1997, 3 years of being ‘free’ and singing along to the country’s theme song: ‘Peace in our Land’. As a grade 4 pupil, I kept hearing about the new South Africa and wondered how long South Africa was old for before it became new? Coming from eMlazi, G-section, we had ‘made it’ and were now living in the suburbs of Westville North, Durban. Here, the neighbours did not greet you from the comfort of their kitchen windows because they were hidden behind electronic gates and fortified walls.
My mother stopped her 21-year teaching career because ‘we are free’ meant she could venture into doing something different. She got paid out her teaching package and the first thing she did was buy a white DEFY side-by-side fridge, the Brenda Fassie of fridges because every day was a weekend special! This fridge was the ‘black freedom’ fridge despite its colour and it was the first time I had ever seen such a mammoth fridge in my life.
It was the weekend and my mother bought a live chicken. Part of me wondered if she bought the chicken from the same lady who used to be our neighbour eMlazi but little did I know that other people bred and sold live chickens to make extra money. My mother dashes out to run an errand and u-Anti summons me to the kitchen and says whilst my mother is out, I had to help her slaughter the chicken. The concept of slaughtering was not foreign at home, courtesy of my Zulu traditionalist father. My father openly and willingly, defied his suburban neighbours when he bought a cow to be slaughtered in the leafy, ADT-protected suburbs of Westville North (A story I will divulge in another blog post).
I was never ready for what was about to go down. u-Anti, the chicken murderer, holds down the chicken and instructs me to grip the chicken’s feet with both hands. I oblige. By this time, the chicken knows what’s coming and is thrashing like never before. In the thrashing moment, the chicken’s left foot claws my left hand as u-Anti cuts through the chicken’s neck. I release my grip in shock, chicken feet scratching the kitchen floor, the chicken’s left wing frantically flapping out of my aunt’s grip, and chicken blood graffiti sprays the holy grail that is the white DEFY side-by-side fridge. I knew my turn to die too was coming.
“Mbali, hold the chicken down!!” is all I can remember coming out of u-Anti’s mouth after that. That moment reinforced my aunt’s belief in how much training I still needed to undergo if I were ever going to be someone’s Makoti in life. I’m unmarried and still cannot bear to hear the sound of a thrashing chicken under the grip of its executioner.
In the baptism of the new South Africa, a Makoti who cannot execute a perfect chicken murder seems a minor offence to pay for in my books, as opposed to my choice to carve my opinions and pluck the courage to challenge the archetype of the professed rainbow nation and its so-called promises.