PMB’s Jabulani — made in China

2014-11-22 00:00

THERE is a Chinese “Zulu” on my stoep! That’s most likely the claim to fame of Gui Weng’s neighbours in Retief Street, Pietermaritzburg.

Weng (28), a Chinese national, speaks fluent Zulu and is known as Jabulani to his friends and neighbours. He has been in South Africa for 10 years and his Zulu is so good that his friends described him using the Zulu saying “Wasincela ebeleni”, meaning, “his Zulu is so good, it’s almost as natural as if it was breastfed to him”.

Weng, a mild mannered man with boyish looks, smiled a lot as he sat behind the counter of his liquor business. He readily agreed to be interviewed by Weekend Witness. He has become a local celebrity as another publication was ­waiting in line to talk to him.

The interview was conducted entirely in Zulu as Weng does not speak a word of English. This reporter was impressed. There was not a trace of fanakalo or slang Zulu.

He speaks the language in its best grammatical form and clearly. He can read a little but still struggles with writing.

Weng acknowledges that his Zulu language skills have made him a go-to guy for translations for other Chinese business people. The police have even consulted him and he has been a translator in the courts. He laughs as he says that he has also been a source of embarrassment for those who gossip.

“When I arrived here to help my brother in his business in Howick, I did not speak a word of English or Zulu,” he added.

Weng said that while working in the shop there, the women who worked with him started teaching him Zulu. It took him about three years to learn the language. “I would not say I speak well because I am still learning; even today I am still learning,” he said.

“There have been many instances where people would talk and I will answer back in Zulu and they would be shocked,” continued Weng.

Asked about his nickname Jabulani, he said, “We were at a party organised by the South African Breweries. I was there because I am one of their customers.

“We started talking to the people there and they spoke in English. I told them I did not understand English but I could speak Zulu.

“They said because I speak Zulu I should get a Zulu name and they started calling me Jabulani,” he says.

He said his Zulu has also been good for his business. “Customers are happy when I speak to them in Zulu.”

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