A time for all – chiefs and mis­sus, too

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

CHRIST­MAS Day is al­most with us. Later this af­ter­noon, the malls will fall silent as the very last of the last-minute shop­pers make their weary way home. A hush will set­tle over the val­ley and here, in the vil­lage, as we hun­ker down with our fam­i­lies, our thoughts turn to those less for­tu­nate than us, the per­se­cuted and the op­pressed.

Like Mandla Man­dela, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, chief of the Mvezo and an all-round nice guy whose ev­ery at­tempt at get­ting in touch with his in­ner Caligula has been thwarted at ev­ery turn by the es­tranged wife.

Take to­day. At a lav­ish cer­e­mony at the Mvezo Great Place, near Mthatha in the East­ern Cape, the num­ber one Mvezo will later be mar­ry­ing a wo­man said to be so spe­cial that she has two names – Nkosikazi Nodiyala and Mbalenhle Makhathini. That, at least, was the plan at the time of writ­ing.

But the chief ’s es­tranged mis­sus has not been happy about all this, and Tando Mabunu-man­dela has warned she will have the mar­riage de­clared il­le­gal if the wed­ding goes ahead.

It is no idle threat. Seven months ago, Mabunu-man­dela had her hus­band’s mar­riage to a 19- year- old Re­union wo­man, Anaïs Gri­maud, ruled in­valid af­ter some fu­ri­ously ur­gent court ac­tions.

Bet­ter still – for Mabunu-man­dela, at least – Madiba’s wastrel grand­son was also or­dered to pay R20 000 to­wards his es­tranged wife’s le­gal fees and a monthly main­te­nance of R12 500 while their di­vorce pro­ceed­ings dragged on. The court also froze half the money in the chief ’s ac­counts pend­ing fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the di­vorce.

But a chief is a chief, and a chief has very lit­tle re­gard for lesser tri­fles like or­ders of the court.

Per­haps he con­sid­ers them white peo­ple’s things.

Some read­ers may re­call Man­dela’s pas­sion­ate de­fence, be­fore a par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee in July last year, of the mar­riage cus­tom, ukuth­walwa, mean­ing “to be car­ried” and which im­plies the ab­duc­tion of of­ten pre­pubescent girls, who are then forced into mar­riage.

“When a man sees that this one is ripe for mar­riage, then she is taken and she is put through a cer­e­mony and then she’s ready. Don’t bring in white peo­ple’s things such as her age,” he ar­gued.

Per­haps this is what our pres­i­dent, Ja­cob Zuma, was try­ing to say when he may or may not have sug­gested ear­lier this week that Chris­tian­ity had in­tro­duced into Africa such prob­lems as or­phans and old age homes, and that Africans had their own way of do­ing things.

Un­der­stand­ably, and given the tim­ing, the Chris­tians have been up­set by what­ever it is that Zuma pos­si­bly said – although ex­actly what that was, we may never know.

Nev­er­the­less, the ANC has moved swiftly to sug­gest that it was ir­re­spon­si­ble jour­nal­ism that in­tro­duced the or­phans and the old age homes to Africa, and that the pres­i­dent was re­ally just hav­ing an­other stab at try­ing to ex­plain the con­cept of the much­vaunted ubuntu to the masses, although, if he did say any­thing about Chris­tians – hy­po­thet­i­cally, that is – well, then he was still cor­rect, be­cause the mis­sion­ar­ies did bring mis­ery. Some of them. And they did go about erod­ing African cul­tures, forc­ing Christ­mas on them, and the like.

The pres­i­dent’s spokesman, Mac Ma­haraj, has also quickly con­demned re­ports con­cern­ing the pres­i­dent’s prob­a­ble or im­prob­a­ble re­marks – although it should be pointed out that what­ever Ma­haraj says has some way to go be­fore it even ap­proaches the vaguely cred­i­ble.

But we di­gress. Back to the chief of all the Mvezo. Which is what the sher­iff of the court has done twice this year, with or­ders in hand to at­tach var­i­ous goods in lieu of main­te­nance and other pay­ments.

The first time was in June. But the chief wasn’t at home. So an or­der to seize valu­ables worth some R100 000 was not ex­e­cuted. This week, though, the sher­iff made off with sev­eral head of cat­tle and a minibus.

All of which doesn’t bode well for to­day’s wed­ding. And I say to­day, be­cause a fourth wed­ding is al­ready in the pipe­line – ap­par­ently the chief will next be mar­ry­ing a Swazi princess, Siphi­wayena Dlamini. Ex­actly when, I don’t know. Maybe New Year’s Eve.

Lastly, to North Korea. Here at the Ma­hogany Ridge our thoughts are with all those wail­ing souls bang­ing their heads against lamp stan­dards and pave­ments in grief at the pass­ing of Kim Jong Il, leader of the world’s only com­mu­nist dy­nasty and, to boot, some­thing of a pygmy. We know your pain. We hon­estly do. Our heads feel like that most morn­ings af­ter the nights be­fore. But that is nei­ther here nor there.

From all here at the Ridge, merry Christ­mas. It’s for ev­ery­body.

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