which Umnegetfu acquires a new pair of overalls for more than twice
the usual price, and A young Peae Corps family finds out more about
witchcraft than they really wanted to know.
the same time that we decided our housekeeper laDlamini was pulling
the wool over our eyes, our foster-brother Lukhele came to the same
conclusion. He had been courting her for some months, and while he
had no serious plans for marriage, liked the idea of a steady
girlfriend. He had the girlfriend but we were all beginning to
wonder about the steady bit.
we originally moved to Mbabane, Lukhele had come to visit one night
and after a lot of hemming and hawing had announced that he and
laDlamini were, "You understand, er, very good friends".
had accepted this arrangement, partly for fear of upsetting the
cross-cultural applecart, and partly because it was better to have
the wolf at the door be someone we knew. Lukhele was a
happy-go-lucky guy, the kids liked him, and he and laDlamini were
discreet in their relationship.
did not last. Within a few months of our settling in at Johnston
Street, other men besides Lukhele began to visit laDlamini's tiny
house. We didn't mean to pry, but as the kitchen window faced her
front door across the patio, it was hard to pretend one didn't notice
one point laDlamini brought in an extra bed and three friends; this
was too much, besides the moral issues, it was unhealthy for so many
people to be in a tiny room. Further, our modest wages didn't run to
feeding three extra mouths. On occasion when I came home from work
unexpectedly early, I'd find as many as 8 friends gathered in my
kitchen with laDlamini. The last straw was when one of the senior
Englishmen in town mentioned to Gene at the Theatre Club one night
that there seemed to be a fair number of unemployed men hanging
around our back yard and perhaps one needed to speak to one's
desperation, I called on our friend and language tutor Sonile to come
and mediate. She said we were the talk of the town for our
mean our stupidity, don't you?" I asked.
smiled gently. "No-one wanted to hurt your feelings," she
said. The upshot of it was laDlamini was given a carefully worded
reference and two weeks’ severance pay and was preparing to
leave for a more congenial environment.
called in on Saturday and when informed that laDlamini was about to
leave our employ, said, "That is good; she is very tricky and
not a good servant." By now I had learned enough about the
subtleties of Swazi behaviour not to get angry and yell, "Why
didn't you tell me that before?"
one had to take Lukhele with a grain of salt; after all, he was the
offended former boyfriend and could be said to have and axe to grind.
accepted a mug of tea and peered into it as if he could by force of
will turn it into beer. He said he supposed he had better get his
overalls back before laDlamini left for good. At the height of their
romance, laDlamini had been doing Lukhele's laundry for him, and
apparently there was still a pair of overalls outstanding.
lot of increasingly loud voices came from the servant's quarters
after Lukhele went in search of his missing garment. Doors banged
and harsh words were exchanged. Lukhele came back to the kitchen
with a morose look.
says she does not have the overalls. I said she had probably given
them to one of her--hah!--other friends, and then she said they were
too old and nasty and who else would want them." He looked very
upset. I poured a tot of our precious cache of whisky and gave it to
him. He went to sit by the living room fire to brood on his next
step, while Erin crawled around his workboots and pulled at the laces
until she got him to smile.
why don't you just get a new pair of overalls?" I asked.
want my old ones. They are my work overalls and if I do not get them
back, I will have to replace them out of my pay. I will find out
what she has done with them."
distracted by the baby, he sat on the floor and played pattycake and
built block towers with her, but soon his wrath arose again, and he
returned to laDlamini's door. There were more emotion-charged words
exchanged, of which I caught only a few, including the word 'muti',
which is medicine--or more specifically, things to do with spells and
returned to the living room and threw himself down by the fire again.
said the overalls have been stolen. She says perhaps a former
girlfriend of mine took them, to make muti with."
started on this train of thought, Lukhele was like a hawk on a mouse.
"This is a very bad thing!" he exclaimed. "But I
will trick them, I will go to the inyanga and find
has happened to my overalls. They will not get away with this!"
stormed out, tripping over the undone shoelace which Erin had finally
loosed from its grommets.
stop!" I said, "This is crazy, it will cost two Rand just
to get the inyanga to open his bag, then you have to pay for any
spells he makes separately. You could have new overalls for just
do not understand," Lukhele said, doing up his shoelace and
apparently bearing Erin no grudge for causing him to trip. "I
must get to the bottom of this; someone may have put a spell on me."
reported the goings-on to Gene over supper that evening. We were
puzzled. Lukhele, a city Swazi to his toenails, always poo-poohed
anything outside of concrete reality. He claimed to attend church
only when Reverend Tjwala (beer) was preaching. Many of the customs
of his people he ignored, and had even been known to eat a piece of
fish in direct contravention of totemic taboos.
a lapsed Catholic, in time of trouble Lukhele returned to his roots.
Worried about the overalls, he would not feel at ease until he had
consulted the inyanga. When he next came to visit, we managed to
bring the conversation around to West Indian beliefs and how people
died of voodoo because they believed in it, but once they went to
school and learned about the world, they didn't die. This was a
gross oversimplification, only intended to make Lukhele feel better,
and he saw through it.
may be true for those ignorant people, but it is very different when
there is a real inyanga involved, my sister" Lukhele explained
to me in the patient tones of one dealing with a not very bright
few days later, Lukhele stopped by and eventually got the point of
the visit: he wanted to borrow two Rand. We suspected what he
intended to do with it, but you can hardly tell your adoptive brother
that he can have a loan but only if he doesn't spend it on the
following pay day, Lukhele arrived resplendent in new bright blue
overalls. Our first thought was that the inyanga must be better than
we had thought to have raised the overalls phoenix-like in such good
by a few beers, Lukhele was eager to relate his adventures.
had gone to the inyanga and told the story of the missing overalls. The
inyanga, after opening his bag and consulting the bones and other
tools of his trade had told Lukhele that laDlamini had not taken the
overalls. A female friend of hers had done it, very likely for the
purpose of making a bad spell against him. For five Rand, the
inyanga would attempt to retrieve the overalls and turn the spell
back on the one who paid for it. However, if the overalls did
return, they would be unfit to wear, being part of a spell which no
inyanga could cleanse of evil.
Lukhele, the overalls were only worth three Rand, and you spent seven
on the inyanga, plus the three for the new overalls." I cried.
"That's a lot of money."
I know," he said. "It is a lot of money. You have to pay
very much for a good inyanga. It is not like it was years ago; now
it is very expensive."
do you know you have a good inyanga?" I asked innocently.
is very simple. I know because I have my new overalls and no bad
spell has happened to me because I paid much money to the inyanga to
have the bad spell sent away. If he were not a good inyanga, I would
now be sick, or my cattle would have died, or my home burnt."
Lukhele," I persisted, "suppose there never was a spell,
suppose the overalls were just lost? You may have paid all that
money for nothing."
turned a pitying look in my direction. "Wife of my brother,
these things are very difficult to understand, they are men's
took my cue and went off to see about supper, while Gene and Lukhele
clinked beer cans in celebration of the return of the prodigal
overalls. Once again it had been proved to me that the lack of
external plumbing was a serious bar to efficient mental processes. It
did not, however, prevent my roast chicken from being eaten with
every sign of satisfaction. One must be grateful for small
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