Zunguzai and the Chicken

Mum arrived to her new home on the banks of the Shangani River in the summer of 1968. The rustic cottage had no walls and a thatched roof upheld by giant knobby thorn tree trunks, a sad reminder of the misguided government policy to try and eradicate the Tsetse fly from the valley. Being young and in love they dined under the stars , serenaded by the Scops Owl’s and fell asleep under their mosquito net listening to the distant calling of the Jackals. The first visitors they welcomed to their modest home were Pafula and his wife Ma Kumalo, neighbors from across the Karna river, who arrived bearing a traditional wedding gift of four athletic looking chickens cooped up in a woven grass basket .

Sunday lunch with the in laws was a daunting task, since Ouma was famous for her culinary skills far and wide! Mum’s right hand man was a fellow named Zungazai Ncube and when he was not helping Mum with her daily chores he was assisting Dad with the ongoing building of the cottage and tending the vegetable gardens. Roast chicken was on the menu that day as there were four of them scratching around the garden …….. unlike the chickens Mum was used to buying from the supermarket…….. these would take some catching!

Zungazai was summoned and given the task of dispatching one of the chickens . What followed was a traumatic experience she would never fully recover from and neither would the chicken…. In the beginning the chickens seemed to have the upper hand effortlessly dodging the ax wielding cook but eventually the poor soul was dispatched and Zungazai returned to the kitchen proudly bearing his prize.

Thanks to her time in finishing school Mum was a superb hostess and the lunch table was immaculately laid out with her best wedding silver all the way from Stuttorfords in Durban. The main course arrived at the table in all it’s golden glory and Dad began the family tradition of carving the bird. Unfortunately as he sliced through the last of the breast he split open the chickens crop which had not been removed and so with the final stroke of the knife about two days worth of corn and grasshoppers spilled out onto the plate alongside the perfectly cooked breast. There was a brief moment of deathly silence was followed by great hilarity and that experience would cemented a bond between my Mum and her Mother in law that would last a lifetime and give rise to a story that would never get old, no matter how often it was retold!

Mum with Mischief her cat
June 1968 in Durban
1970 from our Front Garden looking out on the Shangani River

Author: Leanne Gammon

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Stephana Boles says:

    You must continue these stories. Not just for your family but all of us. Thank you.

    Steph. 👒

    -taking photos is a way to return to a time or place and enjoy once again



  2. Ali Sayers says:

    What a wonderful insight into your Mum’s introduction to life at Karna! Her sense of humour has always been a delight. What a lovely photo, too! So typical! Big smile and a furry friend….some things just never change!


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