Friday, August 12th. The weather forecast called for rain, and a slight drivel brought mist and mud to Qolweni. It was late afternoon, and the cows had already come in from the pasture. Two boys sat in the dimly lit room of the man from Port Elizabeth’s house.
Are you tired of being bullied? Are you tired of being pushed around?
Yes! Yes! We are tired.
The man from Port Elizabeth grabbed the first boy by the left arm and sliced the circumference of his bicep with a blade. Then he put three more vertical cuts on top. He lifted a bag containing muti and prepared to rub into the open wound. Frightened by the sight of his own blood, the boy flinched and scrambled to his feet.
No, no. I can’t do this!
He ran off home into, disappearing with the setting sun.
One boy ran, but Muntonabi stayed.
The man from Port Elizabeth told him to take of his shirt. Muntonabi winced as the man sliced 30 vertical cuts into his bony back, muttering a curse and rubbing muti ashes into them.
Drink this blood. This is amakosi. Amakosi will make you strong. No one will defeat you.
Dutifully Muntonabi drank the crimson liquid.
All day Saturday, Muntonabi felt nothing. He played in the street as boys do and roamed the area before going home and falling into a fitful sleep. When he woke Sunday morning, the amakosi had taken over him.
The spirit led him to the kitchen where his grandmother was standing preparing breakfast. The spirit took two knives from the drawer and growled at her. The spirit spoke through Muntonabi, grunting in an ancient demonic tongue. The spirit held the two knives in fighting stance and began to attack Muntonabi’s grandmother with them.
On Monday morning, I baked three cakes to celebrate August birthdays for our ASP kids. When I got to the building, Micheal had a solemn look on his face and there was a heavy spirit over all the kids and volunteers. He briefed Marshall and I about what had happened to Muntonabi, a light-skinned boy with quiet brown eyes. I knew him because I had scolded him 3 weeks before about fighting at school.
Thandiswa, Mavis and Nobiswa were loudly admonishing the children in Xhosa. They sat there captivated, listening to what the women were saying. Suddenly, they commanded all the girls to go into the storage room and all the boys to remain in the main hall. Nobiswa beckoned me to join them the dark room. It smelled of dog food, earth and pre-pubescent sweat. The bare light bulb swung from the ceiling above, revealing crammed bodies of dark brown flesh and 20 pairs of little girl eyes, all staring back at me. She told all the girls to take off their shirts. She was going to check them for marks.
Charlotte (the gangster who threw fish grease on her husband), told me what had happened to Muntonabi (who was not allowed to come to ASP for the safety of the other children). She was furious.
“You know that man, neh? He is a witch doctor. He travels from P.E. to Knysna, to Qolweni. Every time he comes here, he doesn’t work, but he always has groceries. How?” she began in haste.
“It’s because he’s stealing from the people!” shouted Nobiswa.
“Then when he comes here, he will always call our children to his house, giving them muti. Sometimes, he cuts them. Sometimes, he gives them a belt or bracelet to wear. Always putting demons in our children!”
“Yes!” cried Nobiswa.
“He lives just opposite me,” Charlotte continued. “Today, when we found out what he did to this boy, we chased him from his house to N2 (the highway)! We told him if he comes back here, we will burn him AND his house!”
She struck her hand against an imaginary match box.
“Even me, I will burn him myself!” she vowed with glowering eyes.
“But what happened to the boy?” I asked. “Is the demon still in him?”
“His grandmother was able to escape and called the police to this witches house. When they went, they said the man must remove the amakosi from him. He gave the grandmother something for the boy to drink at ten to 11:00 pm.”
The Ghana in me kicked in.
“Ei. What if he gives him something to drink and the amakosi comes more?” I queried.
“Yes! That is what I am saying!” confirmed Charlotte. “So I said no. When it’s ten to 11:00, the boy must go to the witch’s house for him to drink it THERE, so that whatever comes out will come out on that man!”
The girls were released from the room one by one after being checked for cuts and amulets. Thankfully, there were all muti-free.
When all the children were seated, there was more talk in Xhosa. Michael interjected that they mustn’t let anyone cut them unless they are a medical doctor. We all pressed that no one has the right to hurt them under any circumstances.
“Your body is the temple of God,” I said. “You mustn’t put anything in there that doesn’t belong there.”
As Mavis rattled off a list of don’ts including drungs, alchohol and tic (meth), one of the boys told on another one.
“This one smokes petrol!”
What the heck?!?
As the boy denied it, Michele told them all it doesn’t matter. From that day forward, no one was to abuse their body.
The ‘come to Jesus’ meeting ended with a hymn and a song of praise. In the middle of it, a boy clad in grey sweat pants and a long sleeve shirt broke into tears and began weeping uncontrollably. He was so sorry, so very sorry. Nobiswa grabbed him from his seat, holding and rocking him like a big baby.
It was the boy who had run away from the witch doctor just 3 days before.