The sound of crackling flames was on her very own thatched roof – the one she had hired an expert in thatching to sew in nicely, just the way it was done in her younger days!
She tiptoed to the window, still hazy, confused, not getting what was really happening. The voices were louder, rapid and very angry.
“Today is your day! You witch! Our brother will be the last one you kill. Today is your day!”
They were even swearing, likening her to a princess of darkness, close to Satan himself. But why?
Already sweating, she tried to scream for help.
“Yhooooooo! Yizani! Help! Help. Baphin’abantuuuuuuu!”
The smoke and flame, driven by the cool breeze of that night, was rapidly ravaging the thatch and starting to filter inside. She could hear the frightening sound made by the angry flames as they devoured her beautiful roof … She screamed and screamed.
She heard new voices approaching. Obviously neighbours could now see the flames engulfing her hut. As she checked first on the small table and then by the bedside lamp for the key, she was bumping into things, her eyes blinded by the smoke. Tears and mucus streamed down her face. Her entire, frail body was shaking uncontrollably now and she started coughing terribly.
She heard someone shouting outside… no not one … a few people were calling for help. She could no longer hear the chanting voices accusing her of being a witch. Maybe they had run away when they saw neighbours coming and calling for help.
“Dear God … help me … Nkulunkulu. Somandla! Sozimfefe! My almighty God help me. Ndincede Thixo, andenzanga nto.” She managed to switch on the lights, at the same time stepping on the bunch of keys – she must have bumped them off when she had gone to look at what the dogs were barking at. “I got them. I found them.”
“Yizani bethuna! Come people! Help me! Why do I have to die like this!”
She managed to open the wooden door and a gush of hot air blew her backwards, in. The flames were blazing angrily and black, thick smoke from the flaming car tyres knocked her down. She gasped and choked. She struggled to stand up again, and crawled towards the far window, but this one also had huge iron bars on the inside.
These bars were put in by Vuyo, to protect her from intruders and thieves. Now they were barring her from getting out – how awful! She cried bitterly, she could feel her strength leaving her body, she felt hopeless. She was staring death in the face.
Then she thought about Mazomzi. What a coincidence. Was she really going to die the same night her beloved cow had died? The day her brave, loyal dogs were mercilessly gunned down – for nothing?!
Lying down on the cold floor struggling to breathe, she thought about Vuyo. Oh Vuyo, the apple of her eye.
“Oh Vuyo mntan’omnwtan’ami! Vuyoooo! I cannot die. Noooo! I have to see you my boy. I cannot die now. Noooo,” she sobbed.
Thinking about her grandchild gave her momentum to try and reach the door once more; she held the big security gate key in her hand. Coughing and struggling to see, she managed to reach the gate but now the fire and smoke overpowered her. She collapsed, gasping for air, trying to breathe – but there was no clean air, just deadly smoke.
The burning grass from the roof started to fall down, into the hut, bit by bit.
Through her suffering Makhulu Tshezi heard the voices of the people from the village coming closer and closer. Soon they were frantically trying to douse the flames with water from her big green JoJo tank.
“Hey guys, what is happening? Where is Makhulu Tshezi?!” This voice sounded anxious.
“We don’t know! We saw the dogs lying there. They both have been shot!” shouted one man as he threw a bucket of water at the flaming roof.
“I saw two young men running down when I was coming here,” said another.
“Yes, I saw them too. I think I should chase after them!” Saying that the man ran in their direction. The clouds had parted and the moon provided enough light for him to follow the path.
“Oh my God! There she is!” That was Skhwehle screaming: the young man hired by Vuyo to look after his grandmother, and to help her tend her livestock. The fire had burned through the old wooden door, but the security door blocked them.
“Makhulu! Makhulu! Makhulu Tshezi! Do you hear me? Here! Here man, throw the water there. I want to try and break my way inside. Throw the water there. The roof is about to fall in!”
“No! Don’t go inside. It is too dangerous,” shouted some people, looking fearfully at the blazing flames.
“Yes, I have to go in and save her. We can’t let her die! No!”
The man threw another bucket of water onto the roof, while others used poles to try to push away the burning tyres.
“Who did this terrible thing?” asked one old man, standing afar. He was too old to even help; he was leaning on his walking stick, still wearing his long gown.
“We saw a group of boys running away, wearing black balaclavas,” said one of them.
“One of them is tall, hey? I know them,” said one young man. It seemed that he knew more than he was letting on.
“Who are they? Do you know? Call the police! This is inhumane,” said the old man, furious. But the young man ran with the bucket of water to the other side of the hut as the flames were not dying.
“Oh my God – there she is!” said one of them, pointing through the window at the motionless body of the old woman. Blood was oozing slowly out of her nose, across her cheek and lips. A beam from the roof had crashed down onto her head.
“Look – the key is in the lock of the security door bhuti Skhwehle! Open that damn burglar door and take her out!” shouted one of the men.
Tell us: What should the villagers do now?