Honouring the dead is our culture

Nomahlubi Jordaan

FOUR car accidents in a month: not many people live to tell the tale.

It took something this drastic for businessman Stephen Dondolo to go on a search for his ancestry – a life changing journey for one of Uitenhage’s most influential families.

Dondolo, chief executive of African Pioneer Limited, was born in the oldest township in the city, known as Xaba, 57 years ago.

He worked for Goodyear as a machine operator, but later left the company and opened a tavern. And his “entertainment” business grew.

 He then joined the taxi industry and was among the first group of people who introduced mini bus taxis tothe city. In 1984, Dondolo went through a life changing experience.

“I had never really believed in ancestors and customs because our parents were never involved in any cultural practices. Then my car was involved in four separate accidents – all on the same day of the week and all at the same time of day.

“The last straw for us was when a car hit my car, which was parked in front of my house.”

Dondolo and his family consulted a sangoma, who told them their ancestors were not happy because they were ignoring them.

“We then took a decision to trace our roots because we did not know our parents’ origins. Our search lead us to Queenstown, where we found our grandfather, Makhaya.”

 On their return, Dondolo performed a traditional ceremony known as ukuvula indlu (introducing and inviting the ancestors into their home). For the next 10 years, no further eyebrow-raising incidents occurred.

“But when a swarm of bees found ‘refuge’ in my business establishments and my house, stinging people and leaving two hospitalised, we knew something was wrong again.

A sangoma told them the ancestors were angry as they were living lavishly and had forgotten them.

“We had to perform ukungxengxeza (to apologise) and we slaughtered a cow and went to the sea to speak to our ancestors. The bees then disappeared.”

Dondolo said the two incidents became proof enough for them that ancestors do exist and ignoring them could bring bad luck to the family and even strip it of its wealth.

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