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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on December 27, 1999 at 11:10:26:
THE DISPATCH (East London, South Africa) 24 December 99 Snakes of Goodwill grace laying of tombstone of Chief Majola (Rufus Zingqi)
Tsolo: Five molesnakes, regarded by the Mpondomise tribe as a symbol of goodwill, made a mysterious appearance at the laying of a tombstone for the tribe's Chief Mtshazi Mditshwa who died 80 years ago this week.
The molesnakes at first sent workers scurrying, but villagers at Mdibanisweni near here were overjoyed.
The Snakes of Goodwill (ooMajola) symbolised the acceptance of the memorial ritual by the ancestors of the Mditshwa family.
Recalling the incident, village sub-headman Norman Gladile said he had taken the contractors to the tombstone site.
"As soon as digging and shovelling started, a number of molesnakes appeared around the upper half of the grave. They scattered in all directions as if disturbed from their peaceful place of safety.
"As a Mpondomise, I understood what this meant. After calling members of the royal house and council members to 'soothe' the snakes, praise-singing and other rituals were performed. With that, the reptiles all slithered away and disappeared into the grass nearby," Gladile said.
According to royal council spokesman Linda Mbabama, the Mpondomise legend has it that Chief Majola -- after which the molesnake is named -- was killed in a skirmish with another tribe.
His subjects took the body and buried it. To their surprise when they returned later, counsellors found a dead molesnake next to the grave. It had stab wounds all over its body.
"From that spread the belief that the snake had also died in the war by the spears of Majola's adversaries while trying to protect the chief.
"Since then, whenever a molesnake appears, the Mpondomise consider it a peace omen and an occasion for joy," Mbabama said.
As if to confirm that, during this week's praise-singing ritual to welcome the snakes, prayers for rain were also offered.
Before the end of the day, it was raining cats and dogs, Gladile said.