It’s midday on a scorching day. The neighbours are standing around, stunned, in the yard of the Mkhize home. They look on as Nomvelo screams and shakes uncontrollably. She screams incoherent words that no one in the yard can understand.

Nomvelo shouts and stands up. Everyone can see Nomvelo’s face but the look on it is something they cannot describe: it’s as if her eyes have become soulless. The men have formed a barrier by the gate because Nomvelo is sprinting towards it. She gets to the gate and tries to break through the barrier, but the men grab hold of her. She tries to break free.

“I wonder what has got into my daughter?” MaNgubane laments.

“You have to take her to a traditional healer as soon as possible,” says one of the neighbours, MaNgema.

“But how will I take her when she is in this state? If it takes so many men to subdue her, how will I fare, being an old woman? She’ll break free and go wherever this thing that has got into her wants her to go.”

“Let me get my son to take you in his car,” says MaNgema. She runs out of the gate and comes back quickly with her son.

It takes great effort from the men to tie Nomvelo’s hands and feet with rope. She struggles and wriggles and screams. She sweats and rumbles words that don’t make any sense. It takes several attempts for the men to lift her into the back seat of the car.

Nomvelo calms down on the long drive to Msinga, but she is weak. They are going to Msinga to see a traditional healer of great renown called Ndlovu. They travel until they reach a rural part of Msinga.

Ndlovu’s home is a compound made of many rondavels. He takes one look at Nomvelo’s weak state and instructs them that she needs to jump the queue to be attended to quickly. He prepares a powder muthi that Nomvelo licks, and a mixture that she drinks. Ndlovu takes Nomvelo and MaNgubane to another rondavel.

“Wait here. The child will be better in an hour,” says Ndlovu.

MaNgubane cuddles Nomvelo in her arms and watches over her. She watches her daughter regain her strength and slowly return to the Nomvelo she knows. Ndlovu returns after an hour to find Nomvelo is feeling better.

“What is wrong with my child?” asks MaNgubane.

“Your child has the calling to be a sangoma, Mama. She has to start her initiation as soon as possible, otherwise your ancestors will take her to be with them,” says Ndlovu.

Ndlovu looks at Nomvelo with parental sincerity. MaNgubane can see he is really concerned about Nomvelo’s well-being.

“Oh my God! You mean the ancestors want her. You mean she will…” MaNgubane cannot bear the thought of finishing her sentence.

“Yes, Mama. She will die unless she accepts her calling. This is a serious matter. You can even leave her here with me today so we can start the process. Your ancestors have chosen me to handle her initiation to be a sangoma,” says Ndlovu.

Nomvelo has been quiet and at peace until Ndlovu gets to the part where he says she should stay with him. “What? So I’m not going back home?” She sits up, her eyes wide open.

“That’s correct, my child,” says Ndlovu.

“Can I please go back home so I can fetch my clothes and everything else I need? I will come back on Monday. It’s just a few more days. I don’t think anything bad will happen, because my ancestors know I have accepted the calling,” says Nomvelo.

“That is fine, my child. I will see you on Monday,” says Ndlovu

Nomvelo throws herself on the bed and wails as soon as she gets home. In her mind she sees the future she had planned disappearing into thin air.

“Don’t cry so much, Mvelo. I’ll visit you whenever I get the chance,” MaNgubane sniffles as she rubs NoMvelo’s back.

“I don’t want to be a sangoma, Mama! I don’t want to do this!”

“I know this is not what you want, my child, but this is the path the ancestors want you to take. This is what they have chosen for you. It’s also not easy for me to be apart from you.”

“I’m scared, Mama.”

“Don’t be scared, my child. Try to be strong. It’s time you grow up now.”

“Thank you for your support, Mama.”

Nomvelo is alone in her room. Her eyes fill with tears when she thinks about Sakhile. She doesn’t know where to begin to explain to him about her calling. She doesn’t know how he will take it when she tells him she has to go away for her initiation to be a sangoma. Her pillow is damp with tears. She has a splitting headache. Her eyes are swollen from crying too long. Her friend, Zama, appears on the door of her rondavel.

“Hello, Mvelo girl,” says Zama, sitting next to her on the bed.

Nomvelo doesn’t answer, she wails harder than before.

“Why are you crying, Mvelo? What’s wrong?”

“It’s hard. It’s hard, my friend. It’s…” Nomvelo runs out of words.

“Nomvelo, you are scaring me. Tell me what is going on,” Zama pleads.

“I have to leave home,” Nomvelo wipes her tears.

“Leave home? Where are you going?”

“I have to go to Msinga for my initiation to be a sangoma.”


“Yes, Zama. It has been discovered that I have not been well all this time because I have the calling to be a sangoma. So on Monday I am leaving to go to Msinga so I can start my initiation. Tomorrow is my last day here in Eshowe. I’ll come back after I have finished the whole process. When I come back I’ll be a sangoma.”

“I’m sorry, my friend. Please don’t cry.”

“How will I tell Sakhile about this dilemma? Where will I even begin?”

“If he really loves you he has to let you go because this is your calling.”

“How will I live without him, Zama?”

“You will live, Mvelo. It will be tough in the beginning, but you will get used to it. I know you, Mvelo. You are very strong and intelligent. You can handle anything.”

Tell us: There is a saying, “If you love somebody, let them go. They will come back to you if they love you. And if they don’t come back, they never loved you. Do you agree with this saying? Why or why not?