The conception and application of justice in S. E. K. Mqhayi’s Ityala Lamawele

Abner Nyamende


There are many ways in which the Xhosa traditional manner of litigation is similar to the western way. There are also ways in
which it is different. This article sets out to demonstrate those similarities and differences. In all this the common factor is that both
the traditional Xhosa court and the western court as we know it strive to find the truth and to make the judgement as objective
as possible. It is evident that Mqhayi was inspired by a biblical text, Genesis 38:27–30 to write a story where the Xhosa custom
of finger cutting creates a legal complication. This paper also sets out to illustrate the wisdom of the Xhosa people in their
interpretation of the law. The whole story in Mqhayi’s novel is about this court trial and it functions as a brilliant exposition of
the Xhosa legal system. Key words: Ityala lamawele (novella), S. E. K. Mqhayi, traditional Xhosa court, Xhosa literature.

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