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History as She is Signed

17 December 2013, 09:38

(I’ve posted this story before, but because of the historic times we live in, I’ve decided to modify it slightly, and do a re-post.)

What with the 16th of December being Dingaansdag, and History, as a subject, no longer allowed in our schools, I feel that I should share this story with you. Lest we forget – and all and all.

I believe that most South Africans are mature enough to be told the unadulterated truth regarding the history of our country. For too long, the colonial historians have distorted our chronicles.

The following story was told to me by that notorious interpreter and court signwriter, Thamsanqa Jantjie. I shall endeavour to repeat it here, sign for sign:

Our story begins in February of the year *1837BZ. Pieter Mauritz Retief, a Boer (pronounced “Boor,” not to be confused with “boor,” which means: “fool”), published his manifesto in his Grahamstown Blog. In it, he complained to the Government about the lack of service delivery, the thieving Xhosas, corruption, incompetence, taxes, taxis, nepotism, e-tolling, crime, and the laziness of the slaves. The usual things, you know.

Next, Piet rounded up some of his drinking buddies and convinced them to join him on a trek into the hinterland. This group, who became known as Voortrekkers (or Trekkies), rolled away in their ox wagons on a daring Enterprise. Their mission? To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Fool has gone before! 

Overcoming the potholes (though not as bad as it is nowadays); fighting the many plagues of Africa – mosquitoes, AIDS, punctures, and corrupt politicians – they trekked ever further into the uncharted interior; with only their Sannas (rifles), Bibles, and condoms, as protection. 

After many months of severe trials (and a couple of life-threatening tribulations), they finally reached a vast mountain range. This particular range used to be called uMgundgundlovu. However, the Zulu king, Dingane kaSenzangakhona (known as “King Dingus” to his friends), decreed that the name sounded too much like someone with ill-fitting false teeth trying to eat “stywe” pap, so he renamed it “Drakensberg.”

Piet met up with Dingane who showed him around the kingdom. The crafty old Boer immediately fell in love with the beauty and potential of KwaZulu-Natal; as it was then known. They soon became firm friends: with Piet calling king Dingane “old Dingus,” and Dingane calling him “bra Pieta.” (In those days everyone was equal. Dingane wasn’t required to call him “Baas Piet,” that only came later – when the Nats came into power. But by then they were both dead.)

Historians always neglect to mention that Piet tried to set Dingane up for the old “willing buyer, willing seller,” scam. In short: Piet tried to steal old Dingus’ land without compensation. (Note: This scam was written into law 157 years later, after an incompetent, corrupt, communist government came into power. But that’s not important right now.)

One day, Dingane sent a runner with a Message in a Forked Stick (MFS), (the forerunner of the modern day SMS), to Piet and his trekkers; inviting them to join him at his Nkandla Palace for a braai. The Boers enthusiastically looked forward to the occasion – having run out of Klippies, Coke, and Eish, a long, long, time ago.

Comes the big night, they all parked their horses in the horse park outside the Royal Nkandla Kraal. The horse park attendants (illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Mozambique) greeted them in the overfriendly, subservient manner, which is still their stock in trade to this very day.

At the entrance to the kraal, they were met by a Nigerian drug dealer/bouncer, who directed their attention to a sign, which read: “No guns, knives, knuckledusters, nail files, Bibles, wives, scissors, or condoms are allowed on these premises. Showers are available to prevent the contracting of AIDS.”

Piet and his thirsty men readily complied with this reasonable request. Leaving their Sannas, Bibles, and other weapons outside of the palace grounds, they paid the cover charge, and entered the palace. 

(Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention: they also left behind their Sannas, Magrietjies, Johannas, Magdalenas, and Gertruidas. Wives were not allowed inside the palace, remember? You really have to pay more attention in class!)

King Dingus’ kraal was, in fact, a Zulu theme park – with quaint huts – built in the shape and size of the breasts of one king’s favourite concubines. The huts were constructed of scrap pieces of wood, plastic bags, and stolen sheets of corrugated iron; much like the modern South African squatter camps human settlements we’ve all come to know. (There was no bunker – that only came later.)  

Festive fires lit up the night sky (the electricity was off again; due to power sharing) and Julius Sinatra’s hit song, **“Doo bee doo bee doo, Dubul’ ibhunu,” was being romantically piped through hollow ox horns mounted against acacia trees.

After drinking a couple of gallons of homebrewed Heineken, and smoking a large heap of Durban Poison, Piet and the boys (the white guys, that is), quickly got into the swing of things. They even joined the boys (the black guys, that is) in singing ***“Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu!”

The Voortrekkers, having been on the wagon trail for months, must have felt their toes curling in their velskoens at the sight of the lovely, nubile young ladies, who were dancing topless around the fires – with only reeds for protection.

And then, one supposes, the inevitable happened – one of the randy Boers tried to sample the forbidden fruits.

This was when king Dingus decided: enough is enough. He leapt to his feet shouting: “Bambani laba bathakathi!” Which in the vernacular means: “Kick their bloody white backsides back to Orania where they came from!”

The Sannas were left outside (along with the Sannas, Magrietjies, Johannas, Magdalenas, and Gertruidas); the Zulus had their spears to hand; and the rest as they say, is convoluted history.



I would like to thank Thamsanqa Jantjie, without whom this story would have been about prawns and rocking horses.

*1837BZ – 1837 Before Zuma

**Doo bee doo bee doo, Dubul’ ibhunu – Strangers in the Kraal

***Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu! – Waka! Waka! This time for Africa!

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