Stories and Traveltips

ID #5157

Murder at Sodwana Bay, Maputaland, North-eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa

Several farmer friends are keen fishermen and go fishing at Sodwana Bay whenever the opportunity arises. Since the area is remote and boats are launched through the surf, it is hazardous and such holidays require meticulous preparation -- organizing camping equipment, preparing the boat as well as the fishing tackle, etc.

Since most days are spent at sea, they usually take a trusted servant along to look after the camp while they are away. The servant they usually take cannot swim and is terrified of the sea. So, other than the occasional walk on the beach, he spends most of his time in camp. After their return he cleans the equipment and the boat – chores he performs happily in return for a holiday at the sea. However, on one occasion, he was unable to accompany them, sending his son Petrus instead.

Unlike his father, Petrus does not live on the farm – he lives in one of the cities nearby. Streetwise and cocky, he was bored with the routine of his daily chores and anxious to experience the excitement of going to sea. My friends were reluctant to take him with them because he could not swim a stroke. Furthermore, since boats can only be launched at high tide, there was no chance of returning to the beach if he became seasick. However, in spite of their concerns, he persisted and eventually managed to persuade them to take him along.

One fateful day, after tying him to the boat to ensure that he did not fall overboard and insisting that he don two securely-fastened lifejackets, they launched the boat through the surf. However, they had no sooner made it past the breakers than he became violently seasick. Having warned him beforehand, they were unwilling to return and spent several hours fishing, during which time he became increasingly ill. But by then it was low tide and too late to return to the beach to drop him off.

Petrus eventually became so ill they were forced to consider other alternatives. They put their heads together and came up with a plan, the gist of which was to bring the boat in behind the last line of breakers and allow him to jump overboard. Having donned two lifejackets, it was argued that he would float and be washed ashore. To bring a boat close inshore is hazardous but, after some discussion, all agreed that their plan was the only realistic alternative. Petrus was by this time so desperate he was willing to try anything. One of the fishermen had a movie camera on board and decided to film the event.

They brought the boat in behind the last line of breakers and Petrus jumped off. However, he did not float towards the beach as planned. Instead, he immediately disappeared. When he did not reappear, the enormity of what they had done dawned on them -- they had thrown a man, who could not swim, into the sea where he had drowned. And they had the evidence on film to prove it. But there was nothing to be done so, apprehensive, they spent the rest of the day fishing, only returning later that afternoon.

As they approached the beach, one of their wives was seen waving her arms about wildly. Clearly, they would have to face the music on reaching the beach. However, because of the distance and the noise of the sea, they were unable to hear what she was saying.  Filled with trepidation, they raced the boat through the surf and up onto the sand.

The wife raced up, berating her husband because he had spent the day fishing while she had spent the day alone, bored to tears. While this conversation took place, Petrus walked nonchalantly along the beach towards them.  

Taken aback by the unexpected turn of events, they asked Petrus what had happened. He explained that, like most inexperienced swimmers, he had raised his arms as he fell into the surf, slipping neatly out of the lifejackets. Not realizing that he was supposed to hold his breath underwater, he sank like a stone.  When his feet touched bottom he simply started walking along the seabed in the direction of the beach. A skin-diver who had been fishing nearby said he had seen Petrus walking along the seabed, bubbles streaming out of his mouth. Obviously drowning, the diver went to his assistance and eventually succeeded in dragging him onto the beach where he pumped the water out of Petrus’ lungs.

Chastened by the day’s events, my friends refused to consider taking Petrus to sea again. Instead, they demanded that he spend the rest of the holiday performing the boring chores that earlier had left him frustrated. Filled with relief at not having to endure such hardships a second time, Petrus performed his tasks with diligence and enthusiasm thereafter. Since then, however, when the subject of a fishing trip to Sodwana arises, Petrus disappears for a few weeks

Alan McIver

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Last update: 2014-05-14 13:58
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.4

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