New short fiction: Fred Khumalo’s debut isiZulu short story ‘Kwakungcono eGibhithe’, from the anthology Izinkanyezi Ezintsha

The JRB presents new fiction from novelist and memoirist Fred Khumalo.

This a first for both The JRB and Khumalo: it is Khumalo’s debut short story in isiZulu, and the first time we’ve featured a story entirely in a language other than English.

Khumalo’s books include Bitches’ BrewTouch My Blood#ZuptasMustFall and Other Rants and, most recently, Dancing the Death Drill, a historical novel about the sinking of the SS Mendi during World War I. 

‘Kwakungcono eGibhithe’ is anthologised in the new South African speculative fiction anthology Izinkanyezi Ezintsha, published by Kwasukela Books, a new publisher dedicated to isiZulu fiction.

For those who can’t read isiZulu, here a short summary of the story by Nondumiso Shabangu:

Written from the perspective of a dog, uShizboy, Fred Khumalo’s ‘Kwakungcono eGibhithe’ reminds us how life was so much simpler, back then: ‘impela kwakungcono eGibhithe’: it was definitely better in Egypt.

It’s a humorous—downright funny—tale of everyday struggles for food, territory and what it means to find oneself prosperous while, yet, somehow thing seem to remain the same. uShizboy and his friends plan a protest against their owners for the ill treatment they have to endure, even as longstanding safety keepers, in Umlazi. Will Shizboy find his way back to Queensburg or stay in the land of abundance?

Kwakungcono eGibhithe by Fred Khumalo

Kwase kuhwalele elokishini laseMlazi. Unyezi wawuthe bha, kuheleza omtoti umoya wasolwandle. Njengenjwayelo, ilokishi labe lembethe izinhlobonhlobo zamaphunga: kwakunosi lwenyama yokosa. Kwakunephunga lesishebo esiphekwayo, kuzicacela ukuthi phela kuseThekwini lapha, ikhaya likakhali. Ngeshwa, ngaphezu kwawo wonke lamaphunga athokozisayo, kunelinye iququ nje elenza inhliziyo ibe nelukuluku lokunengwa elabe livela emaxhaphozini ayeseduze nomgwaqo. Izimoto zabe sezikhanyise izibani, kukhona ezipipiza amahuthi. Abanye abashayeli babevulele imisakazo yabo, bezikholisa ngomculo. Kwakuwubusuku obuncwaba impela. Kepha kazange abushaye mkhuba bonke lobu buhle bemvelo uShizboy. Kwakukuningi okwakusemqondweni wakhe. Futhi wabe ethukile kakhulu. Nephango lase lithe bhe kwazise ukudla wayekugcine ngayizolo. uShizboy lona kwakuyinkentshane elihunqu ngombala, linamadlebe amakhulu amagwagwa, nomlomo ocijile njengokwenjwayelo yamankentshane.

Inja lena yethuswa yikuthi yedukile, kayisaboni kahle ukuthi ikuphi nezwe. Ize ilahlekele esigcemeni sakwa-BB eMlazi njena ibisuke le eQueensburg, emajalidini abelungu lapho eyabe ihlala khona. Abanikazi bayo kwakungumndeni wakwaSangweni. Phambilini abakwaSangweni babekade benesithabathaba somuzi khona lapha elokishini laseMlazi. Ngenxa yokuthuthuka kwabo kwezomnotho, betshatha imithwalo yabo bathuthela esilungwini, sekuyokhulunywa esiphuma ngamakhala isiLungu nomakhelwane abangondlebe zikhanya ilanga.

Nakuba bakwenamela kakhulu abakwaSangweni ukuthuthuka kwezinga lempilo yabo inja yabo kayizange ikunambithisise konke loku. Wabe usuphelile unyaka inja lena uShizboy ihleli esilungwini, kwaze kwafika lolu suku eyathola ithuba lokuba idlubulundele ibaleke, izame ukubuyela lapho eyavela khona, iyofakana imilomo nabangane bayo eyabe ikhule nabo elokishini.

Engabe nkosi yami ngifunani lapha? Washo uShizboy ezicabangela, eseqala ukuzisola. Engabe bengenzani nje ngibaleka ekhaya lakwaSangweni elifudumela neliphephe kahle kanje.

Wake wema dlengelele, wacabanga ukubuyela emuva lapho ayevele ngakhona. Kepha kwamcacela ukuthi ngeke esakwazi ukuyithola kwasaleyo ndlela ebuyela ekhaya esilungwini. Ilokishi laseMlazi labe seliguquke kakhulu kunakuqala, sekunemigwaqo emisha nezakhiwo ayengakaze azelamele phambilini. Kwacaca ukuthi sekukude phambili, kukude emuva. Mazilime ziye etsheni. Waqhubeka nokukhwantaza, egijigijima, ame abambe umoya, athi qalaqala, abuye aqale agijime. Amadlebe usewavuse ama mpo sengathi usehlathini, uyazingela.

Kanti ugijima nje kukhona abambhekile, bamcuthele ngaphansi kwehlashana, sebelinde ukugadla. Wake wema, waphakamisa ikhala, wahogela umoya kaningana. Wathi qalaqala… kanti usephuzile. Wezwa ngezidladla zenye inja zimngena ngemuva kwentamo. Kwaba ongaphansi ongaphezulu.

Kuwo lowo mnyama, wezwa ukuhhahhama kwezinye izinja eziningana, zonke zimhlanganyela, zisho ukumqeda. Kwasiza kona ukuthi uShizboy lona uyinja eqeqeshiwe, futhi eyondlekile. Wakuphebeza nje loku okuyisimakwana kwayosakazeka njenganjeya phezu kwesitamukoko. Ubhova omnyama owawunamazinyo angaphelele wawuhlaba ngezinyo esiswini nasekhaleni waklewula okwengulube ebulawa.

Kwezwakala enye yezinja isibabaza, ‘Hhayi bo, we bafowethu! Ngiyaphupha yini na? Sengathi uShizboy njena lona?’

Zime dlengelele ezinye izinja. Naye uShizboy ethuke, ezwa lenja ekwazi ukumbona nasebumnyameni.

‘Ubani lona owazi igama lami?’ kubuza uShizboy, ehlehla kancane, eqinisa izidladla zakhe, elungiselela ukuzivikela nxa bephinda bemhlasela.

‘Yimina uKhomanda. Usangikhumbula? Sike sahlangana nawe laphaya la kuchithwa khona izibi esigcemeni sakwa-Q. Wena wawuhamba negenge yakwa-Z, laphaya ngakwakhansela uShozi …’

Ethuke uShizboy. Ayibhekisise lenja ephambi kwakhe. Mamoshane! Useyayikhumbula lenja! uKhomanda lona uyile nhlobo yezinja okuthiwa ngamabhansi, lezi ezinde, ezinezisu ezithe cababa, ezidume ngokuba ngabazingeli abakhaliphile futhi abaphuthumayo.

‘Hhawu, mngane wami! Angisakuboni! Phela neminyaka isihambile!’ sekuphendula uShizboy. ‘Kepha ubekwa yini lapha. Ngagcina ngizwe ukuthi abanikazi bakho bathuthele ndawo-thize esilungwini.’

‘We bulongwe! Ncimfi! ‘ kuncimfa uKhomanda. ‘Uyazi laba bantu bathanda kabi ukuzenza ngcono. Umuntu unele nje athole isikhundlana esingathe shu emsebenzini, abese ecabanga ukuthi useyingquphunga enezimali zokuthuthela esilungwini. Uye lowaya eyodumela indlu ebizayo, nemoto kanokusho. Izingane azifake esikoleni sezinjinga. Ekugcineni kucace ukuthi loku kungukugagamela nje, ayingangaye …’

Akhwehlele ngokunengwa ubhova, akhothe izisini zakhe, athi: ‘We madoda, wemadoda. Senikhininda izindaba zobungani benu nje anisasinakanga thina. Futhi wena Khomanda lomngani ndini wakho ungilimazile …’ Ubhova abakhombise igazi elabe limfimfa ngasekhaleni lakhe.

‘Awu, ngiyaxolisa mngani,’ kusho uKhomanda ngelinesizotha. ‘Phephisa, ubengaqondanga ukukwenzakalisa uShizboy. Ubezivikela nje. Yikuthi nathi sivele sambhozomela ngokumzuma, singazange simbhekisise ukuthi uhloseni… Eh, bahlobo bami nonke enilapha, uShizboy lona impintshi-mpontsho yami van toeka, ibhoza esikhule nayo, baf’wethu. Manje ke ngokwempilo, uke wathi shwi nabanikazi bakhe besayozama impilo laphaya esilungwini, emasabhabhu …’

‘Ohho,’ kubhavumula ubhova uSteleka, ‘umthetho wakhe lomngani wakho uyibhujwa. Ucabanga ukuthi ungcono kunathi ngoba ehlala esilungwini, emasabhabhu. Usuka le lapho bedla kona amasushi namasoseji uzosibangisa la …’

‘Cha, bafowethu, umoya phansi,’ kusho uShizboy ezikhalela, ‘Kangishayeli top, mina, ngingumuntu wabantu, zinja zami. Ngilapha nje ngiyimvu elahlekile. Ngifunana nabantu abafana nani …’

‘Ya, ufuna ukuhlekisa ngathi,’ kusho esinye nje isimaku, sizenwayela utwayi lwaso. ‘Angithi nina basemasabhabhu niyiswa kodokotela, nibhukudiswa koma-swimming pool. Nihanjiswa ngezimoto, thina la siyafa yindlala nayo yonke inhlobo yezifo.’

Zihhomuzele izingcanga, zinqekuzise amakhanda. Wabe usumkhulu umhlambi wezinja owabe usubuthene kulelo khona uvumelana nesimaku ogama laso kwakunguBling-Bling.

Ebona loku, uKhomanda avuke ngolaka manje, abakhombise abangani bakhe ukuthi nguye ophethe lapha, nguye oshaya umthetho: ‘Hheyi nina, ningakhohlwa phela ukuthi ngingubani mina! Niyezwa! Bengisachaza ukuthi uShizboy insizwa ezinsizweni. Akasiyena umdayisi. Yingakho esuke lena emasabhabhu weza elokishini. Ufuna ukuba nathi …’

‘Suka lapha, uxoshwe yindlala emasabhabhu,’ sekusho ichalaha elalimidwayidwa, kucaca ukuthi kade lalizibamba izimpi.

Angakunaki loko uKhomanda. Ngesineke, ethule abangane nomakhelwane kuShizboy. Wonke uwonke aqale ukukhululeka.

Akhwehlele kancane uShizboy. Ukhwehlela nje yingoba ubhova uSteleka usanda kulayitha isinqamu sakhe semboza. Anele ezwe uShizboy ekhwehlela, acasuke athelwe ngamanzi uSteleka athi: ‘Khomanda, Khomanda! Uyayibona-ke lento ebengikhuluma ngayo? Ngokulayitha nje isinqanyana sami semboza, lesi sicwicwicwi sakho sesiyakhwehlela, sizenza ngcono ngami. Angithi phela yena udla izambane likampondo, uphuza amashampeni, ubhema isigazu esibizayo. Nx!’

‘Kahle ngolaka, s’thandwa sami,’ kusho uBling-Bling, esondela azozihuqa kuSteleka. Isimakwana lesi sasikade simhlophe umbala ngezikhathi zakudala, sisaphila phakathi komhlane nembeleko. Kepha ngokuhamba kwesikhathi umbala waso wabe usuthanda ukuba mpunga.

‘Bafowethu,’ kuqhuba uShizboy, ‘bengisachaza ukuthi ngilapha nje ngibhekene nobunzinyana obuncane nje. Kangizimisele ukuniphazamisa emhlabeni wenu. Ngibalekile ekhaya. Iyangigulisa impilo yasemasabhabhu. Ukudla kwesilungu kuyangehlula …’

‘Ungcono wena unako naloko kudla,’ kukhala umgodoyi nje.

‘Abanikazi bami oMhlongo, besahlala lapha elokishini, bebengiphakela inyama, amathambo, uphuthu, nomsobho omnandi onetswayi. Bengibuye ngidle nazo zonke ke izinsalela zezibiliboco zabo. Bengibusa impela. Besingekho isizathu sokuthi ngihambe ngichithana nemigqomo yabantu …’

‘Ngitheni kinina? Ngishilo ngathi lona uzele ukuzohlekisa ngathi!’ kusho uSteleka.

Aqhubeke uShizboy: ‘Manje esilungwini, seligaya ngomunye umhlathi. Umama wakhona kasayidli inyama, usedla imifino nje kuphela. Bathi idayethi. Udla izaqante, isipinashi, iklabishi nokunye okufanayo. Ubaba wakhona yena udla uphephesana lwale nhlanzi okuthiwa yisushi. Mina? Weh mame! Ngaze ngavelelwa. Bangithengela nje insambatheka yempuqumpuqu yempuphu – okunye bathi iDogmor. Lento ayinambitheki, ayinamsobho, ayinamafutha. Sengathi nje umuntu ukhuma ikhadibhodi!’

Ngqoklo! Kuhlekwe kuvele elomhlathi. Nobhova uSteleka imbala ahleke, aze axhilwe yintuthu yemboza yakhe.

Isimaku sakhe uBling-Bling, akhulume naye: ‘Uyazi wangikhumbuza ezami izinsuku ngisahlala esilungwini eNew Germany. Senginonyaka nami ngibuyele lapha elokishini. Abanikazi bami eNew Germany bona babexake kakhudlwana. Uma ungazi, wawungacabanga ukuthi banemali, kanti ushaye phansi. Kwakulanjwa kulowaya muzi. Ifuliji lakhona, kunesigaxana nje seklabishi, utamatisi owodwa, nebhodlela eligcwele amanzi. Ngikwazi kanjani konke loku? Phela thina zimaku siyathandwa, silala ezindlini zabo abanikazi. Bayasiphipha, bayasigeza. Wu! Nanso-ke futhi into engicasula tu. Ukugezwa!

Angazi ukuthi abantu batshelwa ngubani ukuthi thina sifuna ukugezwa. Okuyizingane zakhona kudlala ngami sengathi ngiyithoyizi. Mamoshane! Angazi ngempela mpela ukuthi batshelwa ngubani ukuthi mina ngiyinto yokudlala bona. Babuye bangicasule-ke futhi uma sebekhuluma isiNgisi. Sisahlala la elokishini, bekukuhle bekhuluma isiZulu, ulimi engizalelwe kulo. Mamoshane! Ngokufika nje esilungwini, sebekhuluma isiNgisi. Mina ngisazelaphi isiNgisi? Okuyizingane zakhona kulo kungibelesela kuthi: ‘Sit! Sit! Jump. Lun …’

‘Run!’ sekusho uKhomanda elungisa isilungu sikaBling-Bling.

‘Ohho,’ sekubhavumula uSteleka, ‘savelelwa yizifundiswa!’

Kuhlekwe.

Aqhube uBling-Bling: ‘Abanikazi bami kwasabona babebulawa yindlala. Babesinda ngakho-ke ukuvakashela abangani babo kwamanye amasabhabhu. Lapho bayofika badlele ukusutha, babuyele ekhaya bephethe izikhafutini. Kwakuthi manamana uzwe sekuthathwana phezulu laphaya endlini, kubangwa imali. Unkosikazi ethi makudayiswe enye yezimoto ukuze kutholakale imali yokuphila. Wayala aphethe lapho umnumzane wekhaya, athi: ‘abantu bazothini? Bazothi sesiwile!’ Into ecasulayo ukuthi uma kuxatshwana lapha endlini wonke umuntu ukhiphela intukuthelo yakhe lapha kimi. Ngithuke sengikhahlelwa nje, ngingazi ukuthi yimina yini oyimbangela yezinkinga zabo. Kuhambe kwahamba wamane kwathi xhifi kimi. Ngamane ngathi: sekwanele. Ngangena indlela.’

‘Anishoni kahle-ke webaf’wethu. Kuze kuhlushekwe kanjena ezweni kwenzenjani?’ kubuza umgodoyi ogama lawo nguSpoti.

‘Bathi irandi liwile. Bathi irandi likhahlelwe yidollar,’ kusho uKhomanda.

‘Angithi irandi yile mali yalapha ezweni lakithi?’ kubuza uSteleka.

Kuvunywe.

‘Angithi idollar yile mali yaphesheya eMelika?’

Kuvunywe futhi.

‘Pho-ke, irandi leli lize likhahlelwe yidollar lona beliyofunani phesheya eMelika?’

Zonke izinja zibheke uShizboy noKhomanda. Phela yibona okubonakala sengathi bayazazi izinto.

‘Anibofunda amaphephandaba, maan!’ kusho uBling-Bling ngelokunengwa. ‘Futhi mina sengilambile. Asambeni siye eSeventini!’

Zichwaze izinja zenanela loko. Phela eSeventini, endaweni edume ngokuthi kusemzini wezinsizwa, yilapho eziningi izinja zabe seziphephela khona. Zaziyichitha khona imigqomo kwazise imigqomo yakomazakhele baselokishini yabe izifanela nje naleyo yasesilungwini. Kwakungekho ukudla okwakufanele izinja. Wake wayibona inja idla izinsalela zesaladi?

Nebala eSeventini zafike zasina zazibethela izinja, noShizboy owabe engasakhumbuli nokuthi wabe uchithwa kanjani umgqomo bamsiza abangane bakhe, nebala wazithela phezu kwelikhulu ithambo. Lona labe selinuka ukubola, kepha indlala yabe ithe bhe. Bathi ithi ingahamba idle udaka. Basuke besho uma sekunje, kucabanga uShizboy ematasatasa egunununda ithambo lansondo.

Zaxoxa izinja, zebusa, kwahlekwa. uSteleka, owabe enesibindi, wake wazithulisa izinja wathi: ‘Bafowethu nodadewethu, mina ngiye ngihlale ngifikelwe yizinhlobo nhlobo zemicabango nemidlinzo. Kuke kungifikele ukuthi njengoba kucaca ukuthi iningi lethu thina zinja kaseneme, kuyoke kufanele sibe nesethu isiteleka netoyitoyi …’

‘Kanjani?’ kubuza ichalaha lemidwayidwa, elabe liyikhonzile impi.

‘Sivele senqabe ukwenza umsebenzi wethu wokugadana nemizi yabantu,’ kusho uBling-Bling.

‘Noma siye emajalidini, siyobiza izinja zakhona, sizichazele ngalomzabalazo wokwenza ukuthi abanikazi bethu basihloniphe, basiphe amalungelo ethu,’ kusho enye inja.

‘Noma sivele sihlasele zonke izilaha elokishini, sizitike ngenyama, kube wuthela wayeka…’ kusho enye.

‘Weh! Mame!’ kukhala umgodoyi wensikazi, ‘eyami imidlwane isemincane kabi! Angifuni ukuyishiya ibe yizintandane. Uma singase nje senze lensambatheka okhuluma ngayo, abantu bazovele bathi: ‘lezi zinja ziyagula, ziphethwe amarabi!’ basithele ngenhlamvu yesibhamu, sife sonke!’

‘Uma kusekhona abadayisi abafana nawe, soze sayithola lenkululeko yethu kulaba bantu abasicindezele! Mdayisi ndini!’ kuklewula uBling-Bling, eyihlala ngobhongwane lenja yensikazi.

Agxume ngokukhulu ukushesha uKhomanda, elamula. Aqhubeke athi: ‘Bukani nje madoda! Abanikazi bethu balele ngoxolo emizini yabo, bayahonqa, bayasuza, bayazenwaya, thina silwa sodwa lapha. Kumele sihloniphane, sibumbane!’

Kuhlalwe phansi, kuthuleke. Babodwa abavungulayo, abanye bazibhemela imboza kaSteleka. Makhatheleni bezwe izinja zishaya imikhulungwane kude kude le ebumnyameni belokishi. Imikhulungwane lena kuyacaca ukuthi ibika indlala nosizi.

uShizboy athule, athule, abe esesho ngelipholile iphimbo: ‘Ewu, lendaba yokuhlala embusweni-mbumbulu wasesilungwini angisayiboni kahle. Angibuyeli emasabhabhu! Ngibona ukuthi kwakungcono sisahlala elokishini. Kwakungcono eGibhithe.’

Author image: Joanne Olivier

2 thoughts on “New short fiction: Fred Khumalo’s debut isiZulu short story ‘Kwakungcono eGibhithe’, from the anthology Izinkanyezi Ezintsha”

  1. I’m really excited to see your publication publishing an entire short story in isiZulu, and hope it’s the beginning of a continuous and comprehensive agency of support it provides to the fostering and development of work in South Africa’s eleven official languages (and perhaps even some other, non-official languages). However, will there be a translation into English of this story, and other works that are not in English, for the benefit of all readers who can’t read in the original language, especially those from other countries who are interested in South African work?

    1. Hi Jurd

      Thanks for your comment, I, too, hope we can support the growth of published literature in all SA’s languages, even if in a small way. As for translation, I don’t think that’s a priority at the moment (and perhaps not the job of The JRB)—what I think we should focus on first is the *creation* of literature in all languages. After all, countries that have established publishing traditions in languages other than English (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan) don’t concern themselves with publishing their works into English.

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