Everything was planned. Makhulu was in good strength again, and up and about. The party would be on the Saturday and everyone was excited. The whole village would come to celebrate her birthday – and her almost miraculous survival.

And then the news came, announced by the President. Vuyo and Anathi knew about the dreaded coronavirus but they thought it would never start to spread like this – so fast. They watched the announcement on television and Makhulu listened at her new home. From midnight March 26th the whole nation would go into lockdown – one day before Makhulu’s birthday party!

“Kuyagwetywa! Indeed, doomsday is around the corner,” Makhulu Tshezi said when she heard about it.

The next day she walked down to where her new rondavel was being built, and to check on the new beautiful, young, black-and-white Nguni cow that Vuyo had bought her, and that was roaming in her field.

She could not hold tears from her eyes as she looked at the gorgeous beauty with a silky-smooth hide, magnificent horns, and big, black, glossy eyes that reminded her of her precious Mazomzi. When she had seen it for the first time, she had ululated at the top of her shrill voice till the neighbours came around and admired the young cow.

Halalal! Halalala! Now this one will be called Nomnyamazana, the little black one.”

Every day Makhulu Tshezi would walk down to watch Nomnyamazana grazing gracefully on the green grass around her yard. Now she wondered if she would be allowed out to visit her cow since they had been ordered to stay at home.

Vuyo and Anathi felt crushed. How could this happen a day before the party? The command had to be kept strictly: people were to stay at home. Schools were closed. No visiting anyone.

When Vuyo called Makhulu on the new smart phone they had given her so that she could stay in touch, he was almost in tears, but there was no alternative. The party had to be cancelled. All the preparations had to be halted. He also had to call the place he had booked for his granny in Namibia and cancel the bookings there too.

“We can take Khulu to Namibia in the summer, in December,” suggested Anathi. I will look out for specials. Maybe by then the country will be over this pandemic?”

“Maybe. And we can celebrate outdoors in the sunshine when this virus has gone and Makhulu’s rondavel is rebuilt,” said Vuyo hopefully.

Vuyo called his uncles about the idea of moving the actual party date to December, just before Christmas, when everyone was home and in the mood to celebrate. Then he sent a WhatsApp to Makhulu on her new smart phone, to tell her their plan.

“Oh these children can be naughty at times. How do Vuyo and Anathi think I will be able to use this big phone?” Makhulu Tshezi said as she heard the ping and tried to find the WhatsApp icon on her screen.

“You have to swipe, Khulu,” Richard reminded her. He laughed every time he was, once again, showing Makhulu Tshezi how to use the smart phone.

“I want to send Vuyo and Anathi pictures of Nomnyamazana,” she told Richard. “It might be a while until I see her again, if I’m not allowed out.”

Richard had shown her how to use the phone camera and she had taken pictures of her precious cow. He winked at his wife as he showed Makhulu how to select the fuzzy pictures she had taken – the phone was too quick for her shaking, stiff fingers, she had told them. In some pictures she managed to capture only the front legs of Nomnyamazana, for others only the side of her face.

Makhulu selected the pictures she wanted and pressed SEND.

When Vuyo got the pictures he laughed so much. He was happy that Makhulu Tshezi was back to her old self, and for the first time he looked up and said a little prayer of thanks.

He smiled as he looked at the fuzzy selfie that Makhulu Tshezi had sent him, and said aloud: “Please God, give my Queen good health. Save her from this corona. I love her. I love her so much. I really need to hold this party for her in December. She has been too good to me. Please Lord.”


Tell us: What do you think holds this family together so closely?