Monday, April 23, 2007

The snake prophet– a modern tale of lies, fear, betrayal and violence


Baby is back from Durban, although school holidays only end on 2 May. The first few hours are always difficult, as she never seems sure about whether she’s happy to see me or sad that she’s not going to see her bio mother for a while. I usually do something silly that distracts her and gets her into the flow of her normal routine.

We spent the weekend visiting my family in Phokeng, which I hope grounds her even further, reminding her that she has a lot of people who love her and she doesn’t have to choose only one.


While visiting my family, my mother and older sister told me a very strange story.

Some month ago, a woman many people in the area regard as a prophet said the Rustenburg region, which includes Phokeng, would be devastated by a large, mythical snake called Moepa. It is beleived the snake helps prophets such as herself to foretell the future.

The devastation would be manifest as a tornado, she said. To appease the snake, residents had to fork out protection money of R2 per person, which would be used to offer a sacrifice to the snake. She gave residents until the 18 February to pay the protection money.

The money was to be thrown into the Olifantsnek Dam, Hartbeespoort Dam and a river in Zakhele at a date to be indicated to her by the snake.

What I found very interesting is that:

* Hundreds of people, many of whom do know better, chose to pay up. My mother says the prophet offered an exemption to the residents of Phokeng village, claiming that they were already protected by their own snake.

She also argues that R2 seemed such a small amount to pay for guaranteed safety, just in case there was some validity to the prophesy. And the fact that Rustenburg never had a tornado, ever, could be discounted as evidence that the so-called prophet was a scammer?

* The debate about whether the prophesy was legitimate or not generated huge local and national interest, with radio talk shows devoted to the subject.

* If my sister were to be believed, Rustenburg’s mayor was either a believer or a fool. She says he paid an undisclosed amount, by cheque, to the prophet.

What did not surprise me is that the anger boiled over, and an angry mob of about 800 people attached the prophet and her children and burnt down her home and her next door neighbour’s house on the 15 March. The snake prophet is now under police protection.

Read a brief report by the Mail and Guardian.

I’m definitely going to do a children’s story based on this story. Watch this space!


Wrote another article about writing – specifically about using events as an avenue to find article ideas – and submitted it to Writers Weekly.

As usual, Angela Hoy, the co-owner and publisher of Writers Weekly (a weekly email newsletter which boasts over 76 000 freelance writers worldwide) and Booklocker, (ebook publishing company) responded promptly, expressing interest in the article.

This is my third article to be published by Writers Weekly. I love working with Angela. She’s very professional and always responds promptly to writers, even though she's actually busy running a highly successful business. Add nice to the package, and she makes the publishing process, which is sometimes fraught with stress and uncertainty, very pleasant.


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