Donkey fable lays bare bulldust

My fellow taxi travellers were very critical of Tony Yengeni and his foray into butchering at his father's kraal.

They say he deserved the criticism of the white folks because he did not go far enough. Yengeni should not have had an abbreviated ancestral ceremony but should have gone the whole hog.

One lady said that the more blacks introduce changes to ancestral worship to comply with the sensibilities of their neighbours, the more they will be criticised. She said though many whites revered the memories of their relatives who had passed on, they pretended that what black people did was barbaric.

Then she cited one of Aesop's fables concerning that beast of burden, the donkey. It is about an old man and his son who were riding on the animal some-where in Israel.

They met a man who shamed them, telling them that they were too heavy for the donkey to carry.

As they were walking down the road alongside the donkey, another critic emerged and told them that the donkey was tired and they should carry it.

They met more critics who said their piece very vocally, confusing the old man and his son until they did not know whether they were coming or going.

It is clear that the old man bought the donkey for the purpose of using it as a means of transport. But he was forced to treat it as a baby or as an equal, depending on the views of his critics.

The elegant one from Cape Town is very vocal about his judicial rights and should be the same about his right to worship the ancestors, we all agreed.

The old gent, who usually does not take part in our scintillating discussions on the twists and turns of life, said Yengeni should have slaughtered the bull outside the gate.

He should then have stripped off and had a bath with rain water, herbs and the bile of the bull, right outside the gate in full view of everyone.

Only then should he have been allowed inside after the cleansing ceremony. He should have left the bad luck and hatred others have for him outside his home.

There should have been a sangoma to speak on his behalf with the departed and to use strengthening muti to ward off any misfortune. He should not have used an ice bucket as a calabash.

We were a bit dumbstruck about the strip show as our imaginations tried to grapple with the picture. An irreverent member wanted to know if Yengeni would have had to shed his designer sunglasses.

We decided not to stray into that territory and the talk degenerated into the changes that have been wrought on our customs.

A lot of township people invite you to a braai which is really an obeisance to the ancestors. You only get to know the truth when they snatch the bone you are trying to gnaw out of your hand for burning outside.