|The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg by Sibusiso Nyembezi|
|Monday, 17 March 2008 02:49|
(Inkinsela YaseMgungundlovu translated by Sandile Ngidi)
The novel was written by Nyembezi in 1961, and is set some years earlier in rural Northern Natal - Nyembezi himself was born in Babanango and went to school in Vryheid and at Driefonetin, near Ladysmith. After studying and later lecturing at Wits, he was appointed Professor of Bantu Languages at Fort Hare in 1954, resigning in 1959 in protest against apartheid education policies.
He joined Shuter & Shooter publishers - who were later to publish Inkinsela YaseMgungundlovu - becoming chief editor of African languages. Nyembezi died in 2000.
The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg tells the story of a con man coming from Pietermaritzburg and trying to cheat the locals in rural Nyanyadu, in the Dundee area of Northern Natal. The central characters are the family of Zeph Mkhwanazi - his son, daughter and his wife, maNtuli. They have been selected by ìC.C. Ndebenkulu Esqî, for a scam which he hopes will cheat many of the locals out of their precious herds of cattle.
It is the younger, more educated people who see through Mr Ndebenkulu first. Their natural respect for their elders is tested by Ndebenkuluís patronising manner and rudeness, and they cannot help being amused by his name (which means the one endowed with long lips), and his protruding tooth. And they are the ones to be suspicious of his get rich quick schemes.
The book is often funny, with farcical incidents, and often moving. Despite the gentle pace, it has considerable narrative drive, and makes for an entertaining read, at long last available to an English language readership.