The Sunday News
First reading continues — disadvantages of war
BENJAMIN, an ex-combatant has arrived home from the protracted liberation struggle. He is a changed man which confuses his mother Shamiso. A few minutes after arriving home with his girlfriend Nkazana, typical of liberation war fighters who did not want to stay in one place for too long for fear of being nailed down by the enemy, Benjamin tells his mother that he has to go somewhere immediately.
He says this contrary to what his mother is planning to do. Benjamin has been gone for too long and his mother cannot prepare dry meat (chimkuyu) for them.
She instructs Peter to hurry off to the butcher’s for something fresh. Benjamin takes it that his mother cannot afford the good staff and should not worry herself. He hints that they had hard times out in the war as they survived on the biltong of hyenas.
What we make out of this is that ex-combatants survived on anything that came their way and that it was hard out there.
Benjamin, Peter and Nkazana leave. As they do so Shamiso slumps in her seat, mulling the situation, switching from confusion, surprise, to relief, remorse and guilt. Shamiso goes through all these emotions at the same time one after the other.
She is confused by Benjamin’s new behaviour. He appears strange in what he does. He goes out before eating anything and takes out his heavily pregnant girlfriend who has not been formally married.
However, she is relieved that at least Benjamin has come back in one piece from the gruelling war. She is remorseful for this young girl who has been brought to a strange land of strange language and customs by her son Benjamin.
On top of all this, she feels guilty of what Benjamin has done. Benjamin introduces Nkazana as his wife. His mother is shocked to hear Benjamin introducing Nkazana as his wife and asks if he is already married? This is against known traditions.
She goes further to ask Benjamin if that is the way of doing things? Shamiso as a traditionalist feels her son Benjamin has done wrong just to bring Nkazana home without following tradition.
When asked where she comes from Benjamin interrupts stating that she comes from ZI-MBA-BWE and her totem does not matter. But, his mother had her own fears that he could marry his cousin or niece. Shamiso, Benjamin’s mother is overwhelmed with what she hears from her son and wishes Benjamin’s father was there to hear it himself.
As we read through the play we get glimpses of war tendencies. During the war many people were uprooted from their rural homes and came to settle in urban areas.
Talk of rural-urban migration. Some people could not stand the heat of the war out in the rural areas hence moved into towns.
Some moved because their lives were being threatened, maybe for being found in the wrong camp. Some moved because they were falsely accused of being sell outs.
Yet still, on the other hand, some moved because they were genuinely sell outs, working against the wishes of the majority.
Homes were broken, as men or women left for the liberation struggle. Some families were destroyed because of infidelity. For example, Benjamin’s father is not at home because of such reasons. He has little respect for his father as he asks severely and scornfully:
“Where is my father? Where is this man who called himself (derisively) Mr Clopas Wandai J Tichafa, Deacon of the Church of the Holy Spirit? Despite his mother’s protest he goes on: “Don’t tell me he ran off with that blasted RAR Ian Smith soldier’s wife from next door, what’s her name, Mucha-, Muchaneta. Yes, you are the goody goody Christian type who would offer your enemy the other cheek when he or she slaps you in the face”.
What we observe here is that because of the war, soldiers were always away from home, therefore people like Benjamin’s father, Mr Clopas Wandai J Tichafa capitalised on the situation and took away people’s wives. Shamiso is shattered to hear her son talk like this and bursts into tears. But Benjamin is bold and frankly talks his mind about his father he despises now.
Benjamin, as I earlier indicated, comes back home highly militant such that it takes some time for his mother and others to understand him.
He wishes his mother should have taken a hard stance against his father for abdicating his responsibilities and running away with another man’s wife. We meet again today the trio of Benjamin, Peter and Nkazana, arriving home from the shops with groceries.
Peter reviews what took place as they did their shopping. The time is around independence in 1980 and ex-combatants were attracting attention wherever they moved about doing their daily chores.
At times ex-combatants were viewed with suspicion. Peter, Benjamin’s young brother remarks, “And, Mkoma Benjamin, did you see the flustered look on that Indian’s face in the supermarket when she looked at your boots and said,(mimicking voices) ‘Are you sure you can pay for all this boss?’ and you said, ‘Do you think we can take things if we can’t pay for them?’ And that white manager’s face when he tried to apologise and you yelled. ‘If you don’t like Zimbabwe, go to South Africa!”
The above paragraph sums up what ex-combatants experienced in the early stages of independence. They were despised and viewed with mistrust. Otherwise, how does one explain a situation when you get into a shop and somebody thinks you would not be able to pay for what you have taken? Ex-combatants were sensitive to any unbecoming treatment from other races hence Benjamin told one to go to South Africa if he did not like Zimbabwe.
By the way that time South Africa was not yet independent. The story continues in later episodes.
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