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Friends & Fiction: Wisdom is always better than wealth

Apr 09 2017 06:05
Muzi Kuzwayo

WE did our best. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing wrong, but our intentions were good.

Our world was changing, and we were just trying to help our neighbour, who we fondly called Mkhulu.

He was a coal vendor, and he still used a horse-drawn cart when his competitors were buying lorries, which were faster, and, unlike horses, never got tired.

The coal market was shrinking as more people bought heaters and electric stoves.

So the residents of our street kept old vegetables and peelings for Mkhulu’s horse Mazarin – he was named after a famous international race horse.

Pumpkin seeds were his favourite.

When he ate those, he looked into the wide blue yonder, chewing with his mouth closed like a real gentleman.

When he ate broccoli, celery or cabbage leaves, he opened his mouth, making loud noises that could trigger severe misophonia – the fear of the sound of chewing – in a child.

In the years that I knew him, I did not see Mazarin eat grass.

We lived close to a migrant hostel that had a beer hall next to it.

As children, we escaped from home to guard bicycles there for two cents.

I say escape because our parents discouraged us from going there, and, quite frankly, they would have broken our bones if they had heard about it.

The byproduct of African beer is a sorghum pulp called amavovo.

Someone discovered that horses loved this, so we always collected some for Mazarin’s lunch on our way back home.

The first time we gave him amavovo, he came close to laughing out loud. Thank goodness he didn’t – that would have been a problem in a community that believed in black magic.

After his sumptuous meal, Mazarin was hitched to his cart, upon which sat two adults and a pile of coal, and headed down Baduza Street.

It was an easy downhill ride and he had a spring in his step as he trotted along with happiness.

He turned left, travelled another 300m and then turned eastwards into Dhladhla Street.

Slowly, slowly, Mazarin struggled to pull the cart up the hill. Then he stopped. He couldn’t go any further.

The whip cracked on his back, but that failed to urge him on. Lashes followed – brutal lashes – still, he would not budge.

Until that day, Mazarin had not been whipped.

He responded well to “Nx ... x ... x”. I have never known a mammal more egotistical – when he heard his name, he worked hard.

There was never a need to shout at him.

This continued for a few weeks and sales declined. Eventually Mkhulu fired his salesman, accusing him of lazing around.

A younger and more aggressive man took over the reins.

He whipped Mazarin until, one day, the horse turned around and looked at him and, in eloquent horse language, asked: “Mzalwane, ngizho shebenja kandzani ng’dzakiwe?”

The sales continued to decline, and Mkhulu eventually shut his business down.

It did not occur to anyone, including Mkhulu, that amavovo fermented in Mazarin’s stomach and made him drunk on duty.

Everyone thought that the beloved horse was getting too old to pull the cart, and it bore the brunt of the community’s ignorance.

“Nothing in the world,” Martin Luther King cautioned us, “is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Wow. Sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Probably the two sides of the divisive coin that is our current politics.

What a pity that, after all these years, we still haven’t learnt that it is not the one who takes all who is the winner, but the one with the wisdom to compromise for the benefit of all.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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wisdom  |  wealth

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