Soon they arrived at the caterer, Phumla. “I want the best traditional food, sisi, I am doing this for the queen of my life. Queen MaTshezi,” said Vuyo, explaining to Phumla.

“What kind of music does Makhulu like? I just want to go overboard a bit. I can tell that you love your granny a lot,” she said, winking at Anathi.

“Yho! The first time I met her, she already called me ‘makoti’! I love her to bits myself; she is the granny I never had,” Anathi said. She remembered how, recently, Makhulu Tshezi had given her a small basket filled with two dozen ‘proper eggs’ – as she referred to them – to take home.

“This is the real makoya, mntanami, the real deal. Not these fake eggs you buy from the shops where the egg-yolk is not even yellow. These machine eggs you buy! Arg! I will never put that in my mouth, ever!” Makhulu Tshezi had said.

“You see Phumla, if you could see my granny now, you would definitely fall in love with her. She is the most kind, beautiful person. She might be bent and unable to stand up straight anymore, depending on a walking stick, but she is still in good shape,” said Vuyo, beaming.

“Well, I’m excited to finally meet Makhulu Tshezi on the big day.”

“My granny still stays in her old thatched rondavel. The people from the village will need to be seated in a tent just in front,” explained Vuyo. Then he added, “And the music of course – it must be African jazz. Her favourite is Hugh Masekela. Plus, she loves this great guy from Zimbabwe, Oliver Mtukudzi.”

“Okay I got that. Your granny has good taste in music hey. Now you said on the menu there must be lamb stew, with samp and beans, chicken dumplings, traditional marhewu, and home-made ginger beer … oh and lots of roasted chicken.”

“One more thing, Phumla, make sure you have mielies on the cob, roasted on the coals outside. Makhulu loves that.”

“Phumla has said she can make a nice rondavel-shaped chocolate and vanilla cake. You see the chocolate will resemble the mud colour of Makhulu’s hut, then outside next to it we will have a few chickens pecking in the grass and some cows grazing nicely,” said Anathi. “Edible ones, made of coloured icing.”

“Oh wow! Makhulu will be so thrilled; she’ll love that. I can’t wait!” said Vuyo, beaming with joy.

“Let me call her and see if she needs anything in town, you know, things like cattle medication and chicken mash,” said Vuyo when they had finished at Phumla’s.

He phoned Makhulu, but the call was dropped.

“Why is she cutting me off now? I bet she pressed the wrong button. Let me call her again,” he said, laughing, dialling the number again. This time Makhulu got it right because Vuyo could hear her speaking at the top of her shrill voice on the other side.

“Heyi wena Vuyo mntanami, this phone sometimes has a problem. I cannot see the buttons clearly. Where are you? Are you coming home this week?”

“It’s not the phone Makhulu but your eyes! It’s your eyes that have a problem.”

“Aa! Suka! Thula wena,” Makhulu protested on the other side, laughing a little.

“Molo makhulu! Unjani? It’s your makoti this side,” shouted Anathi, close to the speaker.

“Hey wena Anathi, you can’t even cook me a pot of mfino! Did you like the eggs?”

“Yes Makhulu. Thank you very much. The eggs were delicious; I enjoyed them.”

“Did you taste that they were different from the fake machine eggs you buy from the shops?”

“Yes Makhulu, yours were the real ‘makoya’,” Anathi said, repeating what the old woman had said to her the day she gave her the eggs. They both laughed.

“Are you well though Makhulu? Is everything alright at home? Are the cattle fine? How is Mazomzi? Are the guys feeding her the powder I bought last time?” asked Vuyo.

“Arg, mntwan’omntwan’ami, so many questions. I am well. But my poor cow is not very well. I even prayed about that cow last night, Vuyo. That pains me my boy.” Makhulu Tshezi’s voice had changed to be rather sad and heavy.

“Don’t be upset Khulu. Mazomzi has given you beautiful cows, that have also given you lovely cows,” Vuyo tried to console her, but it was not easy.

“You will not understand Vuyo, phofu I don’t expect you to,” she replied, still feeling down.

Makhulu Tshezi loved that cow so much.

“So … so do you want me to get you an injection for her? Salt or vitamins? I can talk to the pharmacist in town. They have good stuff for cattle as well.”

“There will be no need for that my boy. Skhwehle injected the cow a few days ago, but this morning he came around to check on her, and he thinks her days are numbered. I am so worried my boy.”

“Oh I am sorry Tshezi wam. Does she drink water at least?”

“No, not at all. Mazomzi is not eating or drinking. She has been lying forlornly at the bottom end of the garden. All I could do was to make a temporary shelter for her because she can’t even move to the kraal. She is too weak, mntwan’omntwan’ami.”

“Well, I am sorry about that Khulu, but at least that cow has done her best. I respect her. Health wise are you okay though? Has Aunty Zoliswa came by to see you?”

“Your aunt said she will come on the weekend of my birthday.”

“We are going to celebrate in style, with a big party. The whole family are coming. I want to dance with you on that day. I want to make your day very special Khulu wam. I want to see you dancing that day, hey? You will do the tyityimba’ dance, right Khulu? Can you still shake your shoulders like you did when you were a young girl”?

Makhulu Tshezi burst out laughing on the other end of the call.

“Oh these dry bones of mine – do you think I can still move my shoulders, let alone my crooked hip! Sukudlala ngam wena!”

“It’s fine Khulu. You can just move your head, that’s all. I just want to see you happy.”

“There is a funeral in the neighbourhood, but I did not go because I was tending to Mazomzi and my leg has been a bit sore these days. I went there yesterday just to say prayers with the family.”

“Oh, are they not going to be cross with you now? You know village people.”

“Argh, I don’t care what they think! I have to take care of my health. By the way, you remember the death I told you about? That young man got stabbed while he was stealing someone’s car,” said Makhulu Tshezi.

“I know that boy. It’s still sad he had to die at such a young age.”

“I heard that they went to a traditional healer to sniff out who the witch was.”

“Why? What will the healer do now to make things better?”

“Yeah, very sad mntwan’omntwan’ami. But you know, if you make other people’s lives unhappy, your life will be cut short. Vuyo, the dogs are barking outside. I need to go and see what’s the matter,” she said, cutting the chat short.

“Okay Khulu, we will chat again later. I hope your leg gets better. Do you still have painkillers?”

“Yes. I still have those you bought that day. I don’t like using them often, though. I made myself a mhlonyane tea. They say it cures all diseases and pains. I prefer my herbal tea to those pills.”


Tell us: In South Africa some people firmly believe evil witches exist, and some equally firmly believe there is no such thing. What do you believe?