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Mystical musings on Africa's coming year

Andrew Harding | 17:59 UK time, Friday, 31 December 2010

Divination is a tricky business. But taking my responsibilities seriously, and not wishing to bore you with my own 2011 predictions, I've just spent two revealing, smoke-and-chant-filled hours in the company of one of Soweto's most reliable sangomas.

He's asked me to protect his identity "to avoid legal troubles," but I can tell you that in the frantic hours before the World Cup opening ceremony here, it is strongly rumoured that a queue containing half the continent's presidents, and several anxious football managers, snaked along the street outside his inconspicuous bungalow.

I wouldn't dare try to interpret the sangoma's mystical musings into 2011, but instead set them down here for your own consideration.

  • "Don't ask me to do elections or referenda," he said firmly as he settled down onto a shiny red divan. "This isn't a betting shop. No octupuses here. All I will say is that one vote will be a glorious, historic anti-climax, a couple will be stolen in broad daylight, and those already in dispute will stutter and stagnate like bad muti.
  • "A new land will be born. But the pain will be felt by the parents, not the child.
  • "Two huge baobab trees will fall. One to the sound of cheering. The other to the sound of happy tears.
  • "Some will be taken to justice in a flat land. But they will leave trouble behind them, and those who deserve prison most will escape it - as usual.
  • "Wars? Yes, of course there will be wars," said the sangoma with a weary shrug. "But the longest snake will surprise us all. And the biggest monster of them all will be betrayed and vanish.
  • "But ask me about money," he said, eager to change subjects. "The foreigners will still feast on our soil. Some of us will fight over the scraps that fall from their table. But those scraps will get bigger. Most of us will be fatter by the end of the year. But we will not know it.
  • "In one country a woman will discover something miraculous and the whole continent will celebrate. One of us will join a brand new family abroad - but for the wrong reasons -and those relatives will snigger behind our backs."

Then, abruptly, the sangoma stopped and asked me, politely, to leave. "A loud man with a small head has booked the rest of my day," he said. "His year will be quieter than he wishes, but he pays in cash."


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