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my fiction: the bushman watchman

November 13, 2012


Faction fighting and revenge killings were part of life for the people of uMhlumayo.
MPIYAKHE MBHELE – his first name is isiZulu for one who fights his battles – grew up as part of AmaBhele clan, either attacking AmaJobe or fending off their attacks. It was always men of all ages who died. That changed two months ago when a stray bullet from amaJobe killed Mbhele’s bride and daughter. It entered through the mother’s back, ripped her heart and burst out to scatter the brains of the breastfeeding baby.
Mbhele, bent on revenge, launched an investigation. It was not difficult to find the culprit. AmaJobe were also horrified that a woman and child had been killed. A sacred rule had been breached. They did not want AmaBhele rampaging and killing their mothers, wives and daughters, so they fingered BASHAYE DUBE as the one who pulled the trigger.

For Mpiyakhe, a sharp-shooter, this was personal and he wanted Bashaye, his family and the whole of AmaJobe to sweat. Once his plan was made, he sent out word that he was going after his wife and daughter’s killer. Alone.

“I want him to panic and be as scared as I was when my beloved bled to death. I am also hoping that he will be man enough to attempt to strike first,” he told anyone and everyone who dared to commiserate with him or be within earshot of him.
But the coward had holed himself in his home, not even going out to relieve himself. Then Mbhele heard that Bashaye was expecting his first grandchild soon.
He consulted a sangoma and got umabopha, a potion to obstruct the delivery of a targeted baby. The spell can be undone only when the head of the target family performs prescribed rites.
On the day Bashaye’s wife sent for the village midwife, Mbhele cast his umuthi spell and took his gun.

“I will lay in wait here,” he said picking a spot on a hill with a clear view of the beehive hut Bashaye was holed in. It was not difficult for uMhlumayo was a picturesque rural village with rolling hills that seemed to echo gunfire even during times of peace. Its bushy terrain and willow trees with roots going deep into the banks of the mighty uThukela River ensured the village was evergreen, but many believed it was the spilt blood of the faction fighting victims that fed this greenery.

He lay prone on the hillock under the umbrella of Umsinga trees. He did not worry about being spotted in the lush bushes. He dared not move or fall asleep lest he missed his quarry. In his mind he played over and over the short life he had had with his wife, the dreams he harboured and the events of that dreadful day. He was not aware that he was crying until the salty taste of a solitary tear touched his lips. Time passed by, his teary eyes remained focused on the Dube homestead.


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