life – a journey

After traversing three countries, different climates and encountering an all-sorts of encounters, I am convinced that the journeys that we take, when we take them and how we take them is also a reflection of how the journey of life can turn out.

Very rarely would one take a journey without preparation. Itineraries are prepared, clearances sought, funds collated, maps drawn, weather sites explored, vaccinations undertaken and destinations confirmed. This is all done because a journey is a departure from the normal routine, it takes you away from the comfort zone, it removes the guarantees and puts to test your ability to stand on your own.

Journeys are for a reason. I have never seen someone who undertakes a journey for no reason. Journeys are meant to be voyages of discovery, closure, growth, strength and or healing. Needless to say, all journeys have a resultant destination : the ultimate goal.

This does not mean that journeys are flawless. They are missed planes, lost baggage, muggings, breakdowns, exhaustion, dead ends, missed turns and all the pain that comes with setting a course and walking it.

However this also does not mean that the flaws must be the terminal point of your journey. When your shoe lace loosens, bend down, re-tie it and continue the walk. One cannot, and must not, delay fixing the shoelace because while it might look minor, the consequence of not dealing with imminent inconveniences immediately normally does give birth to a protracted disability. I have seen a man who ignored a loose shoelace go on to trip himself and lose teeth.

So is life. All our steps must be prepared for, carefully executed and warily undertaken. Like a journey, life will throw mishaps; will bring injuries, pain, and discomfort. Like a journey, life will bring you missed opportunities , stolen joy , denied health and derailed plans , but like in a journey , the focus must not be on the mid journey corns but the joy of taking  off you r shoes and massaging your feet when you reach your destination.

So is life. I am convinced that it is a vain thing to totally cancel a trip because of a missed bus. It is vanity in my book because the necessity of that trip will always obtain until it is undertaken. In the same vein, it is a vain act to give up on life because of distractions and pain. A wise man will re-schedule a missed plane and in my book, a determined person will not give up but take stock, re-arm and walk that path again.

Life is about the final intention; it is about the ambition, the goal, the target and the attainment. It is foolish to give up when mud is thrown into your face because if you wash the mud off your face you will see more cleanly. When the wheels come off it does not imply the end of the journey. It means the beginning of another dimension, a dimension that will teach you to expect punctures, disappointments, derision and outright betrayal but this dimension is meant to make you stronger than when you tripped and only a fool will surrender when given more potent ammunition.

So, come let’s walk this journey for the sun will definitely rise tomorrow.

my pain , my gain

My pain, my gain

2CO 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. Source: King James 1611,

Pain is a difficult phase. It immobilizes, disrupts, distorts and delays the pursuit of life. Pain is a constant reminder of our immortality and the inevitability of eventually surrendering to a higher fate. Pain comes in many dimensions but covers all spheres. Pain can be emotional, physical, material, financial, (spiritual?) and difficult to override. I have known pain (like everyone else!!). I have cried tears till I am blue but that has not taken away my ails and the pain they bring. In all this I have come to realize that if the pain cannot be avoided it does not mean there is nothing positive beyond the suffering. Ask our mothers, after the birth pains and the screams of giving birth there is nothing that beats that momentous occasion of that bloody bundle swathed in hospital towels being held by a midwife. The result of pain.

In my life I have some pain scenarios that have birthed strength. I remember in my immaturity in the early twenties; taunted and insulted with what I thought was the most vital component of my life( manhood !) , taunted and told that I was worse than dead and told I was not worthy all that I claimed to be. Pained, angry and acting out of immaturity I swallowed more than 20 Salbutamol tablets, locked myself in the bedroom and waited to die. A good friend came to my rescue and after a painful, humiliating process I was saved from death. From the pain I went through I learnt that emotional pain was not the end of the world and I could be stronger than the person who seeks to denigrate, reduce, embarrass and humiliate me. This has carried me through some worse moments in life. Every time I face an accuser, I look beyond the pain of their insults; I look at the strength I will gain by standing firm and not falling or stooping low. That has been my gain. I have gained strength from pain.

Having come from school with not enough points to go straight to University I had to settle for the next option: get a job, support my hardworking father and study using my earnings. I took a job with a large blue chip retail company after passing their aptitude tests with brilliant colors. Then my pain began, instead of being remembered as the brilliant kid with a great potential I was relegated to being a stand in for the general hand and at best I was delegated to window dress the mannequins on display. I remember one day while sweeping the pavement of the shop during peak hour, I was accosted by guys who had dropped out of school before O ‘Level who were now dealers in town and who had always scoffed at my bookish ways. One of them recounted how I was Head boy at primary school, secondary school, 1st deputy Head boy at high school and chair of the national youth Synod. Then he comically asked how I could settle to drive a wire broom in the pavements of the CBD? What he didn’t know is that I also cleaned the staff toilets and made tea for the manager. Painful, yes. However it taught me a tough resolve that whatever the pain humiliation and embarrassment brought me, I was not going to lose sight of my goal. Pain gave me vision.

When my father passed on, I had the greatest pain. I lost a mentor, a friend, a teacher and a wise counsel. I painfully learnt that no one lived for ever. I went through a depression and almost lost purpose. That was the pain. But from that pain I learnt that my father had a vision, a vision greater than his capabilities, a vision that meant him toiling endlessly to give us an education so that we would not have to toil heavily in life like him. From the pain of losing my father I gained a legacy.

When growing up, my eyes were bloodshot. I was constantly taunted because it was believed that red or bloodshot eyes were a result of smoking dagga. I remember being introduced as a cousin brother of a brilliant former student when I went to apply for a Form 1 place. One look at me and the Head remarked in my face that I was a potential for trouble with my red eyes and that I would never measure up to my cousin. The pain of that slight gave a resolve. I went on to be the first child Parliamentarian in Luveve, was Head boy and overhauled my cousin’s performance at O’level.

I gained resolve from pain. I can write till tomorrow. I can write of the pain of rejection, emotional abuse, being put down, being judged wrongly and being plainly hated. All of us can write about such. We can start a pain blog and weigh on who carries the most pain. All this will not help if we do not seek to see beyond the pain. All this would be in vain if we did not thrive to strive beyond the pain. It would be a painful life to live seeking pity and sympathy for the pain one is going through. A good step is to make the pain a gain by deriving lessons from all pain episodes of our lives. After all tears, emotions, screams, pleas and victim labels there awaits a step upward.

Pain must be gain for the sun will surely rise tomorrow.

weapons against us

ISA 54:17 ‘> No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

As much as the preachers might pound the pulpit, there is a point that they do not clearly articulate. The failure of a weapon to prosper against you does not mean no missiles shall be lodged at you. Neither does it mean that if you do not dodge you will remain unscathed. The fact that the Word speaks of a weapon fashioned for you indicates the presence of custom-made trouble. These include trials created to merge into your proto- type and it is not denial that will avoid you being a casualty, it is taking action.

I have seen many men wail in the face of problems. I have seen many women wail in the face of tribulation and needless to say, these people lose their battles because they allow the weapons formed against them to derail and destruct them. If the Almighty issues an injunction declaring that you will not be harmed, it therefore does not follow that He says you will not be attacked!! It would be a vain life that will be without tests. It would be an empty life that comes with no benchmarks to test and mark your resilience. Indeed it would be a sad life.

The reason people seat for exams and drop out of courses or stages is because their staying or resisting ability fails them. This is only discovered when the next gear is engaged. That is when they realize they are out of depth and their staying power is depleted. The wise go one gear down and marshal more resources for the next assault while the weak engage the reverse gear and limp back home tail in between their legs. These are people that fear weapons. These are people that fear shadows and would not dare lift their eyes from the ground to see the cause of the shadows they see on the ground.

The walk and experience of life is not for those that are afraid of taking odds head on. It is not for those who believe they must not be criticized, castigated, insulted, derided or denied opportunities. The race is not for those who believe that they must never stumble, fall, be hurt, be sick and even be hated. These are all weapons spoken of that are likely to be launched against one. It is not the presence of the weapon that matters. It is not the aiming of the missile at you that matters. It is how ready are you to battle and face the odds that will carry you forward.

As the sun rises tomorrow, whatever missile manifests in form of a challenge , problem etc do not deny or decry it, instead, be ready to contend with it, for the battle is to the swift and not the wailers.

Marching on

One difficult thing in life is to taste your own medicine. I believe even doctors find it difficult to treat themselves. It is not the simplicity of the prescription but the application of the dose that taxes our reserves.

I have learnt that in life, such times do occur. When all the chips are down and even the’’ get out of jail card’’ fails you. These are times when even the best of friends seem (take note I say seem) to only serve to disappoint. These are the times when you fail to burn the bridges and you find yourself consorting and cavorting with the devil again.

I have learnt that these times are for our good. Challenging times bring sobriety. They act as a sieve that will sift all chaff and only retain valuable ingredients. Challenges tend to bring true color out of the people around us. Do you see a man who will stick with you and still call you a pal even when you no longer have a cent to your name and your bed has been carried away from under you? That man will walk to the moon and back to save your life.

I have learnt that every challenge, hiccup, hindrance, difficulty etc is a test station. At every test station there is need to re fuel, take stock, test the brakes and ponder the distance left viz- a-viz the fuel reserves in store. Failures come when we use test stations as rest stations and by the time we deem it good to move the rail is blown away.

I have learnt that my life is a journey. Whatever problem I will come across I will not allow it to be a full stop. I will not terminate my life at a problem point. For it is my conviction that all problems eventually have solutions but the issue is that we seek the wrong solutions, or we look at the wrong places or we seek at the wrong time.

It is my trust that my life is a march. A march must not to be deadened by challenges but a march must be strengthened by the knowledge of knowing that beyond a problem is a solution. No army has aborted a march because of an ambush. The same applies in life, whatever issues hinder us in our lives are ambushes meant to make us stronger, alert, cunning and wiser. Only a foolish man will abort his march to victory because of a distraction.

Marching on saps energy. Marching on calls to defy odds. Marching on calls unto the deeper reserves. Marching on cannot be without a vision. So when our own wisdom fails us, the vision and the acceptance that all challenges are strengths should carry us through.

Do you see a man who does not give up when faced with a problem? That man knows of the lesson, moral, motivation and elation that comes after surmounting a challenge. That man knows victory comes in calculated stages.

That marching man keeps fighting because he knows the sun will rise tomorrow.

To our mother

I am tempted to believe that my mother was the inventor of the term ‘– spare the rod, spoil the child-‘. My brother Zibusiso and I received the highest beatings in the hood. Not that we were notorious imps. No ways! But my mother brooked no-nonsense and a slight departure from her laid down rules automatically meant that there was going to be wailing and groaning in the house.

It was known in the hood that no children came ‘straighter’ than maZondo’s children. As we grew up,  we got to understand that the only way to avoid the stinging pains was to toe the Law according to MaZondo to the letter. This was my first institution in the instruction of compliance. To avoid a scolding or punishment we learnt to do things correct at the first time. We would bath and go for an inspection (funny enough she always knew where to find the dirt). She would run her finger down our ankles and surprisingly peels of dirt would roll off earning yours truly another bath (this time in cold water). I do not remember how many times I re-washed my uniforms before they passed her inspection.

No child in my mother’s house slept beyond 0600hrs no matter what day it was! The blankets would be swept away followed with utterances inclining to the fact that no one in her house slept until the sunrays went to the extent of warming their rear posterior. This act taught me to compulsively wake up earlier than the time she would pounce. This enabled me to get to class around 0630 hrs, just in time when my Grade 5 teacher Mr. P. Moyo would walk in, dump his newspaper on the desk and go for his first smoke. Between me and Sir was an unwritten treaty – I would come early and tidy his desk and wipe the chalkboard clean and in return I got to read his paper while he smoked. By the time the school bell rung I would know the log standing of Highlanders and Liverpool, I would have tried to make sense of Boyd Maliki’s cartoon and would be able to pick then President Banana ushering the late Yasser Arafat through Trade Fair stands. Thanks to my mother who made it a point that the sun never got to reach my rear posterior while I was still in the blankets.

She was our first teacher. I remember how she made it a point that I knew how to write my name and the 1-10 numbers before I entered school. That grounding took me past the guys who had been to crèche and rarely did I not take the number 1 position in class.

She was our first pastor; I recall how she would make me read chapters from an old and tattered Zulu bible that she had inherited from my preacher grandfather Nhlanganiso Zondo. When the Religious and Moral lessons came at school, I had an idea of most of the biblical figures used in the bible. She also made it a point that we went to church (despite that she did not go herself, she eventually got saved many years later on when I even had left home to work in the capital).

She taught me how to clean, cook, sew, cut wood (yes!), how to till the land and how to care for other people. My mother never chased anyone away; we shared whatever morsels were available equally. She taught me how to look after my siblings. I carried Phakamani and Nosizo on my back, spoon-fed the brats and was their substitute mom. This prepared me for the arrival of my daughter Michel. The first hands that received her were mine; we spent her fourth and fifth months together from 0600-1800hrs whilst till scouting for a child minder. I took her to baby clinic countless times till I was on first name terms with most of the sisters at Berea clinic. The newspaper vendor knew us as inseparable and she would always throw a massive tantrum when I had to leave her behind. Till today we share an inseparable bond like Siamese twins. Thanks to the lessons from MaZondo.

I can write till tomorrow about all the benchmarks that my mother plied into our lives. At the time of institution it felt like a painful bore but every day when I rise I give thanks to all the beatings, scoldings, forced reading sessions and domestic science lectures. All the good I am I to my mother and father. However this largely goes to my mother for she conceived and raised me and went on to help shape my mind.

Here is to a mother, a teacher, a disciplinarian, a mentor and a visionary. Here is to Thokozile Sarah Ncube (nee Zondo), mother to Nqobile Michael, Zibusiso Christian, Phakamani Andrew, Nosizo Mercy, Thabo Peniel and grandmother to Nokunqoba Michel and Siyabonga Sarah.

Happy Mothers’ Day magogo and all the mothers in the world. Because of you we have reason to anticipate and believe that for sure the sun will rise tomorrow!!

Our words

Our words and the power behind them reflect us. Constantly we are reminded not to speak ill of any one or to let ill speech spout from us. The good word has it that ‘as a man speaketh, so he is’. No further truth can exemplify that. Each word from our minds is a measure of the negative or positive in us.

It is good to speak for the eventual good of all and sundry. Many suffer the folly of always putting their foot in the mouth the moment they open it. Maybe the starting point is to rationalize on the need to speak at that time for some man has said that at times silence is golden.

Speaking must be in the intent of doing well or seeking redress. I have seen many a man speak out of turn and go on to spoil occasions and opportunities. I have seen many a man keep silent when it was good to speak and life immediately confined them to the dustbin of mediocrity.

Speaking must be motivated by the rationale of doing better or thriving for more good. Speaking must not be impulsive as most words that come at the spur of the moment normally advertise our emotion than our strength of restraint. Do you see a man who is able to measure and think a calm response in the face of a barrage of accusations and emotional taunts? That person has the capacity to walk to the King’s foyer and speak for his life.

Speaking must be preceded by thinking. Only sinking men have spoken before thinking and all it has brought them is misery and pain. If one cannot fully apply their mind to the issue and matter at hand it would be wise and better not to speak than to flail and fail.

Speaking must be for a cause. What good will your words inspire? Will they cause correction or dereliction? Will they give direction or diversion? Will they inspire vision or a drunken immersion and a drowning of well-meant motives?

Speaking must be for those who cannot. Taking the burden off some heavily loaded soul is a humanitarian passion most of us avoid. How many innocents go guilty because we have hesitated to testify of their innocence? How many pains would have been avoided if we had seen the good of planting a good word of warning in some ear that we shied away from only to come running to offer words of commiseration when the milk has already spilled?

We can never be said to speak too much if we speak the truth and intend good from our speech. Good words can never be an overdose. Encouragement can never be deemed to be overdone but too much criticism turns a willing heart into vinegar.

Do you see a forlorn man? Speak to him about a better tomorrow. Do you a distraught spouse? Turn her attention to the marvel of the angelic faces of her children and their unfailing trust in her. Do you see a despondent subordinate? Speak to them the vision of positive vibes and the fact that it takes less muscles to smile than to frown. Do you see a cursing world? Speak to it a positive vibe that tells of a better and brighter tomorrow as long as the sun will still rise.

Your well thought, calculated and measured words are better than medicine. They can inspire, build, convict, challenge, restrain, re-engage and re-rail a soul that had lost vision. The opposite is an expensive venture I dare not contemplate totaling.

Your words are power. No soldier shoots without aiming. And one who speaks without thinking is a fool.