The JRB presents an excerpt from The Resurrection, the debut novel from Sihle Qwabe.
Read the excerpt:
He turned onto the gravel village road and picked up clouds of dust behind him.
‘Get here as soon as you can,’ his mother had said on the phone.
‘But, Ma, I can’t just up and leave everything. I have a business to run, remember?’
‘I know, son, but this is far more important. You have to make a plan.’
Last night Victor had tried to sleep, but the sweet oblivion just wouldn’t come. The sense of urgency he had heard in Charity’s tone haunted him. He’d never heard it before. So, before the break of dawn, he’d jumped out of bed, packed a travelling bag and driven from Durban where he worked and owned a townhouse to the rural family homestead. If ‘Home’ was what you’d call it. To himself, he was homeless. He’d had a home once in Johannesburg, until his father was murdered. Mother had packed them off in the middle of the night like common thieves and moved them to this simple village. Their father’s old home. To Victor, it was only a safe house.
Curious glances followed the black BMW M3 Victor drove. Children raced behind it as they always did when he visited. In no time he was parked before the homestead’s gate. Blessing rushed from the big house to admit him. The youngest of the Zulu brothers had grown tall since Victor had last seen him. His chest was jacked, and muscles flexed on his arms when he pulled the gate back.
Victor drove in. He left his luggage in the car and got out.
‘Welcome home, big bro,’ Blessing said.
‘Yes. Blessi.’ Victor patted his brother on the back as they fell in step next to each other.
The yard was summer green with flowers of all colours blooming in the garden at the far end. Victor kicked the morning dew off the grass in the few long strides he took to reach the big house. He and Blessing walked in. His brother sat down on a chair drawn out from the square dining-room table. A half-full squeeze water bottle and a bowl of grapes were on the table in front of him.
‘Ma will be here any minute now. She went to a morning prayer at church,’ Blessing said.
‘All right. Tell me, what’s wrong, Blessi?’
‘I don’t know. Maybe she misses you. Last month you didn’t come home for Christmas.’
Like Victor needed reminding. Since their elder brother Hector’s death, two years ago, their mother relied on Victor the most, and he knew she’d wanted him here over the festive season. He lowered his gaze. It shamed him how he sometimes needed a break from being the son she could count on.
‘I’m just messing with you,’ Blessi giggled. ‘Ma received a letter from Fana. He wants to buy us out of TheZulu Club. He’s offering mad cheddar for it too. I’m down. I told Ma as much. But I think she doesn’t wanna sell.’
Victor knew that there was only one place where his late brother’s best friend could get ‘mad cheddar’. He was surprised that Fana hadn’t already called about it. ‘What makes you think she doesn’t wanna sell?’ he asked Blessi. The club had been their father’s, but it had also been the scene of terrible heartbreak.
‘I dunno, bro. Lately she’s really acting strange. But I told her we should sell the club and cut our losses with everything in Joburg.’
Does that include Busie as well? Victor thought. Hector’s widow was still in Joburg and managing the club alongside Fana.
‘Victor! You also think we should take the money, right?’ Blessi asked.
‘I don’t know, Blessi. What does Ma think?’
‘I dunno. She said you’ll know what to do.’
‘Well, I don’t.’
‘Then you’ll do whatever she wants you to. You always do that anyways.’
A shadow fell on them from the open door. Victor looked back and saw Charity in a white church gown and a black beret.
‘And you! Have you watered the garden yet?’ she asked.
‘But, Ma, it’s still early,’ Blessi complained.
‘I don’t care. Just do it.’
He pushed his chair with the back of his knees and walked out with his mouth in a knot. Charity swerved slightly to make way for him. She then followed her shadow into the house, smiling at Victor. He grinned back and stood up to meet her embrace. She held him tight and rubbed his back like she had never done before. When she finally pulled back, she held his hands in hers. ‘And so we don’t come home for Christmas any more?’ she asked, as he had expected she would.
‘I’m sorry, Ma. You know, business.’ That was his famous excuse.
‘So business prevented you from calling your mama and wishing her a happy New Year too?’
He was blank. He would have called, but he knew that she would ask about Christmas.
‘Son, Hector always came home for Christmas. Every single Christmas.’ She looked into his eyes. ‘You’re the head of this family now. You’ll need to always remember that.’
Him? Head of the family? He knew that he was, but goosebumps always accompanied the reminder. He pulled his hands free from his mother’s and returned to his chair. She took Blessi’s chair, and pushed his grapes and water aside. ‘I’m sorry we have no breakfast ready. I didn’t know you were coming today. You could’ve said something.’
‘I also didn’t know that I was. It just happened.’
‘I’m happy you’re here now. We need to deal with Fana. And soon.’
‘We need him out of your father’s club, Victor.’
‘When Hector gave him forty-nine per cent of the club, he pretty much made him part of it.’
‘That he did,’ Charity snarled the words.
Victor knew that a part of her still resented Hector for that decision. Hector was gone, six feet under, and she still hadn’t forgiven him.
‘I’m happy you remember, Ma. Now how do we undo that?’
‘He’s ready to undo us. See this sweet offer that he’s made us? We make him a sweeter one.’
‘Fana won’t go away that easily, Ma,’ Victor told her.
‘I know. That’s why I called you here.’
‘To what? To give him my money?’
‘Victor, do you seriously think it’s your precious money I want?’
Victor felt heat rush to his face. Of course it was not the money she needed. Bantu had made certain of that. ‘What do you need from me, Ma?’
‘Not much, son. Just for you to broker the deal. That’s really all.’
Victor had a feeling it was not all. ‘How exactly?’ he asked.
‘I need you to move back to Joburg. Immediately.’
Phantom hairs stood up on his shaved head. ‘How can you ask me to relocate just like that?’ He frowned.
She slammed her palm on the table. ‘Because our family’s future depends on it.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Exactly that. Ten years ago, your father built that club for you boys. I know I won’t live forever, but before my time comes, I need to see Fana out of your father’s club.’
Victor’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Ma? Are you sick? How bad is it?’
‘Stop it! I’m okay. At least for now. It’s Fana’s letter. After I read it, I realised that we need to start righting some wrongs. We need to search for something your father might have lost. I need to start trusting my kids to help me. You’re grown men now.’
‘And what does all of that have to do with me moving back to Joburg?’
‘Everything. Your father trusted you, Victor. He always said that you were the smartest of his children. You were the son who would carry on the family name.’ Charity smiled. Victor thought she looked sad.
He blinked. He had never thought that Bantu DaDon had trusted him with anything more than getting good grades at school. Carry on the family name? Like any idiot with a hard cock wouldn’t be equal to the task. And why not Hector, the oldest? After all, Baba could not have known that Hector would die in the prime of his life, right? But Hector had died—was killed—without fathering any children with Busie. In a macabre way, Hector was the one who’d really followed in their father’s footsteps, being killed so young. If only he could have been resurrected like Bantu DaDon after his first death, too. But no, he’d died with the finality of Bantu’s second death, in the same club where Baba had perished. The same place his mother now wanted Victor to return to.
Victor cleared his throat. ‘Ma, are you sure that everything is alright?’
‘It will be if you can get your father’s club back from Fana. We need him out of there. I’ve never trusted him, and now he has gone too far.’
‘Even so, moving back to Joburg …’
‘I’ve always thought you loved it more than this place.’
‘I did, when we were still a family in Joburg.’ Before his brother and father were both killed there.
- Sihle Qwabe was born in a small village in KwaZulu-Natal and now lives in Johannesburg where he works in retail. He holds a diploma in public relations. In 2021 he was chosen as one of only four candidates to participate in the Jakes Gerwel Foundation’s writing mentorship programme. The Resurrection is his first novel.
Debut author delivers thrilling novel set in Joburg.
My father and brother died in this club, Victor thought as he stared at the faded sign reading TheZulu Club above the front door. Was he next? The macabre idea came out of nowhere and Victor shook his head to get rid of it. He had sometimes wondered if his family was cursed, having lost both his father and brother to murder in the same club. He tried not to dwell on such thoughts.
Victor Zulu has not set foot in TheZulu Club since the day ten years ago that his father was killed. Now he has returned to take over the family business. But he will have to watch his back with gangsters coveting the club as a prime place to push their drug trade and rival clubs hoping to squash the competition. Although his father once returned to life after being pronounced dead, there is no hope that Victor will be so lucky.
Meanwhile, his brother’s best friend, Fana, wants to buy the club out from under the Zulus—but with what money? And then there’s his brother’s widow, Busie, whom Victor secretly loves, but even she seems to have secrets …
The Resurrection is a thrilling tale of mystery and suspense, danger and daring.
‘Slick, smart and scintillating. This novel pulses with energetic, cinematic prose.’—Sifiso Mzobe