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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Many Betrayals of Mzwandile Matiwana

Betrayal by Mzwandile Matiwana

I Lost a PoemBetrayalWhen I first met Mzwandile, during the Cape Town Book Fair, he was protesting, holding a placard that read “Cape Town Book Fair is not Fair”. Or is it that I saw him in a picture taken during the Cape Town Book Fair in which he was carrying a placard that read “Cape Town Book Fair is not Fair?” My memory is failing me but I fell for the poet and (mis)understood what he was and what he stood for.

For one, there was no reason for him to protest against the Book Fair. Why would he do that? The fair itself was fulfilling a function, a function that all writers and poets love to see functioning – that of encouraging reading and hopefully encouraging people to buy books in the process.

Then I heard his reasons and my mind changed; indeed the Cape Town book Fair was not fair. Why would they demand that the public pay a fee to access the fair? Needless to say, I did not like him but smiled at his courageousness. I looked at him as man defending not only his ground but the greater good of humanity for the profit of humanity.

Ever since then I always hoped that one day I would catch him live on stage. I never did, and now I never will. But I believe that poetry is even better on paper without the voice of the poet, the beat and the rhythm. There is a connection; an open book, peering eyes and nothing else.

Mzwandile had adorned my wall with his banner: Cape Town Book Fair is not Fair. He has since died and been taken off the wall because the dead deserve nothing from the living. That is not the point, everybody is on his way, except for those marked by the Blood of the Lamp.

The issue here is Betrayal. Not betrayal of one’s condition of existence, not that betrayal when you are not sure that your father is your father and if he still owes you love. Not the betrayal that you were born into the family that you were born into and became what you are rather than what you wished to be.
This is not the national betrayal of a Poet – a national treasure – that the nation did not appreciate, never knew. Where is Mzwakhe Mbuli? Even with his shallow grave of salvation/gospel, this nation had forgot he ever existed, betrayed not only Mbuli but the Poet.

No legislation
Can legislate me
Not to love man

He once fuelled us with words more powerful than any atomic energy. He enticed us to proceed forward and gave us the will to fight machine guns with stones. But when we got Here, we betrayed him. The Poet became an imbongi dressed in endangered leopard skins to sing praises to the political fraternity. No, today I am not talking of that kind of betrayal.

It is not betrayal of that girl that you gave your heart to and vowed to love until death do you part. That girl that, even before the marriage, had torn your heart apart and you haven’t recovered because you proclaimed your love on godly terms. Though you are (pretending to be) happily married with two-point-four children. You know that there is love found and a vow made three decades ago that still binds you. You know it too that you don’t love your wife because of the fact that you gave your love away. But this is not that betrayal.

Betrayal is a powerful tool that always damages the interior of individuals. If only it was a crime, that we can charge people for it, but it is as elusive as witchcraft.
This Betrayal is an autopoemography of a man. It is as if he knew that he was dying, and wrote us this suicide poetry. It is befitting to say that it is a powerful book and it is powerful, extremely sad and reflective.

Reflective because he silently questions God, a God that he never had or thought he had. He loves but he is never loved. When loved he defends against that love, closing it out. He is a man whose manhood has been drained out. And that moves him to accept himself, because of the powerlessness to build himself into what he perceived/wanted/wished to accomplish as a human being.

There are wicked scenes that should have never made it to within the pages. The cruelty of life that we should not put a name and face to – only exceptional poets do and he was an exceptional poet. The innocent tears of a grown man, shed because the life that he so much loved had betrayed him and all he had to live with was this punishing betrayal.

Why does life have to be this cruel to the poets? Why? Because the poets contemplate things and issues that should not be thought about, seeking to make life better for the other.

The poet writes:

I am lucky
To have all these tough
I am lucky
That the world is
Against me
I am lucky
To be the loser I am
In this world

Words fashioned in a way to induce unexplainable feelings to the lover and consumer of words. When the violence of living becomes so cruel to the poet that he no longer weaves words to build a better nation, but weaves words to tell of the personal violence of life with a smile like that. What has the world come to? For some time now I have been at war to understand the LUCK in TOUGH TIMES when the WORLD IS AGAINST THE POET that he finds himself a LUCKY LOSER.

Ceasefire: there is no lucky loser, just a poet being a poet/creative, to take two opposing words and fashion them in way that they make perfect sense of the predicament. I smiled then I cried.
The poems carry with them the simplicity of contemporary poetry – in this era of chat-rooms and unlimited entertainment – and are absorbing in their subject matter. Each contains the malice of living, of loving, of being a man and of being a poet. Each poem is high calibre ammunition meant to destroy and terminate the soul that will read, yet in the end the one terminated completely loves life and appreciates his or her life even more.

Betrayal is in the end a suicide poem of fighting to live a defensive life that does not want to be lived, failing and failing hard but still smiling:

I am lucky
To be the loser I am

Mzwandile Matiwana is the author of I Lost a Poem (Deep South Books, 2004) and Betrayal, which is available at 015 291 2088/072 129 6496, and through Clarke’s Bookshop, Cape Town.

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