By Andile Mngxitama
Gogo Nonkululeko died from sadness. We know this because she said so just before she passed on clutching her heart. One evening, days before she died, she had gathered her whole family and told them that she had not much time left now. She had been worried sick by the news from the desert. Promise and Noise, her beloved sons, who were born literally a year apart from each other had been at each other’s necks in the desert.
The two boys didn’t know their father. He was captured by the enemy and murdered in day light when they were still just toddlers. The enemy didn’t just murder their father but also systematically sought to erase their names from history. The enemy took their land and destroyed their belongings and thereby reduced them to beggars. For a while they lived on the side of the road with nowhere to go. To eat, they had to beg from the same enemy who murdered their father and took their land. Gogo Nonkululeko had seen this happen before. Many families who fell at the hands of the enemy had after a period of time forgotten what the enemy had done to them. They even started loving the enemy more than they loved themselves. The enemy knew this and encouraged it. Gogo Nonkululeko had vowed never to allow such amnesia to befall her household.
Promise and Noise were raised to remember and to avenge the injustice committed against their father and family. Every day, just before sunrise, Gogo would raise her two sons, make them look across the plains into the land which was theirs but now occupied by the enemy and make them say “izwelethu!” in silence. She would then tell them the story of their father, how he was murdered and how their land was taken by the enemy. Noise and Promise were very close to each other when they grew up.They shared everything because they were raised to be their brother’s keepers. When they came of age, they vowed to protect each other – to live to take back the land and to free their people.
It was not long before the two brothers started to quarrel. Firstly they fought about who must eat the best part of the chicken. They both loved the left wing of the chicken. “A chicken has only one left wing,” their mother would tell them.
On the other hand, the enemy saw that the two brothers were growing to be physically strong. The enemy was getting worried, so the enemy started observing them. It studied their weaknesses and strengths. The enemy noticed that their biggest weakness was their love for the left wing of a chicken. The enemy started creating conditions to make the two brothers fight. If one sent a child to go and buy a chicken the enemy would make sure that the left wing of the chicken was missing – Noise would think this was the evil deeds of Promise and vice versa.
Gogo Nonkululeko was getting concerned about the lack of progress in fighting for the return of their long stolen land. She called her sons in and said, “it’s been 22 years since your father was murdered by the enemy and we were rendered landless in our land. You are now young strong men. It’s time to take back that which belongs to you. If you get your land back, you will have enough chickens to eat the left wing of a chicken every day.”
In front of their mother Noise and Promise agreed to start planning the war for land return. The two brothers went into the desert to wait for the enemy. They too knew that the enemy was the weakest when it was in the desert, and the enemy needed to be in the desert every year at a given time. The brothers bid their mother, wives and children farewell and left under the cloud of darkness.
It was their 30th day in the desert and their water had run out. The had finished the full chickens each got as provision for the road ahead. Of course, they both instinctively had left the left wings to eat last. One night, the enemy arrived during their sleep. It figured that fighting them directly would unite them and possibly lead to a certain loss. The best strategy was to divide the brothers using the thing that they both loved the most as a source of conflict. The enemy took the left wings – the last pieces of their provisions – and quietly left their tents. When morning came, each brother discovered that their most prized pieces were missing. Noise walked to Promise’s tent in great agitation. He found his brother ready for him. The two brothers wrestled the whole day. The enemy watched from afar and sent a message to their propagandist to broadcast the war of the brothers over the left wing of a chicken.
The enemy then decided it would team up with the younger brother, Noise, against his sibling. In the propaganda war, the enemy went on to depict Noise as an intelligent fighter. The enemy even sent Noise lots of left wings of chickens and water. Noise was now even more motivated to finish off his brother. Using the propaganda wing of the enemy, Noise started saying Promise must not be allowed to go back to their land. He said Promise was corrupt and only wants left wings for himself and his family. The enemy’s propaganda arm spread the news. Noise promised all that he shall make Promise pay for all his sins. The enemy said it will also arrest Promise for stealing its chicken.
The news from the desert reached Gogo Nonkululeko. She sent a messenger to the desert. She said to the messenger, “tell my sons, the war is not for left wings of the chicken. The war is not amongst brothers, the war is against the enemy to return the land and avenge the injustices committed against their family”. She said to the messenger, “remind them, ‘izwelethu'”.
The messenger first found Promise and conveyed Gogo Nonkululeko’s message. Promise said that he was not fighting his brother – he was only protecting himself against him. He said that Noise started it all when he ate his last left wing of the chicken. The messenger asked him what message must he give Gogo? He said to tell her that he loved her and remembers her teachings.
The messenger found Noise in a big meeting under a big tent. The meeting of landless people was agitated, discussing how it wanted to make Promise pay for his sins. After the big meeting, the messenger got a chance to convey the message of Gogo to Noise. “Tell my mother I shall never forget her teachings. Tell her I shall never betray my father”. Noise said this whilst stuffing his mouth with lots of left wings of well fed chickens which had been supplied abundantly to him by the enemy. The messenger noticed that Noise had become fat from the constant supply of good things from the enemy. Noticing that the messenger was looking at his bulge, Noise said he was going to get slim as soon as he left the desert. The messenger asked him how? He said, he would go to the Perfection Center for a special ritual to burn fat. The messenger was surprised because the Perfection Center only took away the fat of the bellies of enemies after they had eaten all the fat of the land. So the messenger left with the message that both brothers remembered the teachings of their mother and they are still committed to bringing back the land.
When Gogo Nonkululeko heard all this news, she decided to go to the desert and talk to her sons face-to-face. After many days, lack of provisions and walking under sustained assault from the unforgiving sun, she finally met Promise. He was well armed, his men well trained. She asked why was he alone? Where was his brother? Promise said they were at war with his brother who he accused of teaming up with the enemy against him. He said nothing about his own love for the left wing of the chicken and how his anger actually developed from the chicken wings, not so much that he had sold out. Gogo realized that Promise had forgotten what the war was about? She asked, “have you made any attempt at taking back the land? I see you have an army with you”. Promise became a little annoyed and said, “how can I fight for land when my brother is standing on my way?”
Gogo then went looking for Noise. She found him surrounded by the propagandists of the enemy. He seemed to be happy to be praised by the enemy. Gogo also noticed a heap of the bones of the left wing of the chicken. Her son was round with fat. She asked where his elder brother was. Noise’s eyes dilated. Hatred was written all over his face. He vowed over the grave of his father to make Promise pay. Gogo asked what happened to the fight over land and justice. Noise was candid, he said, “mother I’m going to first fight my own brother and then only fight with the enemy.”
Gogo took her things and left the desert without saying a word.
Many weeks later, there was rain in the desert. Noise sent a message to the enemy saying he knew his brother couldn’t keep his eyes open in the rain. So, armed with this knowledge, the enemy attacked and captured Promise and murdered him, like it did his father before him. When the news reached Noise, he celebrated! He shouted, “the devil has fallen!”
Noise had forgotten than he and his brother had vowed that whoever died first shall bury the other on the land of their father. Gogo came back to fetch the body of Promise. She then went to see Noise. She asked him why he had done this to his own brother. He said he was teaching his brother a lesson. He wanted to humble him. Gogo said she hoped that he knew the enemy was now mobilizing to come and finish him off. His own army was divided and the enemy had cut all supplies. Upon hearing this, Noise stood up and accused his own mother of witchcraft and of being captured by the evil spirit of his dead brother. He even showed his mother the appointment letter to go to the Perfection Center to fix his fat. When Gogo asked about the land, he said “the land shall be fought for later, now we must save the country from the likes of Promise.”
The worst was when Gogo heard that Noise had given the enemy even the little land they had. When Gogo asked why, Noise said it was better under the control of the enemy than his kleptomaniac brother – he said he was saving the land by giving it to the same people who robbed them of their land.
Gogo Nonkululeko started coughing as Noise was speaking. A sharp pain shot through her whole body. She was rushed back to the village, landless where she had lived after being evicted from her land and losing her beloved husband.
She died upon arrival.