KwaZulu-Natal, Eshowe, eHabeni village

It was a mundane Sunday. The midday sun was boiling, the temperature standing at 32°C. The air was humid. The headache of my Brutal Fruit-induced hangover was subsiding. (Even though the makers of the cider swear on their mother’s graves their beverage has no side effects such as bhabhalazi.)

Despite the heat, I couldn’t help but admire the scenery of Habeni village. I couldn’t help but fall in love again with the hills and valleys of the land of my birth. This village sat in perfect harmony with nature, perched on a grass-covered hill at the foot of the majestic mountain range called Mpehlela.

The residents told us that in summer this mountain is usually covered in mist in the mornings. Then, as the sun invades, the sheer beauty of the mountain, and then the village, comes into full view. Life in eHabeni village looked idyllic then … unlike the inner turmoil in my life.

My friend and I had decided to skip church on that day – Miracles of God International Church – to make a great trek to this place of wonders. We were there to ask the great inyanga, uGonodo, to intercede with our ancestors. We had been on the road using various modes of public transport since 5h45 in the morning.

We left our humble eZintombini informal settlement near Stanger, about 70 kilometres north of Durban, at the crack of dawn. (Legend has it that our area was referred to as Ezifebeni, meaning the ‘place of whores’ until after 1994! The new post-apartheid city council renamed it eZintombini – a thankfully more neutral name: ‘the girls’ place’.)

Our destination was Gonodo’s place, the House of Magic as it is affectionately known amongst loyal clients. The modest rural homestead is located on the steep hill near the KwaJombigazi forest, around which the Habeni village wraps itself. It’s this forest that provides the village its riches in African medicine.

It is known as a bountiful source for all great herbalists, izangoma, izinyanga, and witchdoctors. They come here to harvest traditional African medicine such as Velabahleka, and the sacred tree of uMlahlankosi.

We were anxious and sweating profusely. Our make-up had given up on us. Yet, our determination to see the great man was high.

News travels fast. We had heard through the grapevine that uGonodo had love potions for unmarried women like us. We were eager to break the spell over our respective families. Both our moms weren’t married. The absence of married women in our families was as incomprehensible to everyone around as the old colonial poll-tax had been!

But so rude and typical of me. I am rambling on without even introducing myself! My name is Simangele, pronounced S-m-a-n-g-e-le, meaning, ‘we are surprised’. Some of my friends call me Surprise. I don’t mind.

Yes, I was a surprise package. The story goes that my 40-year-old mom wasn’t expecting to be pregnant at that age. From the age of 16, she had already given birth six times, one child every two years, for 12 years. Oh, yes – with different men, of course. Some rude neighbours called us ‘the Choice Assorted’ biscuit family.

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Tell us: What do you think about a woman having many children with many different men? Is it acceptable today?