Mlilo Mpondo
Mlilo Mpondo

We drink, sing and pray the witchcraft away

By Mlilo Mpondo

There is a witchcraft of sorts hovering in between the air we breathe, the dust roads we tread upon, in the pages of policy and the government it serves, the price of brown bread and the distorted reality between the rich and poor. This is of course a metaphor; witchcraft itself is a metaphor, it is the only explanation we have when trying to make sense of the nonsensical. We grab at its threads hoping that it will rationalise the pathetic hand we’ve been dealt. It must be understood that witchcraft is the extortion of livelihood for the sole gain of its architect.

The hands that meddle in it appropriate the right to play god for a moment, to create imbalance, to cause want and desperation to those it has been dealt to. It is a lonely and sad affair for those who fall victim to it. Onlookers stare from a distance in pity, always wondering why him, what could he have done to deserve its wrath, its disease, its erosion, its silence. For it is a silent predator, rebuked in pews by church choirs that exalt Christ’s name into the heavens, a familiar acquaintance to vagabond drunkards whose relief is in the warmth of sunburnt pavements and a menace to sturdy women that stir pots of mielie meal in zinc compartments whose husbands, sons and in-laws have all fallen prey to it. And silently we are always in prayer.

Fingers crossed behind our backs, mpepho burnt in our homes, crucifixes painted on our doors and heads lowered in reverence to the almighty with faith that the depravation it has caused us will soon meet its end.

The solace of the slave, the displaced, and the poor has always been at the bottom of empty bottles in beer halls, on bended knees in corrugated homes and in the song they carry on scathed hearts. We drink, we sing and we pray.

Sadness is a beautiful song, its misery lies heavy on the heart but when it is released it breathes like the stifled breath of a new-born. A sudden and overwhelming gasp of relief. And that is why we sing, said the choir, the drunkard and the woman stirring a pot of mielie meal in the squalor of her zinc compartment. We sing because song is the only remedy that can wash uncanny bloodstains off a fourteen-year-old girl child’s cotton panties torn by emasculated desire.

We sing because it is the prayer we chant when marching through cities, burning tyres, or holding shovels on mine hills in protest of the bullshit freedom we are served every day. We sing because song replaces the sound of running water we are yet to bathe our bodies in or quench the thirst of our children with. We sing because song provides the shelter we were promised by our government twenty years ago, a shelter we still await with bated breath.

We sing because our voices are stifled by the witchcraft we live in every day. From classrooms that are designed to make our children fail, to the politics that sell us dreams when we know we have learned to live only in nightmares, the hospitals we are sent to die in, to the witchcraft that drains our blood so that they can drink from our wells of struggle and this is what they call Aids. We drink sing and pray because it is the way of our people, the way of the enslaved, and the rebellion of the poor.

If only the rain would stop just for a moment so that our voices could be heard and the chaos in our minds stilled, then maybe we will finally learn to chant the witchcraft away.

Mlilo Mpondo is a mother, a writer, a political science student. She hopes to rewrite the histories of the children we are yet to birth.