The day they died – Lereko Mfono

We often hear stories of how they die, you know, people. It often starts with a dream an old woman has, a premonition, an omen, something to do with a black bird flying over someone,or that someone walking at a graveside alone. The old woman would see all of this vividly, interpret the signs, and give forth a message that someone will die soon.

Children also see these things, they feel a certain way next to someone and they begin to cry, somehow overcome by sorrow when they are in the presence of that someone, then little after that, that someone dies.

Moreso, so do animals, they say animals can tell if someone is about to reach their final moments. Especially if it is the death of its owner. They will unusually mourn in the night, giving off squeals, then be right next to the owner during the day, making sure they never leave sight. But, soon it would catch up. Death. It catches up with all of us, but most often the signs would be there.

However, when they died, no one, I mean no one knew about it, no one saw it coming. The 6 children of that Zimbabwean woman Kudzai who drowned in the local river, Pitsane. I don’t know why she had so many children to start of with, but now they are all gone. I used to tell those children playing at that river to voetsek from there, it is not a place for children to play at. It is full of dirt, and sicknesses and many mysteries that have still been unsolved to this day. This one though, beats all of them. Imagine, 6 children playing at a river in the morning, and in the afternoon, the children are nowhere to be seen. The police search around the community and find out that no one knows anything, investigations are being made inside the river and nothing is found, not even one or even two children are found. What do they do, they deem it a mystery, the community continues with life, and poor woman, Kudzai, is weeping night and day for her six children.

The community behaves like this has happened before, but I will attest that not to this size. That river swallowed a child before, long back in the 70’s, who was looking to swim. Back then, there were no swimming pools around here or warning signs near rivers. Back then something like a bathtub was even rare to see. So, one day this boy, Tsietsi, decides to go and swim in that river, and we never see him again. They never even searched for him, he was gone. Another similar thing happened with a thief called Mandla. He had been ravaging this place, stealing everything from paraffin to engines to milk. One day they caught him red-handed and chased after him. The men who chased say it was difficult to say what happened to Mandla because it was very dark,but they all say when they last saw him, he was running in the direction of Pitsane, that river. They say perhaps he dived in and drowned himself, because the death of the waters is better than that of the knobkerries.

Either way, the mystery in all of them is that those bodies never float, and bodies are supposed to float and surface when lifeless in water. Out of Kudzai’s six children, atleast have two that floated, if not all. But none did. Which made me really look at the events of that day here.

Kudzai, who owns her own tuck-shop, had been doing what she normally does, selling. Normally her two eldest children would be helping her in the tuck-shop and the other four would either be watching in preparation for the time it will be their chance to sell, or playing in the street. That day, they were all playing in the street with other children. It was only around 2’o’clock in the afternoon that I heard those children talk about the river. One of them kept on saying “It’s too hot today,it’s too hot today” and the youngest one kept asking the eldest one if they could go and swim in the Pitsane River.

An argument broke out amongst them and soon after they left for the river. I followed them briefly to see if they were indeed going to that mysterious river. When I got to that river, they were gone. The water did have some movement to it, as if some rocks had just been thrown into it, but except that, nothing indicated anything more than the usual. I walked to Kudzai’s home and asked her if she knows where her children were headed to, and she had no clue.

“Those children of mine can’t even bathe without me forcing them, they are scared of water, they are probably playing somewhere”,

“Kudzai, I overhead them talking about the Pitsane River, I even saw them walking towards its direction, but when I got there, I didn’t see them anymore, please take what I am saying seriously”.

If only parents around here understood that children prefer swimming over bathing, none of this river business would happen. Moments later after that that woman Kudzai still didn’t believe me, but I waited, I waited patiently till evening for reality to catch up with her, and it did. Around 9pm, we all heard one of the loudest shrieks to ever be heard around here, that woman Kudzai had finally realized the unfortunate tragedy that had befell her life. She saw an abandoned shoe of her one of her children near Pitsane and let loose.

“What do we do Ntate?” one of the women of society asked me, “This will kill that woman Kudzai, it will destroy her, no one here saw it coming, no one felt it coming”,

“Well mme” I responded, “We just make sure it never happens again, tell your society this cannot happen again to anyone again around here, we must all do what it takes to see these things, in our dreams, in our prayers, 6 children are gone under our watch, so we all blame ourselves, tell Kudzai we all take the blame”.

Apparently Kudzai once spoke jokingly about that river to his children, that there are people underneath it who are waiting to snatch them when they pass there. Apparently also old woman Nkgono Maria experienced something similar there when she was a young girl. She says her parents had sent her to town and she decided to take the short cut through the route next to Pitsane River. It was in the early hours of the morning she said, and there was a great mist hovering above the waters, she began to hear whispers calling her closer to the river, at first ignoring them but the voices began to call her for help, shouting out “Maria, Maria, please come help me, please come save me, I need you, I need you”. Nkgono Maria says she went closer to the river and began to see many hands trying to reach out for her, that is when she began to tremble and run, she says, as far as possible.

A lot of people around here have never believed her story because she only started telling it in her old age where she is said to be battling mind problems and hallucinations. But I do, I believe her, and if we all here want to solve this problem, we all need to believe her.

Tomorrow there is a memorial for Kudzai’s 6 children. I doubt most will go here, no one knows what to say to her and how to comfort her.I will go and perhaps read the eulogy if there isn’t one, I will talk about the joy those children gave to this place, to other children,

“BanabaKudzai were a great blessing to us all, they taught our children to know and respect people from other countries, they served us at the tuck-shop, always making sure to smile and greet”

I will talk about that Pitsane River and give a convincing case of what may be happening there.

“Let us honour what we teach our children by also listening to our elders, Nkgono Maria has spoken about Pitsane, that some mysterious luring’s are happening there, please tell your children about this because it now looks like it does happen”

But more importantly, I will also talk about the people here, that they need to dream and see again, see things before they happen, to everyone not only their loved ones, for the day those 6 children died, no one saw it coming.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

 

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