KwaNongoma didn’t look that different from Ulundi. There was plenty of land and almost always two houses in every yard: the old one and the new one built by the recently successful child who didn’t forget about improving their home.

We approached a house that had at least 25 people in the front yard. People sat on benches beneath a big tree and by the wall of the new house. Grandma pushed open the small gate and we walked in. All my hopes that we weren’t going to see a sangoma went out the window.

I had a strong urge to ask Grandma why we were there, when we believed in God, but I knew that question wasn’t going to change anything.

“Good morning, my daughter,” Grandma said to a lady who sat alone in the middle of a bench under the tree.

“Good morning, Gogo,” said the lady. She shifted to open up space for us.

The new house in front of us was a brown, face bricked house with aluminium windows. It had two garages, a DStv satellite dish and an air conditioning box mounted on the wall. I wondered if that nice house was built by a child who had become successful and didn’t forget home. Or was it built with money from desperate people like grandma, and everyone else who was waiting to see the sangoma?

“I’m telling you Gogo, MaNgubane is the best sangoma in KZN. People come from all provinces and even other countries to see her,” the lady said to Grandma.

“You don’t say.” Grandma sounded impressed.

“I’m alive today because of MaNgubane. Doctors had told me I had only three months to live, but she healed me in two weeks. I still can’t believe it!”

“I’ve also heard a lot about her. People say she has the gift. They say she already knows your problems before you even tell her!” said Grandma.

“I tell you,” the lady crossed her index and middle finger and put it up for Grandma to see. “What’s boy-boy’s name?”

“Sbusiso,” I said.

The lady told me her name was Thando. Her face was young enough for me to guess that my mother would’ve been the same age if she hadn’t died, but she was dressed like Grandma. I had noticed that even in Ulundi people who went to sangomas, or believed in witchcraft strongly, never dressed fancy. I assumed that they intentionally looked poor to avoid being bewitched.

As Grandma and Thando continued talking I marvelled at the very short time people spent inside MaNgubane’s consulting room. It was the older house – a greenish rondavel with a rusted tin roof and a door so old that it would’ve surely given in to even a five-year-old’s kick.

As more people arrived and more left, we jumped from bench to bench until it was nearly our turn.


Tell us: Sbu seems critical of the sangoma having a nice house, due to people’s ‘desperation’. Are you? Or does MaNgubane deserve it just like a medical doctor does?