African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase

South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA [Capital City: Pretoria]

The wealthiest country in Africa, South Africa has a rich (if even disturbing) political history. After many years of struggle against the Boer occupants, the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela gained independence for the indigenes in 1991 and ended the rule of the National Party (established in 1948 and known for its hugely infamous Apartheid Policy).


From Zululand

The Zulu people of South Africa have a tradition and custom that predates the Boer influence and colonialism. Their involvement in the struggle against the Apartheid system and for independence is well known, especially, from the 27 years in solitary confinement that one of the freedom fighters, Nelson Mandela, suffered in the hands of the occupying forces.

1. Do not leave your host’s house, throwing mud in his well.

2. A word uttered cannot be taken back.

3. When the man is away, the monkey eats up the maize and enters the hut.

4. Do not call to a dog with a whip in your hand.

5. The horse who arrives early gets good drinking water.

6. A fault confessed is half redressed.

7. One does not cross a river without getting wet.
[Interpretation: Everything has its own consequences. If you don’t venture into anything, you don’t gain anything. But before you venture into anything, you must be prepared for the consequences. For as long as you know the consequences of your actions or inactions, you should be prepared to face them if you want to make any progress in life.]

8. Darkness conceals the hippopotamus.

9. A horse has four legs, yet it often falls.

[Interpretation: – Perfection is not a human quality.]

10. The most beautiful fig may contain a worm.

11. Without life, there is nothing.

12. Follow the customs or flee the country.

13. The rich are always complaining.

14. Even an ant may harm an elephant.

15. Copying everybody else all the time, the monkey one day cut his throat.

[Interpretation: If you do what everybody does without first considering the implications, you will get into trouble.]


The following links will take you to sources that have some important information on South Africa:,12405,384364,00.html

English: Nelson Mandela, former President of S...

Image via Wikipedia


2 thoughts on “South Africa

  1. Can you give the Zulu (?) translation of “darkness conceals the hippopotamus”?

    • Thanks. Unfortunately, I don’t know or speak/use Zulu. I will look around to see if I can land on anybody who does so we can answer your request. Best regards.

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