Umkupane - monument to a dumb idea
by Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express article, 17 May 2013 


Close to where I grew up near Paulpietersburg, a curious little knoll can be seen standing isolated on an otherwise featureless landscape. When I was a small boy my uncle once told me the unusual story behind the hill of Mkupane which he had heard from a now vanished generation.



According to the legend, Chaka, king of the Zulu, liked this knoll so much that he told his warriors to dig it up and bring it to his home in Zululand. Fearing the wrath of their despotic ruler, the warriors sheepishly set about using hoes and spear tips to excavate bags of dirt. These they carted 140 km by foot to king Chaka's capital.

In the course of time, king Chaka enquired as to why the progress was so slow. It was then explained to him that while the knoll may have looked small from far away, in reality it was quite large. They fearfully explained that despite everybody's willing efforts the job was expected to take a very long time. Chaka was extremely displeased, and immediately ordered all the project leaders to be put to death. He had no place for stupidity in his army. If he had made a mistake and his leaders were too afraid to tell their king, then they were certainly not brave enough to be his warriors. He had no need for 'yes-men.’


You may be tempted to laugh at Chaka and his men. But before you do, just pause to think about all the knolls in our own modern time. Not much has changed. I look at world politics now and realize there are still stupid leaders who command stupid subject to do plainly stupid things. I just think there are more of them today than there was in Chaka’s time.