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To Die or Not to Die For
When I’m dead
As I lived it
It gave me
The sweet life
Wines and roses
The trials and tribulations
It subjected me to
The sour life
Swords and sores
Don’t matter no more
Heaven and hell
The after life
In the living
But little about them
I shall die as I lived
Hooked on freedom
Freedom taught me that
It is like the air
It is love
Love is the
The earth rotates
I can’t breathe
I can’t breathe
Earth axis vanishes
All love lost
Earth rotation stops
All hell breaks loose
Constricts my lungs
Inflames my sinuses
I can’t breathe?
I don’t die?
I go berserk
I go berserk
I feel no pain
Fear evaporates from my body
I am mad
Médecin sans frontières
Line between life and death
Every which way
If I die
I do so
For the living
They’ll call my action
The ultimate sacrifice
If I live
I won’t celebrate
I can shout out
From the depth of my lungs
I’ll call that pure joy
In the name of freedom
A man defied
Military tanks in
In the name of freedom
Dark holes everyday
Worth talking about
They’ll tell you about
Land of my birth
I can’t breathe
In the name of freedom
A bullet in the head everyday
In the name of freedom
People of the world
Blind eyes to
The invisible enemy
The price of freedom
Let us breathe
Give us our lives back
No one can stop us now
We need to breathe
Whatever the cost
It is what it is
If I die, I die
I won’t be the first
In the name of freedom
©Simon Chilembo, 07/ 06-2020
NB: I do not trivialize the seriousness of Coronavirusdisease (COVID-19) with this piece. The pandemic deserves the highest respect: we must all follow expert advice from doctors, scientists, and relevant multilateral and state health authorities wherever we are in the world.
June 07, 2020
In 1998, my father died solitary in a bachelor quarters in Tshwane, South Africa. My mother followed twenty years later. Pneumonia related complications in both cases.
There were about eleven other fellow patients in my mother’s ward at the hospital in Thabong, Welkom. She had kept everyone awake all night with her moaning in pain, crying out an unknown name all along. Nevertheless, she managed to eat her 0700RS breakfast that fateful Sunday morning; much to everyone’s delight since she hadn’t had much appetite the two previous days. After eating she fell asleep.
When my nephew, Kgosi, and I went to check on her during the morning visit hour between 1000-1100HRS, we found her sleeping peacefully. Apparently. After hearing the report by fellow patients about my mother’s restless night, we thought it wise not to immediately awaken her. She could have her full sleep during the course of the morning, and we’d come back to see her again in the afternoon as per routine.
Fifteen minutes into our arrival in the ward, an impatient family friend found that my mother was cold and lifeless. A few minutes later, a doctor declared her officially dead. She had probably died two hours earlier. No one had taken notice. It was one of those cases of “She died peacefully in her sleep”, I guess. Perhaps the same may be said about my father. He had been dead for about two days by the time his corpse was found in his residence.
I opt to convince myself that, indeed, both my parents died peacefully in their sleep when their respective times to go arrived. Neither was surrounded by their loved ones upon breathing their respective lasts.
The thought of whether or not my own death will pounce on me in solitude has been on my mind since February, 1991. I had for the first time ever gotten ill with what I later understood to have been an acute attack of the flu. Bedridden with high fever and profuse sweating for three days in my single student room, I was so weak that I was unable to lift a telephone sitting beside me on my bed to call my school or doctor in Oslo.
One week later I had recovered without having had received any medical attention. An older, more knowledgeable friend told me that I had actually had a close brush with death. Perhaps I should consider getting myself a wife, he suggested. He argued that many people who live alone tend to die unnecessarily because there is often nobody there to render immediate assistance in times of emergencies.
In the northern hemisphere spring of 1995, I had a first-time mean attack of hay fever. I didn’t know what it was at first. For many days I kept sneezing like what I thought was like a mad man. Then I began to cough as inexplicably madly. What I thought sounded like a small cat soon started mewing in my chest. This made breathing painfully difficult even at the mildest physical exertion. Then I knew I was in trouble.
At great financial cost to me that I could afford regardless, a former lover at that time then finally hastily made it possible for me to acquire an emergency cocktail of various tablets, capsules, and an assortment of asthma medicines. Had I been alone at that critical time, I could have died from pneumonia, the former lover said later.
Today, the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, moving at a frighteningly fast pace is threatening human life across the globe. The United Nations and national governments are taking drastic and, in some cases, Human Rights defying draconian measures in individual and concerted efforts to isolate, treat, control, and eventually effectively manage the disease. The ideal situation would be to eliminate the disease, of course. But it’ll take time to develop necessary relevant curative and preventive medicine. Researchers the world over are currently working at break-neck speeds to achieve the latter.
Millions of people are under various levels of quarantine throughout the world, depending on suspected or actual infections and severity. Much of the industrialized world is under lockdowns. People whose immune systems are compromised from before are dying rapidly. Some people are quarantined in their private homes with their near family units. I am alone in my abode.
I am feeling well and strong. I can’t help, though, but think about my mortality in the event that my health should take a sudden, COVID-19 related downturn. Some other shit could happen too. One never knows when shit will hit the fan. I can’t help but think that were I to die now, I sure would do so peacefully. I’d die with no beloveds of mine surrounding me. If it happened to my parents it might as well be the same with me. Family solidarity. Family tradition. I’m their eldest child after all.
Like my parents, I leave no great fortunes behind. It’s just as well for me that, unlike my parents, I leave no children behind. As to whether or not it’s a good thing to die as my corpse shall be in a cremation oven, I shall find out upon arrival on the other side.
In the meantime, I can’t help thinking about one of my all-time favourite songs: If I Should Die Tonight, by Marvin Gaye. I’ve loved this song ever since the release of the Let’s Get it On album in 1973. Whereas the album title hit song planted me to its moment and has stuck with me to this day, If I Should Die Tonight continues to jettison me to a period that I now know marked the closing chapter of the happiest times of my childhood years: at the close of the 1960s decade to much of 1970, I got honey-sweet infatuated with an older woman that remains one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.
This woman was mother of my puppy love object at that time. And she was heart-warmingly kind to me. This woman had the sweetest of sweet song voices. She, together with some of her male contemporaries in our neighbourhood, used to sing acapellas of popular soul hits of the time: When a Man Loves a Woman, Crying Time, Stand By Me, and many more.
The sweetness that the whole of my being feels at thoughts of this woman is one of the sources of my emotional and spiritual strength at any time. This sweetness constantly fuels my desire to live and to love for as long as my life and capacity to love shall last. For I live, for I love, I shall dream, I shall hope, I shall create. For I create, I shall live forever.
I don’t have to meet the perfect woman for a lover. It’s not necessary. It’s not important for me at the stage of life that I have now reached. I don’t really need to. But this If I Should Die Tonight lady is one of those women that have profoundly impacted my life. That to such an extent that I pin on memories of her my belief that a perfect woman for a man is found somewhere out there in the wide, wide world. It’s only a question of whether the mortal man shall live long enough, shall travel the world wide enough. Even then, like the song says, “… If I should die tonight, though it be far before my time, I won’t die blue ’cause I’ve known [her] …”
There is much more to the phrase I won’t die blue for me. I won’t die blue. Never. I’ll die a contented man should I die at this very moment. It’s a daily preoccupation of mine to seek to do all that is within my powers to prolong my longevity for as long as it is possible. If I have a pre-determined lifespan, I want to beat it. Should I, however, die at this very moment, I’ll die a well pleased man knowing that I have defied death several times before.
I’m convinced that I have lived way past my allotted lifespan. But this I can only confirm to be true or false upon my getting onto the other side. If all truths of my life are indeed found on the other side, I certainly will be a happy man should I die now: finally I shall get to confirm who I really am, what my real purpose in life on earth was. Until then, within the best of my cognitive potential performance, given limitations of my human existential imperatives vis-à-vis universal creation, the following is the consciousness I’ll be taking with me should I die now:
- For all their strengths and their vulnerabilities, I got the best parents I deserved. I would choose them again could I start all over again. I love my parents very much, with all of my heart; I admire them beyond words. The joys of their lives I never think too much about. Joy never bothers me at all. I take it for granted that life ought to be a joy. Pure joy. Have joy, no worries. But I feel the pains of my parents’ lives from their beginnings to their ends.
Against the toughest odds, my parents managed to nurture the life that they had given me. They gave me all they could according to their life circumstances as a couple, and as individuals in a hard world. They had to endure untold sufferings, make huge sacrifices for that I could breathe and subsequently have the power to carve own spaces of manifestations of my influence through my creativity on planet earth.
If my creative power influence manifestations transcend planetary boundaries into the farthest realms of the universe, it is owing to, in search of, and for my parents on the other side. I want to tell them that I’m a humble but proud symbol of that they, indeed, left this world a better place than they found it. Thank you very much!
In all my endeavours, I am heavily inspired by my parents. It is in their honour that I do the good that I am often told that I do. It is for me and me alone to take the heat for the bad that I do. The bad that I do is never representative of the upbringing that my parents gave me. The errors I commit from time to time are a reflection of my own failings, my own stupidity imbedded in my own inherent human imperfections.
My parents are not my everything. My parents are but a microcosm of the grandeur of being human in the face of creation’s stupendous infinite spectrum of possibilities with all that humanity knows and has yet to fathom about it. I’m not an emulation of my parents. I’m but an extension of their collective and individual lifeforces. In that regard, creation dealt me a hand that is my own to play from birth. That in line with how I could synchronize with my parents’ energy bundles influences in me. Also according to how optimally I could utilize the unique powerhouse that I am in my personal journey through the infinitely intricate maze that is life.
I hope that as they took their last exhalations, my parents knew in their respective lonesome moments of dying that I hadn’t done half of what I had wished to do for them in appreciation of their having brought me to life, and all the good that they ever did for me. Furthermore, I hope that they knew that whatever little I did to make them happy were outcomes of only the best that I could do, having given only all the best effort I could harness for the goal when it mattered.
Consequently, I won’t die blue if I should die tonight because my heart is at peace in relation to my parents’ lives and how in their own way, they have contributed to making this world a better place than they found it from the times they were born.
My parents never got to seeing their grandchildren from me. Were children made like bread I’d have produced one-thousand-and-one-plus grandchildren for them. With the power of the written word, though, my parents’ legacies are etched in words by their thousands in thousands of pages in books that I have already written, and those that I have yet to write. Children might be born, die and be forgotten. Books might be written, get destroyed and burned, but words are eternal. Mr & Mrs ELWLM Chilembo, you have been immortalized. Now I can die.
- No, I won’t die blue if should I die this moment. I won’t die blue should I breathe my last tonight. I’ll be by myself. No one making noise around me, delaying my dying process. Should I die now, it’ll be peaceful. Really. I won’t be blue. I might see shades of blue because I’ll take my death like it’s an invitation into a meditative trance. I’ll spread my wings to fill up the entire blue sky for a moment, bid farewell to planet earth, and then merge with the vastness of space beyond.
Before I disappear into outer space forever, I’ll reach out to all those earthly souls that gave me so much joy, so much love in the living. They’ll say they saw me in their dreams. It is for these people that I have no fear of death. These loving souls ever gave me so much more than I could ever ask for of their kindness and generousity. It is for these people that if I should die tonight, it’ll be because my time to die would have arrived for sure.
Just like my parents, I’m no more than a microcosm of the grandeur of life. The good that I do is also grounded in the love, support, understanding, and tolerance of all the wonderful people I’ve had the privilege of interacting with in my life. It is for these people that I won’t die before it is my time.
- I won’t die blue were death to take me away tonight because I know that I never set out to make this world a worse place than I found it. Although I’ll be dying knowing that, also here, I never achieved half of what I had dreamed of doing for the world, I gave the best that I could, given the opportunities accessible to me and my strength to work.
- With time, the illumination that I could only be that which I am here and now, and I could only do what I do in a given time and space, freed my soul. I understood that I could only allow myself to be taught, led, and inspired by others. But I could never replicate them and their deeds. Neither could I necessarily ever replicate external manifestations of their successes, if not their abilities to shape even global trends across the entire sphere of human endeavour. This was that moment of know thyself landing home at last.
By extension, it became clear that I also could only teach, lead, and inspire. It’s never a given that all my protégés will share my values and social skills in the end. As such, I won’t die blue should I die this moment because I know that as much as I am loved, I am hated in certain quarters. The choice to love or hate is a personal prerogative based on certain reasons only known to the lover or hater. If these reasons ever are revealed, they do not have to make sense to the loved or hated.
I know that if I should die tonight, I’ll die with a smile on my face because I’m so full of love. I know that if I should die tonight, I’ll die with peace because I know that I’ve had all the fun I could reach for and accommodate in my life. May haters have a good life.
May Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) die tonight. Perhaps not. COVID-19 knows no lovers, no haters, no irrational human segregation rules. If the virus stays just a little longer, humanity might at last learn that we can make this world a far better place if we all understood that we are all equally small and vulnerable against forces of nature.
COVID-19 shakes even the foundations of both the concept of God and her might. Many an oppressor, a racist of the world has God as their spiritual and purported racial superiority anchor. If COVID-19 destabilizes even the almighty God’s multifaceted global movement, it goes to show that forces of evil seeking to destroy the good of humanity have no future.
COVID-19 may be but a small pre-taste of hell. Another Soul singer, Curtis Mayfield, has said: If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go. We might as well all be humane towards one another as all one, same universal person. But then again, this kind of talk is beyond cognitive capacities of propagators of racism and oppression in the world today. Ignorant fools. Stupid idiots. Psychopaths. It is these scum that COVID-19 must rid the face of the earth of.
March 15-16, 2020
WHEN I’M HERE
NOTE: Contributing to discussion on UNSTUCK – The Refinition of Manhood
“I live with no doubts. If I have any doubts, I don’t do it. If I do it anyway and get burned as a result, too bad. What’s done is done. If I die, I die. Closed chapter. If I don’t die, no regrets. I pay the price I have to pay, and move on; assuming that I can still breathe, stand, walk, and think,” Simon Chilembo.
It was as a four-and-half-year-old on my first day at school in Lesotho that I first became aware of my hereness. That was as an immediate response to the awareness of my differentness. The latter arose from my consciousness awakening to find me surrounded by many people. I somehow just understood that all were school children of all ages. There were numerous of my age, and others older. My guide, Dineo, was an older girl from the estate where I was staying not so far away from the school.
I found Dineo alternately being aggressively protective of me, and talking proudly about how far smarter I was compared to local children: I was of course tinier and blacker than all the other children because I was not one of them; I was not of their blood since my father came from a land far, far away in the north. In this so distant land, no Lesotho person had ever been. Dineo emphasized.
She went on to remind everyone about how ruthless her father was. So, if anybody was unkind to me, her father would come and destroy their lives the whole lot of them! Also, my father could do terrible things to them using powerful wizardry from his lands. Otherwise I was a sweet and happy child easy to be with, Dineo concluded.
This was a strange and fascinating scenario I could only watch without uttering a word. I did not only not know what to say or do, the atmosphere was also overwhelming in its simultaneous bewilderment and euphoria. The following day my grandmother took me to another school. I recall hearing whispers that word had been going around in the village that it was not safe for me to be at the first school. The alternative Peka Catholic school would be a safer bet for me, therefore.
At Peka Catholic school I recall being initially received by a group of nuns and the parish priest, Father Hemmel. The next thing was that I found myself in a room with several other children. We were singing “I am a tea pot. This is handle. This is mouth. Pour me out! Pour me out!”
Tracking animal pictures pasted up and around the walls of the room, I recall us repeating after the teacher, Mme Blandina, “A baby cow is called a calf. A baby sheep is called a lamb …”
And then, “A cat mews. A bull bellows. A hen cackles …”
Such began my school career. I would be at Peka Catholic school for four years, 1965-69. These remain the happiest years of my school life. This is the time I understood that I somehow grasped lessons faster than the lot of my classmates. I further found out that the teachers were extra fond of me. All nuns. The warmth they afforded me is unforgettable.
My popularity extended to older pupils, especially girls, in higher grades. At the same time, though, there were older boys that were not fond of me at all. They used to engage me into fights almost every day after school. I got my beatings much as I gave my share of the same. It ever infuriated everyone so much because I was unusually strong and stubborn for my age and, especially, body size.
I never thought too much about limitations of my personal attributes. All I knew was that I could never allow anybody to beat me up and get away with it. This was particularly so from age six, after my mother had instilled in my head the warrior heart attitude of learning to fight my own battles and settle scores alone.
I was already a seasoned fighter by the time that in my older youth years, my Karate teacher, in response to a report about a legendary fight that I had put up against some of the most notorious and dreaded street-fighters of Lusaka, Zambia, said, “If you must fight, fight. But don’t lose!”
That ethos drives my survival instincts in all situations to this day.
In the commotion typical around street fighting scenes, I would pick out ludicrous utterances that I was the way that I was as a hard-fighting child because of the strange blood that I carried from my strange, alien father. I was a little wizard that had to be killed whilst I was still a child because I was going to kill everyone else if I was to be allowed to grow up into a man.
These were really not nice things to hear for a child not even eight years old then. Now I’m a grown-up man soon to be sixty-years-old. Not a single person has perished in my hands yet. On the contrary, I have in my work saved more than one lives.
I thus learned how to balance getting unwanted extreme attention very early in my life. That, together with receiving much love on the one hand and buttressing myself against prejudice and hatred on the other, inculcated in me a strong sense of awareness of where I am at any one time.
Therefore, when I’m here, I’m here. What has to be will be. I shall do what I have to do to sustain my hereness for as long as possible, or for as long as it is necessary. If I have to love, I shall love. If I have to fight, I shall fight. The assumption being that my presence is valued here and now, and that my being here is not detrimental to my continued real and conceptual existential imperatives.
It’s not uncommon for me to hear that I take too much space when I’m here. It’s of little interest for me to seek to impose my hereness to personal and conceptual spaces that cannot, or are not willing to accommodate my being here.
If I’m here for a specific reason, I’ll do what I have to do to the best of my ability according to expectations, if not instructions. If it is really fun, I tend to go beyond, though. I’ll perform and deliver to the extent that what has to be done is compatible with my values and defined obligations vis-à-vis the given situation.
If I succeed, I succeed. If I fail, I fail. If the latter is due to factors I can correct, I shall do so accordingly. If it’s beyond my powers to correct, or do anything else in order to attain the original desired outcome, then I let go and move on to next level challenges; paying the price I have to if need be. It is what it is.
I never carry on with regrets. I carry on with new learned experiences that often empower me to perform better in the next level, even if the next level may not be related to the previous fiasco in any way. What matters is the new mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical fortification I’ve attained for the new way forward.
Throughout my life I’ve lived with the consciousness that I’ll meet all kinds of resistance in my endeavours to live my life as I see it, and as I wish to live it within the parameters of established life-supportive societal norms. I learned very early how to exert my presence with all my outward expressive faculties. This was an important skill to develop given the fact that I, as earlier stated, was a tiny child in a partially but grossly cruel world. In my adult years I never grew up to be the physically biggest man around either.
My mind, my intellect is my weapon. I load my mind with knowledge acquisition pursuits. I fire with my words: I write, I speak. I can sing too. My body is my combat machine. In this state of being, self-doubt is a known but non-applicable phenomenon to me. That is how I’ll always rise above negative forces working against me. Indeed, I might fall and lose one thing or another.
Actually, I have lost a lot of tangible and intangible things during the last twelve-to-fifteen-years. If I don’t die, I’ll rise again. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but I will rise again. I am on the rise again as it is. My death can wait. I ain’t got no time to die as yet.
It happens time and time again: for each knock and fall I get, for each loss, at least tenfold new options for the better present themselves upon my rising again. For that reason, I never cry over spilt milk. When it is clear that the milk loss is inevitable no matter what preventive measures I may apply, I let go without shedding a tear.
No resistance. When change is gonna come, it’s gonna come. If one of the new options emerging after the milk loss will be a dairy cow, I hardly ever get surprised. Nevertheless, I remain ever humble in the face of continuous favours bestowed upon me by nature, my ancestral spirits, and my God. The resilience I put forth in times of trouble, in my darkest hours, does wonders for my ego. But that resilience is of origins far beyond the realms of my ego’s mind games’ current manifest performance and ultimate potential.
Deep down inside of me I know that constant pursuance of being a decent human being is my inclination by default, much as are my human fallibilities. When I get a knock for my own failings, my inadequacies, I shall with dignity take the punishment I get. My sense of dignity gets even more profound in the face of injustice and malice directed upon my person. Always.
I am cognizant of my strengths and vulnerabilities. These two qualities annihilate any sense of self-doubt I might have in any given situation. Because I know, i.e. my personal cognitive and intuitive data bases are adequately supplied with relevant information and energy, I’ll always have options in both good and challenging times.
The phrase Machona Awakening came not only from that moment I finally understood for myself that a place called home can be more a function of thoughts and feelings, contra its being one’s place of birth only. Machona Awakening is also about that moment in time it dawned upon me that I, indeed, am that I am. I am that I am with all the beauty and the ugly that define me in the eye of the beholder. That with respect to the conscious and unconscious display of my deeds as I dance through the intricacies of my life for as long as I live.
Fear I might have. Insecurity I might have. These may arise in times and situations where I lack applicable functional and conceptual knowledge. When and where I don’t know, I’m likely to be invisible; silent. If I’m ignorant relative to a given reality, it may perhaps be because it’s neither interesting nor important for my existential needs here and now, or there and then. Knowledge is power over fear, insecurity, and self-doubt. It’s about knowing what branch of knowledge is relevant where, how, and when.
I’m not a thrill-seeker. As such I’m not given to blind pursuits of the unknown at any cost. So, let it pass. Ain’t no love lost. No regrets. Self-doubt possibilities eliminated. But does that not limit maximal growth potential? Well, all things considered, I can only grow to the level I reach today. The next levels of growth tomorrow and beyond are only dreams with today’s growth experiences as their launch pad; as certain as the sun shall rise tomorrow for all living creatures of the earth. No doubt from the self, neither from nature. Solid knowledge. Self-doubt expunged.
March 02, 2020
MOYA NKHABU: TRIBUTE TO A ROLE MODEL
Growing up in the old, subdued black South Africa, I could never see myself playing serious football in a formal club setting. From the point of view of personal drive, the game has never charmed me that way. I could never say whether or not my lack of success as a junior street football player was due to being untalented, or simply that my passion was never aroused strongly enough. I’m inclined to suspect the latter.
In the old, apartheid South Africa days, football talent groomed itself, and thrived on the township streets, and rural playing fields. It was raw, pure, and ecstatic. Paradoxically, it provided spaces for all the joys of a free childhood in a then tyrannical state. Moreover, my childhood street football reality provided escape from the attendant ills of poverty in many a black South African home: all round domestic violence, woman and child sexual abuse.
Like most South African township boy children, I imagine that the first expression of my active physical power, from the time I managed to stand up, balance, and walk, was probably to kick at something. I have been kicking for as long as I can remember. Ball control, reading the game, and stopping opponents from scoring against my street team were my forte.
Dribbling was never my inclination. But, I recall, even the very best of our dribblers during my street football active years, up to age 12 years old, knew well not to fool around with the ball around me. If I had any football talent at all, it shone brightest whenever we opted to play a rather rough version of the game. Often, if it’s genuine street culture, it has to be rough; it has to be tough, it has to break all the rules, like Rock & Roll.
Here, the object was not to score goals, but for the competing teams to incapacitate each other’s players until there was only one young man standing, with the ball. If the one team totally demolished the other, the winning team’s members went for one another, then. Thus, the last man standing outcome. It gave an unforgettable, ego-boosting adrenaline rush. Great, great fun, it was.
In this brutal game, we had to be subtle, but extremely effective. That was so that if any adults were watching us play, they wouldn’t understand that we were, actually, out to deliberately injure one another. A strict rule was “no ball, no attack”; meaning that we went for one another only to the extent that one side had ball possession. And, direct kicks to the legs above the ankle were not allowed.
The idea was to “slice”, or “chop” each other’s legs at the ankles, much like Karate players execute the devastating leg sweeping technique called “Ashi barai”. Serious injuries, necessitating hospitalization, often occurred here. I never got injured. Several casualties have pointed to me, though. In action, I can be light and quick on my feet. I developed this ability from this dangerous kind of football playing. I would, later, take the skill with me to Karate. Fifty years on, I’m still standing, rocking as if there’ll be no end to my rolling life. Truth is, I want to live forever. I am a dreamer, and so shall it be.
My street football career was much fun, whilst it lasted. It gave me lasting valuable life lessons, as well: street survival alertness (“Tsotsis”, violent street hustlers, didn’t play football!), and fierce competitive spirit, or killer instinct cultivation. Street football also afforded me the first real taste of leadership, going into puberty and subsequent young manhood. The leadership trial run would reward me with just as premier and unforgettable taste of the thrill of victory. That owing to the coaching my impromptu leadership role empowered me to do with my team, one day.
A team had challenged us from another part of our township, Thabong Location, Welkom. Our challengers were notorious for severely beating up their opponents when they, the former, lost matches. These guys were a little older than us, and they had some of their neighbourhood supporters following them everywhere they went. Our team, on the other hand, was, usually, an ad hoc affair. It spontaneously organized itself around whoever was available on our street, and wished to play, there and then.
Unfortunately, on the day of the challenge, whereas we had more than what we needed of potential players, no one wished to play. All were afraid of getting beaten up by the visitors, in the event of the latter’s loss against us. The problem was that the visitors were still going to be violent if we chose not to play. These guys, the challengers, were crazy: when they won, they still beat up the opponents, if only to teach the losers not mess with the bad guys! So, either way, we were in trouble. Catch 22.
I do not seem to recall what led to my team prodding me for a solution to the dilemma we were in. They even decided that I should be the team captain for the day. Because I had already started training boxing by then, a thought struck me that if I made my team believe we were strong as individuals and as a collective, we could win in such a way that the bad guys wouldn’t want to fight us afterwards.
How? Let’s wear them out, whilst we remain strong all the way, throughout the match. How? Let’s do what nobody else did at that time: do a pre-match, team spirit enhancing jogging and calisthenics session! It’s called warming-up these days. Doing that would also give us a psychological edge over the opponents. It worked like magic.
My team played with the intensity and unity of purpose that we had never thought were possible before. In my head, I still vividly see replays of the match to this day. Playing on what we, then, called the “12 hurra!” principle, we beat the bad guys 12-0. The loss, combined with my team’s upbeat, super confident mood, overwhelmed the bad guys so much that they left our zone running as if they had just seen snakes, or some scary monsters like that. Eventually transferred into Karate, I have enormously enjoyed sports leadership and coaching since. I’ve won, I’ve lost. I’ve been stupid, I’ve been wise. I’ve made friends, I’ve lost friends. I’m here. I live. I love.
Adult club football was a different ball game altogether. I enjoyed watching this, not so much for the thrill of the game, but out of the fascination I had for those players that stood out as the best in the game, regardless of position played. The fascination was about the aura these guys seemed to carry, both on and off the field. They seemed to be ever so strong and happy.
It’s always been a great fascination for me as to how men, and women these days, running after, and with a ball could, at the same time, induce so much euphoria amongst the spectators. Off the field, the super star players seemed to wield so much power that it appeared, for me then, as if they could be rulers of the world. That was despite the fact that I, at that time, I had no real clue as to how gigantic and complex the world really was. They had all the beautiful girls. Attendant hyper fornication scandals I didn’t care much about. Rock & Roll is what it is: you burn, you burn. If the highway to hell is short, let it be. I’ll talk to Mother Mary another time.
One of those super star players was Abel Nkhabu, a.k.a. Moya, or Mgeu, late, 2017. May his soul rest in peace. I first came to personally know, and look up to him in the years 1972-74. Looking back, I like to think that, actually, this man was my first real-life, non-family Super Hero. He seemed larger than life, and, yet, he could touch me, ask me about my wellbeing, and encourage me to be good at school always.
There were also some of Mgeu’s generation of original black South African football mega stars around. By status, they were bigger than him by far; they have remained so, and are, today, living legends in their own rights. I still look at them with awe; still getting that tingling sensation in my hands and feet I used to get at their sight, on and off the pitch, in my early teens.
These men, in various capacities at club and national association levels, continue to steer modern South African football. They are doing so with the same inspirational class I recall from the early 1970s. In them, I still see hope for this troubled land of my birth, South Africa. However, these men are still far away from my immediate spaces. They have yet to touch me like Mgeu did. A consolation, though, is that, in my eyes, they carry on his spirit, and that of numerous other giants of the pre-1994 South African football scene.
Much of my desire to defy and beat the odds in order to succeed in life, be a super star, and live forever, is owing to these men of wonder in the history and development of this land. There is more to football than just seemingly mad twenty-two men chasing a ball around a stupid rectangular space limiting their freedom to run away with it, the ball.
Inspired by the big and strong, unbeatable Hercules in the bioscope, I liked making leather wristbands for my friends, my lebandla, my street gang, and me. The finest I ever made was of some fine, thick, nicely patterned leather piece from one of my mother’s old handbags. Mgeu liked that wristband so much that he borrowed it for a while. He wore it on several big matches he played, with Welkom Real Hearts FC.
“Monna, dude, I, actually, feel stronger and more courageous when I’m wearing this band. And, you, know, the other thing is that people on the field get afraid of me, believing that the band is a fortifying juju gear. I like it very much!”
I refused Mgeu’s offer to buy the wristband. Of course, I was taken by the symbolic power effect it had on him. I wanted to have the power too. When he, eventually, gave the wristband back to me, he was overwhelmingly effusive. An ordinary older South African man would have bullied me and kept it, anyway. Mgeu’s return of the band permanently cemented the bond that we already had. Before that, no other adult man had ever shown me that kind of respect for my personal integrity. It was gratifying for me to find that there, in fact, were still some grown up men one could trust.
As first-born child in my family, I was raised to love, protect, and support my younger siblings, that as a matter of course. My general love for children and youth derives from my upbringing values. From the time I became aware of my sibling position and role in the family, fondness and caring for those younger than me, to beyond my home, was something one just did without question. It was something I never put much thought to, even.
My younger, and last-born sibling, Lucy Dintletse’s birth, in 1974, brought the real intensity of my love for children to my consciousness for the first time. Lucy’s affectionate family nickname is Sonono, often shortened to Sono. The very nearly nine years of her life would thrust the love to heights I have yet to fathom. MHSRIP.
I see Sono in every child of the world. Whenever I see children of the world suffer under mankind’s proclivity to wars in outrageously vain attempts to impose peace upon one another, her sweet face emerges above the misery I see; the pain, the hopelessness I feel. And, then, faith that, someday, we gonna be alright, is rekindled. Through every child whose life I touch wherever I am in the world at any one time, my steadfast hope and wish are that, one day, these children will grow up to be conduits of love and peace for all mankind.
Mgeu was one of the pioneering black professional football players in South Africa, in the early 1970s. He made a dashing and influential figure, to his grave. His entire life, he was fiercely anti-apartheid and black people’s oppression. From Mgeu, I learnt that a man could be big and strong as a super star, but he could still have time and energy to engage positively with children and youth. This has remained one of the key defining moments of my life.
Whereas my father remains the formidable force behind my formal dressing taste, my smart-casual dressing style has heavy Mgeu undertones. My father was laid to rest twenty years ago today, July 04, 2018. MHSRIP. I remember him with immense love with this article too: my father, the finest of gentlemen, my hero; the original Machona – (the) Emigrant, the traveller, the gypsy from the warriors of love mystics of my Tumbuka people, Eastern Province, Zambia. If you jump into Malawi, Tanzania, and, partly, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), you’ll land into the midst of the extended empire of my people.
The one quality I’ve not quite been able to grasp, though, is the phenomenal “Ladies’ Man” tag Mgeu proudly carried to the very end. If we meet up again on the other side, I should ask him for specific coaching on this one; assuming that there’ll still be ladies abundance when I arrive there. But then again, we might find that the ladies on the other side are more work than what I have down here on earth. Nnnahhh, we let this one pass.
In the presence of Mgeu, I’d always feel like a 12-14 year old boy, if not even younger. In the photo accompanying this piece, we are meeting up soon after I had arrived in Welkom, from Norway, Christmas time, 2006/7. You know that sweet, loving feeling you get when you are with your favourite uncle, I had it at the time the photo was being taken; I’m feeling it as I write this article, at this very moment. Thanks, football, for one of the most significant men in my life!
I was fortunate enough to have had a few good men to relate to during my formative years. Many of those that were not so nice to me never lived to see the close of the 1970s. Good riddance. A lot of these not-so-nice men were generally unkind to youngsters. It’s just as well that longevity was never to be their gig. Morons!
In my dealings with children and youth, I endeavour to be, at least, as good as those adult males that have, each in their own special ways, contributed to my being the mad energy bundle that I am, now as a fully grown adult myself. I have never been able to think of a better way to express my deep felt gratitude for the presence of good men in mine, and other children’s lives.
In the early 1970s, Mgeu, together with a host of other first generation of black professional football players were organized under the auspices of the then National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). In my forthcoming 6th book, 4th novel*, read how these transformed the lives of the black people of South Africa, at a time when the then South African apartheid regime was at its most venomous. The NPSL effect is played out around a particular family’s life in Thabong, Welkom. Watch this space for more information about the impending book release. Coming soon!
SCIENTIFIC MAN OF GOD
Epigenetic inheritance theory has captured my fascination in a profound way. It has cast new insight into how I now think about the nature of man. That with reference to how I relate to man in the spontaneous, continuous process of writing and playing my own story as I go through the labyrinth of life. Some call it legacy.
But I don’t really care much about “the legacy I shall leave behind”. If I do have a legacy, it has, actually, built, and shall sustain itself for as long as time wants it alive. Nevertheless, immortality is the goal. Who wants to live forever? I do. Why not?
All I care about is the integrity of the authoring of my life story lines as I dance my way through to my exit point of the maze that far, far away.
My hope is that my life story shall be read and judged with open, scientific minds, both whilst I still walk the face of the earth, and when I’m dead.
Thanks to epigenetic inheritance theory, I have finally seen the light: yes, the human body is, indeed, a temple of God. By extension, any other creature that subscribes to, and lives according to tenets of any prescribed faith, has its physical body as the temple of God; at least in the Western world’s perception of the Deity.
Even more precisely, the philosophical duality of God and her anti-thesis, Satan, is not only a construct of the core of man’s existential questions’ thinking: their abodes, heaven and hell, respectively, are, in fact, in the DNA of man.
There is no place called heaven outside the realm of man’s existence on earth. Neither is there a place called hell in the same illusory domain. Heavenly rewards, or satanic retributions for our virtues and sins, respectively, we live them accordingly right here on earth. When we die, we are dead: our DNAs have switched off from our consciousness, and so have the ideas of God, Satan, heaven, and hell.
It is only the unenlightened that fuss about life after death for the deceased. The human soul leaving the dead is as real, as independent, and as infinite as the universe. So, leave it alone. It knows how to take care of itself. Ever heard of a buried soul? They failed to bury Jesus.
It ought to make perfect sense that life-after-death is, indeed, a reality for the living only. Life goes on. But, living in the dark, and confronted with challenges of life with nature, the survivors seek answers outside of themselves. Finding no workable solutions out there, panic grips them. Fear of the unknown rules over their lives through and through … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
December 19, 2017
HOW TO BECOME A NORWEGIAN, FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO BE
Everybody loves a Super Star. The statement discounts snobs, fundamentalists, the ignorant arrogant, the uncultured, the uneducated, the primitive, the anti-social, the eccentric, the naïve, the narrow minded, the bigoted, the untalented, the gutless, the envious, and the jealous.
This posting is my message to 1st-Xst generation immigrants to Norway struggling with identity, as well as insecure sense of belonging in and to the country. These will be a mix masala mix of people from all countries of the world whose music Westerners refer to as Ethnic Music, collectively called The Third World. They will have skin colour tones divergent from the conventional European one, called White.
These immigrants will have decided to make Norway their new home. They will have adopted Norwegian citizenship, abiding by the laws of the land, and contributing to the growth and development of the country, each in their own ways in all areas of human endeavour. Singing Ja, Vi Elsker when and where appropriate will have become second nature to these people. Come 17. mai year after year, these people rise and shine in front of the King and the Royal family.
Those immigrants to Norway who are in the country temporarily in any capacity, here for 1- X years, need not bother to read this posting … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
September 10, 2014