I just wrote this note to those whom I met in Johannesburg these last two weeks. There were a few days of retreat stuck in between.
My time in Joburg and environs ended when I was taken to the plane by a longtime friend, Kendal. That was on Tuesday, Sept. 12. ( I had arrived on Wednesday, Sept. 6th and was picked up by my friend Phola at the Joburg airport and whisked off to her place in Centurion.). The plane returning to Durban arrived on time at 2pm and I was met by another old friend and confrere, Bishop Paul Khumalo. He took me back to Mariannhill where I grabbed my swimming suit and put all my stuff into my little Hyundai and drove down the South Coast to Coolock House, about 10 or so km. before Port Shepstone. I jumped into a retreat that had started on Sunday and joined them for the rest of the week and only came back today, Saturday. Because I was busy having a look at my spiritual and other life, I put off writing this till I finished the retreat. So here it is.
The trip was made possible by Nhlanhla and Phola Mabaso. We were in exile together and later, I was invited to bind them in marriage. This we did about 7 yrs. ago, half in Port Elizabeth at the home of Tixie Mabizela, Phola's mom, and later, the second instalment, in Pretoria at the home of Zoda Mabaso, Hhanhla's mom whom I knew from the Grail. They offered to pay for my airfare and didn't put any strings on my time in Joburg. I can't thank them enough as they made possible an incredible week.
I hung around their place on Thursday morning but Phola had left her car to be available for me. It took me till noon to muster up the courage to get into her car and drive my way out of their complex and head for Pretoria, to visit an old friend, Paul Knox (we first met in 1966 in Waterkloof Ridge where Mariannhill had a study house. He was 14yrs. old at the time. Now he is an old man, but not as old as me). His son, Benoit, also came over to his office for a bite to eat for lunch. I think I had last say him as a high schooler or even before that. He now is in the publishing business and the proud grandfather showed me the picture of his newborn baby. I managed to find my way back to the complex. There was a problem with the security and when the guard asked me for my ID, I told him, 35 11 28 5193 18 4. Ha. He recognized the 35 (1935) and gave me a back handed compliment. He said, Hey, Mkhulu, are you still driving. How!, you are strong. Ha. He doesn't know that for me driving is like breathing.
Phola, Nhlanhla, Lihle and Ma batho (?) had supper together and by 8:30 all were heading for bed.
Friday, Nhlanhla had organized a meeting with an old comrade, Refiloe Mudimu, who wanted to meet me after not seeing each other for years and years. We had lunch together in Pretoria, and he praised and thanked me for the help he received from me when we were together in exile in Zimbabwe and Zabmia. He told me of things that I did that were a big help to him but that I had totally forgotten. We reminisced about those days and he explained that, on his return, among other things, he had been transferred from the SANDF to the navy as an admiral. But it was an office job, not at sea, and he was able to help and shape many young sailors, especially for disadvantaged backgrounds, fitting them to be the leaders of the next generation. I was touched. He is now retired and living at home.
Then, Kanyo Gqulu came with Edwin's wife, Desiree, to take me off to Kanyo's place for an party later that night, supported by a nice braai vleis. Kanyo and his friend (they might as well be joined at the hip) Edwim Smith (As Xhosa as they come) wanted me to spend some time with them. We were involved in the struggle before being forced, one way or the other, into exile. Again, they told tales of my helping them that had gone out of my head. I was getting embarrassed. They had other friends who had also come to meet this guy, Hlathi, priest, comrade, friend, etc. Both Kanyo and Edwin managed to get bursaries to universities (they are called colleges in the States) that helped them to get where they are today. I told them that I was reminded of the story from the gospel where the sower went out to sow his seed. The seed fell all over the place, and some of it also fell on good soil, them, and bore rich fruit. Among the people there at that gathering/party/braai vleis was a Mr. Gugi who now teaches at a university in New York. I know his father who was a playright and who used his skill in producing plays, that he was able, through their acting out, to give therapy to some of the kids who had been traumatized by the atrocities of the war that they had seen. They had become almost autistic. But, with Gugi's help, they began to talk and interact with others again.
The party went on till quite late (afte 1pm. My usual bedtime, at the latest, is 10pm). Ha. Then Edwin and his wife took me off to their place in Hatfield Pretoria where they both live and work. It was 1:30 pm before we got to bed so I slept my usual 6 hrs. and got up at 7am. Desiree, his wife, got up shortly after and we had time to get to know each other before Edwin started stirring, quite a bit later. Edwin had just recently found his seriously diabetic son dead in his room and has still not been able to be totally recovered, if he ever will. The bond between him and his son was strong, and the paid was terrible at the loss. We also reminisced about our time together before exile, during exile, and post exile. Again, I was praised for things I had forgotten or never thought to remember.
On Saturday, after re-connecting with each other, Edwin took me to see another friend, Mandy Gilder. I had met Mandy in exile in Bulawayo, and was the one who performed the wedding ceremony for her and her husband Barry. Mandy was nominally a Presbetyrian from Botswana, Barry was Jewish from Joburg, and the marriage was performed by an American CAtholic priest, chaplain to the ANC. How's that for something exciting.
Unfortunately, a few years ago, Barry decided to leave the marriage and has had several partners since then and Mandy is still hurting from this but has been baptized and has put everything in God's hands. We met one of Mandy's daughters and her husband and also looked back at where life had taken us. Edwin had to head back home and shortly after, Mandy took me back to PHola and Nhlanhla for the rest of Saturday night.
Sunday, Nhlanhla went out for his therapeutic golf and Phola and I went to the hospital to visit a dear friend, Ellie, who had had Meningitis and had recovered from it but was now suffering from other things that put her in an almost comatose state. Ellie's parents came from Moshe in Tanzania to be with her and we all prayed hard and stormed heaven on her behalf reminding God that his son Jesus had promised that anything you ask in my name I will will give you. Not like asking to win the jackpot or a new Mercedes. NOthing frivolous. So we hope that it is in Gods' good graces to help Ellie out of this situation and allow her to get back to her family and her two sons and husband.
Then we went back to the house and had a home mass with the family and friends. Wow. I was surprised. There were between 40 and 50 people there. We also celebrated the 10th birthday of one of Ellie and Dumisani's sons. We shared our reflections on the readings for the day which gave us a direction that God would like us to go in for the coming week.
The mass was quite late and by the time everyone had been fed and had visited everyone else, it was dark and people began to head for home. Phola, NHlanhla and I started the clean up and did the dishes and general cleaning up and it was almost 10pm when we finished. Poor Phola had to catch an early flight to Mthatha for a meeting on Monday so she didn't get much sleep. We said goodbye to each other before she left at 4:30 Monday morning to catch a 6am flight to Mthatha.
Nhanhla had a busy day so I chilled out till he picked me up at about 4:30 and took me to the Bismarck's in Joburg. I have known Basil and Margaret for years now. Margaret is from Zambia and most of her brothers and sisters were in our youth group when I was in Zambia in Kabwe from '72 to '77. Margaret lost her kidneys way back then and has had several transplants. All had been going well but then after several falls, there were setbacks and the recovery is very slow.
We spent the evening together and then, in the morning, Kendal, the son-in-law of Basil and Margaret, took me to the airport to catch the flight back to Durban.
Now, the point of the story is to thank all of you for your input into my life as a priest and as a friend. I don't think that you would really be able to understand how much faith and inspiration I get from you when I see all the ups and down and challenges and hurts that you have to deal with. I am inspired and say thank you for the friendship that has meant so much to me.
I know that for some of you, God is a bit remote, or so it seems, but I smilingly see myself as a kind of suggogate God connection. Ha. Some think that I have a direct line to the Boss up there. Don't I wish.
I love you all and again say thanks to you all for a very rich and satisfying week, especially to Phola and Nhlanhla for making it possible.
Love and Peace, Cas.