It is only in African communities where children are named after any other event. It is as if our families hope that something occurs at the same time we are born. We are named after death, sorrow, happiness, the weather, or even how mothers-in-law feel about our mothers. But the reckless ones are the Zimbabweans, they can even name you meaningless names like ‘No-matter’, ‘Even-though’ or ‘No-can-do’. Why?!! Anyway, we the African community have always had this tendency of naming things after life experiences and events, sometimes it proves useful and less complicated however, it is still mighty lazy of us.
The place that has taught us this naming of things after events or expectations and experiences is a modern day township in the heart of the Free State province of South Africa; a small township which we are proud to say has seen a lot of government sponsored infrastructural developments since ‘94. However, these developments are not what keep the people of this township talking. To show just how talented we Africans are when it comes to onomastics, the township was initially named after a certain Mr NBT who is said to have been a struggle hero. However, when you talk about NBT these days what comes to people’s minds is ‘nothing but the truth’ because for the past plus 15 years, the locals decided that NBT should stand for ‘nothing but the truth’ as this represents their transparency and openness. In this township, truth and facts govern the residents. It is without wonder that everyone from around here knows the business of the next person, or at least they think they do. So, everything around here is named after NBT. They have NBT Primary and High school, NBT Church of Saints, NBT clinic, NBT main and only road, but more important of all is NBT Shebeen and Spaza.
So on one summer day, a young unemployed graduate from NBT sat under the shadow of an apricot tree in the corner of her yard. She sat there sipping on her cola flavoured ‘drink-o-pop’, drinking it along with buttered porridge crust claiming to mind her own business, while she observed the up and down movements of passers-by and neighbours. As expected, she eavesdropped on their conversations every chance she got. This young woman, Esther, shared a two room shack with her uncle. They had a four room RDP house, one of government’s sponsorships, but chose to rent it out to a Pakistani fellow who used it as a warehouse for his bedding sales business, which he ran with some of his cousins. For the young woman and her uncle, renting out a free house was a form of Black Economic Empowerment, and they were not the only ones indulging this practice in the township or even the whole of South Africa. So, this is not really an issue of interest for the residents of NBT, aka ‘nothing but the truth’ township. To find out what issues interest the residents of this township one would have to go to NBT Shebeen and Spaza. This is a place in NBT where daughters could be mingling with their biological fathers, without knowing it. It is where wives have lost their husbands to younger women, or men. As for Esther, she was not a type of girl whom you would find in shebeens, she regarded such places as taboo. Even though she did not frequent the shebeen, which is the hub for new news and gossip in the township, Esther was still as informed as everyone else who leisured at the shebeen. The news and gossip came to her, right under the shadow of the tree – on a daily basis. They came bared in the high steps of her uncle who was literally at the shebeen from dusk to dawn. The uncle would be there even before the owner arrived in the morning.
Her uncle, John, was a loud type of a man. You would find him in tight pants and tight fitting tops and sharp pointed Sunday shoes on any day. It is not known anymore whether he has a naturally round shaped tochus or whether he stuffs plastics in his pants. A good man really, lively and sharing. He shares everything that he collects from the shebeen with his niece. Not missing a single detail. The shebeen is like his second home. So, on this particular day, Esther’s uncle emerged from the street corner in a rush like that of a mine worker going on call. As he approached the house, he kept making back and forth movements before he could enter the yard, sighing, and with arms akimbo. Looking as though he was contemplating to go back from where he was coming from. At this point Esther was starting to worry for herself. She was afraid that the news that her uncle had heard might have been about her regarding the latest events that she was involved in. While she waited on her uncle to bust out insults, she began to think up an excuse that would not make her look as bad in her uncle’s eyes. Little did she know that it was not even about her. Uncle John eventually made his entrance and headed straight to his niece, “Ma-E, you will not believe what I have just heard? They say, don’t say that you heard it from me, neh?” he begged. “They say that Phaphama is getting married to Morwesi. Hhee!” Normally, Uncle John preferred to unpack his chest without being interrupted, and Esther knew this very well and like a good niece, she let him continue. “They say that, apparently Morwesi is pregnant. Yes, the 52 year old Morwesi – pregnant. Wonderful things! Which I hear it is why her sudden lover Phaphama, is marrying her. And yet no one ever told me that these two were together!” The uncle went on with a look of a betrayed comrade on his face. “How does Phaphama, with his newly inherited wealth, decide to marry a woman twice his age, with a record of three failed marriages in which she never came out with a single child, not even a miscarriage? Yet, he goes on and marries her while there are young girls like you Ma-E, educated and fertile? Huh? That woman’s sangoma must be a snake. Phamaphama himself is a foetus, how will he handle that magogo?” Uncle John sat on a rock close to his niece as they both seemed to be taking in what was to them, the shocking news of Phaphama and Morwesi.
The Phaphama in question was a 29 year old young man, who all his life, until recently, had experienced poverty first hand. He stayed with his mother and sister, both of whom treated him with scorn. He made put food on the table by working in town helping people with their groceries and walking little children to crèche. All his life, his mother had told telling him that he was a fatherless child; sometimes she would change the story and tell him that his father since went to exile and never came back or that he was crushed by a plane in the sky while chasing the stars. The mother came up with different stories about Phaphama’s absent father every chance she got.
However, Phaphama and the rest of NBT township recently found out that his father was around all these year, not just around, but right front opposite to his house. His father was Ntate Mmota, a taxi tycoon who was notoriously known to have children in every township that his taxi business serviced. Ntate Mmota recently died and surprisingly, he had Phaphama in his Will as the first born boy child of all his children. Throughout the years, no one could understand why Ntate Mmota’s wife who was in Women’s Ministry at church, hated Phaphama’s mother. Anyway, Ntate Mmota had left Phaphama enough property to pull under his mother’s thump. Even so, no one expected that his first project would be to marry a 52 year old woman who was believed to be barren because of her marital history.
The woman who was now being said to be pregnant at age 52, Morwesi, confirmed that this was indeed nothing but the truth. The rumours developed further and it transpired that at the same time Phaphama and his future wife were keeping their relationship a secret, Morwesi had at some point been in a secret love affair with Ntate Mmota. Some say she just wanted to keep it in the family. Either way, those who have lived long enough like to believe that it is Ntate Mmota who impregnated Morwesi before he died. Given that he proved himself as real baby maker if we’re judging by the number of children he has, known and unknown.
No matter what the rumours say, Esther’s uncle reports that, Phaphama has been going around telling people that he is adamant about marrying Morwesi. Some say he is blinded by love and desperate for the affection of an older woman since his mother deprived him of it. Nonetheless, the young man feels that it is for love, the love that knows no judgement and that is nothing but his truth, for now. And who knows, their child might be named: Nothing-but-the-truth.
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo