It’s true I have been a poephol in the past. But that was behind me. I now knew more. I was wiser. So when I got to the toll booth at Marianhill and reached for my bag on the front seat next to me I thought it must have slipped off. I pulled over. And I searched. And searched again.
So now my recent past flashed before my very eyes. I had parked my sleek white Ranger 4X2 3litre diesel – turbodiesel actually – bakkie on the pavement outside the old man’s place and left my bag on the front seat. I now remembered thinking I shouldn’t really do that but it’s fine and I won’t be long. After that I had driven to Azania to visit Mom, also parking outside on the pavement. The bag may or may not still have been next to me – I don’t know. I didn’t need my wallet, ID card, drivers licence or credit cards to visit my folks. Nor did I need my Petzl head torch or my new tiny Canon camera.
Nor . . MY ZEISS BINNIES!! Oh shit! NOW this was a disaster! The other stuff I could do without, but I cannot live without my binoculars! DAMN!!
It’s three days later. I’ve been to the traffic department. The lady fetched me out of the queue and took me to the front along with some old people. I think it had to do with handsomeness. Tomorrow I go to Home Affairs. The bank is sending new cards. Insurance has emailed me – they’ll pay R20k towards new binocs. This is almost behind me again. I now know more. I am wiser.
Oh, and at the toll? One of the guys who works there said can you send me ewallet? I said Good Idea! Instead of a huge backtracking detour he paid R12 for me and I sent R50 to his ewallet. Win-Win.
Harrismith had the biggest influx of people in its history recently. Well, that would be my guess. I don’t think even the Rhino Rally ever brought in THIS amount of people! I mean those rowwe hard-drinking okes fit a maximum of two people on their vehicles . .
. . . whereas I would guess the teetotal Shembes are unlikely to put less than sixty people in a sixty-seater bus? And there were LOTS of those buses in town. The view is the eastern side of town with the mountain behind you.
In a way they were coming home: The founder of the Shembe church, Isaiah Mloyiswa Mdliwamafa Shembe, was born in 1865 at Ntabamhlophe outside Estcourt in the Drakensberg region of Natal. When he was very young his family fled from Shaka during the Mfecane period to the Harrismith district of the Orange Free State, ending up there as tenants on a farm of ‘an Afrikaner family named the Graabes.’
Then the stories start: Like many other people of Harrismith he absorbed the local spirits; and like many ‘prophets’ before him, young Shembe ‘died and was resurrected at the age of three when relatives sacrificed a bull before his body could be interred’; He was ‘visited by God on many occasions’; He was ‘taught how to pray by God himself’; When he was told to ‘find a place to pray to God’, he tried the Wesleyan Church that was nearby. However they were not right for him: they didn’t know how to baptise properly. Then came the Boer War and, abandoning his wives, he spent some time on the Rand. He joined a Baptist church there. After he returned to Harrismith the leader of his new church came to his place in 1906 to baptise Shembe. Proper baptism under water, not just a drop of water on your forehead, Methodists!
Shembe went to Natal and started accumulating followers. He would send them ahead to new areas to pronounce him as a ‘Man of Heaven.’ As his success and number of followers grew, so did his power. What you ate, what you thought, what you wore, what you did, how men were to rule over their women, was all prescribed by the great man. A lot of what you had to do happened to make him rich. Hey! Coincidence! The legend grew. Shembe must have been highly intelligent and astute, as he told vivid parables, and showed uncanny insights into people’s thoughts. He also did the dramatic healing trick. He composed music, writing many moving hymns; he had his sermons reduced to writing and they became scripture, and he provided his followers with a rich liturgical tradition based on modified forms of traditional Zulu dancing.
The Shembe Bible is known as the Book of the Birth of the Prophet Shembe. Their writings say ‘On March 10, 1910; It was the arrival of the Prophet Isaiah Shembe at KwaZulu Natal (Durban) from Ntabazwe (Free State), as he was instructed by the Word of God to do so. The Word of God told Shembe that they will meet at KZN (KwaZulu Natal).
In the 1930s Shembe commissioned his friend and neighbour, the renowned John Dube, to write his biography. The book uShembe, appeared shortly after his death, and contains much of the essential Shembe lore and hagiography, but Dube was an ordained minister and not a Nazarite, so he does not only present Shembe in flattering terms: his bona fides as a prophet are questioned, and his undoubted skill at extracting money from his membership is highlighted. Shembe’s son and heir, Shembe II, Galilee Shembe forbade his followers to read the book. In it, Dube alleged that Shembe was in fact overtaxing rentals, that he was conducting baptism for payment – part of his fundraising for the church – that he was extorting money from members as he payed lobola for young girls whom he married, and that he was corrupt and exploitative Tch! Just what an ambitious prophet / saviour / manifestation of God doesn’t need: an honest biographer!
A factor of the huge success of African Independent Churches like the amaNazaretha has been their emphasis on ‘Africa for Africans’. This rationale, explicitly verbalised or implicitly assumed, has been the main cause for the break-away from the mainline or mission churches. History shows that this initial discontent has continued to plague these church formations after self-governance and independence. Money and power corrupts, and they have splintered into many different internal groups and factions. Succession wrangles in the Shembe Nazaretha Baptist Church have given birth to the current seven factions, six of them headed by Shembe family members. Various battles have raged since 1935 when the original Shembe, Isaiah, died. The latest succession struggle started in 2011.
So who decides who is divinely anointed to lead the church? Not a God . . not a king . . not a council of elders . . not a national democratic government – No! A judge of the courts. Like, Step aside, this is not a small matter! I have brought my lawyers! The prize is reportedly worth many millions.
So who went to Harrismith? Which faction? Don’t know . . we’d have to ask an insider. I just hope they didn’t ascend the mountain. Fragile Platberg does not need 6000 humans on it.
hagiography – biography of exaggerated, uncritical praise, usually of a religious person; I had to look that up;
Such a pleasure to meet weirdos who prove I’m normal. Friends Petrea and Louis – speaking of weirdos – cracked me an invite to an early morning visit to Bill Oddie’s house in David Maclean Drive to spot some twinspots. To do some twin spotting.
Actually Roger and Linda Hogg’s home – what a beautiful garden! I didn’t take a picture, damn!
Now, looking at birds is normal, of course, as is drinking good coffee. Here are some of Roger’s bird pics. No, I’ll show you the weird part later. His daughters must die of embarrassment. I now can prove to my kids how normal I am.
Here’s the part that pleased me:
Here’s the real Bill Oddie, a crazy Pom. I got to know about him when Aitch bought me his ‘Little Black Bird Book’ cos she agreed with his assessment: ‘Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting, boorish, pedantic, unsentimental, arrogant and – above all – envious’.
And here’s an embarrassing discovery: I’ve seen lots of twinspots, but I thought this one in Roger’s garden was a first for Westville. When I went to add them to my life list, I saw that I’d twin-spotted twinspots in my own garden! In 1999 at 7 River Drive!
Petrea’s response was sharp, as always: ‘How wonderful to suffer from Sometimers. Every bird is a lifer! And anyway, ‘normal’ is a setting on a dryer.’
British birding – we should realise how lucky we are!
Tonight I was parked right outside the entrance to the Playhouse theatre in downtown Durban, opposite the City Hall, waiting to fetch Jess and Fatima after the show Shall We Dance? when out of the corner of my eye I saw cars taking big evasive action. A bakkie zoomed from the far-side lane at breakneck speed right across towards my side of the road and smashed into the little silver car parked right in front of me. BANG! People standing under the No Stopping sign scattered, leaping every-which-way.
Silence. Then much Hey! Hey! and running. I couldn’t see, too many people, but ‘my’ carguard told me the driver had made a run for it and citizens had chased after him. I though Uh Oh! and phoned 10111. Listen, you’d better send your people here pronto. I’m afraid the citizens may rough up the perpetrator, I said to the operator. I’ll send the police there right away, she said.
To their credit, the Playhouse security people stepped in and took the perp, who my informant confidently assured me was inebriated, marched him back to his car and put him back in the drivers seat to safely await the cops.
Two tow trucks arrived. An ambulance arrived and took the driver into their vehicle. The cops arrived and took over. The middle-aged couple who were sitting in the little silver car when it was hit – and like me had been waiting to fetch concert-goers after the show – were amazingly calm. They took photos and told their story, filled in forms, no panic, even though their car was badly damaged.
In the whole pantomime there were only two poephols – the drunk driver and a prick in a Merc SUV who drove up and hooted for the ambulance, the tow trucks and the crashed cars to magically get out of his way, he was important. A family member (I assume – probably a son) who had arrived to join the ‘victim’ couple went up to him, gave him a withering look and waved him around the scene.
When the dust had settled I finally thought of taking a picture. Then the girls arrived at last – they’d been waiting to have their pics taken with stars from the show! – and hopped in. As I was leaving my man came and spoke to me firmly: Mkhulu, my parking fee is R20; I looked after you well and I have to feed my family. I agreed with him, borrowed R20 from Fatima and paid him! He was chuffed and stopped traffic in the main street – old Smith Street – to let me out!
THRUSH Poetry Journal considers thrush songs to be among the most beautiful birdsong in the world. ‘We love that, and that is how we feel about poems,’ they say.
Thomas Hardy was feeling bleak when:
At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead In a full-hearted evensong Of joy illimited; An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, In blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around, That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.
So my thrush has been calling just after dark and just before light for months but not once did he let me see him. But now I got him. He was way higher up than I’d been looking:
I’m still puzzled how he doesn’t show himself here! I used to see them regularly at River Drive.
Now he’s everywhere! I’ve seen him every morning since. I got footage. Excuse the discordant background noise. That’s son Tommy coming up to give me a hug while I was filming!
Thanks to xeno-canto.org for the top recording of Turdus libonyana, the Kurrichane Thrush – – – – xeno-canto: ‘sharing birdsounds from around the world’ – what a lovely thing to do!
For some unknown reason, Bruce thinks I know things, so he sends me stuff. Which I really enjoy! What’s this? he often asks. This was a moth on his car in Mbona, an ‘eco estate’ in the KwaZulu Natal midlands.
Of course, I immediately knew – after asking Roy Goff of African Moths. He identified it as Pingasa abyssinaria – ‘a regular from that end of the continent. It has an unusual resting posture which often makes people notice it.’
Common name: Duster. Bruce’s picture (shown) is better than any of the pictures I could find on moth websites – not bad! Maybe we can call it The Mbona Duster? Thank you to African Moths and Christeen Grant’s magic Midlands nature blog for info and the use of their pictures temporarily.
Judging by the beautifully fringed trailing edge of its wings, I’d guess it flies very quietly – the better to dodge bats and nightjars and other predators.