Albert was a man of the Kori Kori people, a group within the Shona tribes, and as Chipinda Pools was in Shangaan territory, he was something of a celebrity. Most Shangaans had probably not come across many Kori Kori since they hailed from the Zambezi Valley in the North East, whereas the Shangaans resided in the South East.
The Shangaans, an offshoot of the Zulus, were, and still are, a very close knit and conservative community living way in the bush, following their traditional ways. Chaka Zulu, the notorious Zulu King, would send out raiding parties to seize grain, cattle and women. Failure to succeed in their mission resulted in certain punishment of death when they returned to Chaka. One of Chaka’s generals, Soshangaan, failed a raid into Mocambique and he considered it expedient to stay put, taking local women for his mens’ wives and so founded the Shangaan nation in the border regions of Mocambique .
Why Albert had decided to migrate south we never found out, but he enjoyed his celebrity status. He had worked for Peter before our marriage, arriving at the camp looking for work. On being questioned he assured Peter that he could cook anything, so he was taken on and told to start the next day. On the morrow, knowing he was going to be away all day in the bush, Peter thought it would be easiest for Albert to prepare a salad which he would eat when he returned. Albert was instructed to prepare a cold lunch with the eggs, tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes and leave it in the fridge. Returning late afternoon after a tiring day in the hot African sun and looking forward to a late lunch, he opened the fridge to find, all nice and cold and congealed, fried eggs, fried tomatoes and chips – goodness knows why he hadn’t fried the lettuce too! But anyway, it was a cold lunch! Luckily for Albert, he had gone off duty.
Peter is a great fan of snakes and was always on the lookout for them, catching and measuring, and identifying them by examining the scales on their heads and then sending off the statistics to the Herpetologist at the Bulawayo Museum. One day, his job necessitated spending a couple of nights in the bush and so we packed the camping equipment and off we went to Benje Spring. Finding a pleasant spot by the spring the katunda (equipment) was offloaded and dumped and Peter went off to find the men who were looking after the test herd (a couple of cows that were walked round and about in the bush in an effort to attract tsetse flies for capture and identification).
Albert laid out the huge tarpaulin on the ground onto which we were to place our camp beds and began to sort out the food etc. Suddenly I noticed movement under the tarpaulin. A snake! I shouted to Albert to come over and help me get it removed. We turned back the tarpaulin carefully, exposing a very angry cobra . Albert merely lamely stood by while I was urging him to get the shovel. At last he moved slowly to pick it up and I was saying, over and over again “Bulala ro nyoka” (kill the snake). He raised the shovel slowly and hesitantly – he really didn’t want to do it. But I insisted and he half-heartedly banged the shovel on its head, without much force, until again I insisted that he do the job properly, and so he did. The snake lay there, mangled, bloody and quite dead. I couldn’t wait to show Peter what I had done, surely he would be very pleased. However, on the contrary, he was appalled – first at the killing, and secondly at the mangled head which meant he now couldn’t count the scales! Albert, of course, had been schooled by Peter to not ever kill a snake , and hence his reluctance in the knowledge of being castigated by his employer. I did confess that it was all my fault and that Albert had not wanted to to do the dastardly deed.