By Sean E. Tembo.
About 30 years ago while on a school break and visiting my grandparents at Mulima village in Eastern Province, l developed a strong liking for my grandfather, which l never thought existed before that, largely due to his seemingly infinite inventory of bed time stories. One summer evening, after making sure that all the goats, chickens and cattle had been secured in the respective kraals, me and my other siblings and cousins gathered around a fire and waited patiently for grandfather to show up and administer his daily dose of bedtime stories.
On this particular day, grandfather told us a story of the snake and the guinea fowl: ‘The snake and the guinea fowl both lived together with other creatures in the jungle. The guinea fowl did not get along with the snake, largely due to the treacherous ways of the snake. Simply put, the snake could not be trusted on any matter. As the creatures lived in the jungle, it happened that on one hot summer afternoon, the jungle was engulfed by a huge fire, which seemed to come from all directions. As the guinea fowl sat on the tallest branch of a nearby tree and observed the carnage that the fire left in its wake, it’s eyes came upon the snake as it struggled to slide away from the fire’.
As we all sat listening queitly to grandfather, he continued: ‘It was clearly evident to the guinea fowl that the snake would not be able to outrun the fire. At this point, the guinea fowl was overcome with pity and considered the possibility of helping to evacuate the snake to safety. After careful deliberation, the guinea fowl decided that for the sake of ‘humanity’, it had no option but to assist the snake to evacuate from the clear and present danger which the raging fire presented. In this regard, the guinea fowl flew onto the ground next to where the snake was slowly trying to slither away. The snake was asked to promise that if it was helped, it would not turn against the guinea fowl, to which the snake swore ‘over its dead body’! The snake was then asked to wrap itself around the neck of the guinea fowl and the bird proceeded to fly away to safety.
The guinea fowl flew several hundred kilometers, with the snake wrapped around its neck, until it finally landed on the banks of a river. The snake was requested to unwrap itself from the neck of the guinea fowl. As the snake slowly unwrapped itself, it’s treachery got the better of it and it decided to bite the guinea fowl on the neck. The guinea fowl writhed for a number of minutes before its life was completely snuffed out of it, as the snake slithered away with a grin on its face’.
As everyone sat around the fire was faces filled with sorrow at this level of treachery, l asked grandfather whether such treachery maybe possible in the real world and he told me to find out for myself as l grew older.
Fast forward 30 years later, it occurred to me that the xenophobia currently taking place in South Africa exactly fits my grandfather’s story. In this particular case, the various countries across Africa that helped SA to fight apartheid are represented by the guinea fowl and South Africans are represented by the snake!
May God deliver South Africans from their inherent evil and treachery. May God bless the families of the victims of xenophobia. Amen!!!
By Sean E. Tembo