Zulu Brothers story: Mqhele

When he was 14, he killed a man.
And the first time he felt like telling someone about it was when he was 27 as the woman, good and innocent, lay next to him with her head on his chest.
He had already lost control with her once and every time he lay awake next to her, watching her sleep, he wondered if he won't kill her one day.
There was something about her that he couldn't explain to anyone. Something that made him want to love and protect her from his world.
He had had many women in his life before her but she was the only one he feared he would end up killing because she brought so much out of him. She made him think about things he had long pushed to the back of his mind and forgotten.
It didn't help that Nkosana looked at her once and decided he could trust her with his children.
Nkosana didn't trust anyone with his children, not after Carol and MaZulu and all the things Joburg had done to him.
He remembers how that Naturena house became a home the moment she walked in, for the first time.
To him it had always been just a roof over his head. He had built it because you know, a boy becomes a man when he can point at a structure and say: "That is my house".
He had lived in it for about three years before she came.
Nokzola moved in with him a year into their relationship.
It wasn't his decision but she insisted so he let her, it's not like he didn't care about her at all. Their relationship wasn't that bad, it was often great.
In fact, he also hoped that fully committing would improve things between them, that maybe he needed to try harder and open himself up a little more.
He changed a little after she moved in, cared a little more and tried to meet his end of the bargain.
He knew she wasn't a bad person, but he believed he was the bad one, that's why he brought out the worst in her.
She was temperamental, very possessive and very controlling naturally.
That was their biggest problem, Mqhele cannot be controlled.
He was unfaithful too, and in return she attacked and vandalised and stalked.
When she left, with nothing but her clothes and their microwave, he thought he'd give it a few days before going to get her back. He decided to enjoy being alone and free at least for a month before going to beg, which wasn't going to be too hard because he knew she'd take him back anyway.
But on the third week, just as he was enjoying what was left of random sex and booty calls, a girl appeared at Bree and changed everything.
That was the end of Nokzola or whatever he thought he had with her. He decided there and then.
On that afternoon, when Mahlomu invited him to her flat and cooked him a meal, an SMS came in just as he drove out of her gate.
It was Nokzola. She was telling him they were going to have a child. She wanted to see him the next morning, She had forgiven him. They had to work things out. She knew he wanted to be a father, she was ready too.
She was going to come back to their house and they would start over, all his past faults were forgiven.
He read the SMS twice but didn't respond.
He didn't sleep at all that night. It was a tough battle, one that had him tossing and turning and going out for smokes until his alarm clock rang.
When he drove out of his gate he wasn't sure of where he was going exactly until he stopped at the robot on Nasrec Road.
He was torn between two things: taking the M1 or N1. Going to Berea or Honeydew.
He turned right and took the M1 North to Berea.
She didn't resist when he kissed her.
For days, that was all he did, kiss her and hug her. He wanted to take it further, lord knows he did but the guilt always got the best of him.
He was a criminal, a killer who took lives without thinking twice and he had baggage and anger, and a child he had technically abandoned before birth.
When he finally asked her to visit him, it made his fears worse that she easily agreed, like she'd been waiting on him to say the words for a while.
He was going to sleep with her and they were going to take things easy going forward. Maybe she'd realise eventually that dating a "taxi driver" wasn't her thing and then she'd leave. But that thought itself made him shiver because he knew deep down that he wasn't going to be able to let her go.
She turned out to be a virgin and that was when he decided he wasn't going to sleep with her anymore, not until he told her the truth.
He had lied to Nokzola about a lot of things. Although she knew there was more to his life than owning taxis, she never got to figure things out. She never pressed him about his past too.
The next morning he woke up at the crack of dawn as usual although he had told all his brothers he wasn't going to be available until that Monday.
Before he woke her, he pulled out the bag from the safe in the garage and put it in his wardrobe. He knew she was going to want to clean the house after "turning it into a home". He knew she'd find that money and he knew that it could go either way, she was going to leave or stay.
He came back at the right moment, her sitting on the bed with the bag next to her with her eyes judging him.
Instead she said she loved him, something she had never said until that moment.
That night he decided to come clean but only about the good parts of his life, the legit business, but it was still a problem because she still did not understand why he did not have a bank account.
He didn't touch her again that night, he lay quietly next to her as she caressed the back of his neck, something he'd never let a woman or anyone do because it was a trigger. On that night, for the first time he replayed in his head what had happened 13 years earlier, all of it, from the day that man Mboni stopped by his grandmother's house.
The man had a tiny squeaky voice but he was a big man with big hands and broad shoulders.
Mqhele was 13 and had grown taller overnight when he met him on the road. That was also when he called him to his house for the first time.
He asked: "How is your grandmother? How are your brothers? Do you boys have enough to eat? I have bread and some meat in the house,"
The first three questions were not important because the answers were obvious. It was the last statement that made him follow Mboni all the way to his house across the stream.
He was a neighbour. His house was more than a kilometre away from theirs but it was the closest compared to others.
He knew him well. Everybody did. He was famous for many reasons.
Sometimes he stopped by their house just to check on their grandmother and every time he did, the old woman would whine about what would happen to the boys when she died.
"Your shoes are worn out," the man remarked as Mqhele walked behind him on the narrow path
He was already dripping sweat when they reached the stream, all because he had been trying too hard to keep up with the man.
The shoes part wasn't such a big deal, almost every child his age had worn out shoes, if they had shoes at all.
The pair he was wearing had originally been Nkosana's. Nqoba owned it briefly before it was passed on to the next one and the next one and the next...
"You don't talk much do you?" the man asked as he pushed the rusted gate open.
He was just a boy and he wasn't about to make conversation with some old man. Besides, the picture of his father was still alive and vivid in his mind, so he wasn't trying to find himself a father-figure.
A dog barked at him the moment he stepped on that yard.
He turned around and ran but a hand grabbed him behind his neck before he could reach the gate.
"It won't bite you, come on in and take the bread," the man said.
He did as he was told, reluctantly.
The house was empty.
The man's wife, from what he had heard, lived there but she never left the yard.
Stories were she was crazy, as in a medically diagnosed mental case.
He had once heard women at his grandmother's pension payout queue gossiping about her, saying she'd lost her mind after a traumatic incident.
He didn't get to hear what the traumatic incident was because Sthembile walked past right at that moment and butterflies started dancing all over his stomach.
But when he thought about it later, he laughed. He thought it was a absurd because: why would the woman not leave the house if she wanted to?
He tried to turn the door handle but...
"Don't go in there!" the man shouted when he touched the handle of the only closed door in the house.
"Isn't this the kitchen...?"
"No! the kitchen is outside!" the man snapped.
He had been nice to him but suddenly he was shouting. He found it strange but it was, after all, the man's house. He had every right to tell him not to open closed doors.
The back door out was right at the end of the passage, but you had to walk around the house again to get to the kitchen.
At first he thought he was imagining things, but, he had always been an observant child. He was always aware of his surroundings.
He looked behind him, there was nobody, so he went closer to the window and tried to peep through.
The window was dark. It was glass but the glass looked like it had been painted black.
It was still strange, but again, why was he concerning himself with people's windows? He was there for the bread and nothing else.
He took a few steps and the sound got louder.
At first he couldn't make out what it was, a human or an animal? A woman or a man? Was it crying or singing?
He landed on his back, his head almost hitting the iron bar behind the chicken coup.
"Voetsek! Voetsek!" he screamed and kicked.
It was a dog standing over him, barking so hard that its spit hit his face.
"It doesn't bite, I told you that. Come on get up," the man said.
He didn't know when the man came out of the house but the dog was gone by the time he blinked.
The kitchen was a rondavel. There were no cupboards, just a table, a few water barrels and an already ashed wood-fire on the floor.
There was no fire burning but the smell of smoke was strong.
"There, on the table," the man pointed him.
He grabbed the bread and ran outside.
He was ready to leave but he was scared of the dog. Although he was sure it wasn't going to eat and swallow a tall boy like him, dogs had always been his worst fear. They still are even now in his adult life.
"Here, take this to that house before you go," the man said.
It was a bag, a brown leather bag. The one he was carrying when he bumped into him on the road. He noticed, now, that the man had not put the bag down since they arrived at his house.
He took it and rushed to the next rondavel. It was bigger than the kitchen and it too was empty, not even a table. It had no windows.
The man was not behind him and so, the typical him got curious.
He knew it would be wrong. His father, he had taught them to respect people's personal property. They never went inside their parents' bedroom unless they were sent by them and they never went through stuff that didn't belong to them. But this was not his father and the bag was heavy.
He touched the zipper three times before he got the courage to pull it open.
He felt his heart stopping for a second and without thinking twice, he closed the zipper and slowly approached the door.
The man appeared again just as he closed the door behind him.
He had a live chicken under his arm.
"Here, you can have this. Send my regards to your grandmother, come back any time you need bread," the man said.
With the live chicken and a loaf of bread under his arms, he took that long walk to the gate and as soon as he closed it behind him, he ran like a mad man.


"Did you buy it Chele? Did you buy it from the shop?"
It was Ntsika. He'd been asking questions all night.
It was a luxury, a delicacy they didn't get to taste often since that day their lives were changed forever.
As Sambulo and Mqoqi boiled the water, Mpande and Ntsika sat with their knees up and watched with excitement as he slaughtered it.
The cries of the dying chicken and the sight of its head being ripped from its body didn't bother the two little ones, it was nothing compared to the joy they were soon going to experience from eating it.
"I'm going to eat the thigh first and then the wing," Mpande said.
He looked at them briefly and smiled. He loved their innocence and clueless-ness about how bad things were.
Nkosana took the role if being the leader, Nqobizitha was the provider and him, he was the nurturer, the one who was always present no matter where they looked.
Nobody really allocated those roles to them. It started that night. The first night they slept in Ngudwini, eShowe.
They could have split into two groups.
The grandmother wanted the three little ones to sleep in her bedroom.
But the eight boys having had to survive, in just two days, what normal people have to survive throughout a lifetime, were not ready to separate.
They lined the floor of the single-roomed mud house.
Some with their feet lapsing to the floor because they had grown too tall to fit on the grass mats.
All, except Nkosana, lay on the floor.
He sat with his back on the door, knees up with his arms around them.
He could have been staring at them, or into space, or the bucket of water at the far corner but nobody could really tell. All that was clear was, he was thinking hard. But the stare was empty. His shoulders were bent as if something heavy was resting on them.
There was something about the way he tightened his jaw, something like a war he was trying with all his might to not go to.
There were a few moments where I thought he was going to give in and cry his lungs out but no, he knew.
He knew and understood that he didn't have that luxury anymore.
All that was in front of him, in that mud house, had become his responsibility.
He became the leader.
That's what he had been in the two days that ended with them in that mud house.
He had no plans of falling asleep that night.
But he wasn't the only one batting eyelids in the middle of the night.
Not far from him lay Nqobizitha with his eyes blood red and fists clenched under the thin blanket.
He may have been lying with all of them there but his soul was still in Mbuba.
All he could see and hear was the noise, the windows breaking and his mother's screams fading as they ran for their lives.
As he lay there on that floor there was no heavy load on his shoulders, just a deep thirst for vengeance in his heart.
The stillness was disturbed by a movement.
It was Mqhele pulling the blanket over Mpande and Ntsika's feet. One of them had moved and kicked it aside in their sleep.
Mqhele too, had been wide awake the whole time.
They didn't know it but all three of them had subconsciously chosen a role.
Nkosana was the leader. Nqobizitha the provider. Mqhele the nurturer.


"Ntsika, no water at night,"
Mqhele said as he prepared to throw the chicken in the pot. They'd been in Ngudwini for almost two years.
Later they all sat around the wood-fire and waited as the chicken boiled.
None of them could cook properly, nobody ever taught them how to.
Their grandmother was there, in her bedroom but it was one of those weeks where her feet would be swollen or her joints were sore.
They boiled mielies in a bigger pot.
Qhawe had planted them behind the house in November the previous year.
"I'm going to go to the shop with you tomorrow. Are you going to buy another chicken Chele?" Ntsika again.
Everybody had learned to ignore him but he remained persistent.
He was three-years-old and saw nothing wrong with their life as it was. He knew no better past and expected no different future, he was just there, living and growing.
Mpande was seven, he had just started school and he hated it.
He came home with marks on his hands almost every day from being beaten by teachers.
His crimes varied from breaking his slate to losing pens or talking back at teachers.
It was not even halfway through the year but the whole school already knew him. The whole school knew about these boys that most people couldn't tell apart.
That night there were eight of them, including their grandmother but they managed to share half of the chicken and keep the rest for the next day.
"I'm not full, I want more,"-Mpande
"No, you're not getting more, we still have to eat tomorrow," Mqhele said and looked down at the empty plate between his legs.
They were still sitting in the kitchen, on the floor while the wood-fire slowly died.
He'd been watching them, the excitement on their faces, the joy of eating meat, real meat.
There was a moment where he caught himself smiling, but then the image came flashing back in his mind.
He was never going to go back to Mboni's house again. He made that decision the moment he closed that bag.
If he ever bumped into that man again, he was going to run for his life.
That morning it was Qhawe's turn to cook porridge and make tea for their grandmother. But, by the time he woke up she was already in the kitchen, making porridge for all of them.
The smaller boys, they ran to her and hugged her legs.
The older boys were relieved, they'd been holding their breaths.
She took out two empty plastic bags and tore them into four pieces each with her hands.
She lay each piece on the table, put three slices of bread on it and wrapped.
There was no butter, it was another luxury they didn't have.
Mqoqi and Mpande were excited. They didn't fall in the category of kids that had something to eat during lunch breaks. But that day was different, it was a happy day, more so because it was Friday of the end of the month and Nkosana was coming home.
Ntsika was already calculating in his head what the grocery bags would be filled with.
So on that day, he didn't cry when all his brothers left for school. He didn't even try to run after them or go to stand on the narrow path and cry until tears dried on his bare stomach like they did every day.
He followed his grandmother around the house and yard all day and when he started seeing schoolchildren walking past, he knew it was almost time.
And so, he took the mielies his grandmother gave him and went to sit on the large rock facing the road, and waited.
Even when he saw his brothers approaching, he didn't run to meet them, he just sat there and waited.
He waited even when it was starting to get dark.
When his grandmother shouted for him to come in, he hid in the bushes so nobody would drag him to the house and make him miss the big moment.
He heard someone saying to him.
It was Mqhele slapping his thigh softly.
They had to make sure he peed before going to bed every night otherwise they'd have to wash blankets every morning.
He had fallen asleep in the bushes, still waiting.
"Where is Bhuti?" he asked as he pulled his pants back up.
"Come on let's go to sleep," Mqhele said picking him up.
Nkosana had not made it home that night.
He had just turned 20 and Ngcobo was finally allowing him to drive his taxis, which meant sometimes he was too busy to spend a whole weekend in Ngundwini.
The three older brothers understood, the five little ones didn't.
But life had to go on.
He had to keep it going.
It was raining the second time he walked that narrow path to Mboni's house.
He had sworn he'd never go back there again and he held out for two days until he could not ignore Ntsika anymore.
Supper was mielies and water with sugar that whole week. They had used the money Nkosana sent them to take taxis to the clinic because the youngest three had chicken-pox.
Grandmother was bedridden again.
And so, after sleepless nights and hard thinking, he took that walk down the narrow path, across the stream and to the rusted gate.
He was greeted by a barking dog.
He might have been imagining things but it looked bigger and uglier than the first time he saw it.
Mboni always walked with dogs, three or four, always.
But there was always one on the yard, just one.
It was one of those tall skinny hunting dogs. They call them Greyhounds these days.
This one, it looked like it had lived a long time. It was fading grey. No fluffy hair and waggy tail. Its eyes were human, he swore by that.
Mboni hushed the dog away and pulled the gate open.
"Don't be scared, I told you it won't bite you," he said.
Mqhele tried to put on a brave face and held his breath, just to suppress the fear.
To his surprise, Mboni never asked him why he was there. Instead he pointed him to the kitchen.
"Wait for me there, I'm coming,"
He did as he was told.
The wood-fire was flaming on the floor. Something was cooking but there was no significant smell, he couldn't tell what it was.
He took off the raincoat and hung it on the nail stuck behind the door.
His clothes were still wet. His shoes and socks were dripping water and mud.
He sat on the floor, in front of the fire and warmed his hands.
He still wasn't sure why he was there, but this man had said he could come back anytime he needed food for his brothers.
The problem was, he knew from the beginning, from the day he entered that yard for the first time that whatever it was that this man was going to give him, was not going to be free.
There is no such thing as free help, he learnt that at a young age.
Mboni walked in just as whatever was on the fire was starting to boil.
He was carrying that same brown leather bag.
His heart started pounding. He had to hold his breath to look composed.
His eyes stayed fixed on the bag. He couldn't help it.
"Go outside and get me a hammer," -Mboni
He sat still and widened his eyes, fear written all over his face.
"You're far too soft for such a tall young man. Go! Get me the hammer," Mboni snapped.
He ran out so fast he almost slipped and fell on the mud when he stepped outside.
The hammer was placed next to the chicken coup, at exactly the same spot he landed when he was almost attacked by that creepy dog.
He snatched it and ran back to the rondavel.
Mboni looked at him and shook his head.
"Come here," he said.
He went to stand next to him, the brown bag on the floor, at their feet.
"I want you to hit exactly where I'm going to show you, once, hit it once," he said.
He looked at him with confusion. He didn't understand what it was exactly that he was supposed to hit.
Mboni kicked the bag once, something moved.
He grabbed him by the back of his neck when he tried to run.
"It's just an iguana, don't be a coward," he said pulling him back.
He figured he had no choice but to do as he was told.
It was, after all, just an iguana. They hunted and shot birds when they were younger. Him and Qhawe once caught a mongoose and kept it in a box for days until it died and started smelling. That was just them being boys.
This wasn't a big deal, it was the same as them playing, being boys.
He held the hammer tight and hit the bag exactly where he was told to hit, once.
He stood and stared, hammer still in hand.
"You're good at this. You're brave, just like your father," Mboni said looking at him with a smile on his face.
He stood still.
Somehow it felt different. It didn't feel like shooting a bird or trapping a mongoose.
But, it was that comment about his father that froze him.
He wanted to ask how this man knew his father, but he was just a boy and he was beginning to be scared of Mboni.
He left and swore he was never coming back.


It had been two months and on that night, he made peace with it.
He had prepared himself for that moment where he'd have to break the news to his brothers.
He was going to walk to the road very early in the morning to give the message to any of the taxi drivers going to Eshowe. And then that taxi driver would give the message to Nqobizitha, who was in those days basically sleeping at his trading stall at the rank just to save money.
Nqobizitha would have to give the message to one of the taxi drivers taking the trip to Joburg that morning.
Nkosana would know and hopefully come back immediately.
That where night Mqhele sat at his grandmother's feet and made peace with that she was about to die, she hadn't been awake for more than two hours a day in those two days.
Some women from the village had come to see her a couple of times and all they did was sing church songs and pray and wished her a peaceful sleep.
He noticed how all those women never looked him in the eye. Sometimes they patted his shoulder and told him to be strong.
They looked at him with pity in their eyes.
So on that night, he prepared himself.
He couldn't pray for her, he didn't know how to.
He'd never been to church in his life.
He looked at her toe-nails.
They were long and black and hard.
He took a pair of scissors, placed her left foot on his thigh and started cutting her toe-nails.
"You have ugly feet gogo," he said jokingly.
The fact is he was trying to make himself laugh, really.
But he didn't. It just didn't come.
So he decided to talk.
He knew he'd probably never get a chance to tell anyone about this so maybe his grandmother, who'd be dead by the morning anyway was the right person to tell.
He cleared his throat before he spoke.
"You know, sometimes I think that maybe it's the fact that you trust me too much, the fact that I do not want to disappoint you is what makes me keep going back to Mboni's house. I know I'm young but I know there is something wrong with that picture.
"I mean gogo, what kind of man lives alone, with just dogs in his house?"
"I once asked him about his wife, his family and you know what he did? He picked up a knobkerrie and almost smashed my head.
He said: "Stop asking questions that have nothing to do with you,"
I assumed then that maybe they died or that he never had a family at all, even though I didn't understand how that was possible.
I didn't tell you everything about what happened there because I didn't want to bother you.
And besides, you think he's a good man don't you?
Like the brown leather bag, I didn't tell you about that because I also don't know what it was. I hit where he tells me to hit, every time, and I never miss. There was an iguana once, that was the first time I hit. There was also a rabbit this one time and... I don't remember, it was always a small animal though,"
"If I didn't know better I'd say he was practising witchcraft of some sort, but no, nobody has ever accused him of that in this village. You know how people always know who is bewitching who and all that stuff, I don't think that's what it is," he said and shrugged.
"He did however offer me a love portion when Sthembile wouldn't even stop when I asked to talk to her.
You know Sthembile, she's that girl from eMatshalini.
She gives me butterflies in my stomach.
I told Mboni about her once and how she once told me she didn't talk to boys with big eyes so I must leave her alone.
I was frustrated, that's why I told him about it.
But he just laughed and told me I was a wimp like my father and then said:
"He gave up his guitar, the only thing he had to his name he gave away, for a woman. Imagine that,"
That was the second time he mentioned my father. At first I thought he was just saying, not that he knew him personally but that he was speaking based on what he had heard from people.
I was lost because I had never seen my father play a guitar or any kind of musical instrument for that matter.
I wanted to ask more questions but he said I had to go. He went outside and came back with a plastic bag, four loaves of bread and 30 eggs.
Do you remember when I came home with that stuff two weeks ago?
There were new sneakers in that plastic bag and they were my size.
The water in the pot was boiling so I knew it was time to go, he never allows me to see whatever is in the brown leather bag and I never bother to look, his word is enough. If he says it's an iguana, or a rabbit or a wild cat, I believe him.
Or maybe it's because I don't want to know.
She coughed and he let go of her foot immediately, startled!
She hadn't coughed or moved all day.
To him she was technically dead. All that was left was for her heart to stop beating.
He sat in silence and waited for her to cough again, but she didn't.
He gave up an hour later and left her bedroom.
He was ready for whatever was going to happened next, which he was certain would be a funeral in a few days.
But that didn't happen.
Nkosana came back the next day with a car and took her to hospital.
They didn't see her again until schools opened in July.
And by that time the police had taken Qhawe.
Mqhele had gone to Mboni's house four times in that period.
The third time was to ask him if he could go to the police to talk to them about letting Qhawe go.
He agreed, but Qhawe didn't come home.
They said he stole a car, but they didn't say whose car and where.
They said he sold some people car tyres at the rank, and they believed there was no other way he could have gotten those tyres except from a stolen car.
Mqhele thought the story didn't make sense, and besides, he didn't trust Mboni.
He didn't believe he actually went there.
There wasn't much he could do except hope for a miracle.
The miracle came when Nkosana came home with Ngcobo, and Qhawe.
It was the first time Nkosana laid a hand on one of them. Qhawe didn't fight back. He took it like a man.
The fourth time he walked the narrow path was about him.
He was going to ask Mboni for money this time because his armpits had started smelling and he needed deodorant.
They had food. Nkosana had sent groceries and Nqobizitha had bought more blankets.
Mboni always sent for him. He never randomly just went there without being called.
And that time, he passed by his house and shouted his name just at the right time.
He had decided to treat his visits to Mboni's house as a job where all he had to do was hit a little animal in a bag with a hammer and be rewarded for it.
That's how he looked at it. He was not attached to who Mboni was and what he was doing.
It was a business transaction and he wasn't going to attach any feelings to it.
But on that fourth time after his grandmother went to hospital, Mboni said something.
Sthembile was still giving him a cold shoulder and he was already beyond frustrated.
Seriously, all the other girls liked him although they couldn't tell him apart from Qhawe.
But Sthembile was a hardhead.
She had issues with his eyes and also, she once told him that he was too old to be Standard 7, just because he was the tallest boy in his class.
She gave a lot of petty reasons why she didn't want to be with him.
Mboni thought it was funny that he couldn't successfully court her. I mean, he had never had a problem impressing girls before.
He was still a kid when he left Mbuba but he had already kissed a few girls, although he didn't really remember all their names. But when they got to Ngudwini things were different. He had responsibilities and although people were nice there was always that question about where they came from and why they were there.
It was at that time of political violence, but Ngudwini was better than Mbuba.
"Sthembile is a snob, and she isn't even that pretty, she just has nice legs," he said when Mboni teased him to his highest level of annoyance.
That was when Mboni told him about his father and the guitar.
He said his father always walked with the guitar strapped on his back. Nobody knew who he was or where he came from but he was employed to herd cows by one of the families there in Ngudwini.
He'd sit on the rocks lining the river all day while cows were grazing and play the guitar.
Word went around about this young man who played beautiful guitar and was starting to charm all the ladies in the village.
Girls would go to the river just to see him sitting there and laugh out loud so he would notice them. But he only had eyes for one woman, Nomafu, the one who was already eyed by someone.
She wasn't married or anything like that but some guy from the area was courting her and she was already showing signs that she was going to agree, that's what Mboni said.
It remains arguable though.
The problem started when Nomafu started being hostile to the guy who thought he had sealed the deal. They, including Mboni, knew it was because of Sbopho and his damn guitar.
You know how women love a man with talent right?
And it was worse because Sbopho had become a celebrity of some sort. They'd call him to play at weddings and thanked him with clothes and some money.
He became a real problem. He was shining on people's shine and they were not going to allow that.
Everyone who knew Sbopho says he was exactly like Nqobizitha. He talked a lot and he was funny as hell. That added to reasons why he was popular with the ladies.
And so the men gathered and decided he had to go. They first approached his employer but he flatly refused to fire him.
That was right at the time Nomafu said yes to him. And then, all hell broke loose. They were not going to allow some guy they didn't know, worse of all a herdboy, to come and just take over. I mean he didn't even have cows to pay lobola.
The guitar was all he had, the only thing he had to his name.
It was also his charm, his sudden source of income, his joy and his escape.
But there was also Nomafu Mpungose. She was his new everything.
The fact that she had said yes to him knowing very well what was at stake made him appreciate her. Besides, she was the IT girl and he was a just a herdboy so imagine how much of an achievement this was for him.
They came. All the young men of Ngudwini came and surrounded him.
He found out that day that they called him "Skhova ses'ginci".
He wasn't shocked. There's always an annoying derogatory name for people with big eyes. He was used to it.
They found him at that exact spot where he bruised their egos with that stupid guitar.
They didn't really have a plan but they knew he had to be taught a lesson that would drive him out of Ngudwini very fast.
He strapped his guitar on his back and said: "Zinsizwa," calm and composed as ever.
That angered the lot even more.
"You are leaving Ngudwini today,"-one of them said.
Sbopho shook his head.
"That's not part of my plans," he said.
He had barely closed his mouth when they charged at him.
He tried to fight but there were too many of them.
The girls, who had been watching the whole chaos from down by the river started screaming.
One of them was Nomafu.
But that didn't help.
The guitar was lying somewhere on the ground and Sbopho not far from it under the kicks of many men.
It was only when Nomafu threw herself over him that it stopped.
"Why? Why?" she screamed.
"Usjwayela kabi lo," one of the young men said.
It gave Sbopho an opportunity to rise up to his feet, blood, dust and all.
"If you don't leave this place with that stupid guitar of yours we will kill you skhova," it was said.
Well, he didn't really believe they'd kill him but he knew it was time to leave.
The smallest thing could start a faction fight among villages those days.
The guys from Mlalazi, who already had a hostile relationship with the guys from Ngudwini over some scathamiya competition, could easily turn this into a big thing.
They could manipulate the situation and claim him as theirs, giving them a good reason to seek revenge.
If you thought gang wars were a Cape Flats thing, try rural villages and you'll see.
"I'll leave," he said wiping soil mixed with blood from his chin.
The gang laughed at him, until Nobantu folded her arms and raised her eyebrows.
They knew what she meant.
"I'll give up the guitar, for peace," Sbopho said.
They laughed again until one of them picked the guitar from the ground and strapped it behind his back.
It was only after Sbopho started walking away that they realised he was serious, that Nomafu was not bluffing too.
And later that day, as they were sitting under a tree sharing a jug of amahewu, with the guitar in front of them, they realised it was no use to them.
None of them knew how to play it or even wanted to know how to play it.
It also came up in the conversation that actually, even if Nomafu had not left with Skhova Ses'ginci, none of them stood a chance with her anyway.
They went their separate ways not knowing whether they won or lost.
Someone took the guitar with, they didn't care who.
"Those days were the best," Mboni said shaking his head after telling the story, with a smile and look of satisfaction on his face.
He told the whole story like it was a joke, but he was the only one laughing.
He realised that when Mqhele stood up and furiously walked to the gate. The dog, which he had always been scared of, ran after him, barking. When he turned around he kicked it so hard it rolled on the ground three times before hitting the chicken coup as Mboni watched in horror.
He left and swore never to go back to that house again.
He didn't tell that story to anyone, not even Qhawe.
But it was eating him up. He was angry and the anger was growing day by day.
He'd known his father to be a brave man. A man everyone feared because he never backed down from a fight.
And to hear that some people ganged up on him and took something so important to him fuelled his rage.
To him, it was the same as what happened in Mbuba. It felt the same.
He held out for a few weeks.
Mboni did pass by his house and called his name but he ignored him, twice.
He hated him too for doing that to his father, and mother.
But Mboni didn't understand. He thought it was a joke.
In August he turned 14.
He was at school writing a test which, as always, he hadn't had time to study for.
The test was easy but too much was going on in his mind. He couldn't fight it anymore.
And when the school bell rang for them to return to class after lunch break, he went behind the school toilets and sneaked out through a hole on the fence.
He took off his tie and tied it around his head. He took off his shirt and put it in the plastic bag he used to carry his school books.
But he didn't go home. Actually he rushed past his grandmother's house, down the narrow path and across the stream.
The dog didn't bark this time. In fact, it ran as soon as it saw him.
"I want my father's guitar!" he said, firm and furious.
Mboni frowned, confused and wondering how he didn't hear him come in.
"What are you talking about and where have you been? I called you last week and..."
"I said I want my father's guitar! Tell me who took it and where they live!" he shouted.
Mboni looked at him with his mouth open. The boy had gone mad and he couldn't understand why. But he knew this was serious. Stupid as it all looked and sounded.
"Do you honestly think you will find that guitar? What is wrong with you? What happened to you?"- Mboni.
The boy had obviously changed somehow. He had never spoken to him like that before.
When he first brought him here a year ago he was scared to hit a mangoose, inside a bag.
And now, he was standing over him, shouting, with rage in his eyes that sent shivers down his spine. Him, a grown man who had seen it all.
"I'll take you to his house tomorrow," he said.
But he wasn't serious, he just wanted to calm the boy down.
"What was his name? I'll find him myself,"-Mqhele
Mboni was getting annoyed.
He had a temper and the boy knew it.
He picked up a knobkerrie.
He thought the boy would run but he didn't, instead the boy picked up a hammer.
Mboni was shocked, but he knew he didn't stand a chance.
He'd seen how this boy could kill with just one hit. He had a strong arm and he never missed.
However, in all of that, he didn't believe the boy had it in him, the courage to strike him.
And besides, he needed him.
"Okay, I'll take you. It's not far. But I'm not promising you anything. Mbongolwane probably sold that guitar a long time ago, if not, it's rotten somewhere," he said.
But the boy was not listening. He wanted to find out for himself.
Mboni closed and locked the rondavel's door.
He whistled once and a troop of hunting dogs appeared from behind the house.
"Don't kick my dogs please," he said.
He had seen it once and he didn't want a repeat of that incident.
His dogs weren't just any dogs.
They went the opposite direction from Mqhele's grandmother's house.
Up the hill and down past the cattle dip.
There was a banana field where they came across a black snake. They had to stop and allow the hunting dogs to have a field day with it.
And just as they came out of the field, there was a house, a brick house. It was painted blue and there were five flat-roof houses surrounding it.
"He worked in the mines. He has money," Mboni said.
But still, Mqhele wasn't interested in that information. He was walking furiously towards the house.
"Gqemingozi!"- a man shouted when her saw Mboni.
He was standing in the yard, topless with a jug of something in his hand.
Mboni smiled and waved his hand as they approached the man.
"I got that nickmane from my stick fighting days. I was a champion,"-Mboni whispered to Mqhele.
But still, he was talking to himself.
The man squinted his eyes when Mqhele was standing next to him, as if saying: "I think I've seen you before,"
The three of them stood in silence until Mqhele remembered that he had to crouch. That's what young men do when they are in a man's yard.
He did, but the look on his face was still deadly.
"This young man here wants his father's guitar,"Mboni said to the man.
There was silence, and then loud laughter.
"I knew I had seen these eyes before. Iskhova esincane. Where did you find him?" the man asked.
They laughed again.
Mqhele was still crouching.
"It's a long story, but he is exactly like his father, stubborn to the core. Do you even have that guitar at all?"-Mboni.
He was just asking. He knew it was impossible. But he had to satisfy this young man whom puberty was turning into a stupid hardhead.
"Does it matter? Skhova made a deal. It was a deal between men. I can't go back on that deal," the man said.
It was still a joke to them.
"It's my father's and I want it," Mqhele.
They both looked down at him and laughed again.
"Come in. I have fresh mahewu," the man said.
It was clear that Mboni and this man were old friends. They were having fun, a pleasant reunion.
When Mqhele didn't stand up the man looked at him.
"I'll show you the guitar, but that doesn't mean you can take it. A deal is a deal, you must know that," said the man.
Mboni shook his head when the boy finally stood up and followed them to a mud house behind the main house.
Mboni didn't go in.
It wasn't exactly a house. It was something like a storeroom with wheel-burrows and what looked like donkey carts.
The man pointed up to the roof and there, just between the roof and an enamel trunk was a brown wooden object covered in dust.
"That's it. The price your father paid to have your mother," the man said.
He was already walking towards the door and yes he expected the boy to follow him.
But the boy stood still.
"I want the guitar. I'm not leaving without it," he said.
"Boy, I said let's go," the man.
It must have taken two seconds or less for Mqhele to grab an iron rod from one of the wheel-burrows and hold it tight.
The man was tired of his stubbornness and so he tried to grab his arm.
There was commotion.
"What is..?" Mboni stood with his mouth open, door wide open.
What he saw was Mqhele with a guitar strapped on his back.
And his old friend lying on the floor faced down.
"I hit him faced down. I didn't let him look up at me,"
The boy had killed a man.