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Grave Trouble

05 July 2013, 14:58

‘Sit down, Mandla.’


‘Sit down, we have things to discuss.’

‘What things!?’

The magistrate looked at him threateningly from under beetling brows. ‘Hey, wena, I said sit down! You don’t ask, you do what I say, okay?’

‘Why?! Why I must do what you say? I’m a Paramount Chief of the Qunu Tribe!’

‘You? You’re nothing, my friend. You’re not Schabir or Jackie: the President’s not going to do anything for you. You’re guilty and I’m doing you the favour of sentencing you in private, so just shut up and be happy.’

Mandla sat down sullenly. Who did this upstart think he was? He shook his head.

‘You shake your head at me, wena?’

Mandla looked up, startled. ‘No, no, it’s just because I’m not happy.’

‘What do you think is going to happen when you move the bones of your ancestors? You think they’re going to be happy? You think your family is happy? You think the Government is happy?’ He slapped his hands down on the table and stood up, towering over Mandla. ‘You’re lucky your grandfather is who he is, otherwise…’ he made a motion of turning a key ‘…straight to jail and stay there! Now, are you going to listen? We’ve got nice community service for you.’

‘What community service?’

‘Westpark Cemetery is full and they are struggling to find more place for the dead people, so they have given you the job?’ He smiled smugly at Mandla.

‘What job?’ He asked suspiciously.

‘To move the bodies!’

‘What bodies?!’

‘Hai, man, must I explain everything to you?’ He shook his head in disgust. ‘They need to make more space to bury more people, but they haven’t got any space, so you must make the space.’

‘But how am I going to do that?’ Now he was genuinely puzzled.

The magistrate sat back, linking his hands behind his head. ‘For a man, like you, it’s easy! You go to all the graves, and when you see one where a husband and wife are buried together, you dig up the husband, not the wife, and put him on top of his wife. That is the African way: to put the woman on top is not natural.’

‘How am I going to do that?

‘I’m going to give you two gravediggers. They will dig up the bodies, and you will show them where the bodies must go.’

Mandla shook his head. ‘Eh, I don’t know; this doesn’t feel right.’

‘Don’t worry, it’s fine! Mayor Tau has authorised it.

‘But what about the families?’ asked Mandla.

‘Don’t worry about the families! These are white people, they don’t have ancestors, so you’re not going to upset anybody.’ He looked quizzically at Mandla. ‘You understand now?’

‘Ya, okay, but I’m not happy. What if somebody sees us and complains?’

‘Don’t worry: we’ll close the cemetery for two days and after that you’ll be finished. Easy, eh?’

Mandla stood up. ‘Okay, but I’m still the Paramount Chief of the Qunu tribe.’

‘We’ll see about that when you finish with this job.’ Mandla got up and left, leaving the magistrate alone with his thoughts. No question, Mayor Tau was brilliant when it came to solving problems like this. Now it was up the squabbling Mandela clan to decide who was chief.

Maybe he could get Winnie in to sort out this mess. He would just have to find some matches and petrol.

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