The South African Series

Fishing for the Truth in a Barrel Full of Crabs

Okay, Folk. I hate to talk about you, but you know how we are. Every time a Black person tries to do something positive, there are at least 40 other Black people waiting to pull them down.

A few weeks ago, I brought you the story of Celia – the kind hearted woman who took it upon herself to care for Kwanokathula’s cast off children when no one else would. We were all touched, weren’t we? Well, as rumor has it, Celia is not quite the saint she paints herself to be. Rumor has it that she is the exact opposite, and is more of a proverbial Ms. Hannigan than a Mother Theresa. Now, keep in mind that the people spreading these rumors are the same folk who said that a witch absconded with Pee-pee’s hearing some 20 years ago when she cast a spell on him.


A new little boy was sitting on Thandiswa’s lap a week ago, looking rather forlorn.  He couldn’t have been more than 2 years old. Thandiswa was holding court as usual, clapping her hands and wagging her head.

“Hey Thandiswa,” I said. “Who’s this kid?”

“Ach, he’s one of Celia’s kids,” she frowned.

“Oh. Well why does he look so sad? Is he sick or something?”

“No,” said Charlotte. “He got a burn on his leg.”

“Ohhh. Poor baby…”

“It was that devil who did it!” hissed Thandiswa. “That Celia!”

She started chattering excitedly in Xhosa. I was amazed by her outburst. Celia has a heart of gold!

“Wait. What do you mean? You mean Celia from Kwanokathula?”

“Yes! That woman, you see her that’s she so nice. But if you know her the way we  know her, you will see that she’s wicked! God will punish her!!”

Whoa. What kind of hate was this? *Sniff, sniff!* I smell fish.

After some prodding (and it only took a little) I discovered that the little boy had been burned with hot water in the tub. How hot was the water that Celia was bathing her kids in, and why?

The story she had allegedly sold the ethereal “White people” was that her hot water heater was broken and that she had been using an urn to heat the water.  She poured the scalding hot water into the tub and turned her back for only a second, and in that moment, the toddler hopped into the tub, assuming it was time to take a bath. He received second degree burns in the process.

“It’s a lie!” hissed Thandiswa.

“Yes,” echoed Charlotte. “It’s a lie.”

“If he hopped into the tub, neh? Then why is it only his leg that is burnt? Heh?”  She pointed to his left thigh and calf with much irritation.

“And if he hopped into the tub, why isn’t his foot also burnt?” questioned Charlotte?

Well, that made sense. But all the same, this was Celia we were talking about!

According to their “investigation”, they discovered that the toddler was already in the tub and Celia ordered him out. When he refused, she poured a kettle of boiling hot water over his left leg and hip while he sat in the tub and let him stay all night in pain until calling “the White people” to take him for treatment that next morning.

“That woman, she doesn’t care for those kids,” said her accusers. “She only want the money.”

“What MONEY?” I asked incredulously. She lives in a township, not the Ritz for goodness sake!

“The money that the White people give her (dumbass)!”

“Yeah, but which white people?”

I knew for certain that Lauren didn’t have loads of money, and from the sound of it, neither did Michelle (they run the after school program at the church/theater). Oddly, those were the same people that were named as doling out bales of cash to the greedy and wicked Celia. They went so far as to provide “proof”.

“You know there was one lady neh, that was helping her in the house. She used to come to our church. When white people would come to the house, Celia always tell her ‘Hei! Get to the back of the house. The white people don’t want to see you’.”

“Yes,” said Charlotte quietly. “Because she doesn’t want the woman to see the money the White people were giving to her.”

(I often find that in Africa, “proof” is often in the form of a third person narrative, and rarely in unquestionable, concrete evidence. A good story is always to believed over a set of fingerprints. Why, a witch may have come along and planted those prints on the stolen item in question!)

Thandiswa grew pensive at that point, as if contemplating something grave and unimaginable. She finally spoke. I, on the other hand, had been shaking my head in quiet disbelief.

“You know, when you tell Michelle these things about Celia, she don’t want to hear it. She always tell you ‘We must pray for Celia’.” Thandiswa paused. Her eyes flashed when she spoke again. “But you can’t pray for a devil!”

Well, there you have it. Celia is a devil, going to hell.

I haven’t felt this bad for White people in a long time. Celia can handle herself, I’m sure – but the kindly White people, and their money, are seemingly the catalysts for her evil misdeeds.  They made her burn a baby!!