Three hours later, the cocks were already crowing for the fourth time, which meant it was dawn. Most people had gone back to their homes with their jaws hanging. They could not believe what they had just witnessed.
Some were whispering amongst themselves that Makhulu Tshezi could not have made it; she must have died in the fire. “I saw her head burning,” said one, lying through her teeth.
“Really? I wonder what the cause of the fire was.”
Then another said, in a hushed whisper: “I heard something.”
Before speaking, the first woman she looked around. “She was sniffed out by a healer! But don’t tell anyone that I said that.”
“What? Sniffed out to be a witch? Really?”
“Yes! She is said to be the witch who killed the young man who just died. That boy called Mandindi.”
“That boy was stabbed while stealing a car! What had that to do with MaTshezi?” retorted another woman, furious.
“We will never know, mfazi. That is what I heard.”
“Who went to the healer? And who is that healer by the way?” asked another woman, curious, as they walked away.
“Mandindi, that car-thief! Was he bewitched when he started stealing people’s cars? Everyone in this village knows that Mandindi was the meanest thief you have ever seen.”
“Yes. His family, mostly his brothers, went to hear from the ‘wise man’ because they could not accept that he died a natural or expected death. They suspect foul play, something supernatural,” the woman tried to explain.
This was normal in this village, that is, to go to a healer to find out if the death of a loved one was natural or expected, or not.
“Yhooo!” shouted Magaba, clapping her hands in dismay. “So we, us older women, are at risk these days? I am scared. Where are we going to live?”
“Are you a witch? If you are not a witch, you have nothing to be scared of.”
“Do you suspect that she was a witch? Is that what you are saying, Rosy? How can you be so cruel?”
“Well, I cannot say she was or she wasn’t, but something is fishy about that woman. You see how everything she does just prospers out of the blue? Her chickens did not die when all our chickens were dying last month from the chicken flu? She continued selling eggs, earning money, while we watched? Huh? How does she do that?” answered Rosy, walking away, leaving the distraught elderly women looking at each other.
“I pray that she survives. Dear God help her.”
These women were sad, but confused, as they walked back to their homes.
The fire had finally been extinguished but the once beautiful and decorated rondavel of Makhulu Tshezi stood in ruins. The walls were covered with ash and black charcoal marks. The whole roof was now a pile of ash inside the walls of the hut. Her new bed, her beautiful frilled curtains, were burned into thin sticks of black sticky substance.
Even her old wooden kist, that she treasured more than anything else, had burned to ashes – together with all that money she was hiding in it, waiting for Vuyo to come and take to the bank. Her pots, dishes and cups – almost everything inside the hut – was covered in black, sticky ash. The smell of hot ash still filled the air.
Skhwehle meanwhile, was determined to find out who did this terrible thing. All leads were pointing to the brothers of the recently deceased young man, Mandindi. The police and all the men of the village were on their tracks.
Tell us: What does this story show about spreading rumours?