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A Story for South Africa’s Heritage Day

Here is a story for Heritage day. It is written for people of all ages and it is reminding us that we all go back to a wonderful experience and a wonderful human being who made us believe again in ourselves as South African peoples.

Picture by J M Mcombie

Nelson and the Island

Nelson and the Island

Dedicated to Nelson Mandela

One day, young Nelson was coming home from a school boxing match, when he came upon a group of boys beating up a black boy and his sister.

“Leave them alone,” said Nelson.

“We’ll neuk you up tu,” replied the boys and they began to nudge Nelson.

“So you can box!” said another boy.

“We deserve respect, said Nelson, let us walk.” But the boys were determined for a fight.

So Nelson lashed out at the biggest boy and bloodied his nose. The others, suddenly afraid took flight.

Nelson and the children shaken up by the incident continued their journey.

The next day when Nelson came that way again the boys’ fathers were ready for him. They sat waiting for him in a minibus.

“We’ll teach this boy a lesson he’ll never forget,” they said.

As Nelson walked past they bundled him into the minibus. He was blind folded, tied up and gagged.

From the noises around him Nelson knew that they were driving through the city. Later he began to smell the sea, and wondered where they were taking him. He started to cry, but soon realized that crying would have to wait until later.

Then they dragged him into a boat, and took him across a bay to an island where they planned the leave him to chance. There they dumped him and sailed off.

Nelson struggled with the ropes until he was able to free himself. From the rocky shore of the island he could see the beautiful outline of the city and the huge mountain above it, but he was totally cut off from it. There was no one to help him for the island appeared deserted.

Nelson began to cry. “What shall I do? he pleaded with the sky.”

“I must find wild figs or berries to eat. I will have to find rain water.”

For two days Nelson wandered about the island. He saw an old leper boat, Victorian houses, the stone quarry, a  Kramat, ruins of prison cells, a limestone quarry, and ancient canons. He saw the hospital where the lepers had once been treated and he picked up a piece of driftwood that had the name Chief Makana carved on it. He spent the evenings huddled in the porch of the stone leper church to fight off the cold.

      One day, lonely and miserable he sat down under a eucalyptus tree. Immediately a bird started singing from within its branches:

“Can I help! Can I help!  sang a magical looking bird.

Nelson told the bird the sad tale of how he had come to the Island.

“We must teach those men a lesson they will never forget,” said the bird.

Then it flew off.

Moments later Nelson received hundreds of birds on the steps of the old leper church. The magical bird had told all the other birds of Nelson’s plight. They came to help him.

They would sing for his freedom, the new songs that would free Black and White people to live together. 

The Dove said: “ I will gather all my cousins in the city

The Penguin said: “ I will call all the penguins and seagulls along the coast

The Hadeda said: I will cry my message to the birds of the karoo

And they flew and swam off as fast as they could.

Then all the birds throughout the whole country, from mountains, hills, valleys, cities, towns, townships, villages, suburbs, parks, gardens, and coastlines at the hoot of the owls flew up into the air and out to Nelson on the island.

What an amazing sight it was. Everywhere people looked up at the sound of birds in the sky.

“Where are they going?” people asked.

Then at a signal from Nelson Eagle flew up towards the sun and spread his wings to cut off the light so that the city was almost in darkness.

“ What is happening to us?” asked the people.

For three days the city was in darkness and there was no birdsong to be heard.

The people were fearful.

Nelson waited.

Then Nelson sent parrot to speak to the president:

         Parrot perched on his shoulder and talked hurriedly into the president’s ear,

         “Send a ship to rescue Nelson”

“No” said the president: “I’m too busy signing passbooks.

And as he said this Eagle flew closer to the sun and the sky became darker.

“Set the boy free! Said Parrot a second time.

“No,” said the president:  “I’m too busy collecting taxes”.    

And as he said this Eagle flew closer to the sun and the sky became darker still.

“Set the boy free,” said parrot, a third time.

“No,” said the president, I have too many criminals to deal with already.

At that eagle flew so close to the sun that it became pitch dark, so dark that the president could only see the piercing eyes of Parrot.

“Okay,” said the president for he was quite afraid of the dark. Then he commanded his commodore to sail to the island and to rescue the boy.

Nelson stood on the bridge with the Commodore as they returned to the dark and gloomy city. As they approached the harbour Nelson asked the commodore to fire a red flare into the sky. This was the signal for Eagle to close his wings and return with light to the earth.

With the light came the birds who filled the whole city with their songs.

The president, mayor, councillors, judges and magistrates welcomed Nelson and the people lined the streets to see and applaud this boy who brought back the light, and the songs of the birds to the city. Then the president declared a special holiday, a freedom day to remind people that we must all live together as brothers and sisters.

“Perhaps one day, he said, a boy like Nelson will become the president of our country.”

And the people sang: “God Bless Africa!”

Bob Commin

2 comments on “A Story for South Africa’s Heritage Day

  1. pennysilva45 says:

    That is really beautiful, Bob. Thank you. Love Penny


  2. Genine Jacobs says:

    An excellent reading book for primary school what with Janes illustrations translated into all our languages. I could literally see the story whike reading. Thank you Fr Bob


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