Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
Well, the death and subsequent graveside panegyrics for Winnie Mandela, especially the one by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, Julius Malema, which has gone viral, has sparked that village lilt in me. Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, there is a popular elegy that says death is always news and that if you are a good person even after death your grave is loved and respected.
And, the reverse is equally true.
There is an old man in my village who was so appalled by his son that he did not forgive the son right into the son’s grave that today the old man spits on the ground every time he passes by the son’s grave.
Apparently the grave is by the roadside.
He still does it today, more than two decades after the lad’s death.
If he has no phlegm, he cranks his nostril to oddball some liquid and find, at least, something to spit at the grave. Karutundundu wee!
As Julius Malema ranted on and on, on the graveside asking for the proverbial signal from Winnie’s corpse, Winnie must have been peeved to the point of turning and twisting in her grave.
There is no doubt, the audience was so moved.
But my village thoughts conjectured why Malema was not saying all that stuff during Winnie’s lifetime?
Why are we fascinated about saying good things about the dead?
Why do we have to wait for that moment?
Why do we always preach to a corpse?
During Winnie’s time, this villager would have loved to see Malema take on her enemies and remind them of the good work she did for the good of that country.
Winnie was ill-treated by the same people she sought to liberate.
After independence they saw nothing good about her.
She suddenly became good upon her death.
Both Malema and those Malema sought to ridicule at the funeral are hypocrites.
To me Winnie was no saint, but indeed the good she did outweighed the bad she did.
She confronted the jaws of apartheid.
She had her love Nelson plucked from her and thrown into the abyss of the prison at Robben Island for almost three decades.
She endured raising children alone under a racist regime.
But was Winnie not that woman vanquished into death over Mandela’s estate?
Was Winnie not that woman, left latching hapless and divorced after Mandela came out of prison?
Back to my village, village elders with cotton tuft hair say a beautiful funeral does not necessarily lead to paradise.
Life after death is fogy.
About two decades ago, the village boy I mentioned earlier on died in his early 20s.
His father, a respected village elder, had on many occasions sought refuge in other compounds as the youngster beat and even threatened to kill him.
Elder after elder tried to intervene, but each time the youngster imbibed, the father knew trouble was at hand. The youngster was quite a ram. He fought and had bruising encounters with almost everyone in the village.
The only person he feared was Karitundundu, the occult authority and ageless autochthon of wisdom and knowledge.
His death, which came through violent means that could not be explained, since he was found by the roadside battered, bruised and lifeless, divided village opinion.
Elders started talking good. There was nothing good about him so they scratched the surface to just pick on a few positives. But it was the graveside speeches that were very short and at times meaningless as speakers tried to sanitise his life.
His father’s time came and all hell broke loose. He walked in staggering gait towards the coffin, and started a long no-holds-barred speech. His walking stick prodding the coffin to make a violent point. The violent points were too many and you can imagine how many times the coffin was prodded.
“I stand here as the father of this late idiot. He was a real idiot who did so many bad things that, if the truth is said, people need a whole week to testify.
“I fathered a leopard. A very predatory one. He stole from people. He beat up people. He fought his age mates day and night. But God is great. Now we can rest since this idiot is gone! Now we can have peace.
“My last words are that, all those who lost their property to him and have been telling lies before his corpse here today that he was a good person, should never come to me to claim restitution. I appeal to God and my ancestors to make sure this idiot does not rest in his grave. He must go to hell,’’ he prodded the coffin for the last time and walked away before the burial.
Everyone was left shell-shocked. At least, the truth was told. The truth.