Majaivana beats lightning in Yorkshire


DID you see it? Did you hear it, Khazi did you? What does it remind you of?

-Mthulisi Mathuthu

It’s my cousin on the phone. She is a few miles away from here in Oldham just outside Manchester. She is panting and I can hear her breathing.

Confused, I ask: “Did I see what?”

“Come on man don’t tell me you are so relaxed; I am under the bed hiding.”


“Yes, I was outside cleaning my car when suddenly a bolt of lightning tore the sky before the thunder followed moving the earth a bit.”

Just the words thunder and lightning sort of give me a clue. Hahahahaha! Clued up I, squeezing words into spaces within my laughter, chip in: “You mean you have a thunderstorm there?”

“Yes, she says. Don’t tell me you don’t have that there!”

Honestly, we are relaxed down here in Yorkshire. We are at my friend, Irvene’s house in Orchard Park. Irvene keeps a lot of African music.

Talk of Franco, Tuku, Hugh Masekela, Pressman Band, Mirriam Makeba, Salif Keïta – everything, he has it. Right now as he lowers the volume to hear me talk, Majaivana’s Tshilamoya is playing.

For years I have been promising him Majaivana’s music and today I brought a CD for him and have just been translating and analysing to him the lyrics.

He knows about Higlanders FC and what it means to the people in Bulawayo and Matabeleland.

Still recovering from the pangs of laughter I tell him: On the phone was a cousin whom I grew up with in the village before we moved to the city.

I tell him how we used to flee at the sight of lightning and at the slightest sound of thunder.

When I tell him that my cousin, whom I have just been talking to a while ago, is hiding under the bed because of lightning Irvene starts his own round of laughter.

His is deeper than mine and he could fall off his chair as he keeps rolling about like a carefree child.

It gets worse.

I tell him that in Africa, people believe that one can summon lightning to strike you down hence our fear.

Everytime one sees the clouds gathering and rolling towards their homestead accompanied by both thunder and lightning they pray to their gods to spare them.

Summon lightning to strike someone! Hahahaha.

He is already sitted on the carpet, legs stretched out and his back leaning against a wall to support his body – too weak from violent laughter.

My problem, he says, is that I am taking advantage of his limited knowlegde about Africa to push through fiction.

No, I say.

Lies mate, he rebukes me.

Why, if some of you can summon lightning, do you keep complaining electricity cuts? You should not even be complaining of drought mate, he says.

I tell him of the many stories we heard about lightning striking people down. In the village, sometime in 1984, lightning made puree of a neighbour.

In one tale we heard, lightning was said to have compressed itself into a short flame and sneaked into somebody’s dining room through the window to strike him alone out of about eight people who were in the house. This time Irvene has stopped laughing.