“Building such a complex road will take a year and there’s a bridge to be made the cutting of trees and--------"
“The plan was made about 5 years ago the delays came due to the changes in the mayoral committee. I just need you to get the Minister's approval he owes us a favour anyway” Ngcwethi cuts him short and passes a document over to the engineer. He looks at it and passes it to Ngwenya.
“I've never seen this before. Madoda and Counsellor Mbele signed it?” he looks at the document with a frown. So there was a plan to build another road? What happened this plan was designed 5 years back. There were contractors involved the budget was drawn up.
“It was cancelled. They decided it would be better to invest the money somewhere where it would be more beneficial and then Ndaba died before the plans blossomed.”
“What are you saying Ngcwethi? That your father and Mbele misused the government funds?” -Ngwenya shocked. “I only said one important thing and that was you need to get Minister's approval make sure he brings his people to check everything and speed up the paperwork” he says.
“Since it concerns Jama Ranch House shouldn't we discuss it with Busikhaya as well?”
Ngcwethi clenches his jaws angrily.
“He is in charge of the farm this doesn't concern him.” Ngwenya nods his head and collects his documents before the mood gets thicker.
“I will wait for your call before the end of this week” Ngcwethi says before Ngwenya walks out. He promises to try his best to speed things up.
“I'm looking forward to working with you.” Ngcwethi reaches out to an engineer and shakes his hand. The meeting is over he also picks up his files and Ngcwethi walks him out.
Everything went according to plan and today is the day of the community meeting. Ngwenya will be announcing the construction of the new road and bridge.
“I wonder what this meeting is all about?” Busikhaya says as he puts his belt on. MaMbonambi cannot attend the meeting and her sons will go on her behalf.
“Elections are around the corner they're recruiting and selling people dreams” Mnotho says.
“Waste of time people will always vote ANC” -Busikhaya goes inside the house and comes back followed by Sango who's demanding spaghetti and milkshake.
“Are we ever going to leave?” -Mndeni.
“Baba!” Sango almost crying.
“Look here princess Baba has to rush to a meeting Gogo will give you a sandwich and when Baba comes back he'll take you to McDonald’s.” He has his hands on her shoulders his fingers are crossed. This is one hell of a child but he'd do anything for his daughter even if she requested a shark's liver for lunch he'd dive into the sea and hunt for it.
“And a gardening gear for Jojo” she says ecstatic.
Jojo is a plastic doll she gets everything that Sango gets Busikhaya is practically taking care of 3 children and one is a plastic.
“Definitely we'll get a gardening gear for our little Jojo. Now run to Gogo.” He pushes her and watches until she disappears inside the kitchen where MaMbonambi is sitting with a neighbour.
They all get in the car and head to the community hall where the meeting is held.
“I've been thinking if we do the cleansing ceremony this coming week we can start preparing for Isihlangu ceremony” Busikhaya says.
“What's the rush?” Mndeni asks.
“We don't need to mourn for months to show that we loved Ndaba. I know he'd want us to move on and focus on growing the business.”
“I second that but we need to get mother's approval first” Mnotho says.
Busikhaya turns to Ngcwethi who's been staring outside the window the whole time. “Bafo what do you say?”
“It haven't been a year we can't do it.”
“Why do you have to oppose everything that I say?” Ngcwethi sighs. He takes his eyes off the window and lends them to Busikhaya who's desperately seeking for his attention. “MaMbonambi is still going to be in that black dress for a year. That's how long a married wife mourns for her husband only after she's taken off that dress we can do Isihlangu for Ndaba.” Busikhaya cringes to his own ignorance. He's older he should know these things maybe he does need to make peace with Ngcwethi.
When they arrive in the venue he asks Ngcwethi aside. The meeting has already started but this is a black community half of them are still on their way.
“Ngcwethi I don't like this tension between us” he says after clearing his throat.
“I don't have a problem with you I'm just going through a personal journey” -Ngcwethi.
“I'm sorry about the girl but I had to protect our legacy. Mazwakhe shot you once if he wasn't stopped he would've done it again and maybe it would've been fatal the second time. I've already lost a father because of him. I'm not losing a brother sorry your love life had to suffer I did what I did for all of you.”
Ngcwethi exhales. Maybe he's been selfish as well he didn't consider the pain his family was going through because of the Ngwanes.
“I know” he says guilty. Busikhaya is not going to take the road thing very well and it's going to be worse if he finds out from the ward counsellor.
“We need to hold each other’s hand and make Ndaba proud.” Busikhaya taps Ngcwethi’s shoulder happy to fix things with his brother.
“I did something” Ngcwethi says sheepishly.
“Okay?” Busikhaya lifts his eyebrow.
“Today they're announcing the road construction and Jama
Ranch House sponsored the clearcutting.”
“Jama Ranch House???”
“Yes I signed.”
Busikhaya drags him back to the car. When Mndeni checks what's keeping them he sees the car speeding off and runs back to call Mnotho.
“And now?” -Mnotho.
“They will kill each other I don't even know what happened now.” He dials and tells the person on the phone to fetch them from the hall.
Busikhaya and Ngcwethi wouldn't disrespect MaMbonambi by fighting in front of her so Mndeni asks the driver to take them to the farm storage where he suspects they might've headed. Indeed Busikhaya's car is parked outside they jump out of the taxi and rush inside.
Busikhaya is just sitting on top of the table puffing a cigarette and Ngcwethi is sitting on the floor looking at the newspaper. “And then you two? Are you not supposed to be in the meeting?” Busikhaya asks glaring at them.
They look at each other confused.
“We followed you just in case you were coming here to kill each other ” Mndeni says.
“No one of you must be in that meeting MaMbonambi will demand to know everything that was addressed.”
“Mnotho you're going back” Mndeni says.
“Urgh!” Mnotho drags himself to the door Busikhaya stops him before he walks out.
“We are sponsoring the clearcutting they're building a bridge
over Mvumase and constructing a new road.” “What???” Mnotho and Mndeni ask in unison.
“Yeah and we might have a Ngwane makoti.”
Their jaws drop on the floor. Just a week ago Busikhaya was against the relationship and road construction and now he's excited about the possibility of Ngcwethi marrying Zanamuhla? .
A lot has happened and I can't say I've healed from the heartbreak but I'm ready to move on. The new semester began and I decided to be full-time. I along with other students who are funded by a bursary have been placed in a building that's just 10 minutes away from the college. I'm used to having my personal space and here I'm sharing the kitchen with 2 other girls. As if that's not uncomfortable enough the floor below us is occupied by guys.
“Ladieeees” Vuyiswa's voice bursts in. She is back from wherever she's been and we are about to listen to Gqomu music and her endless stories.
“Classes are starting Monday we should live this weekend like there's no tomorrow.” She pulls out a bottle of wine from the shopping bag and orders me to take glasses.
“Are we even supposed to drink here?” Bontle asks what I was about to ask. It's needless to say her and I relate in many ways she comes from the village as well.
“Where did they find you two?” She throws her hands up and drinks straight from the bottle.
“By the way I invited our neighbors for pizza.”
It's barely been two days of living together and she's already breaking boundaries.
“Here?” Bontle asks eyes widen.
“Yes we are just getting to know each other and this is the time to find study mates.”
Bontle stands up and picks her phone.
“I'm going out and coming back when they're gone. What's the curfew?” She directs to me.
“6am to 6pm” I say.
“Please be done before 6” she tells Vuyiswa. I hope she's listening because I'm also going to my bedroom and I want to cook uphuthu later. I've been craving amasi for days and now that I have a refrigerator and a monthly allowance I'm blessing myself with everything.
It's been almost 2 hours of loud music high-pitched voices and laughter. I forgot to take one thing a bottle of water and now I have to see all those people.
I was going to greet them take water and disappear. But guess what? Julani Khumalo is among the guys sitting on the couch drinking ciders. Rules are being broken here.
“You're fuckin’ kidding me!” He gets up and comes to me. I didn't think our paths would cross again. I have so many questions for him. This guy sold me out.
“You must be disappointed to see me alive” he says with his hands on the waist. Today he's wearing the skinniest jean it makes him look very petite. I don't know whether to give him something to eat or listen to his cry.
“What's going on Zanamuhla? Is he troubling you?” Vuyiswa asks. I give her a look to say I got everything under control and turn back to Jula.
“Is it a nerve or you undermine people?” I ask.
“Your man nearly killed me. Do you see this?” He points to a scar under his eye. “I woke up from ICU all because I tried to help a struggling girl out!”
Is this guy serious? He's turning this whole thing and making it look like my fault. And I'm a struggling girl??? “But I forgive you. How is his brother?” He forgives me???
Jesus Christ I burst into laughter.
“You need to have your brains checked” I say and proceed to the kitchen to get what I came for.
The idiot follows me.
“Are you studying here?” “No I'm a waitress” I say.
“Fine. I'm sorry but I was only trying to
help you. We don't have to be poor while there are people who have floating
millions.” “Julani get out of my way before I send you back to ICU
“Fine. I'm sorry but I was only trying to help you. We don't have to be poor while there are people who have floating millions.” “Julani get out of my way before I send you back to ICU” I say.
I push him aside and leave. I can't believe him. I don't know whether to call him a bully or brainless idiot.
Mazwakhe called earlier he's leaving for Johannesburg. He says someone who knows someone who knew our father has a business opportunity for him.
It's a lot to process. I'm used to him being at home taking piece jobs and returning home when the sun sets. Yes I'm also far away from home but I was comfortable knowing that he's back home and I can see him anytime I want.
My whole day just turned sour and I'm wrapped on bed counting my bad lucks.
“Congrats Barbiey your village finally has a bridge and a good road. Come it's all over the news.” That's Jula letting himself inside my bedroom and dragging me out. Don't ask what happened he's not the type you can be angry at and ignore. I guess we are now FRIENDS again.
“We don't care anymore” I say.
Three months ago I would've screamed on top of my voice happily and thanked the community leaders for their efforts. But now I don't care Mazwakhe has moved on from the issue so have I.
“Owemji! Is that your man?” He’s still watching the news. I lift my eyes to the screen. There he is with his brothers standing next to him he looks good I must say.
“There he is Jesus Christ!’ His tongue is swaying out. It turns out he has a huge crush on Mndeni and thinks I'm the bridge between them. I'm tired of explaining that I'm not in a relationship with Ngcwethi. It's all in the past and the less I get reminded about him the better.
Busikhaya briefly speaks to the reporter about how excited be is about the community development.
It's all just a public stunt.
Vuyiswa believes shopping is some sort of therapy and we are all here in the mall because I've been sulking the whole day. I don't want to eat noodles the whole month I'm just windowshopping and telling them what is cute to buy and what's not. The only thing I'm willing to spend my money on is Chicken Licken double slyder box.
“I love these” Jula half-screaming in front of an ugly tracksuit.
Vuyiswa is on another section the expensive one looking at the sneakers. I don't know where Bontle is she's probably somewhere looking for a pair of pumps that costs less than R100.
“Are you sure?” I ask Jula.
“Are you insane? Look at the design the colour and and and….I'm so paying for this.”
Well he never take people's opinions seriously. This is the ugliest thing a person can ever wear.
“You won't believe this” he's whispering.
“What?” I ask.
“Don't look at the entrance.”
Well I have a terrible impulse control. I turn my head exactly to the entrance and look.
*****EARLIER IN THE MTHEMBU OFFICES****
“It's done!” Busikhaya said walking inside Ngcwethi’s office. They shook hands happily and sat side to side.
“I'm scared” Ngcwethi said and Busikhaya laughed. At least there's something he's scared of he thought to himself. “She is lucky to have you” he told him. They'd gone through a lot after their father's passing. They killed fought each other and learnt the importance of standing together.
“I haven't seen her in months I don't know what to expect we lost each other” Ngcwethi said. He’s done it all for her but nothing is guaranteed. They say she never talk about him and whenever his name is mentioned she shows no emotions. “You're Jama kaMnisi I know you'll get her back” Busikhaya motivated him but the fear and restlessness didn't leave him. “UMAKOTI UNGOWETHU SIYAVUMA” -Mndeni walked in singing and dancing. The mood brightened up as Mnotho also followed in with a bunch of flowers.
“And the trees?” Busikhaya asked and they all laughed. “Brother this is a love rose bouquet” Mnotho said and passed the bouquet to Ngcwethi who looked stunned.
“Mndeni dress him up” -Mnotho.
“What? I'm dressed” Ngcwethi said checking the tidiness of his African printed T-shirt. He didn’t see anything wrong with how he looked and Zanamuhla had loved him like this. “Not today you'll embarrass her in front of her friends.” – Mndeni walked out and came back with a crispy white shirt in a hanger and a box of shoes.
Ngcwethi was forced in a shirt he believed was too tight for him and wore black pointy shoes that made him feel apostolic. When he came out of the bathroom Mndeni took pictures while singing praises.
“She's going to give IT to you” he said.
Ngcwethi sent a warning look and they all laughed at him. “I'm ready to call oBabomncane to a meeting” Busikhaya said before getting in his car and driving to Sango's school.
*****AN HOUR LATER*****
Ngcwethi takes another breath as he's about to enter the shop where Zanamuhla and her friends got in.
It took months of hard work backstabbing blackmailing asking for favours and finally he's here to get the love of his life back. She sees him before he could see her and his eyes involuntarily follow her strong presence.
There she is with Julani next to her she looks frozen.
He makes his way to her ignoring the curiosity his presence has sparked on the store workers.
“Zano” he stands in front of her and cracks a nervous smile. “I will check on Vuyiswa” says Julani giving them space. He disappears with his tracksuit.
Zanamuhla has not said anything. Ngcwethi hands her the flowers Mnotho didn't tell him when he's supposed to give them right now seems like a good time because he doesn't know where to start.
She just looks at the flowers still showing no emotions at all and Ngcwethi’s fears are on the roll again.
“We built the road” he says.
Well this is exactly how he saw it but Busikhaya promised him it was all going to be okay.
“I missed you Zanamuhla.”
“Ngcwethi” she takes a loud breath “I told you that the lesson you taught me will make me wise in future. You built the road for your own benefit and reputation. We don't care about it anymore we'll continue using the old one.”
“Please let's try again.” He keeps it together he can't let all these people see him cry even though the disappointment is too much to handle.
“I'm busy as you can see so if you have nothing else to say please leave.”
“I verified my mistakes” he says.
“Really? If I go home I will find my parents?” She fakes excitement.
“That's not what I meant.” He firmly shuts his eyes to push back tears when he opens them they're bloodshot and wet.
“Please don't do this to me” he whispers.
Zanamuhla ignores the wrench in her heart as she sees the pain in Ngcwethi's eyes and pushes her purse under the arm. “I'm not doing this again Ngcwethi good luck with everything.” She turns and leaves him standing in the passage. She doesn't look for her friends she rushes to the bathrooms in the taxi rank where she sinks on the toilet seat and lets tears flood out. She had forgotten about it. These feelings were buried why did he come back to her? How is her heart still loving this man after everything him and his brothers have done.
Ngcwethi drives home with the last drop of his strength. When his brothers hear the car driving in they all go out to meet him. The car parks in but he doesn't get out. A moment passes and Mndeni decides to go check on him.
He finds him with his head buried on the steering wheel and he knows that it didn't go well.
After knocking on the car window for more than 5 minutes he gives up and fetches Busikhaya. “What happened?” Busikhaya.
“He's not talking I don't know.”
It takes a while for him to open the car. He's holding all his wrist-bands yarns and iziphandla.
“Ngcwethi!!!” His brothers exclaim.
What he's doing is dangerous for him.
“I'm tired” he says faintly before he throws it all on the ground and heads to his house.
“He's going to die” Mndeni says frightened.
“Bafo do something” -Mnotho.
Busikhaya is still in disbelief. What has gotten into Ngcwethi's head? Whatever happens painful or not you don't turn your back on the elders especially if you're someone like Ngcwethi. When he gets inside Ngcwethi's bedroom to knock some sense into his head he's fast asleep on bed. He lets him be maybe sleeping will cool him down. He places his things next to his pillow and leaves.
It's getting late and Ngcwethi is still sleeping. MaMbonambi announces dinner and Mndeni goes to check on him.
There's no sign of Ngcwethi in the bedroom.
He checks the bathroom nothing. He goes outside the car is still parked where it was. Ngcwethi always tell him when he's going somewhere this is so unlike him.
On his way back inside Ngcwethi's house he stumbles on isiphandla lying on the doorstep. So Ngcwethi didn't put them back on? He picks it up. It's very old hard and dry. But when he places it on top of Ngcwethi's bed he notices that it has blood dropping from it.
An old goat skin! Where is the blood coming from? He looks carefully there's a crack and the blood is indeed coming from it.