Retired army sergeant, Watutu Attwell Gaika, wakes up every morning with a heartache. It’s a not a count of corpses he and his marauding cadres felled and left behind as part of the Umkhonto we Sizwe brigade deployed in and outside South Africa during the turbulent late 1980s that give him nightmares but the thought of his missing father that keeps him wide awake.
Six years ago, just days after his family buried their 62-year-old uncle Mbuyiselo Manona, who was killed by a Zimbabwean man in Gugulethu, Attwell Ace Manona disappeared without any trace.
A week after the funeral, Ace Manona was reported as missing and has never been seen since, but deep down in Watutu’s heart and his sisters there is a firm belief that he is “still alive roaming around”.
Watutu tells Vukani that the family has visited countless mortuaries and sangomas to no avail.
“Sangomas have no answers for us but some have hinted that if he was dead we would have found his body long time ago. My father would have been 82 years this year,we just want to make peace with his destiny if he is dead,” said Watutu.
Remembered as a strict disciplinarian, Ace Manona, was a professional boxer in the late 1960s. The reading of his record is menacingly terrific. Boxing authority boxrec.com has Manona on eight fights, winning six his bouts with knockouts and losing two.
During a family gathering just before the spectacle of the 2010 soccer world cup, Watutu’s friend and neighbour, Boyce Mdlangu, playfully shadowboxed in front of Ace Manona. The result was a devastating short right uppercut with Ace saying he “like to play dangerous games ” pointing at the crestfallen Mdlangu.
“Uvulile” said Manona to Mdlangu after he was given enough oxygen and sour drinks to absorb the pain.
But now as the memory of Ace Manona runs high, Watutu’s only dream is to get his father alive or at least his remains.
“Bring me his bones, I will enjoy my sleep,” said Watutu removing his thick spectacles only a for a river of tears to caress his bubbly cheeks.