Time for change in Dalukuthula

Otty Nxumalo

Kheswa's tale was as unexpected a marvel as dust clouds on a quiet day. Like a fire breaking out without being lit.

Purposeful and hasty like working men. Exiting and entering with the energy of young men. A time when leaders of political parties could never go to sleep.

With short, short sojourns in their homes. Constantly on the phones. Raised from sleep by persistent knocks. What an election!

There were two contenders. Firstly, the ruling party going by the name Party of the Wishes of the Majority.

The appointed members were determined not to lose their positions, desiring an election that will not remove them.

The opposition was a completely new party. Going by the name Party of the Unity of the Workers.

They were out to show that they were no upstarts, and that they aimed at gaining all the votes.

Times are always changing. Just yesterday, the ruling system was based on African traditions, with the king at the helm. Appointed men would form the royal council. It was a system that highlighted respect, dignity, trust and mercy.

Based on personal merit, anyone could rise to leadership. The people observed the qualities of a person, and raised his name for the royal council.

But, today all of that has fallen by the wayside. Any man can market himself personally, demanding votes by making promises, offering solutions to all problems.

Even total strangers soothe their voices, promising people they do not know, with challenges they are not familiar with, all kinds of solutions. But, more important is to be aware that people are elected in which way.

What is striking is the entire process of elections. It is supposed to be a democratic process.

For those not schooled in the terminology, it means that a number of political parties are pitched against each other. People are encouraged to choose a party of their liking, and leaders they prefer, in a free and fair voting process.

Even within the climate of fairness, voters are exposed to stiff competition. Candidates virtually stampede in this race.

Smear campaigns, and character assassinations; all these, and more, form the name of the game.

Contenders lay traps, just like boys hunting grass cutters. Many merely escape these traps by the skin of their teeth.

These elections took place in an African country, known as Dalukuthula, and in a nation famous for mining tin, with fertile valleys. Where agriculture was thriving.

It had been 17 years since the last general election. The old, revered leader had taken over from the rule of the whites.

But, now it was again time for change. The electorate was dissatisfied. There was a single ruling party. Many political parties had been banned. Many laws prevented political organisations. Opposition leaders were silenced and jailed.

Only the ruling party was recognised. The rights of the people were trampled. No free votes, no civic rights, no freedom to choose a political party! Two weeks before the election, the competition became steamy, hot!

And Kheswa demonstrated his energy. He occupied a high position and was trusted by the government.

A great and fearless defender of his party. Always ready with counter arguments to attacks by his opponents.

He had the gift of the gab. Any opportunity to address the crowds, he utilised to the maximum. Even his detractors had to swallow their words.

He was known for his temper, and would not respect opposing views. In times like these, enemies are from within, and from without!l This is an extract from celebrated author, academic and teacher Otty Nxumalo's Umshikashika Wokhetho, translated from isiZulu, which is among samples of the works of 43 local writers who have received SA Literary Awards between 2005 and 2007. Nxumalo was bestowed the Nadine Gordimer Achievement Award for excellence in writing in African languages. The awards are a partnership programme of Sowetan, the Arts and Culture department, Nutrend Publishers, wRite Associates.