“Khaye, Khaye! Wake up or we will be late,” my mother woke me up. I rolled over to check the time, it was four in the morning. I got up and limped to the window and opened the cushion, it’s still dark. I have been suffering from very strange illness. The doctors say it’s a foot drop but what is a foot drop? I had never heard of it. In fact, nobody in the whole village has seen someone who suffered from it before. Everybody believed it was witchcraft.
Today my mom has organised for me to go to a powerful traditional healer She had asked a neighbour who owned a car to take us there. Everybody praised his work and I was happy my mom had been able to save up enough money to take me there. Finally, my life was going to be normal again. I was going to go back to school and do other things that teenage boys did.
“We have to hurry” my mother said entering the room with a bath-dish with water.
Thirty minutes later the car arrived, I limped into the car holding on my mom to prevent falling like a little child learning to walk. We entered the car, the neighbour was inside and Sipho was on the driver’s seat. The neighbour was a very talkative woman. She was big and light in complexion. Sipho was a few years older than me. He was the neighbour’s older sister son. We used to be in the same class at primary school but we went to different high schools. My mom and the neighbour were the ones talking. She then asked me how I was doing even though it was clear. I was offended by her question and responded with a polite “I’m fine”.
Sipho seemed like a good driver to me, but I doubt he had a drivers licence. The neighbour then told us a story about how the powerful man helped her husband when he was ill. She had a lot of good things to say about this man. She is the one who recommended him to my mother. The dark was slowly fading away and we could see outside through the window. It was quiet on the road except the farm workers who were waiting for the truck. Even those who didn’t own watches knew it was five when they heard the bus sound.
We would hear them calling one another when they hear the truck coming. They would laugh so loud. They always seemed very happy and had no worries. They were content with what they had.
I wondered if I would ever feel like that again. I stared outside the window, looking at the mist rising from the hills of Maphumulo. Sipho was quiet and it seemed like something was bothering him, maybe it’s because he had to wake up early to drive us to Zululand. When we arrived we had to leave the car on the side of the road and walk because the healer’s house was up in the hill. My mother helped me again as
I tried to climb the hill, taking breaks along the way. There were top of the range cars on the roadside. It was clear the owners were also visiting the healer. Eventually, we got there. There was a queue leading to a small hut. We went to take our seats. There were all kinds of people, from old age to young kids. They all came to get help. There were also rich people judging from the expensive clothes they wore.
“They could be business people or politicians,” said a woman sitting on a mat eating from a big bowl.
“Did you bring something to eat?” she asked my mom.
“No,” my mother replied.
“You should have, it’s going to be a long day. You might not even be able to consult today” she said. She was talking with her mouth full. She had a swollen arm. It was shiny and looked like it was about to burst pus.
“The last time I was here I had to sleep over,” she continued.
“The next day I still had to wait for hours, can you imagine,”
“So where did you sleep,” my mother asked her.
“You see that rondavel over there,” she said pointing at a rondavel that looked like it was going to collapse anytime.
“If you are lucky you may find a space to sleep there but when it gets full the rest sleep right here” she said taking a sip of water in a two litre container.
“Right here?” my mom surprised
“Yes, and we slept very peacefully knowing that we were in the home of a powerful man, no evil thing could happen to you while you are here, you see this” pointing at her swollen arm.
“This is nothing to him; he will fix it so quick. People who are bedridden, blind, people with marriage problems, financial problems he has helped everyone” she said it so proudly. It was clear she had a lot of respect for this man.
“He is a powerful man indeed,” said another woman who had been sitting quietly breastfeeding a child.
“My husband and I had tried for years to get a child but I could not fall pregnant. I went to different healers but nothing happened. After many years of sadness and insults from family and the community, I heard about him and just after two months I fell pregnant. Now I’m the happiest woman in the world,” she said while tickling the child cheeks.
“He never disappoints” seconded the big woman
“So why are you here, is the child ill?” she asked.
“No, I came come to thank the healer for changing my life,”
People were coming in numbers, you would swear there was a community gathering or something.
“We made the right choice by coming here early,” my mom said to me. I didn’t respond, I was thinking about what the healer was going to say about my illness. Whether I would be able to accept it or not. The queue was moving forward fast and we were getting closer and closer. I had heard about the how consulting a traditional healer can reveal things that are hard to accept.
Things that would shock you and change the way you see the world and people around you. They reveal the true colours of the people close to you and people you trust.
“Don’t worry, your son is going to be fine,” the big women said.
“You have come to the real healer,”
Two hours passed, I was hungry and thirsty. I asked the big women for water and drank as much as I could. If I had a choice I wouldn’t have drank her water as I had seen her drinking from the bottle. Looking at her pus-filled arm only made things worse. There was only one person ahead of us now, the time had come. I become scared, I have heard how traditional healers can read your mind.
I didn’t want to think of anything bad about him. The big women went in and few minutes she came out with herbs in a plastic bag. It was time, my mom rose up and helped me get up. I held on to her and we went inside the hut.
There were about four burning candles and herbs lay on papers. There was a small hole on the wall which acted as a window. He was sitting on a mat. He was nothing like I had imagined him to be like. I had pictured him to be this very dark big old man with a big belly. He was slim, light in complexion and barely looked like he was over 40. We sat down on the mat. My mom greeted him and he replied. He took two candles and gave them to me. I have heard this helps to connect with your spirit.
He took the candles and lit them and cemented them on the floor. He then gave me something and told me to blow in it. I did so. He then threw something down and it scattered on the mat. It looked like bones and it had different shapes and sizes. He started calling on his ancestors and he sat quietly like he was listening to something. He looked at my mom and said
“What if I told your son has only few days left to live” my mom was shattered, she did not respond but I could see the pain I her eyes. On the other side I didn’t know how to feel, a part of me was scared and another disappointed. How can life be so cruel? What did I do to deserve this?
“You made the right choice by bringing him here, should you have waited it would be different story,” he said looking at the scattered bones.
“Your son has been bewitched with a very strong muti but we will beat this,”
“This evil thing has blocked the veins in his leg and that’s why he cannot walk. Blood cannot flow properly to his feet. This thing has also made him very weak,” he took a pause for a moment. It was tense. He continued.
“There is also something in his stomach, if it goes up to his head he will die” My mom started crying. I sat there like I was a statue, with no movement at all. He was not taking about me, I told myself. I had heard how people can feel it when they are about to die and I didn’t feel anything.
“Oh my God,” my mom said in that moment of terror.
“Don’t worry sister, we will beat this thing, in fact it is already beaten,” he said confidently.
“I’m going to give you something very strong,”
He gave us some herbs, all with different instructions. There was one for enema which I had to use four times a week, one for ukugabha (forced vomiting to get rid of illness) which I had to use every day. Another was for steaming, which I also had to use every day. Another for drinking and two sharp porcupine quills for acupuncture. My mom asked if she should pay and he put the money on the floor as it is the healer’s tradition.
We went home and my mother did as the healer had instructed. After weeks of enema, steaming and gasping nothing changed. After I have lost so much blood from acupuncture. We told them what the healer had said, that if I had not consulted him in time, I would have died. I am still alive and it all because of this powerful man. That’s what everybody was saying. He had saved me from death. I was not convinced. I was still in the same condition I was before consulting him. I wondered if I was really going to die or saying these terrifying things were part of his tactics to convince people he was powerful. I wondered how many people felt the way I did.