I met such a man. His name is Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, loosely translated meaning, “Awaken you, Truth of the Little Bushman”. I had met him many moons ago. He had inscribed a poem to me. Then, I had not comprehended that the wisdom he carried could change the world.
Baba Credo is a traditional healer. No! He was the highest level of traditional healer. He is a Sanusi. Recognised by his peers across Africa as a Prophet. He is a Doctor. Medicine man. Diviner. Scientist. Storyteller. Psychologist. Clairvoyant. Artist. Sculptor. He is a Baobab.
Credo Mutwa is a national treasure. He should be celebrated. He is Shakespearean in his command of the language and African mythology. He is a philosopher and a prophesier. He carries the secret knowledge of our continent. His cosmology is a lodestar to us regaining our balance and harmony in Africa and as the human race. Would his knowledge and wisdom be studied in schools and universities, we would have doctors of Life. People who know what it means to be human. And be kind. Humankind needs to study “baobabism”. It’s a way of life, not a religion.
I see the symbiosis between Mandela’s secular political journey and Mutwa’s magical mythology. Inextricably linked, it gives us a clearer picture of South Africa. Secular and political meet the realm of the magical and spiritual. It is a key to restoring harmony and peace. South Africa is the laboratory of the world. Where North meets South and East meets West. It is the key to our Future. It’s a key that Tata Madiba left us to decode. But there were a few keys. Finding Purpose. Finding Commonality. Learning to Forgive.
The Spirits of both these great leaders connected us to the truth. Baba Credo’s words are so obvious once said:
“I feel people should communicate. People should tell each other the truth about themselves. Much of the conflict in the world is caused by ignorance because all wars are caused by ignorance, fear and hatred, and hatred is the ugly daughter of the evil witch of ignorance.”
They echo Tata Mandela’s plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, based on human values of integrity and humility.
As if Baba Credo was talking of our times he openly calls for change:
“I would prefer that we should be a nation of doers instead of people wasting so much vocal energy in the empty air around us.”
I wonder why we ignore our African heritage and even deny our roots. And we wonder why we are lost. Africa is drowning in a limbo of hopelessness, despair, besieged by a sense of subservience to the west, east and north. Every place except the continent that birthed humanity.
“Somebody has to have the guts to grab the human race by the scruff of its neck and show it a positive direction. A direction away from the slow drift to annihilation,” implores Baba Credo.
“The future can be changed. We are all brothers and sisters, the children of one father and one mother. Treat children and animals with kindness, and pass this wisdom on to generations to come and I assure you there will come a time when our grandchildren, or our great grandchildren, will live in a world of beauty and harmony. And they will hear a far-off music, a beautiful, cosmic music, that will lift them beyond all fear, suffering and limitation, into a universal brotherhood, beyond this little world and its fearful dreams. That music is the Song of the Stars. Indaba.”
This is timeless wisdom of Elders who hold such deep knowledge that spans millennia. Passed on in secret traditions and rituals. These are technologies as old as humankind itself. The burning of impepho or sage, to cleanse and call in ancestral spirits, to guide and assist the resolutions of disputes, conflicts, illness, to celebrate a birth, death or different rites of passage are common across all spiritual traditions. It’s the first mobile phone. Still a lot more advanced than our technology.
But where is our technology going? Baba Credo is worried:
“Science has to be brought back into the realm of spirituality so that it can wear the blanket and feel the caress of spirituality and have a reverence for the world and all that dwell in it.”
But the digital revolution sees technological progress as a goal within itself. Always striving for bigger, better, faster. Success has become material accumulation. We strive for dominion over Mother Nature. We have lost the essence of our Purpose in Stewardship. And as our technology advances the spiritual consciousness descends. Credo explains that “our human responsibility is stewardship of Mother Earth for all the living species who inhabit it”.
Baba Credo warns of climate change.
“In these coming times the world’s nations face a great task. To reverse the effects of pollution and try to save big cities like Cape Town, London and others from being flooded by the big waters which will be coming.”
I wonder about this great African Prophet. Why have we not learnt more from him? His sacrifices are as great as those faced by the Mandela generation. And at many times it was at the hands of our activists who wanted him to choose sides in our war. His home and sacred shrine in Soweto was destroyed, his fiancée was gunned down by apartheid police and his son, Innocent Mutwa, was necklaced by angry youth in the 1976 Soweto Uprisings. And then his wife Cecilia was murdered in hospital.
When I met him, I knelt on the ground and asked his forgiveness. He took my hand. He remembered the poem he had written in 1999. And all he said was:
“Let us forget the past. Remember the lessons. But hold love and forgiveness in your heart.”
Baba Credo is above politics. His role is to create the safe space within which mortal enemies can find each other. He is the spiritual alter ego of Mandela the freedom fighter and statesman. Both wield the sword of truth but in different realms. Baba Credo holds the key to the indigenous knowledge which goes back to the beginning of the beginning of time. He elaborates:
“I did not see myself as a politician, I saw myself as a healer, whose duty it was to preserve the greatness of his people, regardless of which government happened to be in power in South Africa.”
In 1935, his father found him a job in construction in the Transvaal.
“He brought us all from Zululand to join him,” says Credo. “I attended school on and off in different schools, and then, in 1937 I went through great shock and trauma, when I was sodomized by a gang of mineworkers outside a mine compound. This caused me to be ill for a long time.”
He continues with emotionless acceptance:
“It was my grandfather who helped me. He made me question what we were taught. Were our ancestors really the savages that white missionaries would have us believe they were? Were we Africans really a race of primitives who possessed no knowledge at all before the white man came to Africa? This broke my heart as a black man. I wept when I found out that we were once the founders of some of the world’s oldest civilisations.
“And then one day when he was sure that I was fully returned to health, my grandfather told me that the illness that had been troubling me for so long, had actually been a sacred illness which required that I had to become a shaman, a healer.”
That is when Baba Credo started his initiation as a sangoma.
In the Eighties, in the trade union movement, which was the home of thousands of migrant workers, every major action, strike had to be preceded by a ceremony that called in the guidance of the ancestors. While I acknowledged that as part of our practice, I never really understood how deep the wisdom behind that was.
Much later in life I now understand how indigenous knowledge systems hold the key to saving our human species before we drown in the tsunami of our greed. That a sangoma is a “healer” of all maladies facing us and in Nature. They connect us to the thread of life on Mother Earth. Indigenous cultures barely count as 4% of our world’s population but they are at the forefront of 80% of the environmental struggles of the world.
Baba Mutwa’s Song of Initiation says:
“There shall arise out of the ashes of man, a newer man who shall rule the far stars, carrying with him the seven laws of love, and first and the greatest law of God – doing unto others as you would have them do unto you – will be the law of the time. I have no message more important than this. All people, all nations, must seriously work for peace on this Earth.”
The time has come to tap into the wisdom of indigenous knowledge that healers like Baba Credo represent. DM
"The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil." ~ Hannah Arendt