“Heita da! Something smells right for the stomach,” Fezile hollers when he enters the house, dumping his school bag on the floor and ambling to the kitchen.

“Hello, my son,” Mrs Sibewu greets.

“Hello, my brother,” Khanyiswa greets.

“Oops! It’s Thursday Power Hours. Have mercy please – my mind is overworked!” Fezile says, grimacing at the thought of doing the ‘punishment’ dishes.

Laughing, Mrs Sibewu says, “Mercy dies when you father gets home, so warm up your tongue. Did your group make good progress today?”

“Oh, yes, Mother dear, how kind of you to ask,” he replies, bowing down low. “Bathan– I mean, Beloved, shared her study tricks with us and they’re really good – but not as good as what’s cooking. What’s for supper?”

“Bean and maize medley with lamb stew,” Mrs Sibewu answers.

“You are sneaky, Mama! That is Tata’s favourite meal; he will definitely slip up and say something in isiXhosa,” Fezile says laughing.

Mrs Sibewu chuckles. “I know.”

She’s adding the final touches to the meal when the silvery voice of Mr Sibewu greets them. “Molweni Mfazi wam othandekayo kunye nabantwana.”

“Hello, my husband,” Mrs Sibewu responds. “Are you hungry? I’ve made your favourite.”

“Hello, Father,” Fezile and Khanyiswa reply in near perfect harmony.

Khanyiswa runs over to her father and gives him a tight hug. “English,” she whispers.

“I’m ravenous,” Mr Sibewu says. Smiling down at Khanyiswa, he mouths his thanks for the reminder.

“Wash your hands, everyone, while I get the food,” Mrs Sibewu says, loaded with steaming dishes. “Khanyiswa, you forgot the glasses. Fezile, pick up your bag first, before someone trips over it.”

Supper time at the Sibewu house is always animated, with everyone wanting to share the experiences of their day – often at the same time. With their constant chatter they usually end up spending an hour or more at the dinner table.

“Nobody makes umngqusho like you, Lydia,” Mr Sibewu says, sighing contently. “Umnandi! I wish I had more space in my stomach.”

Mr Sibewu jerks his head up at the sudden stillness in the air. No talking, no forks or spoons clicking against plates – it’s alarmingly quiet to him.

“And then?” he asks. “Why have you all stopped talking?

Mrs Sibewu is looking down at her plate, giggling like a schoolgirl. Fezile’s smile stretches across his face, and Khanyiswa shakes her head – laughter dancing in her eyes.

“Oh!” Mr Sibewu says. “Well then, I’ve broken the rule and I accept my punishment. But Sithandwasam,” he says, looking at Mrs Sibewu, “I am clumsy with the dishes, so you should help me.”

Mrs Sibewu shakes her head and chuckles. “I always do anyway,” she says.


Tell us: The close Sibewu family illustrate the proverb: ‘A family that eats together stays together’. Do you think there is any truth in this?