By Anesu Mponda
L stood despondently by the weather-beaten tree. Wave after wave of shock swept my body as l looked at Samkelo’s dangling body. Tears rolled down uncontrollably on my cheeks at what had happened to me. People continued to pass by in the street and most of them gathered around and looked at me with antipathy and sympathy. I was in a state of ambivalence. So what was l going to say at his funeral, “here lies the body of the love of my life who l took for granted, who because of me sleep evaded”. If only l had listen to Makhulu when she warned me about dating Samkelo. L had
practice incest with my brother, Samkelo, and broken one of the most important rules of my village.
Samkelo was a tall and well built young man. His fame spread like a bush fire and he was well known throughout the six villages as the leader of the masquerades. His title earned him great respect which he used to his advantage to aggregate wealth. I, on the other hand, had no title or wealth and was soon to be married to an old man to whom my father was in debt. My marriage had been arranged and l had no say in it. My relationship with Samkelo started the day he saved me from almost being sexually abused by my soon to be husband. Although what we were doing was a taboo, we took the risk anyway. L told Makhulu, my grandmother, about my secret relationship. Makhulu being a religious person warned me about the consequences and said she did not want to be part of my relationship. L thought Makhulu had never experienced love and l did not listen.
Many moons passed but the rain did not fall. The people of the village became worried and decided to consult the gods about the problem through the spirit medium Thespo. Seven drums were arranged in order of size. Three men bearing sticks played the drums working feverishly from one to another. They were possessed by the spirit of the drums. The spirit medium began to shake with the rhythm of the drums. L began to sweat, my heart racing and with every beat, l felt it climb up my throat. Surely l was destined for doom, was this how my relationship would be exposed, in front of everyone through a spirit medium. The spirit medium then became possessed by the spirit we called Mponda. The spirit on arrival requested for water and immediately after drinking spat it all out. The village chief presented his case about the drought. Mponda then spoke up saying “someone has committed a taboo in this village”. After he said this, the room was filled with commotion as people gasped and murmured in shock. L closed my eyes tightly as l waited anxiously for him to finish the statement “ the person who is causing all this is MaNdunakazi” . on hearing this l immediately opened my eyes and sighed in relief. MaNdunakazi had given birth to twins and kept it a secret, unfortunately, one of them had to be killed.
After MaNdunakazi’s child was killed people expected it to rain soon. Days turned into weeks and eventually months, and yet it did not rain. The village chief decided to consult greater powers, the masquerades, normally used to administer justice. On the night of a full moon, people gathered at the palace and awaited the masquerades. They were six of them each representing a village. The oldest was known as Evil forest, smoke poured out of his head, his voice was like thunder and he gave the final say. Evil forest began by greeting us and then in one sentence exposed my relationship with Samkelo. Although Evil Forest was known for never beating around the bush l did not expect him to expose us so quickly. Before l could register what was happening Samkelo ran from the crowd and unmasked Evil forest and then ran away. Practising incest was one thing but unmasking a masquerade was punishable by death and l was sure Samkelo knew and that was why he ran away. Everyone left and headed to their separate homes, that evening we did not sleep as Chielo, the mother of all masquerades mourned the death of her son Evil forest. We could hear her cry throughout the night. When l woke up in the morning l had the sound of the messenger’s bell as he rang it to alert people of an announcement. He announced having seen Samkelo hung on a tree near the Kalani forest. L quickly ran there to see for me and behold it was true. Samkelo was dead.
There is a saying in my village that says “For whom it is well, for whom it is well, there is no one for whom it is well” although this is true l believe others such as myself had it worse. Samkelo was not buried but rather burnt. l was forgiven for my crime and ended up marrying my fifty-year-old fiancée. If only l had listened to Makhulu, Samkelo would still be alive.