Mtholile - the foundling
by Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express article, 16 April 2013


Today I thought of Mtholile again, and thought the world should know his story. Especially since I may be the only one alive today who still knows his tale. A long time ago, so Uncle Gert de Jager told me in his 91st year, there used to be much warring amongst the tribes of Zululand to achieve chieftainship. One day an usurper attacked a kraal and tried to exterminate all the heirs to the royal line. Fortunately a woman grabbed one small boy and managed to escape into the wilderness. For days she was pursued until finally she was overtaken at the De Jager farm of Blood River. There they slaughtered her, but before she died she hid the little boy in the long grass.


Much later Uncle Gert’s grandfather passed by and found the little bundle. He was so dehydrated that he could not even cry. Cradling him in his arms, Uncle Jan took the tiny boy home and raised him with his own children. He gave him the name of Mtholile – Foundling.


When Mtholile became a young man, a solemn deputation arrived from Zululand one day. The last of the royal lineage had been exterminated and they had heard of Foundling. They had come to ask if they could buy him back for 150 head of cattle. Uncle Jan realized that Mtholile needed to be with his own people, so he agreed – but on the condition that the cattle would belong to Mtholile.


Many years passed until one day Uncle Jan found a group of strange Zulus trekking across one of his far-flung farms near Zululand. He approached them angrily for trespassing on his land. At that, a half-familiar figure stepped forward with great respect and said: “My father – do you not recognize your own son anymore…?”

Jan de Jager - the man who raised the Foundling