THIS article aims at two things: To explain the Ndebele culture of looking after cattle and to demonstrate the use of Ndebele language in connection with the rearing of cattle.
It is language at work. Culturally cattle were by far the most important possession of the Ndebele people.
A man who had no cattle was a man in name only and was generally looked down upon by other men. On the other hand a man who had many cattle was said to be wealthy and was respected by his society. As a result the Ndebele developed a culture of looking after cattle with all the expertise that goes with it.
Ukwalusa inkomo (looking after cattle) was men’s world . The actual herding was delegated to boys. It was rare that girls went out herding cattle and only if there was no boy in the family.
Even then neighbours helped by herding their herds together with those of a neighbour without boys or a relative who had a boy to spare sent him over to help – not for hire but to help.
Kwakungaziwa ukuthi umuntu oncedayo uyabhadalwa. Boys were taught in stages to look after cattle. At age eight or nine they started herding calves which did not go out into the open veld with their mothers.
The calves were herded close to the homestead. Included with the calves were goats kinds and lambs of sheep. It was at this early stage that boys began to familiarise themselves with livestock.
And while the young boys were out herding calves they began to appreciate open bush life and to choose good pastures for their charges.
They began to play little games of the veld and so predisposing themselves for more mature sports that characterise the life of ekwaluseni.
On a daily basis the life of ekwaluseni begins in the early morning and ends roughly just before dusk: Umfana uvuka ekuseni ilanga liphuma.
Uyise uvele usevuke kudala kusemathunzi wayohlola ukuthi inkomo zilele kuhle , kazifohlanga zaphuma. Kumnandi ukuzibona zisalele zithe gwaqa azibuke zisetshisa kungathi ziyadla. Umfana ufika uyise usevele usesazi konke ngenkomo zakhe mhlalokho.
Ilanga lithi lingakakhweli umfana usevula isango atshaye igoda lakhe lithi qhwa-a-a! zivuke ziphume zibekelele seziqonda emadlelweni.
Sezisiya chakiswa. Kuhle ziphume ngalesi isikhathi ngoba utshani bulomswane esiswini nxa bungena lamazolo. Mhlawumbe umfana kayedwa ulabanye abafana abangakibo.
Inkomo zokuchaka zande ukuthi ziqalise ukudobhadobha utshani zisaphuma esibayeni zihaba amazolo. Abafana sebelokhu betshaya ukhwelo bezithinta ukuthi zihambe.
Balezindlela zabo zokubizana labafana bakomakhelwana ngoba ekwaluseni, egangeni, kumnandi nxa bebanengi bexoxa, bedlala, bezingela kunjeya .
Yonke imihlambi iphuma itshiye amathole evalelwe ngekhaya. Bakhona abawavulelayo ukuthi ake adlayidle onina bengakabuyi, aphinde avalelwe.
Ukuchakisa lokhu ebafaneni yikusungula usuku. Ubumnandi bekwaluseni buzakuza emini sekwelusiwe uqobo. OMofukazi laboNtusikazi sebelokhu bebhonsa bekhangele ekhaya, amanye amankomokazi esefuqwa yikutshisa kwamabele uchago selufuthelene inkomokazi isizisenga.
Nxa ilanga selikhwele selibanga enkanda lezithunzi sezisithela ngaphansi kwabantu zonke inkomo sezithintwa ngemihlambi yakwabo sezibuyela ekhaya ukuyasengwa. Kazisabhonsi nje oDlubukazi laboBhidikazi sezisenza okunye.
Okungabafana sekutshaya amagoda, kutshaye amakhwelo, itsho imvokloklo kuze kudumbe umzimba. Edwendweni qekele ngemuva, ngamatshida amagwayimani aboLentusi.
Emini nxa sezisengiwe abafana labo sebedlile sezivulelwa ukuya emadlweni. Amathole amancinyane ayasala kuthi lawo asekhulile ahamba lezindala. Emini ziphuma zibekelele ziqonda emadlelweni ngoba ziyakwazi.
Nxa sebefikile emadlelweni imihlambi isithe watha isiklabile iganga lonke. Ziyadla inkomo, ziyabuhemula utshani kunjeya. Abafana sebezuza ithuba lokwenza imidlalo yabo etshiyeneyo.
Eminengi ngeyokuncintisana. Kuyatshikiliswana ngokugijima ukuze kubonakale ukuthi otshiya abanye ngubani. Kubhaqwa insema ngezinti ezicijiweyo, idaywe bona bayicibe ilokhu intantalaza injalo.
Abanye bayayikhutha kuthi oyicibayo kuthiwe yinkosi. Kuyiwa etshebetshebeni kuyebonwa ukuthi ogiqika atshiye abanye ngubani.
Ekwaluseni lapha kulezingqwele eziyizo eziphethe abafana. Umlandu wazo yikubathuma ukuyanqanda lezo inkomo ezitshotshayo zingeduki.
Kakumnandi ukutshiyiswa ubumanandi bokudlala kuthiwe lizopho lakho lukuyanqanda inkomo Ungaba lesidensi ingqwele yehlisa uswazi lukhothe emhlane.
Ububi bengqwele yikuxega abafana kuthiwe bindanani kubonwe ozawisa omunye. Kakudlalwa, yona imi ngoswazi. Akufuneki ogwenxa omunye ngoba lokho yikudlelezela. Ubuhlungu bufika nxa lixegwa ngokuthi nqindanani. Ngulowo umfana utshotshozelwa yingqwele yakhe iphethe uswazi.
Kumnandi ekwaluseni. Okulemifula khona eleziziba kuyabhukutshwa kuntshezwe, kutshaywe ibhamu abanye baqethuke ingege. Kanti abanye bakholisa ukuzingela ngezinja zabo loba batshaye inyamazana ngenduku kubonakale lowo onembayo.
Bhakholisa konke lokho nje kanti ezinye inkomo sezisuke zatshotsha zaduhela emasimini akoSiwela. Katshingi nje umdala wakhona udla amalahle. Ubafica belibele belokhu bebindana lukhale luqamuke uswazi endodeni.
The foregoing description is only a summary of the culture of ukwelusa (herding cattle). It was an important cultural activity of the Ndebele people conducted in the Ndebele way. Things may have changed but the relics of this culture may still be found in the rural areas.
The language is appropriate to the culture that is being described and the vocabulary is as current as any other. No word is obsolete.
You can measure your knowledge of the Ndebele language against this passage.