By Samuel Chamboko - Molweni! The week ended on a rather sad note with the passing of one of the greatest voices ever to grace the wireless, Whitney Houston. As a 90’s teenager, I grew up listening to her music and I totally loved her. Whatever her personal flaws were, they take away nothing from the fact that she was and still is one of the greatest voices we had the privilege of listening to. She sang when music was still music and when only those with genuine musical talent made it, not now, in the days of ‘autotune’ when any can become an instant superstar by mechanical manipulation of the voice. Whitney, Didn’t we almost have it all, the Greatest love of all, but now I have nothing, however, I learnt from the best, I will run to you and I will always love you! (cheesy, I know)
The greeting there is Xhosa, for ‘hallo’. I feel bad when I think that I stayed in Cape Town for 7 years and can barely construct a sentence in Xhosa. This was a huge personal failing. I always blamed it on the fact that I had no one to teach me, but I did. I worked with a lot of Xhosa speaking people but just never took any interest in learning it or any of the other 9 official languages. Pathetic! The other that I could have learnt easily was Afrikaans. For almost 2 years I worked in an office where English was the official medium of communication but 95% of the time Afrikaans was spoken. I still didn’t bother to learn. Earlier on when I arrived in South Africa and I realised that to work in the Western Cape smoothly one may need to learn Afrikaans and I suggested to one of my South African friends that maybe I should learn Afrikaans, and he said ‘how can you learn the oppressor’s language?, rather learn Xhosa!’. I ended up learning neither. I secretly found Afrikaans quite fascinating and deep down wished I learnt it. Part of the reasons I didn’t learn it at the office is I kind of didn’t want to give my Afrikaans speaking colleagues the satisfaction that they had won, because to me the official medium of communication was English and so in the workplace we had to speak in English. Rather petty, isn’t it? Anyway, I listened intently when they spoke among themselves. What fascinated me is the way Afrikaans had influenced modern Shona, my mother tongue. It would make sense that some Afrikaans words were adopted into Shona because from the early 20th century, Afrikaans speaking boers occupied vast tracks of land in my native Zimbabwe and they employed a lot of our people, so these people must have picked Afrikaans words and taken them to the village. Also the men who went to work in the mines around Johannesburg, popularly known as Wenela brought some of the Afrikaans as well. Anyway I picked a few words I found fascinating and have listed them below for my own amusement.
Afrikaans Pronounced Meaning Shona derivation
More mora morning mhoro
Kerk karek church kereke
Moer moorh beat up mhura
Voetsek vutsek get lost pfutseki
Dorp dorrp town dhorobha
Broekies brukies panties bhurugwa
The killer one for me was this one: I’ll give some background to it. In rural Zimbabwe, cattle are given names, primarily for identification but also to use when ploughing fields and one needs to ‘giddy up’ (move faster)the cattle drawing the plough. Almost every village has beast called ‘Charuveki’. This name comes from the Afrikaans name Schlwyk. Schlwyk would probably have been a temperamental farmer and ‘Charuveki’ an ox with similar temperament.
I feel that I was rather too critical of my current hosts, the affable Brits, in my last post. Wouldn’t you love a neighbour who minds their own business? Maybe to us Africans people poking our noses where they don’t belong also shows that we care? The one place the Brits love poking their noses is the lives of celebrities. Britain has such an evolved celebrity culture and everyone is curious to read what famous people are getting up to, what did they eat, how much did they drink, are they broke, or high on drugs and most of all, who are they sleeping with. Yes the British media goes to town with these stories and in the process make a lot of money from selling celebrity stories. Even the free newspapers like The Evening Standard, which you get free every evening at most tube stations, reserves acres of space daily for gossip on the rich and famous. I do realise that while South Africa has an upcoming celebrity culture, the one thing that is always a problem in Africa with this celebrity culture is accessibility of famous people. In Africa they are too accessible. The chances of meeting any famous person on the tube here in London are nearer to zero, however in Johannesburg you could bump into them at a public place like Sandton City and in Harare at the Copacabana Commuter Rank, or kuna Fourth! You see them everywhere, so why the hell would you want to get a signed autograph. In my case, I once lived next-door to a famous footballer (at his peak) in Harare. I also wondered want would prompt me to go and ask for his autograph. I saw him daily and nothing seemed appealing about his life. While accessibility is an issue, probably the root cause is the financial gains that come with being famous. In Africa, very few celebrities are financially well off, while it’s quite the opposite in the developed countries. I remember the famous Zimbabwean comedian ‘Gringo’ once lamented that his family do not eat fame, as it was failing to translate into dollars for him. While his face was recognised by every tot and at every street corner, he had nothing to show for it, materially. So this keeps them in the same neighbourhoods as us mortals and so the celebrity enigma dies.
Congratulations to our northern neighbours, Zambia, their national football team has just won the Africa Cup of Nations for the very first time. They are only the second SADC country to do so after South Africa in 1996. It shows what good administration and stability can do for a country with limited resources. Also I hope this is a wakeup call for the powers that be at CAF to start taking Southern Africa seriously. We can play football and more importantly our people love football. If those AFCON games had been played anywhere in Southern Africa, stadiums would have been full. It was quite embarrassing to see an AFCON quarterfinal with less than a thousand spectators in Equatorial Guinea. Also maybe having it biennially is too often, let’s have it every 4 years, in a year without a world cup or Euro, the way the South Americans do it. Unless corruption is rooted out at CAF, I don’t see this happening and our premier football competition will remain in the B-league of football competitions.