(Image from Pinterest: Gogo and Chido, pamushana.)
Gogo, can a person be in love with two people at the same time?”, Chido innocently asked as her grandmother plaited her hair. This had been their ritual, every other Saturday after all the chores had been done and the raspy voice of Oliver Mtukudzi was blasting from the cassette player her father had won at the OK Grande Challenge, Gogo would call her to come outside pamushana and plait her hair. She always had a new hairstyle which she would have seen in the Parade magazine. Chido enjoyed these moments, the warmth of her grandmother’s thigh on her ear when she plaited the sides, the way her arms would massage her scalp as she put the hair food and pudding. It was the closest she ever got to human intimacy, with her parents in South Africa and only coming during the public holidays.
She loved having Gogo’s undivided attention. It was just the two of them and she knew in those moments, she would ask her anything. At nine years old, she still had the innocence of asking any question, which sometimes was perceived as rudeness or being ill-mannered. Evident by the time she asked Mai Takura why she only acknowledged her when her mother came back from South Africa and why she would leave with a plastic bag full of the goodies which her mother had brought. Mai Takura laughed her off and commented on how children of today run their mouth too much to listen to orders. Her mother gave her a look that narrated how the night was going to end for her but Gogo always entertained her zeal. That night after her mother had given her a beating that left her questioning her mother’s love, she went to the speya which she shared with Gogo and slept on her side of the bed. Gogo stretched out her hand and rubbed her back until she fell asleep. Gogo had always been a woman of few words but she always observed. She had volunteered to stay with Chido when her son got a job in South Africa and Maidei, had refused to stay behind and become a “was” wife. Chido could not have gone with them because for Maidei to go, she would have to get a job and no one would be there to take care of Chido. They could not just leave her with anyone because Maidei had heard how house helpers ad maids were feeding their bosses children menstrual blood as vengeance for unfair treatment and wages.
” Saka uri kuda ndidini? I can not go with the both of you and in this economy, you know I need to take this job. You have to stay.”, Chamai had tried to explain to his wife two years ago. He exclaimed as he lit a cigarrete sitting on the edge of their 3/4 bed. The smoke escaped through their broken window, which had been covered by a plastic bag. The bag was now tattered after being poked by Chido.
” Unonyepa iwe, over my dead body! You will not leave me here and go kuJobhegi wonorasa muswe ikoko. You and I are leaving on that Intercape coach next week.”, Maidei informed her husband. How dare he think she would end up like the other wantons who had been left by their paramours. Mai Takura and Shuvai’s relationships had suffered at the hands of South Africa’s greener pastures and big-bosomed and light-skinned ntombazanas. As a result of this, Ba Takura had become a myth and Tapiwa, Shuvai’s boyfriend, who she had raised money with for the wedding had gone to South Africa to find the best of the best for their wedding, has not come back. It has been four years.
” Saka uri kuda ndodini? What do you want me to do?”, Chamai asked his wife. He knew how she always got caught up in the neighbourhood gossip. She always projected other people’s problems and opinions on her family. When Sekai from three houses down had raised her voice at her mother, the rumour had circulated that it was because she had grown too big for her breeches and . Since then, she had stopped entertaining her many questions and had instructed Chido to call her amai.
” Ah, why are you asking me? Are you not the head of the house? The leader of the house? Lead us to a solution with common sense. Asi ziva kuti handisi kusara, I am not staying behind.”, Maidei had remarked to her husband. Chamai ended up bringing his mother from Njanja, Chivhu to stay with their daughter.
” Gogo?”, Chido called her grandmother who had remained quiet after she asked the question. ” Why do you ask?”, Gogo asked as she parted her hair to make a line. ” Well, at school Tendai told Varaidzo and Rutendo that he loved them both.”, she shifted a bit from her position. ” How is that possible? Are you not suppose to love one person at a time?”. She had struggled with loving her mother and it had confused her when she would beat her and afterwards told her it was because she loved her. Was love suppose to hurt? Was it suppose to leave you questioning and was it suppose to be cold?
” Hhhmm, I see.”, Gogo said as she cleared her throat, applying the Blue Magic hair food in her hair. ” Do you not love your mother and father at the same time?”, she asked her granddaughter. She had sensed her detest for her mother and had seen how she acted when her mother was around. She found it clever how she had crafted her question, hiding behind a story that was either true or a fib.
Chido remained quiet, she did not know how to reply. She knew she was supposed to love her mother because she was the one who had given birth to her, but if she was being honest, it was not love she felt for her mother, but tolerance.
” Enda unonditorera mvura and I will tell you a story”, Gogo instructed her granddaughter. Gogo stretched herself on the plastic stool she sat on and smiled at the sky with her eyes closed, as the sun kissed her face. It was around ten in the morning, just as the rays began to get warmer and inviting. She shifted in her seat and began humming along to Rudo Runokosha by Mr Chitungwiza which was now blasting on the radio. Tears welled in her eyes but she wiped them with the back of her hand when she saw Chido emerging from the kitchen with a cup of water. She received it with both hands and gulped it down as Chido sat back in her position.
” Maita Achinjanja.”, Gogo thanked Chido as she placed the cup next to her on the floor. She sang along to the song until it came to an end. She smiled to herself and then began to narrate her story.
” It was in late 1982 when I was about 20 years when I met him. I had just become a receptionist at Sekenhamo Primary School and he had come for an interview to be a Mathematics teacher for the Grade 7 classes. He was very handsome in his white shirt which had sweat pit stains, his brown bell-bottom trousers, black shoes and mini afro. I kept looking at him as he sat at the reception area. He looked nervous but serious. His hands big and strong were holding a plastic file which I presumed concealed his credentials and an afro comb. I had never seen such a handsome man before, all the boys I had grown up around and known did not possess his regal air. It must have been a Ndebele thing, I thought to myself.”, Gogo chuckled to herself as she parted another line. ” I kept stealing glances, but he did not reciprocate. I offered him water but he declined politely and thanked me for my generosity. His smile caught me unaware, he had one of those infectious smiles that made you smile back.”
” Gogo, was it like when Ngoni smiles showing his tooth gaps and it makes you want to laugh?”, Chido asked as she giggled, obviously imagining Ngoni’s almost toothless smile.
” No, muzukuru.”, she replied, ” It was a nice smile, beautiful even. And he laughed with his whole body too. He was tall, taller than me, as I was never a small girl. He complimented my height as I noticed when we took our long evening walks. Ah, look at me getting ahead myself.”, she laughed and clapped her hands twice and shook them towards the sky like she always did when she got excited. “He smiled at me as he went into the office where Mr Nyedza the headmaster was waiting to interview him. I tried to keep myself busy, filing receipts and invoices, updating the school register and typing out the newsletters on the typewriter that had been donated to us. Click-clack, it went as I typed in, but I could not focus. I could not wait for him to come outside so I could get a good look at him again. After 20 minutes or so, he came out with Mr Nyedza behind him. They shook hands and wished each other the best of luck. Dumisani waved at me as he went out of the door, with his file tucked under his armpit and that was the last I saw of him until a few months later.”
” Did you love him Gogo?”, Chido asked as she squirmed trying to make herself comfortable.
” Yes. Yes, I really did.”, Gogo responded. Seeing that Chido was uncomfortable, she told her to sit up straight so she could plait the middle. ” Did he love you back?”, Chido asked her.
” Oh yes, it was the purest form of love I ever experienced. It was a love that was kind, forgiving, sacrificial and humble. Anyway, where was I?”, Gogo asked Chido, not because she was not aware, but to ver her granddaughter back to the story.
“ You said you never saw him again Gogo, so how did you love him.”, Chido replied. Gogo smiled to herself, seeing how her young mind had betrayed her.
“ I did see him again, but it was a few months later. Me and my friend Chiedza had gone to a nightclub after work. It was after we were no longer called Rhodesia, so we could roam the city centre until kingdom come and we were now allowed into places we had never dreamt of going into.”, she chuckled, remembering how they ran in First Street after Independence.
” Who is Chiedza, Gogo?”, Chido asked sleepily as she placed her head on Gogo’s lap. She always fell asleep when Gogo got to the middle part of her head.
” Chiedza was my friend from ages ago. God bless her soul. She was a wild one that one, but with a big heart as big as your head.”, she said softly nudging at Chido’s cheek. Chido let out a soft chuckle and shifted her position.
Gogo remembered how Chiedza and her had drank Black Label for the first time sitting in one of the restaurants that had only been for white people. She missed her free and rebellious friend, it was sad that her freedom led to her death in the 1990s.
” I was sitting at a table near the bar when he approached me. I was busy searching for Chiedza who had vanished into the crowd with one of her lov.., her friend she had not seen in a while.”, she made sure she was careful with her words, Chido was still a child. “ He approached the table and sat next to me. His afro had grown, he was wearing a black viscose shirt with the three top buttons undone and red bell-bottoms. I did not get a chance to see his shoes as the light in the club was dim. But he looked very handsome, yooh, handsome pfacha chaiyo.”
Chido chuckled at this. She always found the word “pfacha” funny. She began to say it repeatedly but quietly so Gogo could not hear and think she was not listening.
“ Wena, I have seen you before but I can not remember where.”, Dumisani said as he made himself comfortable next to Gogo. She could not tell if he was drunk or if that was the way he spoke, as his speech was a bit slurred. He flashed his smile at Gogo and she smiled back, a bit nervous but nonetheless, eager to talk to him.
” Yes, a few months back you came for an interview a Sekenhamo Primary. I was the recep-“.
” Receptionist. Oh, now I remember. I was wondering vele where have I seen this beautiful face before.”, he said as he summoned the waiter. Gogo began to blush, he had thought her beautiful or was it just the euphoria of the Dutch courage that was inspiring him. He asked if he could buy her a drink and which one she would like, Gogo liked that. He was not like the random men who prowled in the club, telling you what you must drink and assuming you would like their drink of choice. The waiter took their order and pushed his way through the crowd with people who were dancing kongonya and moonwalking on the dance floor. The atmosphere was sultry, rowdy and musty from the busy bodies that were celebrating the end of the week.
” Hoza! I love this song. Come, you have to dance with me.”, Dumisani said as he walked backwards to the dance floor, stretching out his hands towards her. He slowly closed his eyes and began to jive, feeling the music and trying to sing along. Gogo realised he did not know the lyrics nor what it truly meant. ” Come on, dance with me girl.”, he said as he carefully pulled her on the dance floor. ” I do not fully understand the lyrics but I know the word rudo and I know that means love and that is enough for me.”, he said loudly, the clamour had grown louder as beside them was a dance battle and people were cheering for the men who were challenging each other. Dumisani continued dancing, Gogo moved closer and began to follow suit. ” The song is called Rudo Runokosha and it is by John Chibadura, we also call him Mr Chitungwiza. It talks about how love is important in life.”, Gogo explained as they danced. ” Aha! I was right, it has something to do with love.” They both laughed and danced and danced and danced the night away.
” My name is Dumisani by the way.”, he whispered as he walked her home. It came to her mind that they had danced the night away but had not introduced each other. Gogo introduced herself and thanked him for the eventful night. They tarried for a while as they talked about work, family and life at that ungodly hour. Gogo had altogether forgotten about Chiedza, who, she was sure, was somewhere with one of her ” special” friends drinking the night away. ” There is another vacancy for a Maths teacher at Sekenhamo, you should come and apply again. The one who got the job previously, Mr Ndlovu, is leaving. He said it was a family issue but he is going to South Africa with his whole family.” Gogo said. She had wondered why the man was paranoid and eager to leave Zimbabwe when we had been given our country back. Zimbabwe was free and it had been three years since our independence but he would rather go to a country that had not gained its independence yet.
” Haibo, why would he leave for that Boer country when we are now free? It is time for us sons and daughters of the soil to shine.”, Dumisani replied thrusting his strong fisted arm in the air. Gogo could not keep her eyes off of him. His built complimented the strength of his voice which was clearer now. He promised to come by the school the following Monday to apply for the teaching vacancy. They stood for a while, either of them saying a word.
” Now that I know you are home and safe, I will make my way home.”, Dumisani broke the silence. Gogo nodded her head in agreement, she shook his hand and held it tightly. He stood staring at her, they could both feel the chemistry and even though they were both tired, neither of them wanted to leave. Seeing that the sky was turning orange and the early birds were beginning to welcome a new day, Gogo leaned forward and kissed him. Dumisani pulled her in and kissed her back. They only let go when a car passed them and the driver shouted for them to get out of the road and get a room. ” You have no idea how long I have been wanting to do that.”, Dumisani said bashfully as he scratched his head shying away from Gogo, who was shocked by her act but unapologetic. She gave him a light peek on the cheek and walked to her house. Dumisani smiled as he watched her as she walked home, certain this was the beginning of something special.
For three weeks Gogo and Dumisani enjoyed each other’s company. On their lunch breaks at work, they would sit at the school grounds on the terraces and share a chicken pie and a bottle of Fanta. They introduced each other to their favourite artists, Dumisani introduced Gogo to Lovemore Majaivana and Solomon Skuza and Gogo furthered his love for Mr Chitungwiza and the Four Brothers. They would talk about their future, how Dumisani had written to his family in Bulawayo telling them about their new makoti who he would be bringing to meet them soon. Gogo’s family was very fond of Dumisani too, her mother would ululate and danced around when he came to visit them, calling him mukwasha and reserving the only sofa for him to sit on whilst everyone had to make do with the floor. They would live in Harare but would go to Lupane for every holiday. They would have two children, a boy and a girl, Rudo and Thando, the names would be different but would mean the same thing. Dumisani would support Gogo in pursuing her passion for nursing and he would pursue his degree in Mathematics. They had planned their lives and were both very excited to start their lives in a New Zimbabwe which would never be a colony again.
It was on a Monday, the second week of January 1983 when Dumisani did not turn up for work. Mr Nyedza had asked Gogo about his whereabouts. Gogo did not know, she had last seen him last night when they had come from the biscope and had promised each to see each other the next day as they always did. It was never like him to miss work and yet, not tell her if he was unwell. On her lunch break, Gogo went to his house, a one-room which was behind the main house in Chitungwiza. She went straight to the back of the house without surveying if anyone else was around. She softly knocked on his door but no one answered the door. She rapped, knocked and banged but no one answered the door. She went back to work and told them she was not feeling well and had to finish early. She went straight to her house to change and go to Chiedza’s house. Maybe one of her many suitor’s had seen him or heard something. ” He has probably left because askana, the way you two fell in love was too quick. Shuwa after a month you are talking about marriage and your future? I knew it was too good to be true.”, Chiedza said as she leaned on her door.
” Chiedza, please do not joke around, I am am serious. Dumie never acts like this. Do you think any one of your friends might help?” she desperately asked her friend as tears began to itch her eyes. Chiedza hugged her friend and informed her she would ask around and do her best to help her. When Gogo arrived at her house, she found Dumisani sitting by her door, distraught. As soon as he saw Gogo, he readily stood up and ran to her arms. She embraced him but was taken back when he began to cry. He slowly knelt on the ground, bringing Gogo down with him and began to sob. ” My love, what is it? What is wrong?”, Gogo asked as she held him tightly. He sobbed like a child, with his face buried in her chest. Each time he tried to say something, he was overcome by emotions he began to sob again. Gogo lifted him and helped him into the house where he sat on her single bed. She made sure he was comfortable and brought him a glass of water which he gulped down and placed his face in his hands. ” They are killing us. I received a letter from Mama a-and they are killing us. The red berets, they made the-, Mama said the- they made Baba dig his own grave before they killed and buried him whilst everyone watched. Nkosi yami!”, Dumisani sobbed, narrating the letter back to her as she held him, his body jerked from fear and crying.
The Zimbabwean National Army had carried a series of massacres after tension between the ZANU and ZAPU had grown. ZANU had recruited soldiers mainly from majority Shona people and ZAPU had recruited from Ndebele people. In early 1983, with the help of the North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade, the Zimbabwean National Army began to kill to “purify” the country of the Ndebele dissidents who they believed were planning to attack the ruling party and take over. The process of this purifying was called Gukurahundi which is derived from the Shona word meaning, “ early rains which washes away the chaff before the spring rains”. Although there is no exact number of how many people were killed, it is believed over 20 000 perished. It has been classified as a genocide.
Gogo held him close and rocked him. It now made sense why Mr Ndlovu would migrate to another country. Their future plans were now altered and she knew they had to think ahead. “ Tomorrow we will plan for a way forward. We will leave and maybe go elsewhere.”, she reassured him as tears, tears teeming down her cheeks. She went out to buy some sadza and chicken from Amai Fadzai’s house. She went to the tuck shop and bought a few things they would need when they left. She was ready to leave everything behind and go with Dumie. She was not sure why the red berets were after the Ndebele, whilst they have fought along them against the white settlers. Why would the government want war again when we were still recovering and finding our identity under a new regime? Was democracy a myth? Was freedom a carrot that had been dangled infront of them so they could fight in the liberation struggle? Gogo pondered on this as she made her way home. When she got on her street, she noticed that the group of children who had been playing raka raka in the road were no longer there. It was only 4 pm and the streets were already empty and she could only hear the whimpering of dogs running down the road with their tails between their legs.
When she arrive at her room, she found the door wide, Chitungwiza breathing into her room sending copies of newspapers and her paperwork flapping about. She threw the groceries she had on the floor and ran into the room to Dumisani. She found her bed flipped over, all her 4 spoons, 2 forks and 1 knife all over the floor. Her window had been smashed and there was blood on the window sill. She found a tooth on her floor and a trail of blood. She could not make out what had happened. Her heart pounded as she opened the wardrobe, drawers and went to the back of her room, looking for Dumisani. She began wailing heading to the main house. She found her landlord locking the door as she approached. He looked at her through the window and pointed down the road.
” They took them there.”, he whispered, fear lurking in his eyes. She had never seen him that small and defeated. She could not believe that was the man who barked at her when she paid the rent a day late.
” Where? Please, who took him?”
” Them.”, he said pointing at his bald head. Gogo could not understand what he meant. She tried to open his door and began shouting. She just wanted to know who had taken him. He closed his window and closed the curtain. Gogo knelt by his door, banging and screaming for him to open and tell her who had taken him. A piece of paper fell from the window, she saw him standing by the window, pointing at the piece of paper. When he saw her crawling towards the piece of paper, he quickly disappeared from the window.
She could barely see what was written on the piece of paper, but the words sent a chill down her spine. She began to wail, running in the direction her landlord had pointed to, the words red banditi prompting her to move quicker.
To be continued…