Tuesday Shorts: Lyrics – Nomashenge Dlamini

Part I: The Pilgrim

Burdened by this ghostly cargo,
The carnal leakage too far gone.
Lucid dreams swindle my rest,
A timely vent for a smothered soul on a prodigal quest.
I self-mutilate like a vandal,
A nagging summoning to let myself go.
Delay my demise another day,
To feign control over mortality.

A pilgrim to my every scar.
A pilgrim to my every scar.

Discerning spirit from breath,
Like anchor from stifle.
Discerning wanderlust from abandonment,
Like freedom from habit.
Discerning peace from death,
Like dark from black.
Discerning shadow from shade,
Like fate from consequence.

Who am I?
Am I you?

A pilgrim to my every scar.
A pilgrim to my every scar.

Part II: The Boogyman

Dining with the boogyman
Gobbling like a hooligan
Glutton for a can of worms
Hunger give me busy jaws
Troubles loitering my plate
Silver spoon ain’t got no weight
Starve from peace, serenity
Drown in pain and mockery

Whispers utter after life
Slicing with a blunted knife
Lover left an open wound
Turned my body to a tomb
Burying breathe and mother’s dreams
Blinding light an ultra beam
Honking sound a woman’s wail
Told them read between the rail.

Attempting to fathom
The dawning of doomsday
Attempting to fathom
The dawning of mayhem

Failing with the upkeep
An insufficient black sheep
Creeping in a corner
Intentional with the horror
Detangled from a noose but

Gagging on a fake gut
Tell him tears are timid
Watch him sink in livid

Emerging as a monster
Pounce on all the daughters
Evaded by his conscious
Discardable and callous
The panic and the frenzy
The frantic seed of envy.

Attempting to fathom,
The dawning of doomsday,
Attempting to fathom,
The dawning of mayhem.

Hide the children close the curtain
A former child is lurking,
Is death the only certain end
or are we still retrieving?

Attempting to fathom
the dawning of doomsday
attempting to fathom
the dawning of mayhem.

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Chris is Dead – Malefu Mahloane

It was during a time when a woman’s confidence depended upon the number of ‘Likes’ they received on Facebook. When it was normal for men to ask girls out using cyber messengers saying things such as “Looking at your pictures has really got me falling for you. I would like for us to be an item. Where are you based?” During this time, for most women, receiving a message in their inbox on social media was plenty, the men did not even have to ask for mobile numbers – everything could start and unfortunately, end on messenger. Private messaging meant that out of the five thousands friends and strangers-turned-to-cyberfriendships a lady had on their database, at least one person was going an extra mile to communicate to them at a one-on-one level. So, there was no time for these women to critically analyse the insults that men threw at them; the women accepted this as flirting; as being wanted and worthy of someone’s data.

But let us not forget that this was just during a period when our confidence laid on the finger-tips of others. You could find on any day in any given town a woman fallen asleep with her phone in her hand, having waited all day to be texted back. And when the text didn’t ding, it meant that they were unwanted, boring or not attractive enough because the women of this time had come to fathom attractiveness as a thing that was owed to men by the female gender. In their minds the equation went as: I am not attractive therefore, I deserve ill treatment. Men’s popping in and out of one’s life willy-nilly was all a woman’s fault or lack in other areas. The women understood that if a man stayed it meant she was still attractive and when he starts to withdraw and starts using rejection phrases such as ‘LOL’ that leave women deeply wounded, it was the woman’s fault – she’d stopped being exciting.

However, lust was not the only thing that was communicated on social media platforms. Here people revealed to the world their addictions; unintelligence surfaced; conflicts between friends and lovers and relatives were put up on these cyber walls for the world to indulge profusely. It was where men could report the activity of their balls, telling tales on Pages about how women want ‘the d’. It was such presumptuous ideas that indicated how in real-life, men rape because they assume it is what women want. This careless thinking was to a degree exacerbated by the women themselves by responding to the men’s demand for nude and seductive pictures. This period of life allowed mostly the male gender, to not dwell on rejection from women whereas for women rejection on social media could drive them to social anxiety, depression and lowered self-love. And so, when one friend wrote the following letter to her mate, it did not come as a surprise that it was the last she would hear from her.

“Chomi,
I received your letter dated 12 February 2017 only yesterday with the rest of the others. My aunt says she finds it funny that we write each other letters whereas we are a city apart. Our mailing box has not been operational for the past 9 months. Also, your serious case of not having a phone or social media accounts is really affecting our communication more than we both thought it would. I think it’s time now that we end this fantasy of living in the Middle Age. You need to keep up with the times, woman! [LOL]

Any who, you ask in this letter whether I had a Valentine’s date, ask me about the ‘nerdy’ guy who’d been pursuing me and whether I finally agreed to go out with him. Well, Chris is dead my friend. It has only been two weeks since we spoke. The last we were chatting he said I was playing hard to get because I did not want to go out with him to a Jazz concert. He had been asking me to go out with him for 2 years, as you will recall. He graduated about a month ago, with his PhD in Business and Finance Administration.

I won’t lie; I was somewhat tempted to go out with him that day when he sent me a picture of himself outside the Wits Great Hall. He was adorned in the red gown and that suede hat. Posing with him in one of his pictures was Professor Muwalimbi, who is exactly Chris’ age, 64. I don’t think I ever told you his age? Chris was old, friend. Remember how I told you how surprised I was when he told me that he had never been married before? He said he had no children and that he was an only child, like me. He said that he hadn’t gotten married or had children because his mamma taught him that he should not impregnate just any woman. Friend, I remember telling you that I could not believe him, and that it was somewhat impressive however. It felt like he still believed it in his head that he was a little boy, mamma’s boy. Adorable, I thought.
You know how I have always believed that my paranoia is my saviour? How I searched the internet upside down trying to find evidence that he was lying to me, but came out with nothing? That’s when you, my friend said he was a Saint. I also remember how you praised me for my stern believe in my struggle when I said I would not let my poverty as a student drive me into the bed of a man who only promises to take care of me physically. Hey! Remember that? Remember that text he sent that read, “I will take care of you; emotionally, financially and physically.” What a WOW! Like he was going to be my personal trainer or something?

Even when he asked me to go to Spain with him and you my friend even said, “Come on, there are a lot of girls he could have asked, but he asked you, instead. These men have money and they are looking for co-eaters.” Huh! So as I was telling you that I only found out today that he’s dead. Guess how I found out? I was stalking his Facebook page and BAM! Thanks to the gods of technology, people can actually send you off on Facebook. Like, when are you going to get to read that? Mental! I also found out that he’ll be buried in Zimbabwe. Chris was Zimbabwean, friend. He told me that he was from Venda; I could not doubt it because he had the complexion and he spoke some Setswana even though his elitism led him to speak English all the time. Some good English, you said.

Well, I thought it would excite you to know that he was married after all. One of the comments on the post that announced his death read: “Rest in peace my brother-in-law.” I scratched by head trying to understand the meaning of brother-in-law. I tried to convince myself that brother-in-law is ambiguous like; linguists need to update their thesauri. How many senses can the noun brother-in-law have by the way? Friend, this man had been lying to me for two years. Chris was married with kids. I am heartbroken friend. He lied to me. He has a daughter 15 years older than me. She is a Doctor. I feel so stupid for believing that an old man such as he did not have a solid history.

You know what; this is the one time where I feel I should celebrate freedom fighters of our day more than I usually do. I mean, if it hadn’t been for those who spoke up against Zimbabwe’s oppression on free of speech, there would not be any Facebook in Zimbabwe, I would not have learnt that Chris was somebody’s brother-in-law and a liar. They say he died in an accident, all right. That is tragic because he seemed to do everything so right. He exercised, ate healthy, and drank good wine, travelled for leisure and dies in an accident at some street in Tembisa. Life, though.

But you know what really breaks my heart about Chris’ death? I hear that he was with a 24 year old woman in the car, guess he had a thing for us 24 year olds. A report by the university newsletter under the headline: “UNIVERSITY LOSES ESTEEMED RESEARCHER”, mentioned that the two were intoxicated and a packet of cocaine was found in the girl’s bra. Chris had been drinking and driving, friend. And here I was thinking he was more responsible than my own father. Truly speaking, I think he deserves it! But mostly, I cannot help but think it could have been me in that car with him. I would be the girl who his wife would remember as her husband’s concubine – a blesse. So, that is the update on my lust life. I will answer your other questions in a different letter. For proper filing – LOL

Yours Forever,
Ntswaki”

So it went. Two days after Ntswaki had sent this letter to her friend she received a message from Chomi’s mother who was asking Ntsaki to stop writing to her daughter. Chomi was apparently in therapy recovering after some woman had burnt her with gasoline following the incident where Chomi was involved in an accident with a married man. Chomi’s mother slandered Ntswaki saying that it was because of her bad influence that her daughter went out with that old man in the first place. “It is because you rejected him that he saw my daughter as the next stop. You should have kept him for yourself instead of passing him on to my daughter.” The poor Ntswaki had no idea that when she used to tag pictures of herself with her friend on Facebook, before Chomi deactivated her account, the man Chris had already started chatting up Chomi. Such is life! Men cheat with their wives friends all the time. Who cares!

Tuesday Shorts: rePercussions – Nomashenge Dlamini

1
They say the Old Wishing Well wasn’t always into the felony of reflections. Our ancestors poisoned the waters with vanity until the Well stole their faces, discarding their souls to an aimless eternity. It is known that throat swelling screams emerge from the Well at the passing of any living creature, hence the obvious abandonment.

2
The Old Woman is a bag of rattling bones, whose clamorous trudge is an unbearable spite. Her bitterness has collapsed her spine into an immortal hunch, the tedious humbling of a stubborn being. The grave insists on her, an obsessive haste that leaves pits in her wake.

She is as mute as death, but the racket of her bones recites her pain in unmatched decibels. The township children persist on pesky enquiries about the one who swindles their good dreams. Despite cautionary tales from Wise Sisters, their curiosity hankers them towards her path, but the Old Woman’s clatter ascends to a scattering scare.

She is immune to the children’s moronic intrigue, the Old Woman, steady trudging on in the chaotic violin of rib and sternum, the haunting tambourine of teeth and jaw.

3
Mother tells me the horrid percussion springs from an Ancient Magic, one that the Old Woman trivialized in some unknown personal pursuit.
“The disturbing curse with which she was charged suggests sinister motives.” She gossips.

4
No one knows why the Old Wishing Well is the Old Woman’s daily destiny or why she chooses such obscure company. But whenever the Old Woman eased herself next to her mystic friend, the screams hushed and the bones ceased. This is why I’ve always seen their inclination to each other as a result of irreversible neglect, maybe a joined atonement for the tragedy they had befallen, maybe a prayer for silence, a prayer for soundless peace.

5
My empathy became an anxious pry when, in an almost unreal, transient encounter with the Old Woman, on her face I saw that of my late Father! Mother shunned my report as the combined works of a fatherless child and a keen imagination. I could not abandon the sanity of what I had seen; my unwavering pursuit has led me thus, clinging to the untamed flora behind the Old Wishing Well. I am motionless in petrified panic as The Old Woman speaks…

“My Child, I am burdened with the faces of ghosts.
My bones clash in chaotic symphonies.
My spirit has chosen silence as solace.
Magic has forsaken me.
I beg you to return to me.”

The Myopic Watchman – Boipelo Maetla

We had all thought that peace dealings were eminent. That all the kings had finally come to the realization that we had lost more than we could ever get back, that our mouths had grown tired of being stretched open in war cry. We were old now, the last batch of soldiers who really understood the war. The new generation was already calling us savages at the dinner tables, our own dinner tables. They did not see us as heroes, only little boys who bullied their matriarchs when they had returned home, for that lousy week. There was no gratification received from these senseless killings, we were on the verge of death ourselves, and insanity. There was not a single night that was not full of nightmares, ghosts from everywhere, seeking vengeance. It was time for peace and we all acknowledged that… well most of us. The irony of the king and the servant is that he uses us to do the most gruesome tasks, we are more powerful than he can ever be. There is many of us in numbers and in strength, we have formed all kinds of friendships while in those training camps. We have seen each other through the very most, shielded each other from literal physical and spiritual death. Not the sovereign king, but us. Yet, by virtue of mere royal blood, everyone bows down to the mighty kings’ commands, bends themselves backwards to fulfill his wishes, that is why we could never turn on him, no matter how badly we wished to.
There was a boy, who kept to himself on most times. We watched him grow and he watched us age. He never aspired to be a soldier, as did most of the other boys these days. He read books, daily, religiously. We assumed he was looking for himself in those pages and we mocked him amongst ourselves. There is something peculiar and awfully wild about how men become performative jerks around their friends, and perfectly desirable people in solitude. We would sit in our homes and pass our time away from war wishing we had a childhood like the one which this bookworm had. Every one of us would have killed to have been given a chance to discover ourselves in a less hostile and violent environment.

No one ever really choses to fight a war, if anything, you are chosen and someone else must die so that you may live. Understand this and you will master life, that some of the casualties of war are not only the dead children of Sudan or the immigrants who are shunned in countries which they flee to, sometimes, the soldier himself gets his soul snatched from his body and there is no one to explain this to. He does not know how to speak it into an actuality and everyone around him does not know how to probe the actualization, that he has long died.
It was a long time since we had been attacked. Our king may have been a gruesome and uncooperative man but he sure did protect his people. I felt safe here, which was selfish because I travelled the world disrupting other people’s peace knowing very well how dear I held the one I had left at home. My peace did not exist in the absence of anxiety of course, we could be seized at any time, and I could at any time watch my wife and children endure everything I put someone else’s family through. The life of a soldier was a big large double standard, we did to others that which we did not wish to be done to us, that is why the war would seemingly never end. All soldiers from all countries held the same mindset.

I do not know how, or even why, but the bookworm boy grew to become one of the king’s most trusted helpers. This was not even the confusing part, what confused all of us was when he was promoted to be the senior watchman. His job was to guard the mountain frontiers and site the arrival of our enemies and alert the king. It may have not been as awful as carrying guns and grenades but he was now a central part of the military, something we never envisaged for him, nor wished for anyone. He could be better, he could be a man with a soul attached to his body and an untainted conscience. Nevertheless, the boy watched, and we waited, a year had gone, not a single attack. Fortune favored us but we knew never to relax, the enemy attacks when you least expect it, it could be months or years but vengeance was always guaranteed.
The summer months had brought with them huge and all kinds of vegetation to the mountains. In winter it would dry down, but in summer it would spark up so quickly that it felt like it happened in a day. Trees of all kinds and sizes. It was these trees that shook our entire village. One evening at dawn, the sun tricked the bookworm-turned-watchman into believing that the shadows created by the trees were soldiers marching towards our village. Alarmed, he let the king know of his siting and news spread quick and fast that we were under attack. Machetes for the wives, poison made from plants for our sons and daughters, guns for the men and more guns for the soldiers. Everyone grabbed all they could to protect their lives but mostly protect the king. The drama. We waited for a move. Two days passed, then three, then a week till the king went himself to observe the mountain horizon. He asked the watchman to point out from where they had emerged, the watchman pointed to the trees. Another sunset arrived, the watchman again alerted the king that they had arrived. The soldiers went to the siting themselves this time, only to find that that which the watchman had believed to be soldiers seeking our blood, was merely shadows formed when the sun and the trees collided.

Needless to say that the watchman was useless, he like all of us had his own problems to deal with. He struggled with sight and we struggled with ghosts. But it was the sense of false anxiety that convinced us that it was not life to be living in fear. I spend my days read books now, with the myopic watchman.

Tuesday Shorts: The Purge – Nomashenge Dlamini

We presumed to know the sombre partition between the dead and the living, but we were laughably mistaken.

We honored the liberty of spirit from flesh with adamant euphoria, boogied until our knees quivered. Leapt into oceans of liquor and laughter while We mounted our men, indulging our glutinous perversions.

“Oh how the fates had favored the infant” We said.
“What enduring sabotage to the long-serving” We sympathized.
For what living creature does not hastily seek her maker?

The Earth quacked with immovable envy for Our maker. It spiraled in an unceasing tantrum around its axis, cursed to vertigo and neglect from glory. We all overlooked the antics for juvenile afflictions in need of descent discipline. Some even shunned the Earth and began to hollow it from its treasures and fill it with the bodies of those who had passed. Maybe a recurrent journey around the Sun would be a harmless remedy to instill order and sense into Our troubled friend.

Time aged this way: We chanted eulogies in radiant moods while eagerly waiting Our turn, descended Our loved-ones into the soil in blissful nudity and the Earth was as tame as the Sun.

And then, as Time crippled into an illusive end, as We scraped the last essence of gold and crammed all the flesh of the ages into the ground, the Earth grew weary and commenced the vengeance it had contemplated whilst on all those tedious orbits around the Sun. Its obese belly began to stir, brewing calamity from equal parts loathe and abandonment. The malice rose to the lip and the Earth spewed in a violent convulsion, ejecting flesh, bone and bitterness onto all of the universe.

We met our demise in a haze of shame that day.
And to our aching revelation, a vacant after-life.

What agonizing humiliation, to have had the urgency for naught whilst betraying the favor of life on Earth.

The Sibongile Fisher Collection

Sibongile Fisher has been holding down the fort in the Tuesday Shorts lane and I can proudly say it has been nothing short of amazing. Sibongile has written four Tuesday Shorts during her residency and this is the Sibongile Fisher collection.

She kick started the month with Mary. The story left me asking if the comfortable silence in which we sit with those we’ve always known is really comfortable? In this story it isn’t. It’s a silence that swallows the things one hasn’t yet found the courage to say.

Second came Kintsukuroi, which stands testament to the saying – You can take a person out of the village, but not the village out of a person – in this case, poverty, strife. Can one truly leave behind who they are? Curses and all?

Third was The Legend of Mobu. Stories are like a photograph, they capture a specific moment in time and avail it to those who dare look. This here story captures the root of many South African stories both modern and ancient. It reads as a rich adaptation of a myth, with nothing lost in translation and everything captured delicately in the poetry.

Sibongile signed out with The Pigeon’s Nest and by now it is clear that death was the chosen subject. Death, the thing we never see happen. We know it’s coming. It taunts and threatens, it teases and mocks, and we appease it only for us to be tricked by it, denying us to witness the smoothness with which it operates and when it has passed we can only say, She had faded into the most peaceful corpse I had ever seen.’

What an honor it was to be graced by this amazing writer. I’ll forever be grateful for her gifts.

—-

About Sibongile Fisher

Sibongile Fisher is a poet, writer and drama facilitator from Johannesburg, South Africa. She holds a BCom degree in Marketing Management and a higher certificate in Performing Arts and wishes to pursue an MA in Creative Writing. She is the co-founder of The Raising Zion Foundation, an arts organisation that focuses on promoting literature, poetry and the performing arts in high schools. She is also the winner of the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize for her short story, A Door Ajar which is also shortlisted for Brittle Paper Literary Awards. Her short story Sea of Secrets written for young adults was published by Fundza under their mentorship program and it appears in their “it takes two!” volume 2 anthology.

Photo: Provided by Sibongile.

Tuesday Shorts: The Pigeon’s Nest – Sibongile Fisher

My grandmother could bargain with death. She knew who was to die and it was always up to her to let them die or to trade their life for that of someone else. My turn came twice and both times she traded my aunt Mophi and my sister Limpho. Mophi was her least favourite child. She was not quiet and not shy but somehow unmemorable. Limpho on the other hand was sickly, she seemed the better one to die. When my grandmother found a dead pigeon on our doorstep she called for a family meeting. No one came— not even my mother—who lives two streets away. I don’t remember my mother’s face. She only contributes to my existence by showing up once every three years.

We are sitting under the apricot tree when the news of My Uncle Boy’s death came. He died digging for gold in an old mine shaft.

“Did he die alone?” my grandmother asked.

And as if it mattered the news bringer answered “No, three other men had died with him.”

“Good then. He is not alone on the long road to hell, ” she smirked.

My Uncle Boy’s body along with his friends could not be uncovered. It is said that the shaft had closed in on itself and they would need to excavate in order to exhume their bodies. The families were asked to contribute to hire the machine required to do the digging.

“Why pay money for a dead body that has already buried itself?” my grandmother reasoned.

When the news of their death spread, families and friends held a night vigil outside the old shaft. This is where I caught a glimpse of my mother. She disappeared into the crowd again before I could get to her. On my way home, a gang of men came from behind me. One picked me up while the other two pulled at my legs. There were two more on the lookout. I remember seeing a pigeon cross the street. I remember nothing else of what followed. Out of breath, broken bones and bruised face—I staggered into the yard, holding on to the wall. I paid no notice to the dead pigeon on our doorstep and walked into my grandmother’s bedroom. She had faded into the most peaceful corpse I had ever seen.

I lay next to her and slowly fade. I think of my mother. If someone will find us in the morning. I think of my uncle Boy. I think of my aunt Mophi, of my sister Limpho, of my grandmother. Until—

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

Contorted Truths – Malefu Mahloane

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

Tuesday Shorts: The legend of Mobu – Sibongile Fisher

On the eve of Mobu’s death, the sky waged war against us. The rain assaulted our tin roofs while the winds barged into our homes sweeping away anything that was in its place. The thunder crawled under our skin and sank fear in our hearts.

Our homes are a collage of historical pain, overlooked by the high way. Our homes don’t know how to swim, and so that night, everything we have ever owned —drowned. We watched from a near-by hill. A chorus of hysteria. The following morning the water had made its way back to the sky, down the earth and only some parts of it stayed behind to tell of its glorious win.

***

We are clearing the mess and rebuilding. The children are tasked to find small items that can be salvaged. A group of men wearing balaclavas appear from the hill. We call them Marussia. They wear blankets over their shoulders, carry likota and their feet wiggle in white or black gumboots. They pride themselves in terrorizing their own kind. Most of them are herd boys from Lesotho who came to work on the mines.
They came for a girl.

***

It is said that Mobu never dies, that once he is tired of a body, he disappears and comes back with a new one. Those who grew up with Mobu say he was born a woman. Mobu’s great grandmother was a notorious witch, feared all over Lesotho and here in The Free State. I have never seen Mobu but it is said that he is the reason it rained last night.

***

Mobu’s house is the only one that survived the storm. The group of men make their way to Mobu’s house, singing a song that calls upon the spirit of death. Everyone is gathered to watch. “Tswaha!” “Hlaha Moloi!” “Ntsa ngwaneno!” The men throw a brick through the window. The girl comes running out. A few moments later, they set his house on fire. Singing and chanting. They pour a black substance over his fence and gate. “Ha o notswa!”

***

The sun pierces through the smoke. The men are now gone. Mputhi instructs everyone to go looking for Mobu’s body. We are not moved by what just happened. We ignore Mputhi and go back to rebuilding. No one asks about the girl, no one cares about whom she is, what was she doing at Mobu’s house? How did the men know that she was there? What did they want with her? Who sent them? What was the black substance that they poured?

***

It is two weeks since Mobu’s death; we need the space that his house occupies. We are not brave enough to go near it. This will go on for years. Thieves will take what they can. A hill will bury the rest and the legend of Mobu will be born.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

Trapped – Boipelo Maetla

The night finds me wondering if news anchors generally have no feelings and no heart or whether they’re trained to deliver gut-wrenching headlines without even flinching.

Earlier today, the lady read out a bulletin about six illegal miners who were said to be trapped for several hours underground. The spotlight of the story was taken from the angle of “another closed mine hijacked by zama-zamas”. She flew past the bulletin delivery, past the interviews with few of the families and dwelled rather too much on how many closed mines had been invaded by people digging for their share of the promised Gauteng gold. “Statistics, statistics”, I think to myself. That is all these people care about, One day, everyone on earth will eventually end up shuffled into some or other statistic.

My idle pondering lands me swiftly into a gorgeous nap, the kind that feels like it was brought to you by Jesus himself, the kind of nap that is synonymous with unconsciousness.

****

“Was there not seven of us in here, where is Sibongakonke? Sibo?” asks a voice leading a file of black male miners hollers. The five men following him shout out Sibo’s name as well, “Sibo!” How these people were comfortable with hollering underground without the fear of waking up their ancestors, was questionable. Sibo, however, does not heed their call. If the mine had no ceiling we would have easily seen how these men went in a zigzag maze form trying to find their exit. The cumulative light on their helmets made them look like a bumblebee trying to find its way back home. For hours they circled. Some corners they made a turn twice. Occasionally, they holler Sibo’s name and every single time without fail, they are met with dead, earthly silence. The men concluded that the circling was unproductive. None of them kept a watch so no one knew how long they had been at it. Decisions had to be made. Food supply was running out. The gold was heavy on their bags but the glittery thoughts of what they would do with the money that they would get from selling it on the black market kept them going.

In between their singing, they share fond memories of the people waiting for them at the end of this unkind tunnel. Collectively, there are 6 children, 4 wives and innumerable siblings. Gossip too does find itself on these men’s tongues, they are comfortable with talking about their neighbors and family in here. Where no one but the rocks and carbon fossils were listening. The complaints were all the same, they were anticipating new relatives to spring out of nowhere to share their stake in the zama-zama money. “You are nothing when you are broke but everyone suddenly knows you when you succeed.” They share a laugh.

A tingle of greed suddenly caught them all at the same time, as if there was a smell in the air and they all caught a whiff of it at the same time. The men decided that the gold on their backs was nowhere near enough. They were there anyway so why not try and accumulate some more? They justified this in every way possible “my daughter will be in university soon, university is expensive” “my mother too deserves a brick house and not the zinc mess that she cannot even breathe in”, “maybe while we are digging, we will find our way out of here”. When you try hard enough, anything can be justifiable and sound rational, regardless of how untrue or un-urgent the justifications are at the time. They proceeded to bulldoze through the already apparent cracks on the earth. They were no longer meticulous in their mining. They hammered as if they did not care if the rocks fell on them and harmed them, they wanted gold and they wanted gold now. Suicide is not always taking your life, sometimes it is putting yourself in situations where you have less and less reasons to be alive. And with every hammer they depleted their reasons to be alive, eliminated the justifications that they put forth for digging for more gold. These men were hungry and had essentially lost their minds! No one initiated the hollering of Sibo’s name anymore. Perhaps they had made peace with the reality that he had died along the way, that is the way of the war, they concluded. Some soldiers will die but some others must march on. Funny they never had conversations like these before heading underground, of what should happen if one of them were to arrive at their very probable but untimely death underground. Do they tell their families when they leave that they might not come back, if not immediately, then never at all? Are they insured? Do their stokvels recognize this which they are doing as a form of “dying on duty”? Do they think with their brains, or with their stomachs? If none of them never make it out alive, will we ever know?

Forward they went, six patriarchs turned into meek little puppies when an enormous rock came tumbling down. The familiar feeling of death cuts through the men. One of them has been struck dead by an enormous boulder. They are not shaken by it anymore, instead they stare blankly at each other, one waiting for the other to come with a solution. Navigating to the exit of this hell would certainly be more exhausting if they carried a dead man to the end.
They would tell his family where he had died, police would be alerted and his body would be dug up. At this moment however, he would have to stay behind. This sudden death left them anxious and more confused. They were walking without intent as if the guilt of leaving one of their men behind was clouding their already bleak navigational senses. They stopped digging for more gold and searched for their exit with a refreshed urgency. Sometimes they paused for no reason at all, they were not tired, not hungry or thirsty, at that very moment, they were nothing at all.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo