Monday, 11 April 2011

In the Land of the Zulu

As we drove towards the luxurious Cathedral Peak Hotel, the scenery was breathtaking. We turned off the main road, and drove through a really rural area. The shrill contrast between the sheer beauty of the country and the harsh poverty of the people in the small towns didn't seem to make sense. There were hundreds of school children walking home at the time. Hundreds of school children in an area with no jobs. Children with goats; a few cattle, some thin. Most of the colourful houses were brick, that's a good thing.

The hotel itself was gorgeous; I've never been in such luxury. But then again, I've only been in a hotel maybe twice before. There was a small wedding party present; and a few other guests. We had buffet breakfasts and dinners, and while we were off to dinner the housekeeping staff would open our beds for us, and leave a story and a chocolate on our night tables.

The next day we went for a guided walk. Our guide was Wise Man; a local Zulu. He was a tall, skinny man with upside-down tear shaped scars all over one cheek. They didn't look like accidental scars.

Wise Man was in his early 30's and unmarried. He's unmarried because he can't pay the lobola (bride price) of 11 cows for his girlfriend of 7 years. He doesn't earn much but he tries to save up for the cows, but it's hard because his parents died and as the first born child it's his duty to take care of his younger siblings. There are six of them, and three have finished school but can't find jobs.

When my dad said he should marry a city girl because then he wouldn't need to pay lobola for her, he replied:
"No man, city girls are lazy. They don't want to carry firewood or 20litres of water on their heads"
and under his breath he valued them at 5 cows. (The irony is: these city girls are important for the development of the country!)
He didn't have any children because he's not married. Sadly, I doubt the girl would still be able to conceive when he saved up for those 11 cows.

Wise Man grew up in a small village with no electricity and no running water in a place with no future for the few thousand who live there.
I grew up in the suburbs in relative luxury and had the opportunity to study and had three jobs to choose from.


  1. Aww, what a sad story for Wise Man. :( Kind of makes you wish that the bride's parents would realize that NO ONE can probably pay the bride price and just let their daughter be happy. But yes, I know it's not the same. It's a different world.

  2. It is sad, but then again I find honor in his devotion to his family and girlfriend. Something that is lacking in industrialized and western societies.

    Are you going to post some pictures?