? That you are not only an un­cle to one child, but to his friends and the whole vil­lage?

So, when an un­cle dis­ap­points – and we do it all the time – he dis­ap­points us all.

This per­haps ex­plains why the peo­ple of Nkandla feel so dis­ap­pointed by their un­cle, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, that at the last mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions they voted for the op­po­si­tion, the Inkatha Free­dom Party.

I got to my Sbaar, dis­cussed the busi­ness of the day and fin­ished.

Be­fore leav­ing, I asked him, “Sbaar, may I please hit the boy.”

“Eish, Sbaar, we have no pipes. The boys who smoke nyaope have ripped them out so they could sell them.”

“Where are the cows?” I asked, hop­ing to change to a more pos­i­tive sub­ject. “They’ve all been stolen.” I said good­bye to my en­tourage of neph­ews, tod­dlers and grand­chil­dren by rank, who walked me to the car.

On my way back, I saw the deep stag­na­tion of spirit that hides the mon­sters that eat up the souls of our chil­dren.

They have to face job­less­ness and the in­dig­nity of hav­ing to ask for money for a loaf of bread.

Will their un­cles and aunts in all or­gans of state – in Par­lia­ment, in the prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties – put them first, or will they con­tinue to grow their own out­size pot­bel­lies while our fu­ture starves?

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