How holy water revealed the 'evil' under my grandfather's roof
Author, blogger and communications manager Khaya Dlanga shares an excerpt from his book, 'These Things Really Do Happen to Me' (Pan Macmillan SA, R180):
Every night before going to bed, my grandfather would use one of those reed brooms to sprinkle holy water all over our home while he prayed. The holy water was kept in a 25l plastic bucket and had been prayed for by some allegedly holy person. There was a bit of aloe in the water too. This was a ritual we performed every night after eating dinner, feeding the dogs, and listening to the radio drama by candlelight.
We had several stand-alone houses. There was the rondavel, which was the kitchen (where we cooked with firewood); then the main house, which had the main bedroom, lounge, dining room, guest bedroom and the main kitchen (this one had the wood stove); then there were also three other stand-alone houses.
My male cousins and I would walk behind my grandfather as he went from house to house, splashing the holy water. Walking behind him was just the smart thing to do. As much as we might have all wanted the Lord's divine protection, no one wanted to be splashed with holy water.
My uncle Sibongile, who was the fourth-born child, had recently moved from Mdantsane back to Dutyini. He was a charming, kind, funny 24-year-old man, and women were attracted to his city-slicker ways.
One evening, as my grandfather was praying, making it rain with the broom and holy water, we approached my uncle's stand-alone house. I remember feeling tired after a long day of swimming in the river (which my grandmother hated because I would come back ashy).
It was a hot evening and the windows were open. There was a slight breeze that would give relief every now and then, but it didn't last long. The lace curtain in my uncle's room danced in the moonlight as the breeze caught it.
My grandfather splashed around the house. Then, out of nowhere, we heard a woman shriek inside the house. Standing outside, we all looked at each other, holding our breath.
Out of nowhere, we heard a woman shriek inside the house. Standing outside, we all looked at each other, holding our breath
We all knew that my uncle had had a beautiful woman in his stand-alone house for just over a week. She had big permed hair. I had never seen a woman so beautiful in the village before. She had visited him all the way from Mdantsane and had been reduced to hiding in a room in a village.
My grandparents didn't know about this. As decent Christians, it was the sort of thing they would never condone, particularly in their own home.
Now, the splashes of holy water had obviously landed on her through the window and given her a fright.
"He, Sbongile! Ngubani lo ukhalayo apho?" ("Sbongile, who is that in there?") We were greeted by nothing but silence and the mocking moonlight.
"Kwedini, awundi phenduli?" ("Boy, you're not answering me?") Silence.
"I will show you who I am. Makwedini, three of you stand by that window; the other three by that one. Khayalethu, stand behind me."
I had to stand behind him because I was the youngest and smallest. I was seven or eight and my older cousins were in their late teens.
"Nobody gets out of those windows. If anyone tries to escape, beat them with your stick."
My grandfather was furious, standing by the door, trying to force it open. There was much shouting and the dogs were barking.
After a while, I heard a commotion near the right window. The girl and my uncle had escaped. They somehow managed to jump out of one of the windows and over the yard fence.
I heard a commotion near the right window. The girl and my uncle had escaped
My grandfather was even more furious because my cousins had helped my uncle and his girlfriend to escape. They looked up to him; there was no way they were going to let my grandfather get hold of him. They loved him more than they feared my grandfather, which was remarkable because when my grandfather was asserting his authority, everyone trembled at his voice.
"Nikhamisile makwedini!" ("You're standing there with open mouths, boys!") He turned his whip on them and they ran away in different directions. There was pandemonium. My grandmother came out of the house to find out what was going on. No-one could tell her because everyone was running around the yard fleeing the whip. Even though I knew I was free from his rage, I ran for cover.
My grandfather kept talking about how the holy water had revealed the evil that was under his roof.
My uncle was banished from home. Distant family member after family member would come to ask him to forgive his son, but there was no way Kaiser was willing to hear reason on the matter.
In the meantime, my uncle stayed in another relative's home with his girlfriend, where she was free to walk around. But they did live in the constant fear of my grandfather arriving unannounced with his sjambok.