Wis­dom is al­ways bet­ter than wealth

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­press.co.za

We did our best. We didn’t know ex­actly what we were do­ing wrong, but our in­ten­tions were good. Our world was chang­ing, and we were just try­ing to help our neigh­bour, who we fondly called Mkhulu.

He was a coal ven­dor, and he still used a horse-drawn cart when his com­peti­tors were buy­ing lor­ries, which were faster, and, un­like horses, never got tired. The coal mar­ket was shrink­ing as more peo­ple bought heaters and elec­tric stoves.

So the res­i­dents of our street kept old veg­eta­bles and peel­ings for Mkhulu’s horse Mazarin – he was named af­ter a fa­mous in­ter­na­tional race horse. Pump­kin seeds were his favourite. When he ate those, he looked into the wide blue yon­der, chew­ing with his mouth closed like a real gen­tle­man. When he ate broc­coli, cel­ery or cab­bage leaves, he opened his mouth, mak­ing loud noises that could trig­ger se­vere miso­pho­nia – the fear of the sound of chew­ing – in a child.

In the years that I knew him, I did not see Mazarin eat grass.

We lived close to a mi­grant hos­tel that had a beer hall next to it. As chil­dren, we es­caped from home to guard bi­cy­cles there for two cents. I say escape be­cause our par­ents dis­cour­aged us from go­ing there, and, quite frankly, they would have bro­ken our bones if they had heard about it.

The byprod­uct of African beer is a sorghum pulp called amavovo. Some­one dis­cov­ered that horses loved this, so we al­ways col­lected some for Mazarin’s lunch on our way back home. The first time we gave him amavovo, he came close to laugh­ing out loud. Thank good­ness he didn’t – that would have been a prob­lem in a com­mu­nity that be­lieved in black magic.

Af­ter his sump­tu­ous meal, Mazarin was hitched to his cart, upon which sat two adults and a pile of coal, and headed down Baduza Street. It was an easy down­hill ride and he had a spring in his step as he trot­ted along with hap­pi­ness.

He turned left, trav­elled an­other 300m and then turned east­wards into Dh­ladhla Street. Slowly, slowly, Mazarin strug­gled to pull the cart up the hill. Then he stopped. He couldn’t go any fur­ther.

The whip cracked on his back, but that failed to urge him on. Lashes fol­lowed – bru­tal lashes – still, he would not budge.

Un­til that day, Mazarin had not been whipped.

He re­sponded well to “Nx ... x... x”. I have never known a mam­mal more ego­tis­ti­cal – when he heard his name, he worked hard. There was never a need to shout at him.

This con­tin­ued for a few weeks and sales de­clined. Even­tu­ally Mkhulu fired his sales­man, ac­cus­ing him of laz­ing around. A younger and more ag­gres­sive man took over the reins.

He whipped Mazarin un­til, one day, the horse turned around and looked at him and, in elo­quent horse lan­guage, asked: “Mzal­wane, ngizho shebenja kandzani ng’dza­kiwe?”

The sales con­tin­ued to de­cline, and Mkhulu even­tu­ally shut his busi­ness down.

It did not oc­cur to any­one, in­clud­ing Mkhulu, that amavovo fer­mented in Mazarin’s stom­ach and made him drunk on duty. Ev­ery­one thought that the beloved horse was get­ting too old to pull the cart, and it bore the brunt of the com­mu­nity’s ig­no­rance.

“Noth­ing in the world,” Martin Luther King cau­tioned us, “is more dan­ger­ous than sin­cere ig­no­rance and con­sci­en­tious stu­pid­ity.”

Wow. Sin­cere ig­no­rance and con­sci­en­tious stu­pid­ity. Prob­a­bly the two sides of the di­vi­sive coin that is our cur­rent pol­i­tics.

What a pity that, af­ter all these years, we still haven’t learnt that it is not the one who takes all who is the win­ner, but the one with the wis­dom to com­pro­mise for the ben­e­fit of all. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive,

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