Tuesday, February 9, 2010

South Africa, Oh, South Africa, Land Of My Birth, I Weep For You!

Dear God! What next?

I can’t stand it!  I left South Africa many years ago, but it is hard to break all ties with the country of one’s birth, and particularly so for someone whose family is so deeply rooted in its past. I cringed when the Times of London recently featured a story under the heading of “Polygamous South African president Jacob Zuma weds for a fifth time.”

Now we have to learn that he has admitted fathering his 20th child with a woman who is neither one of his three wives nor a fiancée!

Surely it must be plain from all the blogs I write, that I have been disenchanted – nay bitter — about what has been happening there, for some time, but disenchantment has had to be replaced with ‘disgust’ in order to counteract the heartbreak and searing bitterness..


A town that has long seemed a magical place to me — which is why I chose it as the setting for my book When You Know That You Know, That You Know! Or The Redemption Of Benjamin Ashton. It is true that I claim that this book virtually wrote itself. It simply carried me along with it. There were times when I did not know who would be on the other side of a door when someone knocked on it; however, the memory of the view from the balcony of a Nelspruit hotel where, together with my husband’s band, I went, long ago, to play for a dance, remained so powerfully with me, that I knew I would have to write about it some day. The air was heavy with the perfume of orange blossom at sunset, and, except that there are no gorgeously plumed peacocks parading among the green and gold of the citrus trees, that is the view I have  described from ‘Benjamin Ashton’s stoep.

I am certain that the "benign" spell Nelspruit cast that night was the reason for making that book the first of a trilogy. Because I could not get Nelspruit out of my mind, I now shudder at the stories about the ghastly goings-on at the border, not too far from there. How absolutely shattering to be sent yet another link to a Times Report, this time dealing with the rampant practice of witchcraft. To read the report in the study by the Human Rights League and Childline which details gory accounts of children's frozen heads and genitals being smuggled into South Africa from Mozambique!

I wanted to be sick when I found, highlighted in the report from an area close to where I went to elementary school, the story of a woman in Bloemspruit, Free State, who told researchers that she was advised by a traditional healer to wear a belt made of young boys' penises and little children's fingers to help ease her difficult pregnancy! (A study found that the most highly sought-after body parts are generally male genitalia, followed by human hearts, breasts and fingers.

Evidently the sangoma or ‘traditional healer’ referred to in the Bloemspruit story charged her client R4000 (roughly $1,000 Canadian and $1.0734 USD,if my calculations are correct) for the advice! 

And It Gets Worse!

I was recently sent another News 24 link, this time providing the details surrounding evidence of cannibalism, submitted in a statement read in the Nelspruit circuit of the Pretoria high court case last year. The man had killed his grandfather with an axe, ripped out his heart and seasoned it with muthi (‘Magic’ medicine) before sitting down and eating it. The accused, aged 26, claimed he had done it because his sixty-three-year-old grandfather had asked him to.

"He asked me to kill him because he was old,” the accused stated, adding that he had chopped a hole in his chest with an axe and removed his heart." His grandfather's body was discovered by family members on September 03/2007.

When the accused was sent to a psychiatric hospital, three psychiatrists found him fit to stand trial. Because he admitted that killing his grandfather was wrong and that he had willingly made the statement, the judge accepted the man’s plea and found him guilty of murder, but added  that she appreciated the fact that he had not wasted the court's time, and had co-operated with police to the extent of  showing investigators where he had hidden the murder weapon!

Thanks For The Memories

What  fun when someone is available to turn the hose on you!

Embittered and cynical as I have become, I am not ashamed to have been born in South Africa. I am proud of how it used to be; grateful for the wonderful schools and mentors that were available to me — starting with Lizzie of the the multitudinous Shwe Shwe (calico)  petticoats, whom I loved better than I did my mother... Buxom Lizzie with the safe, welcoming lap and satiny brown skin, her face scarred with the traditional black lines etched into it, who was prevented, in the nick time, from affectionately doing the same to mine; who taught me to sing and speak  "Sesuto", and who warned me (when I was only five) never to leave hair on my hairbrush lest it be used to put a spell on me!

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