Magical Musina is appealing and chaotic

Madala Thepa

Madala Thepa

So much ink has been spilled on Musina's twisted soul - the smuggling of contraband, cholera outbreak and prostitution. It is a town where human stampede is imposed on South Africa in a non-consensual way. Musina limits on the good. It feels things differently.

A song that was a hit two years ago has the penchant to reappear as new in a crowded bar - such as in Action Bar in Nancefield. Sitting on the Limpopo River, more than 200km outside Polokwane, this town has a predilection for stories that live in infamy.

Illegal visitors continue to saddle South Africa with burdens for humanitarian aid. A good number are running away from a country whose fiscal policy tends towards suicidal.

But there is something here that is both appealing and chaotic. About six languages are spoken, with the dominant being Shona and TshiVenda. The dance is magical and the mix of language is bewitching.

But God, they can hold beef for a visitor who is shore above his raisin'. Anyone outside Musina will find it hard to fit into the town's way of life. From a distance, the women are welcoming, until they work out an illicit plan or lead you down the garden path with promises of sweat and pleasure.

We came to this dark city (no pun intended) spurred on by something more than a traveller's curiosity. We had hopes of catching fire in a town that was given a human face, perhaps a tragic one, by the late Arabi Mocheke.

Mocheke was being laid to rest here after succumbing to the ills of life. As if Musina was paying tribute to its artistic hero, Mocheke was buried next to former Orlando Pirates striker Lesley Manyathela.

In the Mozee Entertainment Arena beer garden, the soul of the town was laid bare. Men in gilded coats can really put on an act on the floor and, like Mocheke in life, have a certain hold on women.

If you want to witness a human stampede at any time, the national road is the place to start. The Limpopo Range Hotel on the road has become a second home to visitors. It is here that many are pestered by young men who have scaled barbed wire fences, their eyes glistening with the lights of Joburg. On our excursion on the highly trafficked road, we were pestered by a guy with dreads who wanted a ride to Joburg.

The last big art programme here was the Musina Eclipse Festival in 2002. The highest art you will find today is the drinking binges. Nothing much happens, but drinking, parties, karaoke and sex. On a good day you can sit with a local and get enlightened on the late Lesley Manyathela's real surname or talk about the brave escapades of a brigadier Gabriel Ramushiana.

On your way out, you are sure to find a general dealer with the writing: Bully's our name, service is our aim, business is our game.