A fa­ther’s grief

Phakade must say good­bye to his son Nganono be­fore he could even say hello.

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Emo­tional flood waters will be run­ning high on Mon­day 21 Jan­uary as Nganono’s (Xolani Mfeka) funeral rites be­gin. But the man most in dan­ger of drown­ing is Nganono’s now- dis­graced bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther pas­tor Phakade (Sandile Dlamini), who will be able to pub­licly claim his son for the first time only as he buries him. The Bhengu fam­ily’s trust was shat­tered on Wed­nes­day 5 De­cem­ber when a se­cret held for a quar­ter of a cen­tury came out and ev­ery­one learnt that hum­ble Phakade was the bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther of all four of his oil mag­nate younger brother Ng­colosi’s (Tony Kgoroge) chil­dren. Just over one month later, on Tues­day 8 Jan­uary, the Bhengu fam­ily found el­dest son Nganono’s mur­dered body burnt in the boot of his car. Now as they pre­pare to bury him, the fam­ily fall- out con­tin­ues to worsen.

STEP­PING UP

“For Phakade, it is a very dif­fi­cult time. He never thought that his wife kaMadon­sela (Fundiswa Zwane) would just come and stand in front of the church and dis­close this thing. It was a very un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion, as a pas­tor,” says Sandile. “It takes courage and re­spon­si­bil­ity from Phakade when Ng­colosi, who is sup­posed to be Nganono’s fa­ther, can­not even com­mit to the funeral [al­though he does have a change of heart on Fri­day 18 Jan­uary].” Phakade must step in and take con­trol of it as a leader of the fam­ily and the bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther. Sandile adds that “it’s ful­fill­ing be­cause Nganono was Phakade’s son, but it’s also tor­ment­ing for Phakade that he could never spend time en­joy­ing life with Nganono as the young man’s fa­ther. Just af­ter the se­cret has come out, it’s the funeral. Worst of all, Nganono was mur­dered and he was found burnt.”

BOUND BY DEATH

But while Phakade will feel a great loss, the funeral will also be the first time since the se­cret has come out that Phakade will see all his sur­viv­ing chil­dren stand­ing to­gether. “Every­body knows now that these are his chil­dren. See­ing them dur­ing that time of grief, one is lost but the rest are around and even Ng­colosi has to agree that, as a fam­ily, they need to be to­gether. It’s an­other mo­ment that brings re­lief, that he has his fam­ily sup­port­ing him. The kids, the brother and the com­mu­nity, be­cause they put their is­sues aside,” says Sandile. “Phakade has a strong re­la­tion­ship with Zithulele (Raphael Grif­fiths) and Futhi (Nok­wanda Khuzwayo). And now as Zithu is the only son left, Phakade feels much bet­ter when he is with Zithulele. His bond with his chil­dren will grow af­ter this.”

SEEK­ING A SON

But even with Nganono’s grave still raw dirt, Phakade will find no peace at home. His be­trayed and now­bar­ren wife kaMadon­sela has been des­per­ately pres­sur­ing him to have a “re­place­ment” son since Wed­nes­day 16 Jan­uary. “Ai, ai, ai, it’s a dif­fi­cult time. She will try ex­treme things to try to make Phakade agree to this. The view­ers can ex­pect some trou­ble there!” hints Sandile.

FUNERAL RITES

Nganono will be buried with full Zulu tra­di­tions. Sandile reveals a lit­tle of what view­ers can ex­pect: “The night be­fore the funeral, we have the um­lin­delo, the vigil night where we have a ser­vice as a fam­ily and com­mu­nity overnight. And the fol­low­ing day for the funeral ser­vice, when we are tak­ing the per­son to the grave­yard, we have as a sym­bol a branch from a tree that we have to bring home from the site where he was found dead. We bring him home and we move with him, car­ry­ing that tree branch that sym­bol­ises that he is with us and the an­ces­tors are with us dur­ing that pe­riod. It brings com­fort when they do that as a fam­ily, be­cause it helps them to feel that they are mov­ing to­gether. And it means that the de­ceased one is with the an­ces­tors, which is the most sig­nif­i­cant thing for us as Africans. And the fam­ily has to slaugh­ter a cow for the funeral, tra­di­tion­ally.”

Phakade leads the Bhen­gus as they take Nganono to be buried.

The Bhengu fam­ily are united in grief.

Ng­colosi is ar­rested for his son’s mur­der.

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