Chido and Rumbidzo were walking from school when they saw Rumbidzo’s father’s car pass them by. They waved at the car but his father was looking straight ahead with a cigarette stuck on his lips. The Peugeot farted past them and they ran after it, laughing and shouting his name. They stopped running when the car turned a corner and they could not catch up with it.
” My nkhulu has come from the rural areas to stay with us. Mama said he is not feeling well.”, Rumbidzo said as he pulled his shorts up. He was tired of his brothers’ hand me downs as they never fitted him, his mother had to readjust them every day because he would tear the stitch running or playing.
” What does nkhulu mean?”, Chido asked, trailing behind her friend, almost out of breath.
” He is my grandfather, my mother’s father. He lives in Lupane.”, Rumbidzo explained to his friend.
” Ok, is nkhulu his name?”, Chido asked as they turned the corner of their street.
” Ayehwa, I do not know his name. Only as nkhulu, because my mama comes from Lupane.”
” Well, my Gogo comes from Chivhu. That is what baba told me. He said w-“, she was interrupted by Rumbidzo”s mother who was waving at them, telling him to run faster and get home.
” Are you coming to play later?”, Chido asked waving at her friend but Rumbidzo did not hear her as he sprinted towards his mother.
When Chido arrived home, she found Gogo outside on the veranda with her knitting. She knelt and greeted her before she went inside and removed her uniform to wash it. It was a Friday, so she had to wash her uniform as soon as she got home. She sat on the floor next to Gogo who sat on her stool, knitting and humming to the song on the radio. Chido tugged at her hair which had come undone from the cornrows Gogo had done the previous week. Her lanky frame looked awkward, all her weight on her feet which were tucked under her bottom. Gogo appeared to be worlds away, she did not notice Chido calling her until she touched her cheek with her wet, soapy hand.
” Yuwi, muzukuru, what is it?”, she uttered as she put her knitting down and wiped her cheek. Chido giggled and sat back down next to the bucket.
” I have been calling you Gogo, but you were not answering me.”, she replied, playing with the bubbly water.
” What is it? How was school?”, she asked repositioning herself to face her granddaughter. She saw her loose cornrow and thought of the new style she would have just seen in the latest Parade. Gogo traced Chido’s face with her eyes and noticed how she looked like her father, who looked like his father. The way her nose was long pointy resembled her mother, but her almond-shaped eyes, full lips, oval jawline and dimples, that was all Garikai. She watched Chido blither about her day but she was not listening. The way she pursed her lips when she tried to sneer reminded her of how her grandfather positioned his mouth when he tried to kiss her. He was not as gentle, lingering and as affectionate as Dumisani, but he tried. Bless his soul.
” Gogo, do you know why?”, Chido asked staring back at her grandmother.
” Why what?”, she asked, realising she had to been paying attention to her granddaughter.
” Googooo, hamusi kunditerera nhasi.”, she said shaking her head and vigorously scrubbing soap on the pair of socks she had in her hands. Gogo smiled at her and asked her to repeat again.
” Oh, Rumbidzo calls his grandfather nkhulu, his mother must be Ndebele then.”, she replied going back to her knitting.
” Why are we not Ndebele, Gogo?”, Chido asked still playing with the water.
” Which one is Rumbidzo again? Is it the one with the lazy eye?”, Gogo asked she could never remember the names of all the kids that ran around in their street.
” No, Gogo. He is the one with the missing teeth. Remember I told you about him when you were plaiting my hair.”, Chido retorted.
” Oh yes, that one. Ndamuziva.”, she lied. She remembered the day and moment, but she remembered the wave of emotion that came with telling her granddaughter about her young self. ” It is because there are so many different tribes and Zimbabwe has a range of them. Isu tiri mazezuru, your grandfather was a Zezuru.”, she said.
” Oh, were you ever a Ndebele?”
” No, it does not work like that. You do not just switch it as you switch from speaking Shona to English.”, Gogo tried to explain it in the best way she could for Chido to understand. ” Asi, I was almost married to one, once upon a time.”
” Why did you not marry him? Was it because you were not Ndebele?”,Chido asked she saw her grandmother giving her a talking eye. She did not know why but she explained how they had learnt about Zimbabwean history at school.
Gogo did not say anything but continued to knit. Her granddaughter’s words had evoked pangs of terror and emotion which she had worked hard to bury. How this tribal hatred had led to her losing her true love. How that heartbreak and desperation had driven her into Chido’s grandfather’s arms. She loved him, cherished and adored him, but she never loved him the same way she loved Dumisani. The love she had and shared with Dumisani was like a ghost, it was something everyone talked about but only a few experienced.
Gogo remembered how the day she found her room in disarray, the only thought that prompted her to run to Chiedza’s house was how she remembered one of her lovers was a red bandit. As luck would have it, it was in the same direction as her landlord had directed her. It did not occur to her that she was still in her pencil skirt that hugged her figure and her two-inch pointed heels. She pulled her skirt high enough to free her legs, held her black leather heels and sprinted to Chiedza’s house.
She does not know how, but Gogo found herself at Chiedza’s house. She did not spare the social niceties she usually extended to the old lady who was Chiedza’s landlord. She barged into Chiedza’s one room, where she found her on her knees performing fellatio on her friend. Chiedza was startled and accidentally bit her lover’s phallus. The man howled and kneed Chiedza in the face. Gogo froze by the door, not sure who to help first, Chiedza who was on the floor, stark naked with a bleeding nose or the gentleman who was whistling on the flow with his bleeding member in his hands. Gogo threw her shoes on the floor and ran over to cover her friend with a blanket she took from the bed. The man was cursing and trying to stand up.
” Chiedza, you witch! Wandiruma. Yuwi kani, my member. What will I tell my wife? Is this how you get men to stay? Bit them off and use their blood to make mupfuwira? Her?”, he shouted, limping towards Chiedza with his hand raise.
” Iwe, leave her alone. You should have thought of your wife before you came here. Buda, leave this house.”, Gogo retorted as she stood in front of Chiedza who was wrapping the blanket around her waist and trying to stop her nose from bleeding.
” Haiwawo, you wantons. That is all you know, going after other people’s husbands because you are useless and unsavoury to be wife material.”, he prated as he tried to wash his member in the bucket of water which was next to the bed. Before Gogo could turn and see her friends’ reaction, Chiedza dashed towards him and kicked the bucket in his face.
” Who are you calling useless?”, Chiedza shouted, pulling him by the ear and dragging him towards the door. Her breasts where jerked with every tug on her lover’s ear. ” Was I useless when you were laying on my breasts and telling me you have never felt man enough until you met me?”. He grabbed the blanket that was wrapped around her waist and tripped her. He tried to jump on to her but Chiedza kicked him in the chest and he fell on his back. Gogo was now standing in the corner not sure who to help or what to do. This was not the first time something like this had happened, she now knew not to get involved because knowing her friend, that man would be back in her arms the next day.
Chiedza’s landlady came limping with her stick supporting her. When she saw her tenant grappling with a man in the nude. Without missing a beat, the landlady began to thrash both of them with her stick. Chiedza and her lover stopped fighting and dispersed. She began shouting at them and telling them to leave. Chiedza pleaded with her and tried to explain, but her landlady could not have any of it and limped back to her house. Chiedza rushed into her room and put on the first thing she could find and ran after her landlady. She left her lover to his own devices, Gogo handed him his clothes and he got dressed hobbling out of the compound.
Gogo was now left alone in the room, looking around the room which was now upside down and Gogo’s mind raced to her own room and what had made her visit her friend. She began to think about where Dumisani had been taken and who. She hoped that Chiedza would know of anyone who would have an idea of where Dumisani would have been taken.
Chiedza trotted back into the room and shut the door behind her, and sat on the single bed mattress. The walls of her room were covered with pictures of the new president Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo and the other comrades who had brought Zimbabwe to freedom. One the wall behind her bed, she had the Zimbabwean flag hung on the nails which also acted as coat hangers. Chiedza slowly pulled a bra from the prima stove and slowly pulled it towards her. She reached for the matches which were on top of the side table next to her bed which was also the kitchen unit and dressing table. Chiedza lit the prima stove and lit a cigarette.
” Men, you can never please them.”, she said through her teeth with a cigarette between them. Gogo was still standing in the corner, her mind far away and not paying attention to her friend. Chiedza reached for the packet of rice under her bed and poured it in a bowl. She looked at the tipped bucket on the floor and the small puddle of water and shook her head. She limped outside, taking the bucket to fetch more water. When she came back, she found Gogo sitter on the bed, sobbing.
” Ko askana, what is it?”, she said putting the pale go water on the floor and limping to her friend. She sat beside her and embraced her, “I am sure Dumisani is not like that, it is not all men.” Gogo began to wail even louder which startled her friend. She held her as she cried, rocking her, waiting for her to calm down. She envied her friend sometimes, how she was marshalled and never settled. Her future seemed secure. She had a man who loved her would kill for her, she had a career and she was strong and independent. She, on the other hand, was not put together as her friend but that did not mean she wanted to be her. Chiedza was enjoying the freedom that came with independence. The freedom to explore and quench her libido, as Zimbabwe was now a free country. Why would she not exercise her freedom and rights as a liberated black woman in a 2-year-old Zimbabwe? This had led her to meet Tongai, the soldier who had been driving her crazy. He was married but that was not her job to be concerned about that. She had fallen for him without realising it, it could have been the machismo that made her feel safe but it was the same thing that repulsed her. This was not the first time they had stepped toe to toe. As much as they had bruised and ravaged each other, mentally, emotionally and physically, they always found their way back to each other. Chiedza could never understand it but again, whoever said love was to be understood. She looked at the red beret that lay on the floor and shook her head. She knew she was going to use that as an excuse to go see him again, but first, she had to console her friend first.
” Chinyarara sha, what is it? Is this still about what I said or there is something else?”, she said. Gogo wiped the tears and blew her nose on her face with the seam of her pencil skirt. She looked at her friend and sobbingly narrated to her friend. Chiedza went stone-faced as she processed what her friend was telling her. It became clear what Tongai was prating about earlier today. How the Fifth Brigade which was an infantry brigade of the Zimbabwean National Army had been trained in North Korea to help the “government” get rid of the dissidents, especially those who were against ZANU under Robert Mugabe. Tongai went on to explain how this was a ploy to get rid of the ZAPU which was under Joshua Nkomo.
” They want to get rid of all the Ndebele people because it is believed they betrayed the government.”, he said, with his head on her bosoms and his hand rubbing her thigh.
” Ah, but I do not understand it. Wasn’t the white man our common enemy? How has this turned into a tribal thing?” Are we not one?”, she asked softly rubbing his bald head. She slowly traced the scar on his forehead from when bomb shrapnel had cut him.
” It is deeper than that. They betrayed us those descendants of Lobengula, they are conspiring against our leader, we will not stand for it.”, he said moving her head to look at her. ” We have already started getting rid of them. We are going to be the early rain clearing the chaff before the spring rains. We will call it Gukurahundi and we will never be a colony again.”, he said as he reached to kiss her lips.
” What does this mean for the Ndebele people? Do you not think it is wrong to divide us like that?”, Chiedza exclaimed as she moved her face away from him.
” Well, it is too late now. The government has already deployed soldiers to go into the rural areas and clear them out, they will be doing the same in the cities too.”, he said, slowly pinching her nipple trying to arouse her.
” Tongai, urikuti? What are you saying?”, she said swatting his hand away, ” You know my friend’s lover in Ndebele and they are planning to move there. This can not be happening. Can you not stop it, it makes no sense.”, she said getting out of the bed and reaching for her clothes, preparing to go and tell her friend.
” Chiedza, there is nothing we can do now. Please come back to bed, sha I had to tell my wife we got called for a comrades meeting. I will have to leave soon.”, he said, rolling on the bed, unclad, looking at her. ” And is she not at work at this hour? Do you really want to stress her out work, hmm huya.”, she said reaching his hand out to her. Chiedza remained standing by the door, what difference would a few hours make? She could not go to her workplace either, that headmaster was a nuisance. Chiedza slowly began to remove her clothes and joined Tongai in bed, only to be interrupted hours later when Gogo came budging in on them.
” Did he say anything about where they were being taken?”, Gogo asked as she stood up to leave. She wished she had known all this when her friend had come earlier panicking about Dumisani, but they were not “clearing” in Chitungwiza yet, so he was probably somewhere going about his business.
” No, he did not say. Asi we can go and ask him.”, she said picking up the red beret from the floor.
” Please, let us go now. I need to find him. Nhai Mwari, please keep him safe. How can this happening when we were trying to start our lives in a new Zimbabwe. This is j-“, Gogo began to cry. Chiedza turned off the Prima stove and followed her friend.
” Gogo, can I go to Rumbidzo’s house and play?”, Chido disturbed her grandmother’s train of thought. Gogo was startled, and it took her a while to come back to reality. She had hung her uniform and socks askew on the line. It had taken her a while to hang the uniform as the cable was taller than her. She had polished her shoes and washed the plate which she had used to eat her lunch whilst Gogo was knitting.
” Yes, you can go but come back early. I do not want to come looking for you again like nezuro. Wanzwa?”, Gogo warned Chido as she watched her run out of the yard, knowing very well she was going to look for her again as she always lost track of time.
Gogo went inside the house and began to prepared for dinner. She boiled the meat for the stew and sliced and diced the tomatoes and onions. She put on a pot of water to boil, went outside and trod lightly to the back of the house where her vegetable patch was. She picked a few leaves from her kale bunch and pruned the stems. She hummed to herself as she walked to the house where she washed the vegetables, cut them and put them in with the stewed meat to make a relish. She used the boiled water to prepare the sadza and as it came to simmer, she walked to the door and noticed the sky turn purple. She peeped at the clock in the kitchen and saw it was past 6. Gogo grabbed a cardigan, lowered the heat on the sadza and went out to look for her granddaughter.
When Gogo arrived at Rumbidzo’s house, she could not see Chido or Rumbidzo playing outside as usual, but she saw someone sitting on a chair on the veranda. As she approached the veranda, she noticed it was an old man. She had never seen him before, so she knew he was the nkhulu Chido was talking about.
” Pamusoroi.”, Gogo announced approaching to get close. She watched him look up and their eyes met. He had kind but tired eyes. He looked at her and smiled but his smile disappeared as soon as it appeared.
” Makadini henyu”, she greeted him extending her hand but the old man stared at her, stone-faced. Gogo slowly put her hand down and began to look around the compound for Chido. ‘ I am Chido’s grandmother and I wanted to ask if you knew where she was. She told me she would be here and would be back before dusk, but you know children when it comes to playing.”, she explained still looking around standing next to the old man but he did not say anything. Gogo concluded he must have been deaf or he was not familiar with Shona. So she thought of speaking to him in Ndebele as Chido had mentioned he was Ndebele.
” Sthandwa sami.”, the old man said before Gogo could utter a word. His words startled Gogo because they were too intimate to say to a strange. She stepped away from him and cleared her throat, maybe he had dementia, she thought.
” Do you not remember me.”, he said standing up and towering over her. She looked into his eyes and saw a familiar sparkle. She could not believe her eyes, she leapt back and held her hands to her chest.
” Dumisani?”, she whispered to herself, tears brimming in her eyes.
” Ah, my love. You do remember.”, he said walking towards her but the bewildered look on Gogo’s eyes told him otherwise. He stopped in his tracks and looked her as she processed what was taking place. She looked beautiful, the silver hair and the crow’s feet made her look wiser.
” But we buried you, I was there. I mourned you and have been visiting your grave ever since. How could-“, she exclaimed, plastered to the wall.
” Yes, you buried me but that was not me. Let me explain it all to you.”, he said, gesturing for Gogo to sit down, but she remained standing, hoping her mind was not betraying her.
TO BE CONTINUED…