Stick fighter Tata won’t go

2011-02-01 13:31

One of Nelson Mandela’s few ­remaining peers in Qunu believes the former president used the skills he honed as a champion stick fighter to emerge from his hospital stay this week.

Nonxi Ndyavuthwa spoke with pride of “Rolihlahla”, the name used by Qunu’s elderly residents to refer to Mandela.

In his memoir, Long Walk To Freedom, Mandela writes glowingly about stick fighting, saying he learnt to “stick fight – ­essential knowledge to any ­rural African boy – and became adept at its various techniques, parrying blows, feinting in one direction and striking in another, breaking away from an opponent with quick footwork”.

“He was a champion stick fighter (ikhangala, iqwakume),” the 92-year-old Ndyavuthwa said.

Surprisingly strong for a 92-year-old, Ndyavuthwa tills his garden every day, says his 20-year-old daughter, Khuselwa.

Ndyavuthwa turns 93 in April but, as is customary in the Eastern Cape, considers himself younger than Mandela because Mandela went through the rite of passage into manhood first. He said he went to Nigel on the East Rand in 1940 as a 22-year-old to work in the mines and was still a “boy” at that age.

In Long Walk To Freedom Mandela writes that he went through the circumcision ritual as a 16-year-old in 1934.

Ndyavuthwa said many boys avoided Mandela because of his skill as a stick fighter.

“He has Christ, he saved his people and fought for his land,” Ndyavuthwa said of Mandela, whom he last saw at the funeral of his son, Makgato.

Makgato Mandela, Nkosi Mandla Mandela’s father, died in January 2005 and is buried at the Mandela graveyard in Qunu.

Ndyavuthwa, who said he believed Mandela had lived long because he was a man of truth, said he was shocked when he learnt that he was in hospital.

“Ndisangcambaza, kuthiwa ufunqulwa amacala yena (I’m still going strong but I hear Mandela needs assistance to stand up),” he said.

» Meanwhile, Qunu residents are cashing in on global television networks and media houses, including the SABC, that are setting up base in Qunu in preparation for the event of Mandela’s death and funeral.

Associated Press (AP) has built a small studio in a room ­opposite the Mandela household in Qunu outside Mthatha.

The family that owns the house had initially declined AP’s offer but was persuaded by neighbours of the benefits ­accruing from ­allowing media houses access to the village.

The family is set to inherit the room after Mandela’s funeral.

The SABC has also approached one of the homesteads opposite Mandela’s house to set up a studio.

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