Crime and Forgiveness (Part 3)

 In the months leading up to the trial, Precilla and Kleinpiet find that adoption isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sersant Dreyer gave them a clearance certificate from the police without any hassle, but the process of having to go for psychometric tests, the appearance before a panel of social workers and the visit by the authorities to inspect Kleinpiet’s home seemed to take ages.

BabyNelson, during this time at least, was completely unaware of proceedings. His grandmother welcomed the visit by Kleinpiet and Precilla after the telephone call and tried to put on a brave face when they arrived at her shack.

“I have six children to look after,” she complained, “and only my old-age pension to buy food with. My daughter, Precious, lost her job at the Wimpy because they retrenched some staff and she wasn’t needed any more – she went to Keimoes to work on a farm there. And the no-good man she wanted to marry – he’s in jail awaiting trial; I hear he was involved in a number of farm attacks.

“Now Precious – that one has only given me trouble. Always with the wrong man, always drinking and promising me money – which never comes. Hai! I am an old woman. Do I deserve this?”

Kleinpiet explained why they are there. At first her reaction was that he must have been joking. No, he told her, they’re serious. See, Precilla was shot…and he told her the sad tale of the loss Precilla must live with. Now we can’t have children of our own, understand? And when the baby’s father was caught – sleeping in the house – was that not a sign? Why would a couple who’d love children, have their path crossed by a baby with no future? Is it not the right thing to do, to see the circumstances for what they are? Was it not fate that brought them together? How else would they have known to come to her, the grandmother, had the father not stolen the bottle of peach brandy? Surely that was the reason?

The old woman asked them to come back a week later. This time they were met by a whole delegation of older people, all crammed into the tiny square formed by the cardboard walls of the shack.

“I am Desmond Kruiper. I am the oldest relative, the grandfather of the mother,” and ancient talking skeleton informed them. “I know you, Mister Kleinpiet. I knew your father as well. The Kalahari has no secrets for us – we know who lives here. We know who loves this world as much as we do. We know who treats the Kalahari well – and who does not.” He allowed the words to sink in before continuing. “And you, Mister Kleinpiet, have been good to us. You provide work. You pay salaries. And you’re fair – which is more than I can say about a few farmers in the district. So – we’ve decided to say yes. If you want to take little Nelson and help him grow to be a man, we can not hold him back.”

Precilla started crying at that point. Kleinpiet put a protective arm around her shoulders and gave her a hug. The woman in the shack – despite the cramped space – started ululating. The sound was deafening.

“But …” Desmond held up a restraining hand and waited for silence. “Nelson must keep his name. Kruiper. He will be Nelson Kruiper and not get other names. And he must be brought up with our values in mind. Too many children today grow up with all these new things. They sit in front of the television. They play with gadgets we don’t understand. They don’t listen to old stories and don’t care about their tradition. That is a problem.

“How can you become a man if you don’t stand on the shoulders of your forefathers? If you don’t know who you are? Or if you despise your past? I see the children in Upington; they wear strange clothes and sit and type in their phones all day – as if they are a new generation. That’s wrong – you’re an extension of the older generation, that’s what. If you want to be a new generation, you throw away your heritage and your culture. And culture, your own, unique culture, is who you are.

“So, mister Kleinpiet, we welcome the offer to help little Nelson. Only: he may never forget that he is San, he is Bushman, he belongs in the Kalahari.”

Kleinpiet stood up and formally thanked them for being there, and expressed his gratitude for their consent. Then: “…but we shall need help. I am a white man, with a white heritage and white stories. How can I tell Bushman stories if I know so few? How can I teach Nelson to dance, to track, to understand the veld like you do? I’ll need help.”

Desmond Kruiper sat back as a huge Cheshire-smile spread across his wrinkled face. “I knew you were the right man. Let me tell you a story.

“Mantis, the Moon, is the man who incurs the wrath of the Sun. Every day – every day – the Sun’s rays strike away bits of Mantis, and it grows smaller and smaller. [i] Eventually, when there is almost nothing left, nothing we can see, it implores the Sun to spare it – for his children’s sake. That’s when the Sun relents, and the Moon gradually grows to be Full again, to be a father to his children in the Kalahari.

“Mantis did nothing wrong to deserve the wrath of the Sun – yet the Sun tried to kill Mantis. And it was only mercy and pity that allowed Mantis to be a father to his children again. This is what is happening here. We Bushmen lived peacefully in the veld, until people came and slowly killed us all, until almost nothing is left. Now little Nelson has a chance to grow. He may become big. He may become strong. He will be the one who brings us little bits together to be whole again.”

Kleinpiet knew enough of the Bushman way of explaining things to understand exactly what Desmond was telling him.

“But you’ll help us, won’t you? Come to the farm when Nelson is big enough –  to teach him your ways?”

And Desmond saw the bits of the scattered tribe slowly merging to be Full again, and he nodded happily.


Rolbos celebrated the homecoming of Nelson. Boggel had set up a small crib next to his cushion below the counter, and here Vrede met the new addition to the town. Gertruida knitted socks; Judge gave a soft, woollen blanket; Servaas found a teddy bear somewhere and Mevrou added an embroidered cushion to the heap of presents. Pete and Frans[ii] asked to be godparents. Ben Bitterbrak even donated a lamb for the festivities.

Oudoom sat down next to Kleinpiet with a sigh. “Now you two have a child, I suppose you’re going to get married?”

And Precilla, remembering the bits of Mantis coming together to be Full again, saw how little fragments of her – so scattered by the blows she had taken in life – started to merge together again. And she laughed and held Kleinpiet’s hand while he said yes, he supposed it was time.

That’s why Part 1 stated there are two types of criminals – both of them bad. But … the one type is associated with kalappenings, the other not. Like Gertruida explained – kalappenings[iii] have a way of working out for the better. It is a rare, rare phenomenon…

[i] From Specimens of Bushman Folklore, written by WHI Bleek and LC Lloyd. Publishedby George Allen & Co, London, 1911.

[iii] Kalappening (n). An event starting out as a calamity, ending in something good. Only in the Kalahari. Not commonly used because of most people accept tragedy as final and unable to bring peace or joy. One of Gertruida’s inventions.

5 thoughts on “Crime and Forgiveness (Part 3)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s