IT was a joyous occasion when Mkhuseli “Khusta” Jack’s family and friends celebrated the return of his only son and nephew yesterday after completing their transition to manhood.
Jack’s son, Thembaloxolo, and his cousin, Vuyolwethu, both 19, returned home after spending three weeks in the bush undergoing the Xhosa traditional initiation process.
Family and friends, including Jack’s in-laws, made the trip to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town and as far afield as London.
As the men came back with Thembaloxolo and Vuyolwethu from the bush, neighbours looked on in amazement as they entered the Jack home singing traditional songs, while the women joined in and ululated.
A proud Jack said he never doubted his son would come back alive. “This is extra special for me because I never got to enjoy my umgidi [homecoming] because I was arrested as umkhwetha and ikrwala. It was a hush-hush thing.
“This is a very proud moment for me and the family,” Jack, a prominent anti- apartheid activist, said. His wife, Karen, could not see their son’s face last night for traditional reasons, and will be able to see him only today during homecoming celebrations.
She said she missed her son but understood he needed to go through the process to become a man. “I am dying to see him. It has been a long three weeks.
“I was never nervous because I knew the ingcibi and ikhankatha were good. Tradition is a wonderful thing. It is such a wonderful experience to be part of such a big family and community.”
Thembaloxolo’s uncle, Gavin Evans, who travelled from London to visit family in Cape Town and was fortunate to make it to Port Elizabeth yesterday, said his nephew had been keen to undergo the rite. “It is such a fascinating thing. When I look at him now it’s like he is more confident.”
Jack family representative Boysi Jack said they were expecting to welcome people from all walks of life – politicians, car guards, bishops and chief executives – to the formal homecoming celebration at the Jacks’ Walmer home today.
Among those at the home last night were former prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka and Moki Cekisani, a close associate of the Black Consciousness Movement founder Steve Biko.