Jim Wooten, an author and award-winning correspondent for ABC News, has written an extraordinarily moving account of a courageous South African boy's battle with AIDS in his new book "We Are All the Same."
Read chapter one of "We Are All the Same."
He was born in a place that did not exist.
By 1989 the name and the boundaries of Zululand had all but vanished from the maps of South Africa, its vast territory attached to provinces with less-exotic names, its best acreage confiscated and given to others, its people scattered about the country in ugly ghettos or squatters' camps. Yet its hardiest memories had survived among many of the elderly who had once lived there, and to this day its more powerful myths persist among their children and their children's children as well. And no wonder.
Zululand had been a truly memorable place, occupying as much as a quarter of what would eventually become South Africa, stretching from the beaches of the Indian Ocean to a rugged mountain range called u Khahlanha, "the Barrier of Spears." In some parts it had blossomed with acacia trees and aloes, in others with sugarcane and citrus groves thick with oranges and lemons. It had not only the world's second-highest waterfall but also the wondrous Valley of a Thousand Hills, which had been created, said the Zulus, when God crumpled the world in his hands just at the point of discarding it in disgust...before deciding against it—and over the years, even into its declining days, it had remained a haunting source and setting for the storytellers of the country.
In the opening pages of Cry, the Beloved Country, the poignant novel about a disintegrating Zulu family, Alan Paton depicted the barren land left to the tribe by the late 1940s and, with bitter brevity, described what had befallen the people struggling to survive on it.
"The streams are all dry," he wrote.
Too many cattle feed upon the grass and too many fires have burned it. Stand shod upon it for it is coarse and sharp and the stones cut under the feet. It is not kept or guarded or cared for. It no longer keeps men, guards men, cares for men.
The great red hills stand desolate and the earth has torn away like flesh. The lightning flashes over them, the clouds pour down upon them, the dead streams come to life, full of the red blood of the earth. Down in the valleys, women scratch the soil that is left and the maize hardly reaches the height of a man. They are valleys of old men and old women, of mothers and children. The men are away. The soil cannot keep them anymore.