MY PEOPLE NEVER OVERTLY THREATEN VIOLENCE
Alot has been said about Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu’s utterances at the imbizo in Ulundi the week before last. He went out of his way to reassure everyone that he was, in fact, the epitome of a peaceful man. And this is why, he warned, “people” need to be wary of “provoking” him over this Ingonyama Trust business.
Many political pundits were quick to point out that His Majesty’s remarks were, in fact, thinly veiled threats of violence if things didn’t go his way. They pointed out that this type of engagement follows a well-worn path of political brinkmanship, typical of that part of the world.
The braver souls on social media have even gone as far as saying: “Zulus from KZN always resort to violent talk every time they don’t get their way.” Sigh. I thought we had put this nonsense to bed 11 years ago when I wrote a chapter titled Have you hugged a Zulu lately? in my collection of essays called Some of my best Friends .I pointed out that contrary to a popular misconception, my Zulu-speaking brethren are not a quarrelsome lot. We just happen to be particularly efficient in the art of opening a can of whupass on belligerent persons. And often we beat people up in the interest of peace.
What folks who are not au fait with the ways of my people overlook is that they never overtly threaten violence. By the time you hear the fateful words “Uzolimala mawungalaleli!” (If you don’t obey, you will get hurt), it is usually too late for you. I know these words sound like a promise of some event in the future. But you are likely to only hear these words from a prostrate position, while spitting out a mixture of soil and blood. A tooth or two might be missing. This scenario is almost always followed by peace descending as folks dig into mounds of delicious freshly slaughtered meat.
I was inducted into my people’s ways as a seven-year-old in Standard 1 at Esihonqeni Lower Primary. Our class teacher, Miss Allie, walked between our benches with a stick she was using as a teaching aid to encourage us to get the correct answer during an English lesson. She was drilling the concept of adjective comparatives and superlatives. She would yell “large!?”, point at one of us randomly, at which point you were meant to yell back, “large, larger, largest!”. This went on until she turned to a much older boy named Goodenough. He came from a surrounding rural area called Mophela and had only started school circa age 11 on account of being a cattle herder. Miss Allie goes, “good!?” Goodenough instinctively retorted ‘good, gooder, goodest’. This brought the house down. As the laughter started to subside, I could not help but yell at the top of my voice, “Gooder, goodest!”, slapping my thigh in a fit of giggles. The laughter started up again. Goodenough glared at me and growled: “Khuzeka!”
But my cruel, petulant lil’ self was enjoying my new-found role as class raconteur. An hour later Miss Allie is now taking us through our Religious Education paces and asks someone to explain why the Lord favoured King David so much. I decide to pip in: “Because David was gooder and goodest!” That was one chirp too many and Goodenough hissed at me: “Uyibambe insimbi ya-after school ingakhali!” (Make sure the after-school bell doesn’t ring).
For the rest of the day, I walked around with a rabbit-caught-in-theheadlights-of-a-truck look in my eyes. It was the longest two hours of my short life. I knew there was a hole in the fence behind the carrot patch that the Mabaso boys used to avoid getting two cuts on the palm for late-coming. So after assembly I picked up my rucksack and tiptoed towards the illicit exit as anonymously as I could. But Goodenough had anticipated this. As the vicious blows rained upon me, I made a decision to never ignore the Khuzeka warning. Well, until about three years later when I found myself at Wozanazo Higher Primary School inspecting the school perimeter fence for holes. I’m happy to announce that this time I did manage to creep under the fence like a lizard and avoid taking my beating like a man.
This is my long-winded way of saying that people should lay off the president for kneeling in front of the king. That was an emotionally mature gesture of avoiding a Khuzeka scenario straight out of Neville Chamberlain’s book. ●
People should lay off the president for kneeling in front of the king. That was emotionally mature