“ Every black person should please remember that you are African before you became anything.” Bose Ogulu (2019)
Identity is one of the is the magnet that draw us home. It gives us security and reassurance of who we are and where we belong. With over 3 000 tribes and over 2 000 different languages in Africa, a sense of belonging and being part of a community is comforting. It is home. It is a sacred and magnetic force that beckons us to find our source of peculiarity, knowledge, perseverance, drive and Africanness.
1. Malenga Mulendema.
Malenga Mulendema is a Zambian writer and creator, whose show, ” Mama K’s Team 4″, was picked as the first ever African original animated series by Netflix. Set in Lusaka, Zambia, Mama K is about 4 black teenage girls who are recruited by a former secret agent -Mama K- to save the universe with limited resources. At the same time, doing their homework and being good citizens.
Based in Lusaka, her animation writing journey started when sh was given a opportunity to pitch an animated TV series to Triggerfish Animation Studios’ Story lab in 2015. She grew up watching movies and series with superheroes, and as an adult, t is still her favourite genre. Her passion for the genre has taught her that anyone can b a superhero, and with a little “extra” something they can do great things. She emphasised on how it was important for African girls to be represented in animation.
2. Simon Petrus.
Simon Petrus is a Namibian student at Abraham Iyambo based in Oshikunde village, who invented a cellphone that does not use airtime. Whilst in Grade 12, Simon invented the free call mobile which only needs radio frequencies to work, using spares from a phone and television set. Comprehensive with a light bulb, fan and charger socket, the handset fully functions off power dispensed through a radiator and is able to call anywhere through the radio frequencies.
He is reported to have won a gold medal at national level in 2015 for his invention of a two-in-one machine that works as both a seed drier and cooler. He said he invented the phone in the hopes that it would be successful and carried further. Sadly, he failed to meet the minimum university entry requirements but has registered for two subjects which he will sit for this year. He has also bee raising money for Namcol by driving villagers to town with his uncle’s truck. Despite all these obstacles, he has also invented a free call SIM-free telephone that will also be operate wireless.
3. Flaviana Matata.
Flaviana Matata is a Tanzanian beauty queen and fashion model. She is one of the top Seven list of models that have recorded the highest income in Africa mentioned by Forbes in 2013. The barrier-breaking model competed in the Miss Universe pageant in 2007, making her the first woman from Tanzania ever to do so and to top it off, she did it with a shaved head. She has walked a long list of runways which include Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch and has appeared on campaigns for Topshop, Diesel, Aerie and more.
However she is far from a pretty face, she studied electrical engineering before pursuing her modelling career. She is also an entrepreneur who has launched a non-toxic line of nail polish which is available in six countries, and has also started a non-profit organisation The Flaviana Matata Foundation, which aims at empowering Tanzanian girls through education.
4. Edmund Albius.
Edmund Albius was born into slavery in St. Suzanne, a French Island and became an important figure in the cultivation of vanilla. At the age of 12, he came up with a method for pollinating vanilla orchids quickly and profitably. In the 1800’s before the revolutionisation of vanilla, the world was producing not more than a thousand vanilla beans, as a result of the pollution of bees. It was Edmund who came up with the practical process for the pollination of vanilla.
The vines in St Suzanne were sterile because no insects would pollinate them. Edmund showed his master Ferreol how to pollinate with a thin stick or blade of grass and a simple thumb gesture. He soon travelled the island teaching other slaves how to pollinate vanilla orchids. His method was used around the world and has been the patents method for hundreds of years.
Vongai glanced at her wrist watch and sighed,as she waited for Nurse Margaret to release her. It was 17:47 and from her calculations, it would take her 20 minutes to walk from St Andrew Fleming Hospital to the bus stop. She knew she was going to be late to leave the city centre and being on her second warning did not bring any comfort. Ever since Ian Smith announced the UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) a statement adopted by the Cabinet of Rhodesia in November 1965, announcing that Rhodesia would no longer be under the British government and solely ruled by the white minority in Rhodesia, life for the blacks in Rhodesia had become worse.
The United Kingdom, Commonwealth and the United Nations had deemed the UDI illegal, however Rhodesia had broke away and continued on as an unrecognised state with the assistance of South Africa and Portugal. The UDI was a system which promoted segregation and discrimination with silly regulations such as blacks where not allowed to be in the City Centre past six pm, black people had their own restrooms,mode of transport, the only brand of alcohol they were allowed wasChibukuand they were exposed to limited education. Vongai had only qualified to get a job as a nurse at St Andrew’s Fleming because her grandfather had been a missionary who had helped convert myriads of African people. She had an opportunity most black people in Rhodesia could only dream of, which is partly why she never complained. However, Nurse Margaret and all the other white nurses made sure she knew that she wasand always would be – a kaffir.
She walked towards the entrance to see if Nurse Margaret was on her way to take the handover for the night shift. Vongai saw Nurse Margaret a short distance from the entrance, leaning against the wall lighting a cigarette. She was not surprised by her actions, Nurse Margaret had overtly expressed that she did not like black people and saw them as inferior. Expecting her to be concerned about her safety, would be silly and naive. She signed with fear and uncertainty as she contemplated on whether to go to her or wait for her to come and release her. Waiting would mean she would have to walk all the way from the hospital to Mufakose where she lived and going to Nurse Margaret would mean starting a war she would never win. So she stood by the door and waited for her.
“Vongai,”, Nurse Margaret barked as she walked towards Vongai who was removing her stockings behind the reception area, preparing for the long walk home. She knew there would no mode of transport for black people and the only safe, well, relatively safer way was to walk the ten miles home. “Vongai“, she called again her voice husky and loud. At 56, Nurse Margaret looked older than her age. Her skin pulled with every expression and the way she drew her eyebrows made her look animated and angry at the same time. “Go on now, won’t you be late catching your bus just standing there?”. Vongai hurriedly went out the door,more afraid of the journey ahead rather than Nurse Margaret’s rants. Being a black person walking in the city after 6pm was dangerous in Rhodesia, but being a twenty-five year old black woman walking alone after 6pm, was deadly. If anything were to happen to her, no-one would come to her rescue or aid because the law clearly stated: NO KAFFIRS IN THE CITY AREA AFTER 6PM. Vongai ran towards the kaffir designated bus stop, which was the same direction as her secret route. There was not a soul in sight as she half ran and half walked home, only the creaking of crickets and her thoughts kept her company. She prayed Tungamirai would be waiting for her at the bus stop or fingers crossed he would walk towards the City to meet her halfway. If that was the case, she knew he would take the route they had chosen to use if such an incident took place. Tunga had suggested it after many black people had been imprisoned or killed after using the main road from the City after 6pm. He always worried about her after all, he had vowed to always love and protect her till death. Pacing through the dusty pathway which was covered with shrubs and long stems of grass- Vongai thought of the one bedroom house she owned with Tunga. He had just finished painting their kitchen walls, the smell sickened her but she still looked forward to being there because it was her home. Having lived with four brothers and three sisters, having to share a house with one person was like heaven on earth. With Tunga she no longer had to time herself when she was having a bath or just looking at herself on the bathroom mirror. These tiny pleasures made her long for home on her long day shifts at the hospital.
She increased her pace when she saw the lights from theBakayawa Grocery Store, this indicated she was half way home and she was at least safe from the white patrols but still a target from the local robbers. At least her own kind would only harass and steal from her, they would not beat her to a pulp or rape her. With the creaking of crickets still keeping her company, Vongai thought of her future and if bringing children to a world where their future was determined by the colour of their skin, a world where you could never be yourself before you were told who you were suppose to be. She had had this discussion with Tunga, and numerous times he had threatened to send her back to her father’s house. She wished he understood her perspective, the pain she went through each day at work and the life they lived, was not one that God had intended for anyone of them.
“Please, I do not want to hear about this nonsense. Wazvinzwa? Do you hear me? I want children, all my friend have children and now they think you are infertile or i am impotent.”He had said the last time they had talked about it. She remembered how he was holding a half stab of cigarette, leaning forward in his chair as she sat opposite her.
He always furrowed his eyebrows when he was upset, and he would never look at her. Vongai stood up and went to the kitchen, she stood by the empty sink where Tunga had washed the dishes earlier that day. She thought of how he was a good husband and never made her feel any lesser than himself, even though she was a woman but that would never be enough to have her bring a child into such a hateful and painful world. She took a glass from the rack, poured water then left it on the sink untouched. She walked towards the living room which also acted as the dining room and said goodnight to Tunga. He grunted at her as he slammed their 21′ black and white television to adjust the volume.
“Where is Fungai?,” Tunga asked as he put his pint down, “I thought he was coming to join us tonight wani”. He gestured at Gumi for him to pass him the lighter he held in his hand and sat beside Tamuka who was getting comfortable in his seat.
“Ah iwe,you should know never make plans with a man who has just gotten married”, said Gumi as he blew the cigarette smoke in the air. They all laughed.
“Knowing Fungai, I am pretty sure the wife is already pregnant. You remember how quickly his first wife got pregnant. First week of marriage!“.
“Only to find out the child was not his“, Tamuka said passively and the three men all laughed out loud in the dingy shebeen. It was owned by Tom Brown,the only white person who had willingly chosen to live amongst the blacks. He had been threatened by the UDI police to leave Mufakose and live amongst his own kind. At one point, he had been offered a two bedroom house and a pub in the highlands area where it was predominantly white. However, he would have to leave everything behind and that included his wife Natsai and their three brown children.He never moved nor did he even consider the “options” because to him, love was more of a right not a possibility.
Not everyone thought of it to be wise, especially the black men of Mufakose who always reminded him what a grave mistake he made. They thought him stupid for not taking the opportunity to leaves the slums and have a proper and decent life. Some thought he was mocking them by turning the government down, making it seem as if it was bearable and easy to be a black person in Rhodesia. He had tried to explain numerous times and overtly, that his views were not the same as other white people, he believed in equality and mutual respect and did not expect to be treated differently because he was white. The men would all sneer,shaking their heads and others laughing. Equal and mutual respect?Is this man alright upstairs?He thinks it’s fun for us to only be limited to garden boys and builders regardless of how intelligent we are?They would all take away something different from what he said, but none of them ever considered he meant what he said.
Tom walked over to the corner at the back of the shebeen where the three men lounged, with a quarter bottle of Jack Daniels and shot glasses. There was a small round table that looked like it had been handed over several generations before it found itself in the shebeen, a brown double sofa with tattered arm rests where Tunga and Tamuka sat and three bar stools circled the small table. The low roof made Gumi hunch as he stood near the window blowing the cigarette out. The three men saw Tom walking towards them at the same time and exchanged glances.
“Hona, your friend has brought a peace-offering for the pain his people are causing us”, Tamuka whispered to Tunga who was nursing his second pint of Chubuku.
“Ah iwe, leave him be. He is trying to be friendly, give him a break.”, Tunga said.
“Hey, be nice to him. He has whiskey, its been a while and Tamuka don’t spoil this for me. We do not need to hear how as a black man you are oppressed and can only use one ply tissue paper”, Gumi whispered as he walked to a bar stool next to the sofa.
“One ply? Sha, that is a luxury. Why do you think I always collect newspapers here? Just put a bit of water for them to be soft and they are as good as three-ply tissues”.
They all busted out laughing and as if on cue, Tom approached them and sat on one of the stool and grinned at them.
“Gentlemen,maswera sei?”, he said sitting the bottle of Jack Daniels and four shot glasses on the table now stained with ashes and streaks of beer. My girl by The Temptations was now playing for the umpteenth time from the time the shebeen opened .It had just been released and Jacaranda FM was making sure everyone would know the lyrics by the time they went to bed.
“MudharaTom, how are you this evening?”, they chorused as Gumi turned his attention on the bottle of brown-goldish liquor calling his name. Tamuka excused himself and went to the restroom. Gumi had never been a fan of the cheap and uninspired brand of alcohol restricted for the blacks. His taste buds had savoured quality alcohol from the time he worked for Mr Walker, of no relation to John Walker, who sold diluted whiskey and spirits to “upper-class” black people. He was known all over Mufakose for his fine taste in quality alcohol and cigarettes, only because ninety percent of the time, he was the one who would have made them. He studied the colour of the liquor and could tell by the way the light from the bulb over them pierced through the bottle, it was diluted. He realised a diluted whiskey was better than theChibuku that had cornered him to gain weight. He lit another cigarette and paid attention to Tom who was mid sentence talking to the other two gentlemen who he was certain where eager to have a shot too.
“… business has been good,terrific even.My father-in-law has agreed to help me open another shebeen at his house in the mean time”,Tom said as he stared at his wife Natsai who was behind the counter taking orders from drunk and semi drunk customers. Tunga saw him looking at his wife and instantly thought of Vongai. He had no idea why Tom suddenly took time to glance at his wife mid conversation, but he liked it and could not help but miss his. Tom saw Tunga looking at him and turned to him.
“She is beautiful,isn’t she?”,Tom said to Tunga who was now attempting to act as if he was not looking at him.
“Yes”,Tunga said nodding his head and taking a sip of hisChibuku,wishing it was whiskey.
“You know, it was love at first sight for me. I just knew she would be my wife the first time I saw her at her mother’s market”,Tom reminisced, Gumi and Tamuka, who had now joined them, reluctantly listened to him.
“She was not even paying attention to me, I was overseeing the men who were constructing myfather’s bar and I would walk past her market countless times a day. ”he said chuckling to himself. The three men were a bit uncomfortable as to why he felt the need to confide in them. They had known him from the time he came to Mufakose six years ago, exchanging pleasantries and congregating around the small stereo when there was a soccer match. However, they had not been acquainted enough to borrow cigarettes or know if he had any siblings, but here he was, bearing his heart and telling them his love story.
“So,mudhara,how did you end up “conquering” the situation?”,Tamuka insinuated as he shuffled in his seat next to Tunga who realised his pun. All four of them knew where the conversation was headed. Tom reached for the bottle of whiskey and poured into the shot glasses. He gestured for the men to take one and they all toasted and gulped it down.
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds, Gumi complimented the fine and exquisite texture of the whiskey. And Tunga agreed with grunts and hand gestures. Anything to fill the loud silence was welcome, they knew Tamuka would not let it go though. He had been orphaned after his parents were burnt alive in their house after they declined the offer to sell their farm for a price less than a single cow. He ended up living with his grandmother in the reserves and had never seen white people as genuine and considerate people. He made it no secret that he had been hurt and he was not afraid to show it, he was not violent or menacing but he asked questions that would have people, both black and white, question themselves.
Tamuka sat there quietly but observant of the men around him. He turned his gaze to Tom who was also looking at him about to say something. He thought of interrupting him but he decided to let him proceed.
“I did not “conquer” nor did I threaten her. I was respectful of her space and I knew the dangershewould face if she were to even talk to me. I watched her from a distance for nine months, and on Sundays on her way to church.”,Tom said shuffling himself on the three-legged stool.
Falling in love with Natsai was the only decision Tom was proud of after fathering three children, and he was privileged to have been loved back by her. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen when he first saw her seven years ago. She was twenty-one years old, ambitious, independent and fearless. Her parents were worried that she was getting a bit too old and no one would find her suitable or attractive if she did not get married soon. She had told them that marriage was not something she was worried about and what was important to her was her teaching career. As an only child, this did not go well with her parents, especially her mother who began holding prayer meetings nemadzimai eruwadzano, every Thursday to drive out the spirit that had possessed her daughter.
Tom had learnt of this when he was eavesdropping on the conversations the builders had during their break. One of them lived in the same neighbourhood as Natsai, he had tried to pursue her but alike the rest of the other men before him, he had found her intimidating and intolerant of juvenile pursuits. He had tricked his sister, Kathleen who was a senior teacher at the school Natsai was hoping to be employed, to hire female black teachers. He had convinced her by suggesting, by hiring a black teacher, the school would portray a more “diverse” spectrum and it would make her look good when the Pope and priests visited the school. He knew Kathleen was not keen on associating herself with kaffirs, but impressing the Catholic board was as important as entering heaven to her. He did not care using his sister’s racist nature against her, because now he would see Natsai up close, without her getting into trouble.
He stole glances every time he dropped by to see Kathleen, his tall frame, broad shoulders, blonde frizzy hair and blue eyes did not go unnoticed by the other ladies at the school. Hillary, Kathleen’s deputy had tried throwing herself onto him whenever she got the chance, but Tom would always come up with an excuse to avoid going out with her. He only agreed after learning that Natsai was being supervised by Hillary so they would always be together, and because of that, he agreed to meet up with Hillary at the school, only if there was someone for accountability. When Hillary pondered on who to ask, he readily suggested Natsai who technically had no choice because she had to follow Hillary everywhere. Hillary could not impose because she was twenty-four and desperate, and all the other female teachers envied her for being chosen by Tom.
Every weekday during Hillary’s break, Tom would come and they would all go to the sports field and sit on the terraces. Natsai would sit at a distance, but Tom would make sure to include her in the conversation and most of the times, he would talk to her more than Hillary. Natsai did not seem to be interested or pay much attention to him during their encounter. It was until one day, Hillary became annoyed when Natsai laughing at Tom’s joke that she reached out and slapped Natsai who was sitting a distance from them. Tom was baffled and angered by her action, he quickly ran to Natsai and held her face and felt the warmth of her streak of tear running down her smooth,black cheek. He gazed into her dark brown eyes which changed to a light brown when she faced the sun. Tom looked at her for a while and could not believe anyone could be more beautiful, Natsai pulled away from him and briskly walked towards the classes without turning back.
“Oh Tom, why do you care?!”, Hillary snapped at him as she descended from the terrace making her way towards him, tucking a few strands of brown locks behind her ear.“..these people get too comfortable and before you know it, they start asking you for money”.She said putting her arms around his neck and searching for his eyes as he looked down. She kisses him on his lips but he did not flinch, she tried using her tongue but Tom pushed her back and looked at her.
“That is no way to treat a human being! You should be ashamed of yourself, how can you think someone of less than you based on the colour of their skin?.”, Tom exclaimed as he moved away from her. Hillary was confused, she had not expected him to react that way. Why would she be ashamed of herself? She is not the one who was wrong, that woman should have known her place and kept quite. Why did she have to apologise? Hillary questioned herself as she looked at Tom running towards the classes. She began running after him and calling his name. Tom stopped and waited for her to catch up, he turned around and looked at her, she appeared more confused than remorseful.
“You had no right to hit her.”, he said shaking his head.“She did not deserve that, and a word to the wise Miss Kent,thesepeople are as human as you are. They reason, they love and they hurt just like you!”,he said walking away from her and went to the staff room. The room was empty and he did not know where to find Natsai. He did not even attempt to ask as it would raise question and it would get her in trouble. Tom walked to his truck and drove away with anger and a broken heart, knowing he might never see Natsai again. It was not until a year later, he met her at another school across town where she was a Standard Three teacher and he was foreseeing the building of an additional block at the school. This time around, he made sure to be intentional and brave, and the rest is history.
Tom poured another round of whiskey after narrating his love story. Tamuka, Gumi and Tunga took time to digested the story trying to find the lesson or the take away from it. Tom took his shot and cleared his throat and looked at the three men who now looked tired.
“Tamuka, I might not have answered your question but I hope you see that for me, being with Natsai is more than any house they can give me. I saw a black woman who I fell hopelessly in love with and I could not have been happier.”,he grinned at Natsai who was clearing the counter ready to close up.“Akandipathree amazing children and she loves me dearly.Anondida choseand I am a blessed man. Love knows no colour and when you find it, never let it go. It is a once in a lifetime kind of thing. It is not easy but it is worth it.”,Tom stood up as he saw Natsai walking towards them to dismiss them.
“Imi varume imi, don’t you have wives to go home to? It is past 10pm and I am sure they are worried sick”,she said jokingly smiling at the three men who stood as she approached.
“AhsisiNatsai, blamemudharaTom ava. He is the one who kept us here for long.”,Tamuka said as he stretched himself and walking towards the door with Gumi and Tunga behind him. They all laughed as the walked out, bide their farewells and left Tom and Natsai in the shebeen.
They walked towards Chigubhu Roadwhere they all resided separated by a few houses. They had been friends since primary school and had remained friends ever since. They walked in silence, each pondering on Tom’s story. Was he just telling them or where they to take something from it? Tamuka decided to break the silence.
“Ah butvarume,what was the point ofmudhara Tom’s story?Hee? Kutivhairira?Was it to show is that his wife loves him more than the other wives love their husbands?”,he said exasperated. He was still single and had vowed to marry until the country was free from Smith and his men. Which did not seem to be happening anytime soon.
“Nokani,I think he was just sharing his experience. He is a man in love and is not afraid to show it. He makes me want to make it official with Shuvai but, Shuvai is a wild card. You know she wears trousers?! My mother will die if I bring her home”,Gumi said as he contemplated marrying the one woman who challenged him and drank as much as him.
“I think he was trying to say, love knows no colour. He married someone who was not deemed to be good enough by anyone or worth it by his own kind but he chose love.Moyo muti unomera paunoda shuwa.I guess he was trying to emphasize on loving whoever you want regardless of what people say.” Tunga gave his two cents as he tried to dissect Tom’s story.
“Ah, I hope he was not trying to mellow us into ignoring what his people are doing to us. I will not be tricked.Ah kana,no, I will not succumb to that.” Tamuka said as he walked towards his small one room wooden cottage. He bade his friend’s goodnight and disappeared into the room. Gumi and Tunga proceeded to their homes which were a few houses down.
“You know, I get whatmudharaTom was on about. He is not like the rest of them but shaa, that does not excuse how we are treated like dogs. Their dogs have better lives than we will ever have”, Gumi sneered and shook his head. It was hard to believe or hope for a better life. He imagined what bringing children would be setting them up for failure. There lives would be limited and agonising. Tunga shook his head but did not say anything, he agreed and understood his friend. He thought about how Vongai had tried to explain to him how raising a black child in Rhodesia was a permanent life sentence full of pain, poverty and condescension. He did not want anyone to suffer like that, and he did not want to partake in bringing in to the world an innocent soul to be castrated before they learnt who they were for themselves. He had to make peace with the possibility he might not father a child. He parted ways with Gumi and headed towards his house. A few houses still had their lamps on, he could hear a few voices of people who were putting out their cooking fires and others filling buckets and drums with water, ready for the next morning.
As he approached the house, he saw that the lamp was on. Usually Vongai would have never waited up for him because she always had to get up before 5 a.m. He paced towards the house worried Vongai had forgotten to turn the lamp off. As he got into the, he saw Vongai sitting on the sofa, with a large basket in front of her on their small coffee table. She sat stone-faced and was teary eyed staring at the basket.
“Ko,why are you seated by yourself this later?, Tunga inquired as he walked over to Vongai. He towered over both Vongai and the basket in their tiny living/dining room. Vongai looked at him but could not muster up the courage to say anything. She began to cry and covered her face with her hands. Tunga knelt beside his wife and embraced her whilst she sobbed.
“Tell memudiwa,what is it? Was it that horrid senior nurse again?”, he tried to console his wife as he kissed her forehead. He did not want to rush her, so he held her and waited for her to compose herself. Vongai held her husband’s face and looked into his eyes. He saw fear in her eyes and the first thing that came to his mind was someone had died. He could not bring himself to ask her but Vongai looked at he basket and sighed.
“Tunga, I am sorry but I could not leave it. I just could not!”, she began sobbing again. “I know, I could have just left it there and kept walking, but I could not.” Tunga realised she had walked home from work again, but that did not explain the basket. He looked at the basket, it looked ordinary with a lid which had a knotted handle, but it was not familiar. He tried to think or guess what would make his wife that upset.
“Please, do not be angry. I know we will be in trouble but please, j-j…”,she began to cry again but this time pointing at the basket. Tunga stood up and looked at the basket and braced himself. Could she be playing with him? She had done that a couple of times before but this time around she looked serious. He composed himself and opened the basket. He gasped, not believing what he was seeing. He looked at his wife confused, trying to comprehend what was the meaning of what he was seeing. Where and how did she come across it? Did she steal it from the hospital? She knew better than to steal anything, that much he knew, but what was the meaning of this?
Tunga looked at Vongai who now stood beside him looking into the basket too. He could not believe she would do this, create more strife for them whilst they could barely survive their current ones. They both looked at each other, lost of words. Vongai still teary eyed and sniffling, Tunga confused and now afraid, and the basket with its content snug and peaceful.
“Woman, explain to me why there is a whole baby with blonde hair and white skin in that basket?” . Tunga said as he slumped himself on the seat Vongai previously sat, waiting for his wife to explain how she ended up with a white baby in the middle of Mufakose squatter camp in 1965.
Africa is well-known for her breathtaking landscape, majestic wildlife and favourable weather. She is the second youngest and populous continent and harbours 54 sovereign states. She offers different climates and sceneries. From sunny and dry weather in Southern African, hot and arid weather in Northern Africa, warm and humid in West Africa, pleasant and cool in East Africa and in winter, snow in Lesotho, Morocco, Algeria and a few parts of South Africa.
However, what makes Africa is not a great landscape or variation in weather, but her people. With over 1.2 billion people, over 3 000 native tongues and hosting the largest diversity of ethnicities and cultures, Africa births greatness through and through. Her people show her beauty and majesty. Today, we look at those who were still able to make it in Africa, equipping themselves with what Africa is known and admired for – authenticity.
Hamamat Montia is a Ghanaian model, entrepreneur and a former Miss Malaika Queen. She is the owner and founder of Hamamat African Beauty, a brand of skin care products which are all handmade with raw, authentic natural ingredients with freshly unadulterated Shea Butter being the main ingredient. Her technique takes people on a journey on how Ghanaian ancestors had a deep and rich connection with the land, and how they utilized on its produce. The focus of her brand is to utilize ingredients from the three regions of Northern Regions of Ghana and a mixture of Africa’s best kept natural remedies. She aims for men and women around the world to maintain a youthful, healthy and natural skin glow, and to make skincare regimes simple.
She has grown her empire in Ghana and has expanded it by opening a village spa and hotel called “Hamamat African Village”. She has helped her village by creating employment as they help with the processing and making of the raw shea butter products. She runs one of the most successful self-made and African based skin care companies and the first online-based retail to ship freshly handmade shea butter directly from Ghana to the world.
Maxwell Chikumbutso is a 27-year-old Zimbabwean who invented the world’s first ever green power generator which can produce electricity using radio frequencies. He has designed and built an electrically powered vehicle and a hybrid helicopter which uses six different types of fuel.
Having dropped out of school at 14 years old when he was a Form 2 at Kuwadzana High School, Maxwell has no formal training in technology or science, he has it all comes from revelations of blueprints and visions which he has used to formulate his inventions. He is the owner of the company SAITH Technologies. In July 2017, he closed up shop in Zimbabwe and moved to California, USA. However, it is reported that after he made his announcement, he was never heard from again and he has actually gone missing.
Sherrie Silver is a Rwandan creative editor, dancer and actress who is best known for her choreographing of “This is America” by Childish Bambino. She moved from Rwanda to England when she was 5 years old. Having been inspired by African church culture of dance, Sherrie was always been passionate about dancing and performing; which her mother did not view as a profitable career but through her hard work and drive, she persevered.
Before catching the attention of millions, Sherrie got her start recording dance videos and uploading them on her YouTube channel. She travels the world to bring African dance to the world and regularly makes appearances at festivals and also host small group dance classes. She is also a dedicated advocate and activist, who has financed 200 Rwandan citizens’ healthcare, holds community events and donates the proceed to various charities and on her own, she rents out a home in Rwanda to shelter displaced and underprivileged children.
Peter Tabichi is a Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar, who is the winner of the 2019 Global Teacher Prize and the prize money of $1 million. He is a teacher at Keriko Mixed Secondary School in Pwani Village. The school is in a semi-arid village in Rift Valley, a region affected by famine and drought. He gives 80% of his pay to support pupils at the school, who could not afford uniforms or books. Most of his students are orphaned and almost all come from underprivileged households.
When asked at the why he sacrificed his income selflessly, he said, “It is not about the money but as a teacher, working on the front line I have seen the promise of the young people, their brilliance, belief and spirit of inquiry.” The award had 10 000 other nominations from 179 countries.
On receiving his speech, Brother Tabichi exclaimed, “It is morning in Africa. The skies are clear and the day is young. There is a blank page waiting to be written. This is Africa’s time”.
(Image from Pinterest: Chipo and Tonderai as a married couple.)
P.S: Brace yourself as this is one of those “quite long” short stories.
I held her hand as she laid on the bed, snoring softly. I took in every inch of her face, the chocolate skin that masked her body, the once long and bouncy curls that were now patches on her oval shaped head. I traced her nose which I kissed each morning before she woke up, the full lips which produced malicious words when her brilliant brain could not solve a problem or when I could not understand what she meant, even after explaining it to me numerous times. The lips I loved to kiss, the lips that uttered I love you first before I was ready to say it.
I won’t lie, I was taken back by her boldness. Not because I did not know that I loved her, but because I was so used to the typical Zimbabwean girls who showed their feeling by being passive aggressive or ignoring you. Chipo was different. She knew what she wanted and she was never afraid to speak her mind. She made me uncomfortable, her boldness I could not fathom, her resilience and mysterious mental agility kept me wanting to unveil her for my own understanding. She was a breath of fresh air, but she suffocated me sometimes. I can never say I have fully known or understood her. She cannot be defined by one word. She is both an introvert and extrovert, shy and outspoken, kind and selfish, sweet and has the temper of two-year-old. She kept me on my toes, and I loved that, I still love it.
As I sit here seeing her weather away, I can not help but think God is playing a cruel joke on me, I can not stop thinking about the time I wasted looking for something I already had. I can not stop thinking about the first day I met her. It was a blind date, Mazvita had set us up. I had known Mazvita to like me for a very long time, but I never engaged. I do not know if she set me up with Chipo because she was genuinely wanted me to find someone or she was being passive aggressive, subtly telling me that she wanted me by making this move. Typical Zimbabwean girls, they can never say what they really mean. Haphazardly, Chido and I got along quite well. I took her out for ice cream, it was May but summer was still very much around although the breeze was cooler. She wore a dusty pink top that shaped her torso, had a red maxi skirt and yellow pumps. Her hair, God, her glorious hair, was big and free. I could not stop looking at her. She, well, at first she seemed a little shy but as I got to know her, it was not because she was shy, she was studying me.
” Tonde, you just don’t start yapping about around new people. You study them, sense their energies, then you engage.” She told me when we started dating. On our first date, I did all the talking. She asked questions here and there. My occupation, how I knew Mazvita and other basic things. We sat on a bench at Africa Unit Square, a bit clichè, yes, but I did not know where to take her. She would lick on her ice cream and observed the people in the park. Just across us, there was a couple who were having their picture taken. They were posing awkwardly, the lady was trying to sit on her lovers’ legs, but they were too short to support her bountiful bottom. We both involuntary laughed and looked at each other.
” So, how is this going for you so far?”, she asked me. To be honest, I was not having the best time but I was comfortable. I was not really feeling anything, to be honest, she was attractive yes, smart and creative but I did not have a flutter in my chest or sweaty palms. I was planning to drop her off at her house, delete her number and try my luck elsewhere.
” Well, it’s fun. Nothing beats sitting next to a beautiful lady and eating ice cream in a park.”, I said trying to charm her. She did not look amused.
” Hhhmm, so you think there is going to be a second date?”, she asked me so calmly, looking into my eyes. I was uncomfortable and to top it off, I was about to lie, which I am very bad at. I remember chuckling and looking away. What is going on here? I thought to myself. I had never been with a girl who was so direct, I was used to girls who would shy about and just do what they thought I wanted. They seemed to want to please me more than to also be pleased but this one was different and I was not equipped.
” Ehm, yeah, yeah. Of course.” I stammered, which made her laugh. I was confused but I laughed with her. The way she threw her head back as she laughed caught my attention. She laughed with the freedom of a child.
” You do not have to lie. I can tell you are not particularly enjoying this.”. I just smiled, I was a loss for words. I licked on my ice cream which was dripping on my hand, hoping for this awkward moment to pass.
” I am looking for consistency, respect, honesty and fun. What about you?”, this woman asked me as if we had known each other for the longest time. Like we had gotten to the stage of calling each other by childhood nicknames, but it was just our first date.
” Ok, uhm, I value openness, sense of humour and stability”. I said.
” Haa! Did you just say the same things I said using different words?”, she laughed, this time shaking her head. Touchè, she had caught me.
” Well, haha..”, I was a loss for words. She seemed to have called my bluff. She was studying me.
” Ok, I will give you another chance. Tonderai, what are you looking for? You know, using your own words this time. Not copying or twisting other peoples words.”, she said as she flashed her carefully arranged dentition. She had, she has a pretty smile.
(Image from Pinterest: Chipo and Tonderai on their first date.)
” Alright, alright. I see what you did there. You are mocking me, aren’t you.”, I am not proud to admit it, but I was blushing. She made me blush but thank God for my dark skin, one could never tell but the dumb grin on my face betrayed me. We walked in silence to my car which I had parked a few metres from Herald. As we approached my car, I went over to open the door for her so I could drive her home. However the Council had other plans for me, they had clamped my car over a speeding ticket I had forgotten to pay for. She looked at me and shrugged. ” Kombi, I guess?”, she said as she closed the door. I smiled at her sheepishly, embarrassed by the Council exposing me like this and also the fact that we had to walk in silence again, annoyed me. She did not seem annoyed or embarrassed by the situation. From my history with Zimbabwean girls, a car was what made you graduate from a “maybe” to a “definitely”. She appeared not to be moved by the fact that we had to walk from 2nd street to Copacabana where she boarded her kombi.
” Do not worry, I understand how hard adulting is. Trust me.”, she said as we walked past Angwa street, it was rush hour. Harare was its peak with cars hooting, drivers shouting and hwindis cussing in defence of their driver’s manoeuvring. I walked close to her, to protect her from the pickpocketers and waifs, who now prowled the streets hoping for a score, but mostly so I could smell the scent of lavender wafted around her. I do not know why I boarded the kombi with her, but in a few minutes, we were headed to Westgate where she lived. Our silence was filled by the raspy voice of Oliver Mtukudzi as he lamented Pindurai Mambo through the speakers of the kombi. Being the gentleman I am, I paid for the both of us. She was a bit hesitant but she let me pay. She sat by the window and I was wedged between her and a lady was talking on the phone tumultuously, it was as if she was in a tag of war with Mtukudzi, competing over who would be the loudest. We alighted at Westgate shopping mall and began to walk towards her house. She told me about her childhood, growing up an only child and how she was close to her family. She told me about how she was frantic about moving into her own place, but she had gotten used to it now, how she became to discover she loved art and how she was planning on making paintings that would be shown in some of the most popular galleries and museums.
” Even at the Louvre!”, she exclaimed as she stood in front of her door, her keys clutched in her hands. I was amazed by how she talked about painting and art, how her eyes widened and brightened, the excitement in her voice when she told me about her favourite artists and their patterns. I love how she lost herself in her imagination as she explained how much art had been her escape. We were bonding, we were now past the awkward stage.
” This is me.”, she said pointing at her door as if we had not been standing in front of it for the last 20 minutes. She looked at me and smile. She moved closer to me and leaned forward. After our bonding session and her teasing me earlier, I saw my way in and kissed her. ” What do you think you are doing?”, she exclaimed as she moved away from me. ” Well, you leaned in and I thought yo..”, I tried to explain myself. I had misread her leaning into her wanting to kiss me but she was leaning in for a hug.
” Well you thought wrong. I only kiss my husband wanzwa? I clearly do not understand how you thoug..”
” Hold on. Husband? Are you married and you had me take you out on a date in broad daylight?”
” No! I mean to say I am, well, I was saving my first kiss for my husband, now I.. mxm actually, please leave.”, she snapped at me as she struggled to unlock the door.
” Wait, aren’t you like 26 and you are telling me you have never kissed anyone?”, I asked her, making sure I was not misunderstanding her.
” Please leave.”
” Wait.”, I insisted, holding the door which she was about to shut in my face. ” Help me understand. You said you were saving your first kiss for your husband. Where is he?”, I could not fathom what she was saying. Was she in an open marriage? Was her husband Jesus? I had so many questions.
She looked at me for what seemed to be the longest time then heavily sighed. ” Ok, the thing is, I made a vow to God that I would wait until marriage to have an intimate physical connection with anyone.”, she said it so confidently and so matter of factly. I do not know why, but I laughed. I had never heard anything like that before. She was one of those girls who would use these tactics to play hard to get, I thought. She sneered and before I could explain myself, she slammed the door in my face. I knocked but I was reassured this was how the night was going to end by the key I heard turning behind the door. I stood outside her door trying to explain myself for a good 10 minutes, but the only response I got was her turning off the light on the porch where I was standing. With that, I knew she was not coming out.
I won’t lie, I was annoyed. The whole trip from Westgate to town, leaving my car on 2nd street and walking all the way to 4th street to get a kombi home to Masasa Park. I remember calling Mazvita to tell her how sensitive and uptight her friend was. ” I know you were trying to help and all, but please do not set me up with any of your friends,” I told her as I stood in the middle of my living room, shouting at the top of my voice. ” Wow, she really did a number on you, huh?”, Mazvita said at the other end of the line. ” She is just, I don’t even know what to say.”. I was not very sure why I was so annoyed by it, was it because she had not played to the beat of my drum or because she was hard to read. I too was a bit confused by how irritated I was by the whole ordeal. I thought of texting her and speaking my mind, but I got a hold of myself. She had clearly made it clear she wanted nothing to do with me, so I also wanted nothing to do with her. ” Ah, so if you don’t want me to set you up with my friends, pasara inini.”, Mazvita cooed on the other end of the line. I barely paid attention to her, my mind was still trying to perceive what had happened earlier. ” Haha, Mazvita so. You know you are like a sister to me, you will always be my girl, but these your friends. Please, no.”
For two months, I went on with my life. I did not try to contact Chipo ask about her whereabouts, but I could not stop thinking about her. I could not stop thinking about her, the images of her smile, free afro, gentile but confident air haunted my mind. I tried to go on dates with other girls, I tried to engage with them but I found them lacking something. They all talked about how they wanted to please their man and do whatever he wanted. What do you like? What are you looking for? I wanted to ask. I stopped going on dates and decided to be the bigger person and text Chipo. Technically, she had told me to leave her house but not her. So I still had a chance there. I had to know why she was still on my mind, even after I had blocked her on all the social media platforms to restrict myself from stalking her.
It was a Saturday morning when I decided to text her. I had nothing planned for the day, so I had all the time to plan out my strategy and see how this would work in my favour. I did a few push-ups and lunges before I texted her, I do not know why, but I felt like I needed to be ready for anything.
She blue ticked me and never replied. I spent the day playing Fifa and checking my phone. I decided to be more intentional because I knew texting would not get me anywhere. For all I know, she would have already blocked my number. I decided to go to an Art Exhibition at the Rainbow Towers where Mazvita told me she was showing her art pieces. I saw her standing by one of her pieces, it was a painting of a man, big and strong, his muscled looked as if they were about to pop out of the canvas. He was shielding a woman from what seemed to be a falling building. The woman seemed to be putting a crown on the man’s head. It told a story. She had her hair tied in a huge bun, which I got to learn to do later in the course of our marriage. She had on a white shirt and black cigarette pants that traced every curve and black open-toe sandals. She looked beautiful.
I waited until she had finished her exhibition and when people had displaced. She was packing her things and was not aware of my presence. I stood behind her for a solid 3 minutes, thinking of what to say.
” Need any help?”, I blurted out moving in clear view. She looked up at me and sighed.
” Oh, it’s you. You have come back to laugh at me again?”, she said, shoving the remaining pieces in her carry case. She seemed to have a funny expression on her face, her lips were tight and her eyes opened wide. I could not tell if she was being sarcastic or serious. I did not want to take my chances.
” No, please. Hear me out. I am so sorry for laughing. That was stupid of me. Truly. Let me make it up to you.”, I genuinely meant it. I could not get her out of my mind, I had to know why I was so drawn to her, why a 30-year-old man laid awake in the middle of the night, thinking of what to say to a woman he had only met once.
” And if I say no?”, she said looking at me. She made me nervous, her confidence, it was her confidence and awareness of self that interested me.
” Well, I will keep showing up.”
” You know that is called stalking, right?”, she said, her head tilted slightly. Her responses always left me speechless.
” Ok, will you give me another chance, please. We can go anywhere you want, but let me make it up to you.”
” Hhhhmm, anywhere you say?”, she asked, her arms crossed around her chest, with her index finger tapping her chin.
” Yes, anywhere.”
” Ok, next weekend Sunday you can come to my church.”
” Ok, cool. You go to New Life right?”.
” That is correct.”
” Ok. That will be alright. First service, second or the third one?”
” All of them, I guess.”, she said shrugging. I did not want to protest to the idea of attending to all three services which first started at 7 am, the second at 11 am and the last started at 3 pm. I just nodded my head.
She took her bags and walked closer to me, I straightened up and looked at her. ” Just so you know, I am stretching my hand so we can shake hands. I am not leaning in forward for a kiss, ok?”, she said it with a smile on her face. I laughed as I also stretched my hand to shake her soft hand. I walked her to her car and helped her put her things in her car.
(Image from Pinterest: Chipo at her exhibition.)
I did not contact her the days prior to our meeting. I arrived around 6:50 and found seats not too close to the pulpit. I texted telling her I had arrived and had saved her a seat. She replied and asked me to look behind the pulpit. I turned my gaze towards the pulpit and I saw her sitting amongst people who wear the same coloured clothes as her. She was in the choir. She smiled and waved at me as she was fixing her microphone, I did the same as I took my Bible off the seat I had reserved for her and placed it on my lap. Well played, I thought to myself. This girl was putting me on a test to see if I was serious or not. She was going to be singing at all three services, which meant I would see her after 5 pm. Challenge accepted, I said to myself. What harm would come from hearing the gospel for the whole day? I sat through the first service quietly, listening to the Pastor who was talking about the joy of the Lord. The second service I pay more attention and even took the time to turn to my neighbour and reassure them, their blessing was around the corner. By the third service, I was standing with the church mothers who hollered “Hallelujah” and ” Hameni” when the pastor prophesied that we were no longer slaves of fear but children of God or that victory was already ours. I had even forgotten about Chipo.
We had an early dinner and talked about the service. I told her about how the church mothers reminded me of my mother who had died of cancer a few years back. How she always stood in the church throughout the service, shouting hallelujahs and amens back to the Pastor throughout the service.
” I am sorry about your mom.”, she said as I walked her to her car after dinner.
” It’s alright. Such is life hey.”, I said. ” Thank you for inviting me to your church. I really enjoyed the service.”
” No problem. You should come again.”, she said as she opened her car door getting in.
” Yeah, sure. Definitely.”, I replied, closing the door for her.
” I guess this is goodnight.”, she said as she started her car.
” Yeah, I guess it is. Goodnight.”, I said, thinking she was going to say something else, but she closed her window and drove off.
I stood in the parking lot dumbfounded. This girl had brought me to the church, which I enjoyed, but she had barely said anything in regards to us. I knew there was not much but just leaving me hanging like that was just cruel. As I was walking to my car, I heard a car slowing down beside me.
” Hey.” It was Chipo. She had driven back after driving off a couple of minutes ago.
” Hey.”, I responded, not sure what to say.
” Are you free next Saturday? I have an exhibition at the Meikles Hotel, and I would love it if you come.”, she said looking out her window. I was still walking but a bit slower now. I tried to come up with quick quip to make her laugh, but I could not think of any.
” I would love that.”, I responded.
” I would love that too.”, she said then slowly drove by me to my car. We bid each other goodbye, both in our cars. And from that day, it was smooth sailing.
I will not lie, we had our ups and downs. I remember the other day when she annoyed me. I am a person who hardly holds grudges, but I knew I would not be as lucky again and have her suck up to me. So I took the chance and faked being angry with her. I won’t lie, it was hard waiting that long to reply to her. I wanted to talk to her and text her all day, but I had to stand my ground. It was my time to shine.
I know it was petty, but I saw my chance and grabbed it. We would later laugh about it when I told her.
We courted for 8 months before I proposed. If I am being frank, I took that long because I did not want it to seem as if I was rushing her, but I had been ready from the time we went on our third day. We would go out every Saturday night after her choir practise. We met each other’s friends and families. We spent most of our time with our friends, but Friday night was our day. After our 9-5’s, we would meet and chose a restaurant to go to or watch a movie. At times, we made plans on Saturdays and would drive to any direction and just explored the country. We made sure not to spend too much time alone. The day I asked her to be my girlfriend, she had told me we better not do anything sexual because she was more afraid of disobeying God than losing me. She made sure I knew her deal breakers and I told her mine. She told me if I cheated there would be no talking or reconciliation. Me betraying her like that, simply meant she did not mean as much to me. I knew she meant it and I believed her.
The day I proposed, we were at her house where she was putting the final touches to her art piece. I had overheard her tell her friends she did not want an extravagant but spontaneous proposal. ” I wouldn’t mind being proposed to on a Tuesday at 14:39 or something. I just want it to be me and my future husband, take in the moment of the new chapter and savour it.” So that is what I did. She always listened to 90’s R ‘n’ B when she worked, so that day I made a playlist which included all her favourites, Kci and Jojo, Boys II Men, Joe Thomas, Donell Jones and all the men and women who made us believe in love. She sang along, sitting on her stool, darting different colours on her canvas. I was waiting for Joe Thomas’ No one else come close to play so I could propose. She had been used to wearing headphones when she worked, but I had hidden them, so she listened to the music on the speaker.
(Image from Pinterest: Chipo doing her art.)
I knelt behind her with the ring in my hand. I was so nervous I did not say anything to her or called her to turn around. I kept repeating the song, she sang along as always, until it repeated again for the 6th time.
” Hezvo, what kind of shuffle is this?”, she shouted, thinking I was busy on my Play Station. I remained glued kneeling on the floor. ” Baaaabe.”, she called but I kept quiet, still kneeling, hoping she would turn around soon because my knee was giving way. ” Baabe!”, she shouted again. ” Where is this fine man of mine?”, she said under her breath as she turned, facing me. She froze when she saw me on one knee. She had that look on her face, eyes open wide, stone-faced and holding her breath.
” Chipo, you have been someone I never thought I wanted but someone I definitely needed. You challenge and push me in so many different ways and I-I want that to be the rhythm for the rest of my life. Please, will you make me the happiest man on a Tuesday at 14:39 and marry me?”, I was nervous, I looked down at the ring and extend my hand to ask for hers. ” About time!”, she said as she jumped on me. I dropped the ring as she jumped into my arms. We both fell on the floor as my knee gave way. We stayed on the floor and laughed. ” I am going to need you to say it before you trick me out of it.”, I remarked as I gazed into her eyes. ” Hhhmmm, say what?”, she responded smiling. ” Oh, you are no getting away with this one.” , I laughed, reaching my hands towards her and started tickling her. ” YES!”, she bellowed as I tickled her. ” Thank you! Was that so hard to say?”, I asked as I sat up to look for the ring. ” I love you Tonderai.”, she said as she grinned moving towards me and knelt in front of me. ” And I love you Chipo.” She leaned over and kissed my forehead, I took her hands and kissed them. ” Now, help me look for your ring before I demote you to girlfriend again.” We laughed as we scurried the floor for my mother’s ring which would now be hers.
Most people talk about the three-year itch but never the one year glitch after marriage. We were just off. We were like roommates who shared a bed and the last name. We were not fighting but we never talked. We could not explain what it was, but it seemed there was a dark cloud over us. I no longer woke her up with kisses and made her late for woke with the long showers we took. She no longer waited for me to get home from work, opening the door wearing only lingerie. We became strangers and barely spoke. We were in a mundane place. We both yearned for each other but no one knew how to initiate the conversation or make the first move. She began to paint more and spent most of the day in her in-house studio. I started working late more and that is how it started. Her name was Tsungai and she was my secretary. She reminded me of the Chipo I fell for, the Chipo who never missed a chance to make a joke and leave me speechless. For 3 months, I emotionally cheated on Chipo with Tsungai. I had become bothered about Chipo, she appeared to be more forgetful, disoriented and always complained of being tired. She would spend the whole day in bed and would not be aware of the time or date when she woke up.
(Image from Pinterest: Chipo.)
One day when I came from work, I decided to tell her about Tsungai. I had meant to tell her sooner, but there was never the right moment. She looked at me for a long time, I saw the disappointment in her eyes and I began to cry. ” Why?”, was the only word that came out of her mouth.
” Chipo, I love you ver..”, I belted, walking towards her. She had grown thinner than I remembered.
” No. That is not what I asked you. Ndati why?”, she snapped, walking away from me.
” Baby, we were not talking or anything. I was lonely and I-I am so sorry.”, I begged. I was disgusted by myself. How had I got here? How had I become the person who would hurt the person I vowed to protect.
” So you were lonely and decided to get attention elsewhere? Do you think I wasn’t lonely too? You think I didn’t miss you and yearned for you?”, she said stand further from me.
” Chipo, I ended it and we can work this out. We can work on us.”, I pleaded, I felt my eyes stinging. I was going to lose my wife.
” Tonderai, you remember 2 years ago when you asked me to be your girlfriend? What did I tell you?”, she asked me sternly.
” Chipo please, we are marrie-..”
” So, do you think us being married will make this invalid?”
I do not know why I brought our marital status up, but it made sense at that moment. She began to cry. I wanted to hold her but I knew I was the last person she wanted to be close to. She began to sob so hard I felt my heart ache. I felt helpless and the only thing I could think of was to get her a glass of water. I hate myself for this part because when I came back, she was lying on the floor unconscious. I ran over to her and shook her. She did not wake up. Knowing the terrible medical service here, I did not bother calling the ambulance but I carried her to my car and drove her to the hospital. I shouted for help as I got through the hospital doors, with her lying limp in my arms. The nurses took her from my arms and laid her on a stretcher which they wheeled on a room I was not allowed to enter. I stayed in the waiting area pacing up and down, I was confused and afraid. Was I going to lose her twice? I had caused all this and killed the woman I love.
” Mr Tonderai Moyo?”, a man wearing a white coat called as he approached the waiting area.
” Yes!”, I jounced as he turned towards me.
” Yeah, uhm, your wife is conscious now and we have made her comfortable. However, I am afraid her tumour has advanced and is inoperable. We would suggest you prepar..”
” Wait. What tumour?” Had he mixed up his patience or were there 2 Chipo Moyo’s? It made no sense because Chipo had never informed me or, no, she would never hide something this big from me.
” Yes, sir. I am afraid she does not have long. On our last appointment, we had suggested treatment but her tumour seems to be growing quicker than we expected.”, he explained it so calmly, I wanted to shake him so he would see how this made no sense to me.
” Appointment? Wait, whe- when was this?”
” The appointment? Uhm, about 2 months ago. She had declined treatment anyway. She said something about everything falling apart and being betrayed. We believe she was talking her brain betraying her but we cou..”.
” She knew!” She had known about Tsungai but never once did she mention or say anything. But why?
” If you would like to see her, I can take you to her room now.”, he said gesturing his hand to lead me to her room. Everything felt louder and brighter. How was I going to face her now? I had cheated on my wife when she needed me the most. How could I not tell she was sick? Her sleeping too much, being a bit disoriented and fatigued, was not because she was in a “rut”, my wife was suffering from a tumour and her beautiful mind that I had fallen for and loved so very much, was wasting away.
When I got to her room, I saw her holding a clump of her hair. She was cutting it off and putting it in a bag that was on her lap. I softly knocked on the door, she looked up, looked at me and continued cutting her hair. I walked into the room whose smell brought bad memories I had fought to stash at the back of my mind. Each tube that was connected to her and the white covers that shielded her now bony frame, took me back to 10 years ago when I lost my mother to cancer. My initial instinct was to run away and leave the building, not because of her, but the building I had avoided for as long as I can remember. I gathered all the courage I could scurry for in my being and walked in. I did not know if I should sit or stand, which she probably did not take notice of because she was looking at her self in a hand mirror. I stood beside her but she ignored me. So I knelt beside her bed and reached for her hand. She pushed me away.
” W-why didn’t you tell me?”, I asked her, my eyes itching with tears again. She looked different, her big bright eyes were now hollowed, her once bountiful flesh I loved to touch each morning, had been replaced by a bony frame I could not recognise. And her hair, the hair I loved to run my hands through when I kissed her, was no more. Only patches and bald spots. I wept.
” Would you have stopped cheating?”, she asked me so calmly. I could not read if she was angry or not. She tied the bag with the hair and handed it to the nurse.
” I am sorry, I- I am so sor-. Tell me how I can fix this, please.”, I begged her, kneeling beside her. I was not doing this to manipulate or try and have her to forgive me. I meant it with every ounce of my being.
” I am dying, Tonderai. What is there to fix?”, her demeanour was so calm whilst I was in shambles. I did not want her to bear my mistak-, choice but I am sure it played a part in her tumour growing so fast.
” I am sorry. I didn’t know you were so sic-“
” Please don’t.”
” Are you going to leave me? I understand if you do because I do not deserve y-.”
” I am dying Tonderai. Whether I stay or leave, I am dying.” Each time she said dying, my heart dropped. It was dawning on me that I was losing my wife. I was going to lose the person who had been by my side and who had taught me so much. I was going to lose her twice, first as a wife and eternally. She laid on the bed and switch off the light in the room. I was still kneeling beside her. She turned and faced the wall.
” Can I stay with you here?”
She did not reply, but I stayed. I brought the chair next to the bed and sat there. Staring at her and watching her chest go up and down slowly. When she started snoring softly like she always did when deep in sleep, I reached for her hand and touched it. I looked at the veins that ran across it and I noticed she no longer wore her wedding ring. How had I missed that?
I took in every inch of her face, the chocolate skin that masked her body, the once long and bouncy curls that were now patches on her oval shaped head. I traced her nose which I used to kiss each morning before she woke up, the full lips which produced malicious words when her brilliant brain could not solve a problem or when I could not understand what she meant, even after explaining it to me numerous times. The lips I loved to kiss, the lips that uttered I love you first before I was ready to say it.
They say you never miss a good thing till its gone, but what do you do when it is within reach but you can not have it back? I looked at her breathing softly, connected to different tubes and barely looking like herself. I had so many things I wanted to say, so many wrongs I wanted to make right. I believed her when she said if I cheated there would be no talking or reconciliation, which is why I was not surprised when the nurse woke me up a few hours later and told me my wife was dead.
You know when you feel like you are in a rut and badthings.com seem to have your personal address? It’s depressing, it’s sad and you go through different emotions, and sometimes even create different scenarios where it even gets worse and you brace yourself for it? I know, its a dark and lonely place, but I just want to remind you that it is only a season.
Just like seasons, this too shall pass. There is a time for EVERYTHING, and it might seem like you are not only in a season but more of an era, but it shall pass. You might have been waiting for that big thing that you have given your all to and for, that you pray morning, noon and night but it seems you are so far from it. It feels like you are chasing the wind and grasping in the dark for something you can not touch but dream of, but I just want to encourage, maybe it is not YET the season for you to have it, maybe you are not ready. I will share a story with you.
When I was in high school doing Form 3/ Year 11, I was amongst a group of people who were chosen to go to a leadership camp, to be prepared and selected to be prefects. Just like everyone who went, I was hopeful. We went to this camping site where we did different outdoor exercises eg rock climbing, waking up at 5 am to hike and do exercises, we were tested on our communication skills, leadership skills etc. It was fun but scary at the same time. On the last day of the 5-day training, we were given our results. They mentioned how good I was good at communication, but my leadership skills and risk taker qualities, were quite low. ( P.S: We had to jump into rivers and climb high mountains with a rope around your waist, I already am not a fan of heights and large bodies of water, so I knew I was going to fail.) The prefects and hierarchy were not mentioned on that day but after the holidays. So from the camp, we went on holiday for about 4 weeks. You can imagine the anticipation, the nerves of having to wait that long to know if you were amongst the chosen or not.
The first day of school, I went ready and prepared for the best. I was confident that I had made it and some of my family and friends were also confident that I was going to be prefect. At the assembly, after the national anthem, pleasantries of being welcomed to the new term blah blah blah, our headmaster got to the exciting part- announcing the new prefects and the hierarchy. I had sweaty palms, butterflies and my heart jounced at every name that was being called out. When he got to the last name, I waited in anticipation, overwhelmed by emotions, feeling ready, but it was not my name that was called. I was crushed, I could feel my heart tightening then slowly deflating as I stood there. Most of my friends had made it but I hadn’t, and it hurt. I felt like a failure, like I wasn’t good enough, like this was my life. I remember I cried and I told my sister about it. It didn’t help that people were always stopping me to tell me how it should have been me and how I deserved it. It was a dark time.
Two years later, I was now about to start my 2 years of A Levels, I was amongst the people who were picked again for another leadership camp. The memory of what had happened before was at the back of my mind. I had fun, we did almost the same exercises but this time around it was more intense. At one point we had to build a boat/raft in the water, and I hated that bit. I was so scared for my life, but I made it through with the help of others. The same thing happened, we went home and came back for the next term. At the back of my mind, I was ready for failure, I had dismissed the idea altogether and had decided to skip the first day. I had to prepare for the next day too because we were going to South Africa for a basketball tournament ( to be honest, I was just a place holder, I never played and only went for shopping.🤷🏾♀️)
I was at home sleeping at 9 am when my school called asking me to come to school. I told them I would come tomorrow since I was preparing for the trip, but they insisted I come. So I showered 🙄, took 2 kombis because my dad had gone to work by then. They started the assembly late that day, I stood amongst my colleagues annoyed that I had to come and have my heart broken again. The whole thing was like deja vu until the names were announced. Guess what, I was amongst the “chosen” this time around. I was happy, and I was ok with that. When it got to announcing the hierarchy, they called in ascending order. They called the games captain (was definitely not going to make that cut.), they announced the senior prefects, they announced the vices and to save the best for last- the head girl and head boy. When I tell you I was shocked when they announced me as the head girl! My heart dropped. A whole me was chosen to lead the school and be the head of all the girls from Form 1 to Upper 6. A whole me they rejected 2 years ago, who thought she would never be good enough. Me!
( The official portrait of the heads and vices. From left: Kudzai, Tineyi, yours truly and Alice.)
(Not the exact day but happy nonetheless. With Rachel on the left and Stacie on the right.)
I went through different emotions, friends celebrated with me. Of course, other people came to tell me it should have been them if only they had done something different etc, but this was my moment. They had seen that I was ready. God had seen that I was ready.
( Top row, 2nd from the left, being nosey on our inauguration.)
I will never forget this story/memory because it clearly depicts how God works. 2 years prior to that, I was not ready or rather, I was thinking too small. God has plans way beyond my imagination because I had never EVER thought of being the headgirl of a school. So as much as it seems as if you are not good enough or things are very dark right now, it is only a season and it too shall pass. God had plans bigger and better than what you can ever imagine. I know He has amazing and unimaginable things and it scares me when I think about it. Have friends and family to talk to during your season, but be VERY careful. Not everyone in your bad season is there for you or ready to help, some are there because they want to feel better about themselves. They thrive on seeing you in a bad season because it shows how “better” their lives are, forgetting seasons change. They love hearing about the dooms of your life, but as soon as the dynamics change, when you now also bear good news, you see their true colours. They do not put the same energy they did when you were in the mire, your good news is just browsed through and they quickly segue into other topics apart from you. Be very careful, see how people react to your victories and also your losses. There are also those who will only show up during good times; those who stick around just in case something big happens in your life so they can claim they were always there. Protect yourself in each season, ask God to reveal those who are not part of your journey whilst you are still in this season so they do not contaminate your good season. Also, be careful those who make you feel bad for being excited about your breakthroughs or who quickly make everything about them. Do not share much with them, they will kill your dreams and discourage you from what God has said and ordained you to do. Yesterday at church, the pastor said, the people who kill your dreams or distract you, are not strangers but close friends and family. I pray I am never this friend/family member, I rebuke that spirit n Jesus’ name.
God is on your side, don’t always run to people for help or advise, ask God first. As much as people have different opinions and solutions, God has the plan and the means. He is the one who has promised you, He is the one who has instilled in you. You know what He has assigned you to do, you know. You very much know it. Also, do not wait for people’s validation, do not try and please people to be liked or accepted. Grow and improve yourself, like who you are first and always be authentic, trust me, a lot of things will not get to you. Validate yourself, validate your work, validate your art and if it is the criticism you seek, I would strongly advise you ask experts in your field or someone you know has a bit of knowledge or is excited by what you do. Everyone is not going to like your work, craft or just you in general, but keep pushing forward. You will fail, you will be mocked, looked down on but keep pushing, it is only a season and not your life story. And like the Shona people in my country say Mwari ndewe munhu wese which means God is for everyone. He sees you and He knows you, come on, we can do this. We will cry, attempt to give up, lose friends along the way BUT we know the plans God has for us.
So from one person in a bad season to another, keep your head high and just know your time will come. Maybe you are not ready, maybe what you want is not what God wants you to have or maybe, just maybe, you are thinking too small. Keep doing you, keep thriving to be a good human being, keep drinking water, keep minding your business, keep competing with yourself and keep trusting in God.
My cousin Tamuka sat with his knees folded in front of Mudzimumitatu and spat out the brownish liquid he had been instructed to drink. All the five elders of the village and Musafare; a close friend of Mukoma Zorodzai, congregated in the small thatched hut with the intention of finding out what had caused the sudden death. The men sat quietly and observed Mudzimumitatu cast his lots in front of Tamuka who now sat stone-faced with his head down. I was only allowed to the rite to help Sekuru mobilise, as age had begun to shake hands with his eyesight. Mudzimumitatuthe n’anga, was known for his witch hunt expertise and reversing curses all over the villages. He was the one to go to if one wanted a husband, if one wanted to get rid of a husband or if one wanted someone’s husband. He is the reason why I am able to narrate and fully describe what I saw, as he is the one at the helm of restoring my eyesight due to my albinism. He began to lament something in a language which was not amongst the six languages common in the village. The men all sat motionless, gawking at him.
He took a swig from the large clay pot he held in his hands, the same clay pot from which he had instructed Tamuka to drink from. Mudzimumitatu began to dance in a ritualistic style circling Tamuka, as his sidekick, Mhinduro began to clap his hands chanting, huyai, svikai, taurai repeatedly as he sat with his head between his knees. The elders joined in and began to clap and chant in unison. He would dip low and jump so high I thought he would go through the thatched roof. He would circle around Tamuka and stroked him with his staff which had tassels and fur with a golden brown hue. He took another swig and spat at Tamuka and stood behind him. Each swig was met with vigorous claps and louder chanting.
I clapped in unison, not out of awareness of what I was witnessing but out of fear of Sekuru sending me outside to run errands for the women who were in the cooking hut. I made sure I was not to make noise or any sudden movements as Sekuru would see it as a sign of disrespect of the spirits and the importance of the event at hand. The traditional healer raised his right hand, beckoning us to stop chanting and clapping. He took a few steps and knelt in front of Tamuka and held his head in his hands.
” Taura, before the turmoiled spirit of your brother undertakes its own justice. Confess my son.”, he said now in shona. Sekuru slowly nodded his head, as much as he was as blind as a bat; his hearing was still very sharp. Tamuka said nothing with his eyes fixated on Mudzimumitatu, tears brimming in his eyes. He no longer looked like the tall and strong fourteen-year-old who taught me how to make herbal sunscreen for my dry patched skin. We would race each other the long distance to the Growth Point to buy a small Vaseline and on our way back, we would pick the various ingredients in the small forest near the compound. As he sat in front of us, he looked shrunken and helpless.
“Are you sure you have nothing else to confess aside from what you have told the congregation?”, he continued, still holding Tamuka’s head. Tamuka uttered a yes and tried to look down again, but Mudzimumitatu could not let him. He began to make a roaring sound which sounded animated but after a while sounded as real as that of the king of the jungle. It was said to be one of the three spirits that possessed him; shumba introduced himself with a roar and the host’s body would have a menacing facial expression, his body rigidly standing at attention; feet apart, arms hanging and his palms in fist formation. The shumba spirit was known for being stern and interrogatory, leaving its prey on its hands and knees begging for mercy.
Legend has it if angered or deceived; the shumba spirit will ask the sabhuku to have all the elders in the village bring beer made from finger millet to sabhuku’shozi. Each morning for three consecutive days, Mudzimumitatu will sit at the door of the accused before sunrise and lament to the spirit of the dead to reveal themselves in the house of the accused. A few moons ago, in Hwedza the village east of ours, a woman who was accused of permanently disposing of her newborn children, was asked to confess why all her children died within three weeks of being born. Rumour has it, it was because she wanted constant attention and sympathy from people as her husband worked in Harare and would only come home four times a year. She would always claim she was cursed or unlucky because even after being prayed for by prophets and pastors or being to the traditional healers, all her six children died, at birth or a few weeks after. For the ones that die at birth, I once heard Mai Kwayedza, the village midwife, tell Sekuru that during birth, she would close her legs when the head was out. On the third day in this particular case, Mudzimumitatu had the village crier summon the whole village to the cemetery where they found the woman with five small skeletons carefully placed next to her as if they were asleep, holding a small rotting corpse, which she was trying to nurse.
The shumba spirit huffed and puffed around Tamuka, he asked him to stand and face the west and call Mkoma Zorodzai’s name. Tamuka implemented as instructed. He was told to narrate his story again as he faced the wall. Mhinduro began to take out different objects from Mudzimumitatu’s nhava. Some of the objects looked very strange, there was an object that looked like Sekuru’s nhekwe but it was big and was wrapped around with snakeskin. He unwrapped it and placed a small carving of a snake and positioning it behind Tamuka. My cousin began to narrate the story of how Mukoma Zorodzai was found dead in the Bottle Store after Tamuka had taken his mbuva for that day.
It was last week Friday when Maiguru gave Tamuka Mukoma Zorodzai’s mbuva to take to him at the Growth Point where he spent most of the afternoon playing njuga. It had been Mukoma Zorodzai’s birthday, and to celebrate Maiguru had killed him the last hen on the compound. I remember Tamuka telling me he had been annoyed by this because he had planned to take Sekuru’s cockerel and have it mate with the hen. He recounted how Maiguru instructed him to take it straight to him and not pass through our compound as he always did. She had warned him to deliver the food whilst it was still hot or else Mukoma Zorodzai would be in one of his moods when he came back. He recalled how Maiguru had a black eye and busted lip, evident of the row they had last night as every other night. He had told me he had heard muffled screams and hollow diii diii from his gota. Tamuka confessed that on his way, he had only taken a few minutes off course into the forest to look for matohwe as they were in season. He said as he was walking back to the road, he came across a herb that was a perfect remedy for man’a. The herb would be crushed, mix with water and with just a smidgen of the venom of a chivi. He had learnt all this from his father, who he shared with Mukoma Zorodzai but with different mothers. He said after picking the herb, he stuffed it in his pocket and proceeded to go to the Growth Point. He reported he did not recollect touching the food with his hands knowing how poisonous the herb was, but he remembered shaking hands with Mukoma Zorodzai.
As soon as he confessed this, sneers and hollers broke the silence. Everyone knew Zorodzai never washed his hands. That is why at every gathering, he was always given his own plate. People had made him believe it was because he was well respected amongst the men, but it was solely because of his habit of licking his fingers with every bite and never washing his hands before his meals. It was only a matter of time until his quirk caught up with him. The unfortunate part was Tamuka being inculpated of it.
Tamuka began to cry facing the wall, I wanted to go over to him and comfort him but I knew better. Mhinduro raised his right hand, commanding silence in the room. Mudzimumitatu was, at this moment, sitting on the floor with his knees folded and head down. He uttered a strange noise and within a few seconds, he was hissing. I do not want to believe what I saw, but I know what I saw. His skin began to shimmer and took a darker hue. He began thrusting his tongue in and out of his mouth like how a snake darts its tongue in and out. Mhinduro instructed all of us to cover our heads and to shield our eyes. Out of curiosity, which I now regret, I saw him lying on the floor and began to slither the way a snake does around Tamuka. His sidekick launched a dead rat which I think he had taken from his nhava and threw it towards the traditional healer. Just like a snake, he leapt and clutched the rat whilst still mid-air. I saw him swallow it whole and reposed on the floor. Mhinduro began the chant and rhythmic clap again and we all joined in. He darted his eyes at me but I quickly looked away.
“ Zvakanaka mwanangu. All is well. I know my children very well and soon you shall see their true colours. I, their mother have spoken. You shall see them by their fangs, their scaled skin and their deceitful ways.”, a croaky, female voice spoke. I could not see a woman but when I glanced at Mudzimumitatu, his lips were moving simultaneously. I involuntarily jounced with fear, my eyes and ears could not fathom what I was witnessing. Sekuru, turned towards me, reached for my ear and pulled it hard enough I could feel blood well up. He did not say anything to me but I clearly knew what he meant. I sat up properly and paid attention to the event at hand, slowly rubbing my ear. Mhinduro took out another small container from his nhava, this one was covered in crocodile skin with a string that appeared to have teeth attached to it. He unwrapped it and took out a small carving of a crocodile. He summoned us to start the chant again, louder and with vigour. This time around he did not instruct us to look away. Still lying on the floor, Mudzimumitatu stretched his legs and arms away from his body and slightly lifted himself off the floor. He resembled the posture of a crocodile, but his scraggy figure did not do him justice. His mhapa and shashiko were coming undone due to his action-packed ritual, I quickly looked away as his male member was beginning to show as he began to belly crawl around the room. His eyes were blinking rhythmically and with each blink, the colour of his eyes appeared to be change. Tamuka was still stood facing the wall, he had stopped crying but I could sense his fear from where I was sitting.
Mudzimumitatu let out a loud hiss which caught Sekuru off guard, almost toppling him over from the stool he sat on. I quickly helped him up and went back to my designated seat. We were ordered to be silent. Mhinduro began to sprinkle the liquid that was in the clay pot on Mudzimumitatu. He began to huff and puff, his sidekick sprinkling the liquid gyrating him. ” Why do you summon me when the one before me has revealed the truth?”, his voice thundered across the room. It was no longer the brittle voice that had alarmed me earlier. ” Munondinyaudzirei! I am of the water, return me to the water where I belong”. The elders looked at each other and then at Tamuka. He still seemed as himself and there was nothing out of the ordinary. Was it a hoax? Had Mudzimumitatu now lost his touch? They all began to mumble and grumble amongst themselves. Had they been cooped up in this small hovel for nothing? Mhinduro began to pack their belongings, Mudzimumitatu sat on the floor, leaning against the wall, perspiring and drinking from one of the clay pots filled with water. He no longer looked as menacing as before, his skinny legs were stretched out as he gulped down the water.
” Pangu ndapedza. As you have heard the spirit say. If you may guide Mhinduro to your kraal to fetch my cattle, I would very much appreciate it.”, he suggested, getting up to leave. The elders scratched and shook there heads, loss for words, but afraid to say anything as they feared being cursed. ” Ah varume, what is th-“, Musafare was cut mid-sentence by a loud wail that came from the direction of the kitchen. All the men scrambled out of the hozi to investigate.
” Mwari wangu, Mai Pamidzai kani! Yuwi, heano mashura!”, Mai Kwayedza cried as she ran towards the men. As soon as she approached them, she fainted. Behind her, Kwayedza was not far behind, terror plastered on her face. Musafare ran towards and held her before she collapsed. He interrogated her as she lay limp in his arms.
” What is it? Speak, chii chaitika?”, he asked.
” Mai Pamidzai, she tur-.”
” You mean Zorodzai’s wife? Is it? What happened? Iwe taur-“, he asked, vigorously shaking her so she could stay conscious.
” Vawira musadz-, she fell into the pot of sadza.”, she reported, tears running down her face.
The elders all looked at each other, confused and getting annoyed. These women always made everything dramatic. Mai Kwayedza was still on the ground, motionless and no one attending to her.
” What are you saying? Asi wakupenga? Are you going mad?”, Musafare barked at her. I stood next to Sekuru who listened attentively. Tamuka had now joined us but stood from a distance.
” Mai Pamidzai was cooking sadza a-and as she was mixing the sadza in the big pot, s-she just fell in. I think it was her, I do not know.”, she began to cry, trying to free herself from Musafare’s grip.
” Iwe taura, she fell into the pot? Did you help her out?”
” Y-yes, but instead of her, w-we found a snake.”
At that, the elders hurried over to the kitchen, they could hear the clamour of women and children, shouting and crying. I stayed behind with Sekuru who reached over to Tamuka and held him close.
” My job here is done.”, Mudzimumitatu said as he herded four cattle out of the compound, Mhinduro following not far behind him with his nhava.
Waiting outside WHSmith next to a dilapidated structure that used to be a beauty salon, I see Adesua – Kola’s sister- standing across the street. She is hard to miss, with her Afro, regally crowning her head. The olive green pin-stripe blouse and the black pencil skirt which traced every inch of her curvaceous body, made her look almost professional. Howbeit if I am being honest, the print of her curvaceous hips, takes me back to the yesteryears when the three of us would roam around the streets of Oxford after our service to the city, as cleaners at St Margaret’s College. She has not seen me yet, so I am standing here and taking her in. She has aged, she has webs of wrinkles around her eyes and instead of the strides she used to rhythm her walk to, she now has the gait of a pensioner. The green handbag and black pumps with a green flower she is wearing give a youthful touch to her outfit, and the earring carved with the African continent, which I bought for her from this Zimbabwean lady who charged me sixty pounds because they had been handmade and crafted, shipped and “escaped” customs, all the way from Zakarinopisa in Masvingo, complimented the outfit. They still turned heads, the earrings, the nose, chin and back head of the continent holding on to the corners of the earring.
Even after thirty odd years since our liaison came to an end, she still makes my heart flutter under my chest. I examine my posture and choice of attire on the large windows of the bookshop. My beard seems to “connect” as the youth say. I stroke it and as much as I am aware, I am still surprised by how white it had become. I only turned sixty-three last week and even though the lines on my face portray wisdom beyond my years, I am still holding on to the intensity of my boyish charm. My tucked in striped shirt and suspended trousers now make me look ridiculous, as my big bele pokes out, stretching my suspenders to my sides. The overcoat which I am beginning to regret because the heat is giving me vertigo, drapes on my shoulders as if it has been hung on. I ignore the sensation and firm my feet which are sheltered by my only pair of formal shoes. I lean on the window and take a minute to collect myself. I am not going to let my anatomy fail me now, not today and especially not in the presence of Adesua. I shake the feeling off and lean on the window. I wave at Susu ( the sobriquet I had given her) who is standing on the other side of the street obviously searching for my face in the crowd.
” Susu!”, I shout her name walking towards her, but with the earphones plugged in her ears, she obviously cannot hear me. I get closer to her and tap her shoulder. The smile that spread on her face gives me nostalgia, the curl of her lip that reveals her white, carefully arranged dentition, is deja vu of how she expressed her joy when I told her I loved her. Her love language was words of affirmation, and I hope it still is. ” Kura!”, she pronounces the first part of my name in her strong Yoruba accent. The “ra” part comes out like the roar of a lion cub. I do not care, I love the way she says it. I have always loved it. She reaches out for me and I embrace her. She stands on her toes and as much as I am tempted to lift and spin her around like before, I know my back will fail me. I linger and take in the smell of her hair which masks my face, it smells familiar, like the hair conditioner my roommate the Kenyan lady uses for her hair. Kanto, Kanu or Kanyu, I do not remember. She takes a deep breathe and pulls back. I look at her and she tries to look away. I touch her shoulder and keep my hand there, she sniffles and places her hand on top of mine.
” It was unexpected. Too soon, j-just like that he did not wake up shaa.”, my Susu says as she digs for a piece of tissue in her bag. I search my overcoat for my handkerchief and hand it over to her. ” I know, he was in great health and had so much to live for.”, I reply, reminiscing about Kola, her brother, my best friend and the glue between us, who last week had died in his sleep. We stood by the street for a few minutes, ignoring the shoulders that nudged us and the clamour that surrounded us. ” Come.”, I whispered reaching for her hand, ” If we get on the bus now, we will get there before a lot of people arrive. We can catch up for old times sake.” She looks at me and forces a smile, I do the same. We walk through Cornmarket Street on to St Aldates and wait at bus stop 4T for bus number 5 to Blackbird Leys to the Community Hall were mourners will congregate and discuss how to raise money to send Kola’s body back to Nigeria.
We seat in our designated seats – for elderly and disabled people- I look at Susu and laugh. She looks at me confused but smiling. ” Do you remember that day when we were coming from reporting, from uhm, ah Eaton House in Hounslow and we swore we would never be caught dead sitting in these seats because in our forties we would be out of this country and buy a villa in France?”, I continue to laugh, with a mixture of glee and disappointment. Forty years ago we both were undocumented immigrants, in love and invincible. The Zimbabwean government had failed dismally and in West Africa, Nigeria was facing the same situation. A multitude of us had run away looking for greener pastures. I remember the time I had left Zimbabwe, I had been a trillionaire and had marched in more than fifteen rallies by the age of eighteen. Kola and Adesua used to laugh at me when I told them, they could not believe that a whole nation once accommodated trillionaires but no one was rich. They began to call me Mr Trillionare Sir. With their thick accents, the “sir” was pronounced as “sar”.
” Ah, we were so young and naive. If only we had known life would take us here, I would have stayed in Nigeria and Kola would still be alive and I w-“
” And you would have never met me”. I murmur, looking out the window, hurt. I understand where she is coming from, but I can not imagine her thinking of a world where we never existed. Kura and Susu. Kurauone and Adesua. The Zimbabwean and Nigerian couple. The Shona and Yoruba duo. A concoction by the African gods deemed good and pleasant.
” Kura, you know what I mean. I just can not believe I, we, wasted most of our lives hoping and praying for something that was not meant for us”. My Susu is saying this looking down, she can not say it straight to my face because she knows it is not entirely true. We did not waste time, our love was not a waste of time.
” Susu, I know what you mean and you know what I mean too. It so happens over the last years, I have had time to think. Not being documented for over thirty years will do that to you”. I am telling her this and my heart is drumming in my chest. I understand the timing might be off, insensitive even, but I do not want to die the way Kola did. He only got his papers six months ago after battling the Home Office for as long as I have. He died in his sleep from exhaustion. The marathon shifts he took working as a health care assistant also known as BBC (British bum cleaner) had caught up with him. You would think at sixty-three he would be getting ready to retire, but just a year from retirement that is when he started working full time as a “legal” person. Just like me, he had taken small jobs here and there, which was and still is illegal but it was the only way to survive.
He survived with two daughters, Oladayo who he last saw when he left Nigeria, she was only two years old and after forty years, she would see her father again this time around, in a coffin. Adenike was the daughter he begot with Alina, the Romanian lady he had succeeded in getting pregnant but not her papers. He had proposed I take the same route, get a lady from the EU or even better, an English woman, get her pregnant and stick around long enough until they include you on her papers and just like that you are a British citizen. ” Gwam gwam, just like that my broda you are in. This United Kingdom will be yours for the taking in Jesus’ name!”, he would say each time he tried to sway me into following his footsteps. I could not do it, I had Susu. She was the only one I wanted to be the mother of my children and my only life partner. I would always remind him I was in love with his sister and would not disrespect her or myself like that.
” Kura, I like you, you are a fine man and I am grateful for the way you love my sister but my broda, love is only an illusion. Will love give you paper? Will love give you red passport? Eeh?. You need to be wise, by all means necessary get your paper then worry about love later. Ok, even if you choose Adesua, how will you provide for ha eeh? Each day you are playing cops and robbers with the police and Home Office because you are working illegally. Is that life?”, he would question me but would never give me enough time to explain. Which was something that gnarled me about him but I liked how practical he was. He was a man of action, the 007 amongst us and had a license to kill every obstacle in his own way. I had taken his advice once, we both ended up in prison and that was the last time I took his advice.
We had registered with an agency with fake ID’s and documentation to get the jobs. The ID’s almost looked original, Manish the Indian guy from Cowley, was behind the masterpieces after the astounding recommendation from our fellow immigrant peers. I do not know how they noticed or if it was a routine check-up, but the day they called us for training, a SERCO van parked outside and four huge men came in and asked us to produce our ID’s and scanned our fingerprints. Long story short, we were arrested together with four other women who were also using fake ID’s. For two years we shared a cell, not by choice but after my cellmate was released, the correctional officers at HM Prison Bullingdon where we were in remand before our transfer, put us in one cell. That chapter of our lives frayed and strengthened our friendship. After serving our sentences, we were sent to a detention centre awaiting our deportation. I will not lie, that place was worse than prison. Not knowing when you would go out was torturous and heart-rendering. I saw grown men, fit and abled men, kill themselves in that place. It was being caught between a rock and a hard place- living illegally in a country you would never be accepted or surviving in your own country where you were never certain where the next meal would come from. The former was more tantalising but it had its own consequences. I too had begun flirting with suicide, on days when my immigration lawyer, funded by the government, would come and advise me to leave and go back to my country because I had no more further evidence, I would go back to my room and anticipate how long it would take for me to bleed out if I slit my wrists, clench my fists and stood under the shower, a bath would have been better, but that service is not available in detention centres. I know it was cowardice but which other choice did I have? I had no family, no savings and no dignity left, only Susu. Susu was the one who kept me alive, gave me hope and gave me the will to live.
” You know, Adenike says she doesn’t want to be called by her “African” name but prefers Denisa, her second name because it is easier to pronounce.”, Susu ropes me back to reality as we pass Templar Square. I look at her and sigh, words have escaped me.
” Hhhmm, was Kola aware of this?”, I engage in the conversation.
” Yes, he was. He was not very happy about it but I told him what did he expect when she had no idea or had ever been to Nigeria? She only knows of oyibo people as her friends and family.”
” That is true. She has never been exposed to your culture.”
” Well, now no one will paster her to use her Yoruba name now that he is gone.”
” Aika, are you not the aunt? Do you not have a say?”
” Tufiakwa, God forbid! After what that oyibo woman said to me when she was at odds with my brother?! No, they do not exist to me.”
” Susu, you are better than this. Are you not the one who always said, our personal feelings about something do not give us permission to ignore God’s feelings about it?.”
” Nxaa, you know you are ought to start calling me Adesua now.”, she is muttering this as we alight at Balfour Road. She knows I am right but she will not admit it.
” But I love calling you that, you will always be my Susu. Even now as we are wrinkled up with aching backs, you are forever my Susu and y-.”
” And I am a married woman. Remember Steve, he is still alive you know.”
” Oh yes, him. Your husband. How is his rheumatism? You know, he never replied to me when I asked him how old he was when he wrote Leviticus. It still keeps me awake at night.” I am jesting but I mean it. That man is and was still old even back then. He is only four years older than me but still, he wasn’t and still is not good enough for my Sus-, for Adesua. If only I had been released sooner from that hellhole of a detention centre. If only I had not spent six years in that place, I could have married her but she could not wait any longer. The Home Office had denied her appeal, she had nothing else to submit and she was at an impasse. I remember the night she called me, we had just finished our night prayers at the detention and I was on my way back to my room for roll call. She sounded distant and absent-minded, we talked as usual about our day, our future and how strong our love way. ” I am getting married.”, she blurted out. At first, I thought she was teasing me, like the times she would say she was pregnant, then after a few minutes would say with blessings on blessings on blessings. I was waiting for her to say that but she went on to say she had met him online and he just wanted someone to be with and have children with, two maximum, she said. She had no choice, this was her only chance, so she took it.
I still had three more years when she decided to marry Steve. She would still send me money and write me letters, but I never replied and gave the money to those who were being deported to start a new life back in their homelands. I was not going to have another man take care of me. When I was released, I never made an effort to contact her, even though I would stalk her Facebook every night after my shift. It was Kola who had told me she had miscarried three times but Steve had remained by her side because he had fallen in love with her. Who wouldn’t? I did not like how he called her by her full name, Adesua, he was not creative or thoughtful at all. Although I am grateful he did not tread towards Susu or Sue, at least Ade or Sua would have been inspiring.
” You are impossible, you know”, she says this laughing. ” He is a good man, a good husband.”
” But do you love him, the way you loved me?”.
” Kurauone, we are married. So it means there is love there.”
” In the words of Toni Morrison, your favourite writer, love is or is not there is no thin or thick love. So is it there or not?.” , I know I must tread lightly, but I must know. Yesterday I finally got my papers. I found them on my doorstep after coming from work. They were in a large khaki envelope carefully sealed with a signed delivery sticker on it. My name was printed across the envelope in big bold letters: MR KURAUONE NHAMO. After forty-one years of waiting, they had finally decided to grant me papers but was it worth it if I had nothing to account for? Only a year from retirement and here I was trying to win the love of my life back. She is the real reason I have been keeping on and her reply will determine my future.
” We are moving, to France. Steve bought a villa in Lyon and we are retiring and moving there.”
I feel like my soul has been punched out of my body. My ears are ringing and that vertigo feeling is coming back again. She is living our dream with another man, that man is living my life. I stop in my tracks and look at her, I can feel the brim of my eyes burning but I will not succumb to it. My dotage catches up with me as I balance myself on a pole on the side of the road. I do not look at her but I laugh out loud looking at the community hall on the other side of the street. She looks at me confused and I look at her pitiful and ashamed of myself. So this is how it ends? It is either death by work or death by heartbreak. At sixty-three years old, I am standing next to a woman I have loved and chose over myself every time, but she is here choosing herself all over again. I look at her, laughing and cup her face in my hands, I lean towards her and without a doubt, in my soul, I whisper in her ear.
Remember a few months back when I vowed to read only 12 books this year because I wanted to “study” and fully fathom the writer’s intensions? Well, I failed, DISMALLY! I was very determined to go by my list, and I tried, believe me, I really tried but then new books began to show on my raider. I cheated on my list and to be honest, I do not regret it.
For someone who does 85% of things by the book, this was a bit out of my element, this cheating. I only managed to read 2 books from the acclaimed list: The Narratives or Fredrick Douglas and The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I enjoyed both, took my time to savour the words on each page, took a minute to ponder. I did all that to try and buy time but I ended up realising I am book junkie.
From January till now, I have read (still reading) 7 books. 5 of them were not part of my list and to be quite honest, I knew I was setting myself up for failure. How was I going to read 12 books in one year?! Gosh, 23 year old me was naïve and should have known better.
Let me tell you how it all happened. So, as I was busy committing to my list, someone I follow on Twitter posted about An American Marriage. Me being me, you know, respectful and courteous, I did not want this person to feel as if they were not being heard. You know Twitter can be a cold place; no likes or retweets et cetera. I opted to look at the book, see what it was all about, no harm in that. I was even holding Frida Kahlo at the time, we were about to spend some time together. I quickly read the reviews and even went on to peep at the #anamericanmarriage thread.
I did not mean to, but 3 days later, I found myself in a bookstore buying the book. I do not know what happened, but in 4 days I had read the book from cover to cover. It was so good, like the forbidden fruit, I savoured each word and pleasurably engaged in discussions about it on Twitter. I thought about the characters for a long time, I held on to the last few pages of the book because they were to decide the fate of the characters. I forgot about Frida, not because she did not matter but…
I fell into a rabbit hole and before I knew it, a few days later I found myself at a book discussion. I found out about it on Twitter ( I am beginning to think there is a pattern here), about the highly acclaimed and controversial House Of Stone about Gukurahundi. This one has already stolen my heart, as I write this, it is in my gaze and I have been confined in its pages for the last 5 days, drinking every word. I think this is the only book so far, that has challenged me to know more about my history. My parents history, what kind of people they were before they became my parents; how were their lives altered by the Second Chimurenga; did they have hopes and dreams et cetera. It provoked me to question history and to also realise that Zimbabwean and black history, is also world history, no filter!
I began flirting around with Jazz by Toni Morrison, which has been hard because Jazz demands fully and undivided attention. I appreciate Toni Morrison’s way of writing, she said that she writes for the black audience. Her writing is highly intelligent and supreme, she forces you to look up new words and better yourself. She shows that black people are as smart and intelligent, fearlessly.
I messed around with Ordinary People, it was a window into living in London as a black person. I could see everything that was being described, not that I have been to the areas which the writer was writing about, but because the description was so vivid and crisp I could almost taste it. It was a glimpse into marriage, how at times, love fades and people fall for other people whilst married. Cringe! I am still reading this book, it is welcoming and warm. Takes you through an emotional rollercoaster of love, pain, confusion, guilt and anger but its worth it.
And then last by not least, I have been on and off with this book. Not that there is any bad blood, but because it is mandatory and suitable for any season. It is my go to when my Spirit man is parched. It guides me and helps me find my strength. I feel freer and more hopeful in my faith because this book for the last 2 years has helped me realise I need a personal relationship with God than just being religious. My anxiety is almost nonexistent ( but it shall be HALLELUJAH), I am more hopeful of my future and more confident in who God says I am. It has helped me relearn how to pray and to read my Bible more frequently.
So, this is how it all went down. How I ended up cheating on the other 10 books on my list. I feel them gawking at me from the shelf. Longing for me to flip them open and spend time with them, hoping for me to smile into each page and stain words with my tears. I too hope for that day, not now but soon, because as we speak, my Amazon basket has 19 books waiting to be checked out. I admit, I am a serial cheater but please do not save me.
I am not going to take much of your time but just a quick reminder: YOU ARE DOING GREAT! You know when you feel like you are a failure and you are just pathetic at what you do? You think you are the definition of failure and dead end? If not that’s great and I commend you for that, but if you are, like me 90% of the time, I just wanted to let you know, tell the committee in your head that tells you that to zip it!
Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it and do not succumb to the fear of failure. Just to put it out there, I am talking about heinous crimes like tax invasion or bank robbery. Please, I do not want to be an accomplice and end up being quoted in the Court of Law. I am referring to hopes and dreams that bring peace, joy and all the fuzzy feelings that leave you giddy. That thing that keeps you going and is always on your mind.
I have heard it being said that failure is a bruise but not a tattoo. You are not your failure and it does not define you. I always try, after a few days of ugly crying and wallowing, to find a lesson in my failures. Where and how can I be better? It is not easy because I do not always want to be positive. At times I choose to dream than actually put in the work, and I believe, actually, I am certain that is the one thing that kills most dreams. We spend so much time imagining and fantasising how it is going to be like but hardly put any work towards it. Most people die dreaming and to be honest, that is my worst fear. Well, it is actually a draw with human trafficking, but you get my point.
Do not dream but do. You will feel like you are not good enough, that is guaranteed but just do. Everyone is not going to like your book, song, drawing, dish etc, but just do it. Do it when you do not feel like it, do it when you definitely feel like it. You are the one who knows what is in you and what God has trusted you with. A few months ago, someone suggested I should write in a certain way. That I should structure my writing in the way people would like to read it. As always, well usually, I am open to criticism ( I am working on not taking everything to heart) but the way it was relayed to me, it implied I had to write what people want to read. To be frank with you, I spiralled into a minor identity crisis, I felt like the way I was writing (the authentic and purely Zimbabwean me) was not good enough to produce quality material. Each time I sat in front of a keyboard to write, the words always took precedence to my ideas. I was stuck and every idea that did not go inline with what is perceived as “good”, I quickly eliminated it. I lost myself and my writing lost meaning to me.
It took me time to get back up ( I am still picking myself up), but I realised I was only fooling myself. I am not saying do not take criticism, by all means do. However, be very careful of some of the advice you get. If it involves you completely changing yourself or craft to fit certain people, you might need to take a step back and reevaluate. You more than anyone know what is in you. You know what God whispers to you behind closed doors. You know what you want to say and what you want to be. So start, now and it is guaranteed you will be rejected and sidelined BUT keep going. You are doing amazing and please, do not die with your dream. The one thing that keeps me going is, every day I am quite aware I might die. The worst I can do is die without fulfilling God’s purpose in my life. I do not want to be the servant who buried his talent.
Also learn to take compliments, you might not be used to it, it takes time. At times you do not realise how good you are because you are used to yourself. You do not see your importance because you are ordinary to you but not everyone else. With that in consideration, do not wait for other people’s validation or approval, give yourself validation and permission as Ava DuVernay once said. You do not need permission from anyone but yourself. So start now, start small, start unmotivated. Do not wait for motivation, create bad craft because there is beauty in that. Allow yourself to be crappy and bad, you will get better eventually. I have not got a hold of it but I working towards it, so brace yourself for some bad and crappy stories but I will keep going.
Oh, before I forget ( I wasnt really going to forget but anyway..), I met Novuyo Rosa Tshuma recently and she encouraged me to keep going. I was so happy and what moved me was that she saw something in me. It ignited in me the fire that was almost out because of doubt. It was not validation but more of recognising yourself in someone. Check out what she said:
I know right!? I geeked out for a long time. I just want to thank God for making me go, He knew I needed it. She is one of the most popular Zimbabwean authors and a kindred spirit. She started working on her book when she was 23. She has walked so I can run, just like the other women who inspire me Tererai Trent, Shonda Rhimes, Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Luvvie Ajayi, Maya Angelou to name a few.
Keep pushing and pray for God to show you the way forward. Be a doer and put in the work, because you are doing great sweetheart.
P.S: Sorry it ended up being long, thats how much I believe in us.
(Image from Pinterest: Natsai and Rudo, her middle child).
Vongai ran towards her house when she saw Mai Dudzai standing by her door. She seemed as if she was peeping through the corner of the window to see if there was anyone inside.
” Mai Dudzai,kwakanaka? Is everything alright?”, Vongai exclaimed, trying to catch her breath at the same time.
” Ah, Mai Kufa, ko hamusi mumba? I came to check if anyone was in the house because Nhamo and Zivanai came running in the house saying they heard a strange noise in your house when they were playing behind there.”, Mai Dudzai explained pointing at the back of Vongai’s house, standing behind Vongai who was fumbling with her keys trying to get in.
” Ah, maybe it is one of those stray cats that got in again. I will have to tell Ba Kufa to do something.”, she suggested, unlocking the door and facing Mai Dudzai who was eagerly standing behind her.
“ Hhhmm, I do not think so. At first, I thought they were being children and I even beat Nhamo because he kept opening the door and letting the dust into the house. Can you imagine?”, Mai Dudzai trying to peep through the door as Vongai was getting into the house.
“Hhhmm, maita basa. I will see to it from here”, she responded trying to close the door behind her, but Mai Dudzai held it and tried to get in
” Ah, Mai Kufa, what if it is something more serious? Let me i…”, Mai Dudzai said.
” No! Maita basa henyu, but I am fine. Tunga will be here soon,so.. so there is nothing to worry about”, she responded slamming the door and locked it as soon as she closed it.
” Hezvo, asi vane katurikwa? Is she hiding something?”, Mai Dudzai said to her self as she stood by the door, fixing her zambia. She thought of going to the back of the house to investigate for herself. She had always thought of Vongai to be too private and never interacting with the other neighbours. Mai Tafura had suggested it was because she was a nurse and she had a husband who came back home even on payday, it made her feel superior. She tiptoed to the back of the house and went towards the toilet, she saw the light from the bedroom window and as she was about to walk over to listen and peep through the window, Nhamo came calling for her.
” Amai, Zivanai arasa bhinzi dzanga dziri pamoto. The fire is out and all the beans are on the floor.”, Nhamo reported, standing a distance from her mother.
” Aah, imi vana imi! Do you know how hard it was to get those beans? You think it is easy?”, she hissed walking towards Nhamo who was now walking fast towards there house knowing what was to follow.
Vongai heard her pacing towards her house as she held the baby in her arms. He was fast asleep but she saw streaks of tears on his face. Evident that he was the culprit of the noise previously reported. She changed him and tried to wake him up with a bottle but he appeared to be in a deep sleep. Vongai put him on the bed and covered him as she went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Tunga had boiled the meat and cut the vegetables when he came back during his last break.
She knew their routine would not be permanent, but she did not expect it to be this soon. They had not come to a concrete plan, only suggestions. She had suggested to take him to the hospital and leave him outside the children’s ward without anyone seeing her. She had been examining every passage and entrance on her breaks and after work. Tunga had not been fully committed to her plan, he did not want her to get in trouble or for the baby being taken away from them and be given to someone who did not care. The only perfect and precise moment she would have to do it would be on her break, meaning from the time she started until her break, she would have him hidden in the bushes on the pathway she used to walk home.
” No, you can not leave our...the baby in the bush for 3 hours Vongai, pafunge. What if someone takes him?”, Tunga had said the last time they had the conversation.
” Ah, saka toita sei? I will have to wake up earlier and drop him off at 3 am so no one sees me.”, she suggested, even though that was the conclusion she had come to.
“NO! You know around 3 he will be awake and that is the time when he is most active. You should see him trying to talk.”, he said, chuckling and rocking the baby who was babbling away in his arms.
“ Saka todini? What should we do, because we can not keep up with this routine? We need to come up wit..”, Tunga cut her mid-sentence.
” Vongai, relax. We will find a solution. Nhai nhai, mwana.”, he said now talking to the baby who was cooing in his arms. ” Listen to your mother getting worried. Tell her we will be alright in Smith’s Rhodesia”, he said laughing looking at Vongai.
Vongai knew that her husband was not going to help her come to a solution. He had become too attached to the baby, he had forgotten keeping the baby was never a permanent solution. He now came home straight after work and he now rarely spent time with his friends. Tamuka had complained the last time she saw him, saying Tunga and Fungai were now forcing him to marry regardless of the UDI’s rules and regulations. She saw that she was the one who had to come up with a solution. She was certain Mai Dudzai would pay a visit to investigate and quench her thirst for gossip.
Vongai sneered and shook her head, she peeped in the bedroom where the baby was sleeping as she stood by the Primus stove. The smoke began to get into her eyes, the choking smell of paraffin choked her, forcing her to open the window. Her mind reverted back to the predicament at hand. She quickly turned off the Primus stove, took the baby, placed the baby in the basket and left the house.
Vongai arrived at Sangano shebeen as Natsai was getting ready to open for the evening, She was at the back arranging crates and taking bottles of scud out of the old fridge which hoarded all the stock. Natsai was startled when she saw Vongai standing by the back door. She did not say anything however, the look on her face spoke volumes.
” Hezvo nhai Mai Kufa, you startled me. Are you well?”, Natsai asked.
” Ye.. no. I mea.. I need your help.”, Vongai stammered, looking at the basket in her hand.
” Oh, alright. Please come in. Pindai, so we can properly talk.”, she suggested, gesturing her to go into the house. Natsai was a bit perplexed as she was never close enough with Vongai to even consider her a friend. She always thought of her as a sister in arms, waking up every morning to face the world with a smile regardless of how it spat in her face. She was confident the request would not be something out of the ordinary, maybe she wanted to exchange the baby clothes she bought a week ago or maybe a bottle of whiskey for herself. Howbeit, she was not prepared for what Vongai asked and revealed as they sat inside the shebeen.
” Asikana, hamushure?! Why would you bring this here and why me?”, Natsai jumped out of her seat when she saw the baby in the basket, his blue and bright eyes fully open, sucking on his fists. She could not believe her eyes. Vongai just sat there looking at her but not saying anything.
” Mai Kufa, please. Budai henyu. Leave my house, you want us to get killed?”, Natsai continued as she stood with her hands on her waist.
” No, y-you are the only person I could think of.. please ndibatsireiwo. I need help to protect him.”, Vongai explained, holding the baby.
” I am sorry asikana, but I do not see how this is my problem. Please leave!”, Natsai blurted, now panicking. She knew the capital punishment of doing things that were against the law. She had given her life up for one white man but she was not willing to lose her life for another. She could not believe this was happening to her, she had been content admiring Vongai from afar.
Vongai explained her predicament to an irritable Natsai. She gave her all the details of how she ended up taking the baby and how they have been keeping it without anyone knowing for the past 3 weeks. She confided in her how she did not want a baby for herself but abandoning this one was not an option. She told her about the routine her and Tunga had grown accustomed to, although they knew it would be temporary, they did not think it would be so soon they would have to look for another one.
” I know we are not the best of friends, but I do not why I ended up coming here. I jus.. handizivi ndodini,” she concluded.
Natsai paced in the shebeen, she could not think rationally. If she were to accept and keep the baby, how would she take care of it? How would she explain it to her inquisitive children and what would she tell Tom? She knew she had to do something before her loyal customers started coming for the evening. She sat besides Vongai who was now more relaxed than before. She looked at the baby and could not imagine how anyone would abandon a helpless child. She knew she had to stall, tell Vongai that she had to discuss with Tom first before she could come to any decision. This would only give her more time to say no, politely.
” I wish I could help you as soon as possible, but let me discuss it with my husband first before we do anything.”
” Oh, will he be back soon bec.. “.
” Ah, Mai Kufa zvazvemangwana. We will see to it tomorrow. He has gone to Acardia for stock.” Natsai said, getting uncomfortable with her lie. ” I need to open up now”, she continued.
Vongai quietly stood up heading towards the door, Natsai was behind them, escorting them out. As they got to the door, Tom opened the door holding Rudo in his arms. She was holding chikendikeke, giggling as her father tickled her. The two women stood in silence looking at the two guests who had joined them. Natsai greeted her husband and told her daughter to go and tell her sisters it was time to do their homework. Rudo kissed her father and hurried out the door, her snack in her hand trotting to find her sisters.
Natsai looked at her husband and sneered as she took extra blankets from the top of their wardrobe. She could not believe he had agreed to keep the baby whilst the Kufa’s looked for a more convenient plan. He had listened to Vongai narrate her story to her husband, as emotional as she was before. Natsai was empathetic with her, but she did not feel she necessarily had to help. She already had her own predicaments, adding another one was not going to help or make it easy, even if it was the kind thing to do.
” Natsai, it is only for a while. A few days and things will be back to normal.”, Tom said, trying to help his wife, but Natsai threw the blankets on the floor.
” Tom, tomuisa pai mwana wacho? Huh, we hardly fit in this house as it is. How is this going to help us get a better life?” she said.
” I am doing this for us, for us to have a better life Natsai.”, he replied.
” How? Please, ndiudze. How is this making things better?”, she said looking at her husband. ” I know you have a good heart, and that is one of the reasons I fell for you. Asi you have to reason too. What are we going to tell people when they hear a baby crying or when the girls start saying things to their friends? You know Nyasha haanyarare.” she said as she sat on the bed.
” April 4th.”, Tom said. This was a thing they did when they got into a disagreement or argument which could not be resolved at that time. They would take time to cool off and think about it. It was the date of the day Tom saw her again after the incident with Hillary. Natsai stood up and walked to the door.
” I am going to put the girls to bed”, she said walking out not waiting for Tom’s reply. Tom watched his wife leave and sighed. He looked at the baby who was sleeping in his arms. He would have passed as his child. His blonde hair, pale skin, though he had darkened due to the over 30 years African sun and his blue eyes. He put him on the bed, but he began to cry. He picked him up and memories of his three daughters doing the same a couple of years ago, flooded him.
” You are a blessing in disguise aren’t you? Hee?”, he whispered to the baby. ” God, is this a sign? Is this what you deem right?”, he said looking up, then at the baby who was fast asleep again.
” Asi Shuvai pafunge, I love you and you love me. What else are we waiting for? Let us just get married.”, Gumi said it matter of factly. They had been courting for over nine months now. Gumi had been trying to marry her since the day he met Shuvai. She was someone no one ever thought to bring to their mother, but something about her drew her to him. Her rebellion against the characteristics of an ideal woman. She was gentle, kind and poised but many quickly judged her smoking, drinking and fashion sense as unacceptable. She worked as a Secretary at Zupco, the only bus service for black people in Rhodesia.
” Gumi“, she sighed heavily blowing the smoke in the opposite direction, ” I already told you where I stand with this marriage thing. Iwe neni tinofara, we enjoy each other as it is. Why bring marriage into this? We are two people who officially love each other, I do not see what a piece of paper has to prove.”, she explained as she stroked his face with her free hand. Gumi decided to leave the topic hanging, but he promised himself to revisit it again. They were having a picnic at the Hunyani River just outside of Salisbury. It was a tradition they had of going once a month to enjoy themselves and friends. This time around they had brought Vongai and Tunga who sat from a distance from them, gazing at the children who were playing near the river. Practising there diving and swimming in the murky water. They had their basket in front of them and appeared to be having a serious discourse.
” Ziso rangu riri kupfuura, my eye has been twitching for a couple of days now.”, Vongai said as she rubbed her eye.
” Iropa riri kupfuura. Blood is meant to circulate. I know you think it means something bad is going to happen.“ he responded looking at his wife.
” Tunga, you know how seriously I take these things. Remember the last time it happened, amai vakadonha mungoro and now she can not walk properly. It always means something bad is going to happen.”, she said.
” So what bad thing is going to happen now?”, Tunga asked his wife chuckling as he lit a cigarette.
” I know you are making fun of me, seka hako.”
Vongai looked at her husband as he continued to laugh. It was the first time she had seen him laugh in over a month since she took the baby to Tom’s house. He was enraged when he came back home and found out what she had done. She had explained to him what had happened with Mai Dudzai, but he could not hear of it. She had known he was attached to the baby, but as much as to not talk to her for 3 weeks. He had stopped sleeping in the bedroom and would sleep on the sofa in the dining/kitchen. He came back home late and when Vongai went to work, he would be fast asleep on the sofa. Tom had told Vongai they would come and visit at certain times as not to alert their prying neighbours, but Tunga would not bring himself to do that. He felt something had been stolen from him, he experienced a sense of his masculinity being stripped, not only by Vongai not involving him in the decision, but being told when to see his son. He felt reduced as a black person, to be seen as someone who was not able to make it without the help of a white man, a white saviour.
He had stopped going to Sangano shebeen because he could not bring himself to face Tom. He felt ridiculous loathing someone who was helping him, but he was jealous and angry at how he could have anything he wanted without question because of who he was. He was angry, had been betrayed and he missed the baby. The only one he could confide in was the one person he could not turn to. He did not know what to say to her, he felt he had failed her as a husband by not coming up with a solution sooner. He had failed to protect his family and his wife out of fear, had acted on his behalf, to try and save them.
He looked at Gumi and Shuvai, who were sharing an apple and laughing. He turned to his wife who was flicking gnats off her arm. They had been circling over them for a while now and Vongai was becoming annoyed. Tunga could not deny how beautiful and precious his wife was, he helped her to flick the gnats and drew on his cigarette.
” Nezuro manheru before you came back home, Tamuka came to see me.”, he paused and blew out the smoke, ” He said he felt he had to see me before he left for Chivhu to see his grandmother. He was going on and on about how as men we had to stick together and fight for freedom. He was drunk.. but he went on and on about how he has appreciated me and loved me as his big brother”.
” Wakamuti kudini?” Vongai asked, rubbing her eye.
” Nothing, I just poured him the last of the brandy and we toasted to a full and free life to come. It is what we can hope for, isn’t it?” Tunga replied looking across the river where the children were becoming fewer and fewer and the sun going lower and lower.
” Yes, I guess.”, Vongai responded.
” I guess its time to go, Gumi and Shuvai are packing their basket. Handei.” Tunga said standing up and stretching before helping his wife up. They decided to walk home, even though it was a distance, they talked and laughed all the way. They bid each other farewell and each couple made their way to their humble abodes.
As they turned the corner to their road, Vongai saw a little girl sitting by her door. She could not make up who it was but she seemed familiar. She was knocking on their door and looking through the front window to see if anyone was home. Tunga and Vongai walked quickly towards the house.
” Ndingakubatsire nei?”, Vongai said as they approached the house. When the girl heard the voice, she turned around and saw the couple holding a basket. It was Rudo, Tom and Natsai’s last born. She was breathing heavily and her knees, legs and hair were dusty and ashy, evidence that she had been playing in the streets.
” Maswera sei? Baba said you should come to the house now,” she reported, seeming distracted by the children across the road playing maflawu.
“ Is something wrong? Chii chaitika? Is it the baby?”, Vongai asked panicked, handing the basket to Tunga who was unlocking the door.
” Handizive, they just sent me to call you both and tell you to hurry.”, she responded as she walked away. Vongai realised she was oblivious to why they had been sent for. They left her playing with the children across the street and paced towards the shebeen. On arrival, the shebeen was empty and dark, which was unusual for a Saturday night. They met a couple of gentlemen grunting in annoyance as to why the shebeen was closed. They went through the back and knocked softly, Tom opened the door and let them in. He looked nervous and he was sweating beads of sweat. Tunga led his wife is, walking closely behind her as Tom closed the door.
” Kwakanaka? Where is he? Is he alright?”, Tunga asked without greeting Tom who was still standing by the door.
” Y- yes, he is alright. It is j-, I am very s-“, he stammered standing by the door. He sighed heavily. Tunga and Vongai looked at each other confused, not knowing what to take from his response.
” Please come in.”, Tom said, leading them towards the shebeen which was still dark. He seemed to be a bit unsettled.
” Where is Natsai?”, Vongai asked, confused. She could not tell what was going on because Tom’s actions were making her nervous.
” She will be back soon, she has gone to the market”.
As Tunga and Vongai got into the shebeen, Tom turned on the light and before them stood 4 policemen with sjamboks and a German Shepard sitting on all fours by the corner. It did not take time for Vongai and Tunga to realise what was taking place. Tunga pulled Vongai and held her tightly close to him.
” So, you are the kaiffars who have been living freely without facing the consequences of your sins, hee?“, a familiar voice bellowed, sending chills down Vongai’s spine. She recognised the voice and seeing the face paralysed her. Her knees almost buckled, but she held on to Tunga who stood their quiet. She imagined he was as terrified as she was, but he would never show it.
” Answer me!”, he barked again walking towards them. ” You kaiffars walk around thinking you own this place. You think you could steal a white baby and not face any consequences?!”. He lit a cigarette standing right in front of Tunga. He could feel the warmth of this breath and the pungent smell of cheap whiskey and a foul tongue. Tunga kept quiet, Vongai began to cry. How had she stolen the baby when she had saved it? How were they on the wrong when they had done the right and humane thing to do? He moved closer to Vongai as she was crying and looked at her. He stared at her for a while then drew on his cigarette.
” You look very familiar, unonzani? What is your name?”, he asked her, but she did not respond.
” Burke, please. You said you were just going to make them pay you then you let them go. Tunga, just give him $50 and he will go. Ok?”, Tom said standing by the door. He looked as frightened as Tunga and Vongai, but he had to do it. This was his ticket out of Mufakose, a chance to give his family a better life and to fulfil the promises he had made to Natsai. Sergeant Burke started laughing, the three men behind him all stood at attention not engaging but ready for any command that would spout out of their superior’s mouth.
” Tom, you are family but you are very naïve. Let them go? They committed a crime of the highest order. These animals stole a child and brought it to this vapid, disgusting dump of a place? I am taking them in, they will be an example to their kind that the UDI is not to mess with. Nothing goes past us.”, he paced around the room, pondering on what would be the best punishment. He had thought of lashing them in front of the shebeen for everyone to watch, but that had become too common. He yearned to do something that would leave a dent in Mufakose, that he was the man to be respected and feared.
” Take th.., but you promised. You said if I found anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, I should let you know and you would fine them. You never said anything about taking them, please they are my frie..” before Tom could finish talking, Tunga punched him in the face. Two policemen all ran and pinned him down and one of them held Vongai against the wall. Tom started to bleed from his mouth.
” Tunga, I am sorry. I had to look out for my family. This was the only way.”, he said. The dog started barking after being alarmed by the commotion. Vongai was crying, pleading with the policemen to let Tunga go. She confessed she was the one who brought the baby, but no one gave her their ear. Tunga was on the ground, fumbling with the officers.
” How could you? Were you not the one preaching about not being like the rest of them? Hausiriwe here wakati…”, one of the officers hit him on the back with a sjambok before he could finish talking. One of the officers held his legs whilst the other pressed his head down with his arm on his neck.
” You see, these people are animals. It is in them, attacking you for doing the right thing. Cis man.“, Sergeant Burke said as he spat on Tunga walking towards Tom who was standing there speechless. ” Do not worry tsano”, Sergent Burke continued putting his arm around Tom. ” I knew those few weeks ago when I came, you would help me bring order in this place. I was drunk but I remember every word I said, except for how I got home. You know, hehehe, early that morning I woke up in the bushes, you know by that big msasa tree?”, he added, but Tom was paying no mind to him.
” Tsano, brighten up. You can now leave this dump and start a new life, a new fami..”, Tom interrupted him before he could finish. Tunga and Vongai were still pinned down, Vongai was still fighting the officer who now had a few bruises from being punched and scratched. Tunga was breathing heavily but not making any movement.
” Urikuti kudini? Another family for what? You said I would bring my family too. Uri kuedza kuti chaizvo Allan?”, Tom snapped, trying to understand what his brother-in-law was trying to say. Was he implying Tom leaves his wife and children, and go by himself? That was not what they had agreed on.
” Hehehe, tsano, you and me both know that is not possible. I only agreed to help you leave. I have found a place for you in Mabelreign, with a pool too. You just leave all this behind and start afresh. I promise you will not miss it, and guess what? Hehe, Hillary is still available.” Sergeant Burke casually said this as Tom’s mind was trying to process all that was being said. The dog had settled down now, sitting and waiting for a command.
” Allan! This is not wh… I can not leave my wife and children. I did this for them! How c..”, Tom was perplexed. He could not believe he had not seen this coming. Mabelreign was a white only residential area, there was no way on earth he was going to go with his family. He had sacrificed two families because of his selfishness. He knew Natsai would never forgive him, even if he stayed, he has ruined other people’s lives. He stood against the wall and slumped himself on the floor. He put his head in his hands and the damage he had caused dawned on him. He was a man trying to save his family but he had ended up breaking it up. He thought of how Tunga and Vongai were just being good people, taking that baby in as if it were their own. He had now been taken to the police office and they did not get a chance to say goodbye.
“Let us take them in.”, Sergeant Burke said lighting up another cigarette. ” Tsano, I will come around later with the paperwork for your house. The UDI thanks you for being at service for your country.”, he added, patting him on the shoulder, heading for the door. Vongai was in handcuff being dragged by the officer, she kicked and spat on Tom on her way out but he did not flinch.
“Sir!”, the officer who was holding Tunga’s head down shouted. ” He is not getting up!”.
” Futsek mhani, get up!”, the other officer barked, kicking Tunga in the stomach but he did not flinch. They could hear Vongai still crying outside as the officer tried to put her in the back of the police car. Tom looked on but was paralysed by the thought of what was happening. He could not muster up the courage to stand up hence he put his head between his knees and stayed there. Sergeant Burke tramped back into the room.
” Get him up, I said!”, he bellowed impatiently waiting for them to move him.