The revelations on Day 1 of former president Jacob Zuma’s appearance at the Zondo Inquiry - with its spy allegations and unqualified references to foreign intelligence agencies - was disturbing, to say the least.
In this theatre of politics, uBaba’s account of a conspiracy-saturated exile history was cast in the choreography of Indlamu, the Zulu war dance. My confrère and fellow Anglican, Geoff Mamputa, says there are different dances: “Pre-war, during a lull in fighting, when approaching the enemy etcetera.” It was also a signal of intent or, as some might say, a declaration of war on the part of Msholozi.
But it was the reference to the spies from the days of Struggle that preoccupied my thoughts. One’s past, it is said, is ever before you. Exhibit A, a kaalgat perske boom (some would know it as a nectarine or, a Sandy Bay peach) on the grounds of Valkenberg Lunatic Asylum.
This institution, housed in a bleak cluster of buildings, dates back to the late 19th century. It is situated on land previously owned by a Dutch farmer Cornelius Valk and was located on the southern end of Garden Village.
The area is also a significant site of pre-colonial resistance. It was from a Khoi settlement in the vicinity, the confluence of the Black and Liesbeeck rivers, that warriors set off to recover cattle and rescue children kidnapped by marines under the command of Francisco D’Almeida, the Portuguese Viceroy of India. The Viceroy and the 50 marines were killed in the ensuing skirmish.
One night in the summer school holidays of 1966, my nine-year-old self and two accomplices were settled on the branches of the peach tree feasting on its delicious bounty. We had successfully scaled the fence and found the tree without much difficulty.
While we were debating whether we should leave with some of the fruit, a woman’s shrill scream tumbled us out of our lip-tickling reverie. We fled. A security guard helped me up from the ground where I fallen and escorted me to a hole in the fence.
The word eventually and slowly seeped along the gossip-soaked morning glory hedges of the Village that taBakkies (moi) had been caught stealing peaches.
Ma Bessie, perhaps to protect the family’s good name, believed that I had been misled by older boys. Any suspect who ventured past her front gate were summoned with a “Hiert jy, ko hieso.” Right there, biesem and skoppie in hand, she would conduct her own, one-person inquiry. (There was no tea break on her watch). “Was djy saam met Mikey nourie aand byrrie malhuis boem?” Mama’s uncomplicated way of referring to Valkenburg Asylum.
The accused would give an account of their sins. On one occasion she received a vision of my alleged complicity in some petty misdemeanour. All these years I had believed that my Mama “was mettie helem gebore”, enabled as such by the ancestors to look deep into my dark soul.
The question, “Who piemped me?” puzzled me throughout my adolescent years and as I looked at my TV screen onto the Zondo Inquiry, uBaba’s face morphed into that of a confederate of my Ouma.
The face of Miesies Makondo (a reference to the sunnies she wore any day or night of any year or season) who had lived further up on Beatty Avenue - near St Athanasius before it burnt down for the first time - came into my line of vision. It all made sense as the silence of my past broke forth into the New Dawn truth: Aunty Athena Delareez Makondo, Garden Village apartheid spy. Or, are the Guptas a fiction of our imagination?
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.