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Tannis Babs from Babanango


Tannie Babs with Zulu King Goodwill Zwelhitini and a benign onlooker

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'Uanty Onezinwele Ezimhlophe' or the Aunty with White Hair

by Meryl Grebe


Ask for Barbara Scheepers when you enter our village, and you will be greeted with blank stares. Ask for 'Tannie Babs' and a thousand fingers will immediately point you to her house. 'Tannie' is the Afrikaans word meaning 'Aunty' and on meeting this petite little woman with her soft white curls it is easy to see why she is so loved and revered in our verdant slice of the Zululand mountains.

Barbara Olive Pretorius was born on the 18th September 1928 in a small rural township in Kwazulu Natal called Mahlabatini. Her dad had a general dealership in Nongoma, Zululand. Once, after swerving to miss a stray cow, the vehicle with Babs' father at the wheel, mother at his side and some of the children in the back seat, slid off the side of a steep ravine. Dad called on his family of women to help pull it back onto the road, and using rope and every ounce of strength the feminine posse and their father could muster, they soon did! There was no place for sissy-girls in the Pretorius clan.She married Soon Scheepers in April 1948, (known here as 'Oom Soon' - 'Oom' being the Afrikaans word for 'uncle') and the couple had three children. Tannie Babs is a noted cook up here on our mountain. Her pickles, jams and preserves are jealously hoarded by those villagers lucky enough to receive them, although she is always willing to hand over another bottle to those who ask.

Interesting to note that Tannie Babs' father gave her a knife that he had received from Zulu King Cyprian Bhekezulu, a wonderful etching of the kings face on the blade. When her own father died, Tannie Babs felt it important to hand the knife to the Zulu royal family, and not too long ago, she was invited to the royal palace in Ulundi by reigning King Goodwill Zwelhitini, when she returned his father's dagger to him. Enjoy the photograph of Tannie Babs and Zulu King Goodwill Zwelhitini in the palace, and note the magnificent white lion to the King's left - a hunting trophy naturally! Tannie Babs has kindly given us her recipe for 'Vetkoek' - pronounced 'Fet Cook' and meaning just that. Cake fried in fat. It is traditional Afrikaans fare, served with a savoury or sweet filling. In winter, there are few things more comforting than a hot vetkoek filled with apricot jam and a steaming mug of freshly percolated coffee!

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