Chapter Seven - A week later
15th October 2004
By S.A. Baloyi
I have many names and I am called differently by different people so that it is confusing to me even, who I really am. My full name is Samson Alhulani Baloyi, and today is my birthday. I am turning thirty years old. It is time to write about my life because I am sure it is nearly finished.
I am descended from Tsonga chiefs. My people call me Alhulani, which is my African name, but the whites call me Sam. Now I am a man with memories and little more, from a people with memories and little else. My ancestors ruled great areas of land in the place which they now call the Kruger National Park. But, starting in 1899, for the next 27 years, most of them were taken away from their homes and villages and given other faraway lands to farm so that a great area could be taken for the wild animals and the whites who came to see them. I have no anger for the animals, they are my livelihood - it is my job, like my father's and his father’s, my Kokwana, before to watch over them. I was a Game Ranger and I was very good at my job, but now I am only a thief. I have sharp eyes that have the highest leopard spotting count of my fellow rangers and ears that can hear a bee sneeze or an ant yawn. Most importantly I can walk on the land of my forefathers – which is also my land.
My first memory is my mother whispering to me as she cradled me in the dark. ‘Sammy Alhulani, Sammy Alhulani’, it was a song to soothe me. She says I was a baby that cried a lot and I fought her at her breast. I was a small and weak. She chose my Christian name, she loves her God and her church. She wanted me to grow up big and strong like Samson in the Bible, but God played a joke on me. As a child I was always the smallest and ran behind my friends. And now I am a small man. My Kokwana – Grandfather - chose my Tsonga name a month after my birth, it means ‘separating the good from the bad’. He hoped I would pick the right path in life, that no matter how tempting evil may look, I may never give in to it. Luckily for him he died before he could see how badly I did at that.
My small size made it easy for me to hide in tiny places and watch people; I got to know many secrets. In my parents room there was a tall narrow cupboard with a moth-eaten spare blanket stored on the top of it, the space below the ceiling was very narrow but just big enough for me to curl into a little ball. When I hid there in the day time my mother and older brother and sister, Philemon and Josephine, would look around the house for me, calling my name and never find me up there. I would laugh quietly into my hands hearing them calling louder and louder. I would wait for my mother’s angry voice to eventually fade into a worried voice as she walked further and further from the house and only then would I creep down, out through the window and run to her with a story about being stuck in the bush. I made so much trouble for my poor mother. My brother and sister would stand glaring at me, hands on their hips knowing I was ...