When did Noqaphi Nosekeni die this week
Mandela, Nelson - The Long Road To Freedom
THE LONG WAY TO FREEDOM
GERMAN BY GNTER PANSKE
The American original edition appeared under the title Long Walk to Freedom; The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela 1994 published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, New York, Toronto, London. 1994 Nelson Rolihlaha Mandela
For the German edition 1994 S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main All rights reserved Typesetting: Fotosatz Otto Gutfreund GmbH, Darmstadt Printing and binding: Clausen & Bosse, Leck Printed in Germany 1994 ISBN 3-10-047404-x
Hardly any other politician of this century symbolized mankind's hopes for peace and the thought of the reconciliation of all races on earth to such an extent as the former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela, whose role for his continent has been compared to that of Gandhi for India. Despite his long imprisonment, his unbroken strength of character and philanthropy have not only found the admiration of his compatriots, but also of all peacemakers in the world. Although he was privileged as the son of a chief, a highly educated and linguistically literate lawyer vis-à-vis the black population, he was not predestined from the outset to be a freedom fighter and internationally respected politician. It was only after almost three decades of imprisonment that it became a myth of the black liberation movement. In addition to its political significance, Nelson Mandela's life story is an exciting, knowledgeable and fact-rich document of human development under conditions and threats to which most people are likely to have surrendered, both internally and externally.
I dedicate this book to my six children, Madiba and Makaziwe (my first daughter), who have passed away, and Makgatho, Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi, whose support and love I hold in my heart; my twenty-one grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, who give me great joy; and all of my comrades, friends and fellow South African citizens whom I serve and whose courage, determination and patriotism remain a source of inspiration to me.
Part 1 A childhood in the country
Besides life, a strong constitution and a permanent connection to the Thembu royal house, my father only gave me one name when I was born, Rolihlahla. Rolihlahla literally means: pulling on the branch of a tree, but the colloquial sense is pretty precise: troublemaker. I don't think there is anything fateful about names or that my father somehow suspected what future awaited me, but in later years friends and relatives often blamed my maiden name for the many currents that I both caused and withstood. I got my better-known English or Christian name on my first day of school, but I'm anticipating. I was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, a tiny village on the banks of the Mbashe in the Umtata district, the capital of Transkei. The year I was born saw the end of the First World War, the outbreak of a flu epidemic that killed millions around the world, and the visit of a delegation from the African National Congress to the Versailles Peace Conference to hear the complaints of African people from South Africa. Mvezo, however, was far removed from it, a tiny district away from the world of big events, a place where life was largely still as it had been for hundreds of years. The Transkei, over a thousand kilometers east of Cape Town, more than 800 kilometers south of Johannesburg,
stretches between the Kei River and the Natal border, between the rugged Drakensberg Mountains to the north and the blue waters of the Indian Ocean to the east. It is a wonderful landscape with rolling hills, fertile valleys and a thousand rivers and streams that strive to the sea and keep the land green even in winter. The Transkei was one of the largest territories within South Africa, at 43,000 square kilometers about the size of Switzerland, with a population of approximately three and a half million Xhosas and a tiny minority of Basothos and Whites. It is also home to the Thembus who I am a part of and who are part of the Xhosa people. My father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was chief according to origins and customs. He was appointed chief of Mvezo by the King of the Thembu tribe, but under British rule this appointment had to be confirmed by the government, which was represented in Mvezo by the local magistrate (high white administrative officer). As a chief appointed by the government, he was entitled to a salary and part of the fees that the government levied from the community for vaccinating the cattle and using the pasture land. Though the chieftain's role was respected and recognized, seventy-five years ago its reputation had declined due to the control of an inconsiderate white government. The Thembu tribe goes back twenty generations to King Zwide. Traditionally, the Thembus lived in the foothills of the Drakensberg and moved towards the coast in the 16th century, where they became part of the Xhosa people. The Xhosa are among the Nguni who have lived, hunted and fished in the southern-eastern region of South Africa, between the great inner plateau in the north and the Indian Ocean in the south, since at least the 11th century.
The Nguni can be divided into a northern group, the Zulu and the Swazi, and a southern group, consisting of the amaBaca, the amaBomyana, the amaGealeka, the amaMfengu, the amaMpodomis, the amaMpondo, the abeSotho and the abeThembu, and together they formed the Xhosa Nation. The Xhosa are proud, patrilineal people with expressive, melodious language and an unwavering belief in the importance of law, education, and courtesy. The Xhosa society had a balanced, harmonious social order in which everyone knew his place. Each Xhosa belongs to a clan that traces its origins back to a specific ancestor. I am a member of the Madiba clan named after a Thembu chief who ruled Transkei in the 18th century. Often people address me with Madiba, my clan name, which is considered a respectful term. Ngubengcuka, one of the greatest monarchs who united the Thembu tribe, died in 1832. According to the custom of the time, he had wives from the great royal houses, the Great House from which the inheritance is selected, the House of the Right and the Ixhiba, a smaller one House, also called the Left Hand House. The task of the sons of the House of Left Hand was to settle royal disputes. Mthikrakra, the eldest son of the Great House, succeeded Ngubengcuka, and his sons included Ngangelizwe and Matanzima. Sabata, who ruled the Thembu from 1954, was the grandson of Ngangelizwe and older than Kaezer Daliwonga, better known as K. D. Matanzima, the former Chief Minister of the Transkei My Nephew by Law and Customs, who was a descendant of Matanzima. The eldest son of the Ixhiba house or the
House's left hand was Simakade, whose younger brother was Mandela, my grandfather. There have been many stories over the decades of my being a contender or co-contender for the Thembu throne, but the simple genealogy I set out above exposes such narratives to be fairy tales. Although I was a member of the royal household, I was not one of the privileged few who were raised to rule. Instead, as a descendant of the House of Left Hand, I was brought up like my father before me to advise the rulers of the tribe. My father was a tall, dark-skinned man with an upright, dignified posture which I like to imagine I inherited from him. He had a clump of white hair just above his forehead, and as a little boy I rubbed white ashes into my hair to emulate him. My father was very strict and used the rod vigorously to punish his children. He could be extremely stubborn, another trait the son regrettably inherited from his father. My father has been referred to as the Prime Minister of Thembuland at times during the reign of both Dalindyebo, Sabata's father, who ruled in the early 20th century, and his son, Jongintaba, who succeeded him. Prime Minister is a misnomer because there was no such title, but it would have largely matched the role my father played. He was a respected and valued advisor to both kings whom he accompanied on their travels, and he was usually found at their side in important negotiations with government officials. He was a recognized guardian of Xhosa history, and in part this was because he was recognized as an advisor. My own interest in history has been early
Roots and was encouraged by my father. Although he could neither read nor write, my father was considered an excellent speaker who could captivate his audience, both instructive and entertaining. In later years I discovered that my father was not only a royal advisor but also a kingmaker. After Jongilizwe's untimely death in the 1920s, his son Sabata, the child of the Great Wife, was still too young to ascend to the throne. There was a dispute over which of Jongilizwe's three eldest sons should be chosen as his successor by other mothers Jongintaba, Dabulamanzi and Melithafa. My father was consulted and he recommended Jongintaba on the grounds that he was the most educated of them and that he would be not only the best trustee of the crown but also an excellent mentor to the young prince. My father, like several other influential chiefs, had the utmost respect for education, as is often the case with people who are uneducated. My father's recommendation was controversial as Jongintaba's mother came from a lesser family. But my father's choice was eventually accepted by both Thembus and the British government. Jongintaba was later to show appreciation for the questioning in a way that my father could not have imagined at the time. Everyone said that my father had four wives, the third of whom, my mother, Nosekeni Fanny, the daughter of Nkedama of the amaMpemvu clan of the Xhosa family, came from the Right Hand House. Each of these women, the Great Wife, the Wife of the Right Hand (my mother), the Wife of the Left Hand and the Wife of the Iqadi (or the supporting house), had their own kraal, that is, an enclosure for animals that also had fields and Enclosing huts
could and was something like a homestead. These kraals were many miles apart, and my father was shuttling between them, as it were. In total he fathered thirteen children, four boys and nine girls. I am the eldest child in the Right Hand House and the youngest of my father's four sons. I have three sisters, Baliwe who was the eldest girl, Notancu and Makhutswana. Although the eldest son was Mlahlwa, my father's heir as chief was the son of the Great House, Daligqili, who died in the early 1930s. The other three sons have all died in the meantime, and each of them was ahead of me not only in age but also in rank. While I was hardly more than a newborn, my father got into an argument that cost him his chief in Mvezo and revealed a trait in him that I must have inherited. While I believe that it is primarily the environment and not the disposition that shapes the character, my father had a proud rebelliousness, an indomitable sense of fairness that I recognize in myself. As already mentioned, my father was often called the headman of the whites and in his office he was answerable not only to the Thembu king but also to the local magistrate. One day one of my father's subjects brought a lawsuit against him concerning an ox that had escaped its owner. The magistrate sent a message ordering my father to appear before him. When my father received the request, he returned the following reply: Andizi, ndisaqula (I will not come, I am still preparing for the battle). This is an Xhosa term that means that a man is preparing for battle. But at that time one did not defy a magistrate in such a way. A
such behavior would have been considered the height of rebellion, which it was in this case. My father's answer proved his conviction that the magistrate had no legitimate power over him. In tribal matters he was guided not by the laws of the King of England, but by the Thembu tradition. This disregard was not simply a personal sensitivity, it was a matter of principle. He asserted what he believed to be his traditional prerogative as chief and challenged the authority of the magistrate. When the magistrate received my father's reply, he immediately accused him of insubordination. There was no questioning or investigation; that was reserved for white officials. The magistrate simply withdrew his rank, which ended the chieftainship of the Mandela family. I had no idea of these events at the time, but the effects affected me too. My father, who by the standards of his time was a wealthy nobleman, lost his title and his fortune. Most of his flock and land were taken from him, and consequently the corresponding yields as well. Because of these limited living conditions, my mother moved to Qunu, a slightly larger village west of Mvezo, where she would find support from friends and relatives. In Qunu we lived in a more modest way, but there, in that village near Umtata, I spent some of the happiest years of my boyhood; My earliest memories also come from there.
The village of Qunu lay in a narrow grassy valley in the middle of green hills and was crossed by a series of streams. The population was only a few hundred people who lived in huts, beehive-like buildings made of clay walls and arched grass roofs with wooden stakes in the middle on which the roof rested. The floor consisted of a crushed anthill, that hard arch over an ant colony, and was kept smooth by regular smearings of fresh cow dung. The only opening was a low door, and smoke from the stove escaped through the roof. The huts were generally grouped together in a kind of residential area a short distance from the cornfields. There were no streets, only trails through the grass, trodden by barefish children and women. The women and children wore woolen blankets dyed in ocher; only the few Christians in the village wore western-style clothing. Cattle, sheep, goats and horses grazed on common pastures. The land around Qunu was almost entirely treeless, save for a cluster of poplars on the hill that dominated the village. The land itself belonged to the state. With a few exceptions, Africans were not landowners at the time, but tenants who had to pay the government an annual rent. In the area there were two small primary schools, a shop and a so-called dipping tank, in which the cattle were freed from ticks and diseases. Corn (or what we called Mealies and people in the West Com), millet, beans, and pumpkins made up the bulk of our diet, not because we had an innate predilection for these things, but because people couldn't buy anything better. The richer families in our village supplemented their food with tea, coffee and sugar,
but for most of the people in Qunu these were exotic luxuries that far exceeded their possibilities. The water that was used for agriculture, as well as for cooking and washing, had to be fetched by buckets from streams and ponds. This was women's labor, and indeed Qunu was a village of women and children: most of the men spent most of the year laboring in the mines along the Reef, the great ridge of gold-bearing rock and shale that formed the southern boundary of Johannesburg forms. They came back maybe twice a year, mostly to plow their fields. Chopping, chopping and harvesting were the work of women and children. Few, if any, in the village could read or write, and the idea of education was still alien to many at the time. My mother was in charge of three huts in Qunu which, as far as I can remember, were always full of babies and children of my relatives. In fact, I can hardly remember any moment when I was alone. In African culture, the sons and daughters of aunts and uncles are considered brothers and sisters, not cousins. We do not make the same distinctions as whites when it comes to our relatives. We don't have half-brothers. My mother's sister is my mother; my uncle's son is my brother, my brother's son is my son. Of my mother's three huts, one was used for cooking, one for sleeping, and one for storing food and other things. In the hut where we slept there was no furniture in the western sense. We slept on mats and sat on the floor. I only got to know pillows when I went to Mqkekezweni. My mother prepared meals in a three-legged iron pot that hung over one
open fire in the middle of the hut or outside. We grew and prepared everything we ate ourselves. My mother planted and harvested her own meals. Mealies were harvested when they were hard and dry. They were kept in sacks or in pits dug into the ground. The women used various methods to prepare the meals. They grated the kernels between two stones to make bread or they cooked the mealies first and then made umphothulo (mealie flour eaten with sour milk) or umngqusho (semolina, sometimes pure or mixed with beans). While meals were sometimes scarce, there was plenty of milk from our cows and goats. From an early age I spent most of my time outdoors, on the veld, playing and fighting with other boys. A boy who hung around the household and hung on his mother's top, so to speak, was considered a mother's son. In the evenings I shared my meal and my blanket with the same boys. When I was about five years old I became a shepherd boy and had to take care of sheep and calves.I got to know the almost mystical connection that the Xhosa have with cattle, not only as a supplier of meat and milk or wealth, but as a kind of God's blessing and source of happiness. Here I also learned to fetch birds from the sky with a slingshot, to collect wild honey and fruits and precious roots, to drink milk straight from the udder of a cow, to swim in the clear, cold areas and to fish with string and sharpened pieces of wire catch. I learned to fight with a stick, an indispensable skill for every African boy in the country, and I practiced the various techniques: how to parry a blow, how to fint in one direction and strike in another; how to deal with
Doing faster footwork from an opponent. My love for the Veld, for open spaces, for the simple beauties of nature, the clear lines of the horizon, stems from this time. Back then we played with homemade toys. We made it out of clay and recreated animals and birds. We made so-called cargo tows out of tree branches, which were pulled by oxen. Nature was our playground. In the area around Qunu there were many large smooth boulders that we slid down on. We did this again and again until our buttocks were so sore that we could no longer sit on them. I learned to ride young calves, and once you've been thrown several times, you got the hang of it. One day I received a lesson from a stubborn donkey. Everyone had climbed on his back and down again, and when it was my turn I jumped up and the donkey jumped into a nearby thorn bush. He bucked until he had thrown me, with the result that I had a bruised and scratched face, for which I huddled in front of my friends. Like the people of the East, Africans have a highly developed sense of dignity, or what the Chinese call a face. I had lost face in front of my friends, and although a donkey had thrown me, I learned that humiliating another person means causing him to suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. As a boy I learned to defeat my opponents without dishonoring them. We boys used to play among us, but sometimes we would let our sisters join in. Boys and girls played games like Ndize (hide and seek) and Icekwa (get in). But playing with the girls
the one I enjoyed most was what we called khetha, the whle-whom-you-like game. This was not so much an organized game as it was a spontaneous sport that happened when we approached a group of girls of the same age and told them each to pick the boy they loved. According to our rules, the girl's choice was to be respected, and once she had chosen her favorite she could move on, accompanied by the happy boy she liked. But the shrewd girls far smarter than us clumsy lads often talked to each other and then all chose a boy, usually the most unsightly or restricted, whom they then cussed all the way home. The most popular game for boys was called Thinti, and like most boys' games, it was an imitation of war. Two target sticks were driven vertically into the ground about 30 meters apart. We split into two groups of equal size and the purpose of the game was to throw sticks at the opponent's target stick and knock them over. Each team tried to defend their own rifle stick and prevent the other side from retrieving their thrown sticks. As we got older we organized this game against boys from neighboring villages, and those who excelled in these fraternal battles were greatly admired, just as generals who win great victories in war are celebrated. After such games, I returned to my mother's kraal, who was preparing the meal. While my father told stories of historical battles and heroic Xhosa warriors, my mother delighted us with legends, myths and fables that have spanned countless generations
have been passed on. They were stories that sparked my childish imagination, and most of the time they contained some kind of moral. I remember a story about a traveling man approached by an old woman suffering terribly from cataracts. She asked for help, but the traveler averted his gaze. Then another man came along, and the old woman approached him too. She asked him to clean her eyes, and although he found it uncomfortable, he did as she asked. Then, miraculously, everything that was sick fell away from the old woman's eyes, and she grew young and beautiful. The man married her and became rich and happy. It's an immensely simple story, but its message endures: virtue and nobility are rewarded in ways that cannot be known in advance. Like all Xhosa children, I acquired knowledge primarily through observation. We should learn by imitating, not by asking. When I later visited the Weien houses, I was initially amazed at the number and types of questions children asked their parents and at the willingness of parents to answer those questions without exception. With us, questions were considered annoying; Adults gave children what they thought necessary. My life, just like that of most of the Xhosas at that time, was shaped, both large and small, by custom, ritual and taboo. This was the be-all and end-all of our existence and has not been questioned. Men followed the path marked out for them by their fathers; Women lived the same lives as their mothers before them. Without being explained to me, I soon assimilated the complex rules that governed relationships between men and women. I discovered that a man cannot go into a house where a woman has recently given birth; there one
newly married woman is not allowed to enter the kraal of her new home without ceremony; and that neglecting one's own ancestors would lead to calamities and milenia in life. However, if it happened because one was dishonoring one's ancestors, it could only be shed by turning to the traditional healer or tribal elder who communicated with the ancestors and conveying the deep regret of the culprit. All of these beliefs came naturally to me. As a boy, I only met a few white people in Qunu. The local magistrate was, of course, white, as was the nearest shopkeeper. Occasionally white travelers or police officers appeared in our neighborhood. These whites struck me as great as gods, and I realized that they had to be treated with a mixture of fear and respect. But they played only a casual part in my life, and little, if at all, I thought about the white man or the relationships between my own people and these strange, distant characters. In our little world in Qunu, the only rivalry between different clans or tribes was that between the Xhosas and amaMfengu, a small number of whom lived in our village. The amaMfengu had come to the Eastern Cape because they had fled Shaka Zulu's armies in the period called the Mfecane: the great wave of battles and migrations between 1820 and 1840, triggered by Shaka's Zulu state, which conquered all tribes and then wanted to unite under his military rule. The amaMfengus were refugees from AmaMfecane who did not originally speak Xhosa, and they first had to do work that no other African wanted to do. They worked on the farms and in the
White shops that were despised by the better-off Xhosa tribes. But the Mfengus were hardworking people, and because of their contacts with Europeans, they were often more educated and western than other Africans. When I was a boy, the amaMfengus had long been the most advanced part of the community and provided our clergy, police officers, teachers, clerks and interpreters. The amaMfengus were also among the first to become Christians, built better houses, used scientific methods in agriculture, and were wealthier than their Xhosa compatriots. They affirmed the missionaries' principle that to be Christian is to be civilized, and to be civilized is to be Christian. There was prejudice and hostility towards the amaMfengus in Qunu, but in retrospect I would attribute this to envy rather than any tribal hostility. This local form of tribalism that I observed as a boy was relatively harmless. At that time I saw nothing and knew nothing of the violent tribal rivalries that were later promoted by the white rulers of South Africa. My father disliked the prejudice against the amaMfengus, and two amaMfengu brothers, George and Ben Mbekela, were his friends. Both brothers were an exception in Qunu: they were educated and they were Christians. George, the elder, was a retired teacher and Ben was a police sergeant. Although the Mbekela brothers had converted to Christianity, my father stayed away and kept his faith in the great spirit of the Xhosas, Qamata, the god of his fathers. In fact, my father was a non-official priest who watched over the ritual slaughter of goats and calves and also performed this office in local traditional rites at sowing and harvesting, at births
and weddings, initiation ceremonies and funerals. He did not need to be ordained a priest, because the traditional religion of the Xhosas is shaped by cosmic wholeness, so that there are only slight differences between the sacred and the scular, between the natural and the supernatural. The faith of the Mbekela brothers on my father did not wear off, but it did inspire my mother, who became a Christian. Her name Fanny was actually her (Christian) first name because it was given to her in church. In fact, it was due to the influence of the two brothers that I was baptized and sent to school in the Methodist Church (or Weslean Church as it was then called). The Mbekela brothers often saw me playing around or doing sheep weddings. Occasionally one or the other would come to talk to me, and one day George Mbekela would visit my mother. Your son is a bright little guy, he said. He should go to school. My mother was silent. Nobody in my family had ever attended school, and my mother was not prepared for Mbekela's suggestion. But she informed my father who, despite or perhaps because of his own lack of education, decided on the spot that his youngest son should go to school. The school was in a one-room western-style house on the other side of the hill facing away from Qunu. The day before my first day of school, I was now seven and a half years old, my father took me aside and told me I had to be properly dressed for school. Until then, like all boys in Qunu, I had only carried a woolen blanket, slung it over one shoulder and tied it at the hip. My father took one of his pairs of pants and cut the legs off at the knees.
He told me to put the pants on, which I did, and they were about the right length, but far too loose around the waist. Then my father took a piece of string and straightened his pants at the waist. I must have been a strange sight, but I have never owned a piece of clothing that I would have been more proud of than my father's cut-off trousers. On the first day of school, my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name and said that from now on that would be the name we should listen to at school. This was common among Africans of the day and no doubt stems from British prejudice against our upbringing. The upbringing I received was a British one in which British thought, British culture, British institutions were automatically considered superior. There was no such thing as an African culture. Africans of my generation, and even today, generally have both an English and an African name. Whites were unable or unwilling to pronounce an African name and thought it uncivilized to have one at all. That day, Miss Mdingane told me my new name was Nelson. I don't know why she gave me this name. Perhaps it had something to do with the great British navigator Lord Nelson, but that would be a guess.
One night when I was nine years old, I noticed a certain amount of unrest in our household. My father, who used to visit us every month for about a week, had arrived, but not at the usual time. Normally he shouldn't have come a few days later. I found him in my mother's cabin with his back on the floor
lying down and shaken by a seemingly endless coughing fit. Even to my young eyes it was clear that my father would not be long in this world. He must have suffered from some lung disease, but no diagnosis was made because my father had never seen a doctor in his entire life. He stayed in the hut for several days without moving or speaking, and then one night he seemed to be worse. My mother and my father's youngest wife, Nodayimani, who lived with us, looked after him, and later that night he called for Nodayimani. She went to him and he said: Bring me my tobacco. My mother and Nodayimani consulted and decided that it was unreasonable to give him tobacco while he was in condition. But he kept calling for it, and finally Nodayimani plugged his pipe, lit it, and then handed it to him. My father smoked and got quiet. He smoked for about an hour and then, with his pipe still burning, he died. I don't remember feeling great sadness, but rather a feeling of being cut off. Although my mother was the center of my existence, I defined myself through my father. The death of my father changed my whole life in a way that I had no idea at the time. After a short period of mourning, my mother announced that I was leaving Qunu. I didn't ask her why or where. I packed my few belongings and one morning we set out early on a journey westward to what would become my new home. I mourned less for my father than for the world I had to leave behind. Qunu was all I knew and I loved it in that unconditional way that children love their first home. Before we disappeared behind the hills, I turned
and looked back, as I thought at the time, to my village for the last time. I could see the simple huts and the people doing their work; the area where I had splashed and played with the other boys; the corn fields and the green pastures where the herds grazed lazily. I imagined my friends chasing little birds, drinking delicious milk from a cow's udder, and frolicking in the pond at the end of the creek. Above all, however, my eye rested on the three simple huts where I had enjoyed the love and protection of my mother. It was these three huts that combined for me with all my happiness, with life itself, and I regretted that I had not enjoyed every single one before we left. It was inconceivable to me that the future I was now wandering towards would in any way be comparable to the past I was leaving behind. We traveled on foot and in silence until the sun slowly sank towards the horizon. But the silence of the heart between mother and child has nothing to do with loneliness. My mother and I never talked very much, and neither did we. I never questioned their love or doubted their help. It was a grueling journey, over stony paths, uphill and downhill, past numerous villages, but we didn't stop for a break. Late that afternoon, at the bottom of a flat, tree-lined valley, we came to a village in the middle of which was a property so large and so beautiful that it was far beyond anything I had ever seen and me could do nothing but marvel at him. It consisted of two Iingxande (or rectangular houses) and seven magnificent rondavels (better huts), all white, a sight to behold even in the glow of the setting sun. He had a large front yard and one of peach trees
limited corn field. In the back there was an even larger garden with apple trees, a flowerbed, a vegetable garden, and bushes of branches. There was a white stucco church nearby. In the shade of two eucalyptus trees that flanked the entrance to the main house, sat a group of about twenty tribal elders. A herd of at least 50 cattle and maybe 500 sheep grazed happily on the pasture around the property. Everything looked wonderfully well cared for and presented a sight of wealth and order that exceeded my imagination. This was the Great Square, Mqhekezweni, the provisional capital of Thembuland, the royal residence of Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the reigning regent of Thembus.
I was just looking at this glory when a huge automobile rumbled through the western gate and the men seated in the shadows rose at once. They took off their headgear and shouted, jumping on their feet: Bayethe a-a-a-Jongintaba! (Hail, Jongintaba!), The traditional greeting of the Xhosas for their head. A short, stocky man in an elegant suit stepped out of the automobile (I later learned that this stately vehicle was a Ford V8). I could see that he had the confidence and the determined demeanor of a man accustomed to the exercise of power. His name was the inspiration for him, because Jongintaba literally means one who looks at the mountain, and he had a strong charisma that drew everyone's attention. Dark-skinned and intelligent, he casually greeted each of the men under the tree, members of the Thembu Supreme Court, I later learned, with a handshake. This
was the regent who would be my guardian and benefactor for the next decade. At that moment, looking at Jongintaba and his court, I felt like a noose that had been torn from the ground with all its roots and thrown into the middle of a river whose strong current he could not withstand. I had a sense of awe mixed with confusion.Up until that point, I had only thought of my own amusements and had no greater ambition than to eat well and become a stick fighter. No thought of money or class, fame or power. Suddenly a new world opened up in front of me. Children from poor families who are suddenly faced with unimaginable prosperity are faced with a host of new temptations. I was no exception. At that moment I felt how many of my beliefs and views were, as it were, washed away. The slender foundation my parents built began to sway. It was then that I saw that life might have more in store for me than a stick-fighting championship.
I later learned that Jongintaba had volunteered to become my guardian after my father's death. He would treat me just like his children and I would enjoy the same benefits as them. My mother had no choice; such an offer from the regent was not turned down, and although she would miss me, she was glad that under the regent's care I would grow up in more favorable circumstances than under her own care. The regent had not forgotten that he had become the acting head because of my father's intervention.
My mother stayed in Mqhekezweni for a day or two before heading back to Qunu. We parted easily. She did not preach, offered no wise words, no kisses. She probably didn't want me to feel somehow orphaned after she left, and that's why she was so matter-of-factly. I knew that, according to my father's wish, I should receive a good education in preparation for a wide world; and that was not possible in Qunu. Her tender gaze contained all the affection and encouragement I needed, and as she walked away she turned back and said, Uqinisufokotho Kwedini! (For example: keep your ears stiff, my boy!) Children can be the most unsentimental beings, especially when they indulge in new pleasures. While my dear mother and best friend were on their way home, my head was buzzing with the joys of my new life. Ears stiff? I could hardly have carried my head any higher. I was already wearing the neat new clothes my guardian had got for me. Soon I was part of Mqhekezweni's daily life. A child adapts quickly or not at all and I felt drawn to the Great Square as if I had grown up there. For me it was a wonder kingdom; everything seemed joyful; Chores that had been troublesome in Qunu turned into an adventure in Mqhekezweni. When I was not in school, I sat down as a shepherd, as a charioteer, as a plowman. I rode horses, shot birds with slingshots and competed with other boys, and in the evenings I sometimes danced to the beautiful singing and clapping of Thembu girls. Although I am Qunu and my mother
guess, I was soon completely absorbed in the community of Mqhekezweni. I attended a small, one-room school on the ridge and learned English, Xhosa, history and geography. We read Chambers English Reader and wrote on black slates. Our teachers, Mr. Fadana and later Mr. Giqwa, took a special interest in me. I learned quickly, but less from my cleverness than my tenacity. My self-discipline was strengthened by my aunt Phathiwe, who lived in the Groen Platz, the regent's estate, and watched my schoolwork with relentless rigor. Mqhekezweni was a missionary station of the Methodist Church and far more modern and western than Qunu. The people wore modern clothes. The women preferred the strict Protestant style of the missionaries: thick, long skirts made of heavy material and blouses that came up to the neck; in addition a blanket draped over the blouse and a headscarf wound with elegance.
The world of Mqhekezweni revolved around the regent, my smaller world revolved around his two children. Justice, his only son and consequently heir to the Great Square, and Nomafu, his daughter and younger than Justice. I lived with them and was treated just like them. We ate the same food, wore the same clothes, did the same tasks. Later Nxeko was added, the older brother of Sabata, the heir to the throne. The four of us formed a kind of royal quartet. The Regent and his wife NoEngland raised me as if I were their own child. They cared for me, guided me and also punished me, all in the spirit of love and justice. Jongintaba was strict,
but I never doubted his love for me. They called me by my nickname Tatomkkulu, which means grandfather, because they thought that sometimes, when I looked very serious, I looked like an old man. Justice, four years my senior, became my first hero after my father. I looked up at him in every way. When I got to Mqhekezweni, he was already in Clarkebury, a boarding school about 100 kilometers away. He was tall, handsome, muscular, and an excellent sportsman who excelled in athletics, cricket, rugby, and football. He was always cheerful and open-minded and enchanted those around him with his naturalness. With his magnificent singing voice and his polished ballroom dancing, he could touch people. As you might think, he had a crowd of admirers but also a small army of critics, in whose eyes he was too much of the dandy and the playboy. We were best friends, but in some ways the exact opposite of each other: he was an extrovert, I was more of an introvert; he was always lighthearted while I was pretty serious. He was naturally skilled and learned easily; I have to practice and drill myself. To me he was everything a young man could be and everything I wanted to be. Although we received the same treatment, our fates were very different: Justice would inherit one of the most powerful chiefs of the Thembu tribe. I would inherit whatever the regent, in his grief, decided to give me. Every day I did all sorts of duties in the regent's house or outside. One of the many things I did for the regent was ironing his suits, my favorite activity of which I was very proud. He owned half a dozen western suits, and I used some
Hours of ironing as precise as possible. His palace, if you want to call it that, consisted of two large, tin-clad, western-style houses. At that time, very few Africans owned western houses and they were considered a hallmark of great wealth. In addition to the two houses, there were six rondavels around the main house in a kind of semicircle. The houses had wooden floors, something I had never seen before. The regent and queen slept in the rondavel on the right hand; the queen's sister in the one in the middle; and the cabin on the left served as a pantry. There was a beehive under the floor of the queen’s sister’s cabin, and sometimes we would lift up floor boards and feast on the honey. Soon after I arrived in Mqhekezweni, the Regent and his wife moved into the Uxande (middle house), which automatically became the Big House. There were three small rondavels nearby. One of them was occupied by the king's mother, Justice and I shared the second, and the third was reserved for visitors. The two principles that governed my life in Mqhekezweni were chiefdom and the church. These two doctrines existed, as it were, in inconsistent harmony, but I did not find them to be antagonistic in any way. For me, Christianity was less a belief system than the powerful belief of a single man: Reverend Matyolo. His impressive personality encompassed everything that made Christianity attractive to me. In Mqhekezweni he was as popular and popular as the regent, and I was deeply impressed by the fact that he was above the regent in spiritual matters. But the church was concerned primarily with this world instead of the hereafter, and I recognized that practically all of them were there
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