Hero’s welcome on the cards to celebrate Zuma’s release

Johannesburg – While the DA awaits a decision on when its court application to rescind former president Jacob Zuma’s release from jail will be heard, preparations for the homecoming of the former head of state continued at his homestead yesterday.

About 40km from the town of eNkandla, to the south beyond the Nkandla Forest, lies KwaNxamalala village, where Zuma’s ancestral home KwadaKwadunuse is located.

This is where the 79-year old erstwhile statesman is expected to complete the rest of his 15-month-sentence for contempt of court, after he was released from Estcourt prison on medical parole last week.

Zuma was still in hospital being treated for an undisclosed illness and it was unclear when he was going to be discharged. KwadaKwadunuse is considered a source of strength for Zuma and a place where he can connect with his ancestors and ask for guidance whenever he is going through hardships.

Zuma’s elder brother, Khanya, told Sunday World that it was common practice within their homestead to perform a ritual to notify the ancestors of a person’s presence after they have been away from home for a long time.

NKANDLA, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 08: A general view of the Inkandla Homestead the day after Jacob Zuma’s arrest on July 08, 2021 in Nkandla, South Africa. The former president was found guilty of contempt of court by the Constitutional Court of South Africa and has been sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. (Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

“Although we have not decided as a family when the ceremony will be held, the practice is that a cow would be slaughtered for the purpose of reuniting him with the ancestors, thanking them for keeping him safe from harm.”

The name Nkandla itself is derived from an IsiZulu word “ukukhandla”, which can be loosely translated to being tired or suffering from exhaustion.

The forest was apparently named by the much-revered AmaZulu King Shaka kaSenzangakhona. It is believed that after having engaged in numerous battles, he eventually reached the Nkandla forest and was heavily exhausted and decided to rest there for a while.

He famously exclaimed “Ngikhandlekile” [I’m exhausted], which was how Nkandla was conceived.

Since the news of Zuma’s release reached Nkandla, the usually sleepy village has seen an increase in the number of visitors, mainly rural women.

They have been a pillar of strength to Zuma’s senior wife, Sizakele Khumalo, whose health reportedly deteriorated in the aftermath of her husband’s incarceration.

“We were all praying for uNxamalala to come back alive because no woman should suffer in solitude while her husband is still alive. In the village, women always support each other. We went to visit the Zuma family to rejoice with them that the head of the family would finally be back where he belongs,” said Zuzile Cebekhulu, a local woman.

Zuma sympathisers are expected to converge on Nkandla to welcome the man they call the martyr and the father of Radical Economic Transformation (RET). Among them are members of the Umkhonto We Sizwe, religious leaders and RET formations. Staunch Zuma supporter and Durban-based religious leader, pastor Vusi Dube, said they would lead a delegation to the former president’s homestead to welcome him.

The ANC welcomed Zuma’s release and wished him speedy recovery. Professor Jabulani Maphalala, a retired and respected African indigenous culture expert, said it was common practice within the African cultural beliefs systems that whenever a member of a family had been arrested, they would on their return perform a certain ritual to purify them before being reunited with the ancestors.

“It is a post-prison cleansing ceremony premised on a belief that prison carries bad luck.”

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