That great, forgotten guru of journalism, Obed Musi, tells the tale of a professional boxer who met his match when he encountered an old foe at the Pretoria station.
Where in heaven is the great, inimitable Bra Obs? Are we waiting - like we did with the great Doc Bikitsha and others in the past - for him to pop before we sing his eulogies? Just asking, but shame on us.
At any rate, according to Bra Obs, on that fateful day the pro boxer strutted majestically into the station to the adulation of all and sundry.
He was on his way to or from his home in Pietersburg (now Polokwane). He apparently had a string of memorable victories in the ring and was highly respected in the world of fisticuffs, with a championship or two under his belt.
On this day he chanced on some old nonentity of a foe. They exchanged bad looks, someone muttered voetsek and it was returned. The vocabulary got more acid and before you could say aowa, a couple of punches were traded.
The pro, totally unprepared for this one, and sans the protection of the "rules of the game", took a vicious bare-knuckle haymaker to the mouth. He dropped to the cold cement floor of the platform as if he had been shot, and started kicking out wildly at nothing in particular, while betel juice oozed from his now swollen lips.
A crowd that had quickly formed to see first hand their boxing hero do his magic live, came between the men and eventually managed to keep the non-boxer from literally finishing off the fallen hero.
As he staggered to his feet and picked up the scattered contents from his paper bag, at the same time furiously wiping off the red "jeeze" from his lips, the boxer cried out to his humiliator: "O mpetha ka ditlhare!" (You are using muti to beat me).
I was reminded of Bra Obs' story by a recent TV documentary shot in some rural KwaZulu-Natal village, highlighting inherent belief in the power of muti. I was not too amazed, though, and no black person who grew up in South Africa would be.
Of course I was a tad amused by the extent of the muti man's prescription. The main actor in the documentary ran a football club that he wanted "toughened" for an important coming fixture.
I would be the last to pooh-pooh indigenous beliefs lest I offend my own kith, but hell, the usiyazi produced, among a whole lot of can't-gets, a monkey's paw. This, he ordered, was to be tied to the upper arm of the goalkeeper to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Why, I wondered, is it that "serious" muti men never prescribe stuff you can get easily from down the road, such as spinach, milk, chocolate, black shoe polish or brown bread?
Why must it be crocodile tears, hippopotamus's testicles, lion's sputum, black mamba's teeth, pregnant giraffe's eardrum, hyena's womb.?