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Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category

Fiction Friday: read an excerpt from Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body

Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare.

For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher.

But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.

In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival.

As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. This homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.

About the author

Tsitsi Dangarembga is the author of two previous novels, including Nervous Conditions, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She is also a filmmaker, playwright and the director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust. She lives in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Read an extract from Dangarembga’s latest literary tour de force here:

You climb out after Christine when the combi stops at Copacabana. She steers you eastward over a cavernous pavement in silence for the rest couple of hundred metres.

“He became quite rich,” she says in the end, as an afterthought. “It turns out he was good at what they called doing business. That’s what they called it after Independence. You know,” she observes, “it is better to call it April 18. What do we really know about independence? Maybe that it was just for people like my uncle.”

Her voice is sad now, rather than scornful, as she divulges how VaManyanga soon purchased a new dwelling in an area further to the city’s north, from another white person who was also departing to New Zealand, where there was not, nor could ever be – since all the earlier nations had been eradicated – any talk of indigenising anything.

It turns out that, just like you, everyone had applauded VaManyanga’s achievements. No one queried anything. Relatives and colleagues alike praised the way the newly independent businessman had turned his inheritance into hard currency and deposited it safely in a bank on the Isle of Man.

“What did they want? Of course, to borrow my uncle’s money from him,” Christine snorts. You shake your head and suck your teeth, genuinely outraged on behalf of your companion’s uncle.

“He was too shrewd. I admit he was clever,” shrugs your companion. “So hardly anybody got anything. So what did they start saying? That all that money he made could never just come from hard work, but that he had some wicked, blood-drinking goblins. So some of them started trying to find out what muti my uncle was using. Some wanted to neutralise it with stronger medicine, others wanted to use it themselves. More than one mouth said his charms contained pieces of kidnapped children’s bodies.”

As she mentions this, Christine confirms her uncle was the sort of man who might well have gone so far as taking the children’s parts to South Africa for sale or for imbuing with magical properties, or that he could very well have buried the organs in places where he wanted to establish further ZPNB depots.

VaManyanga, though, you find out to your satisfaction, did not let rumours derail his upward mobility.

He soon purchased more properties and moved out of his second home to enjoy a grander lifestyle. Visits to the village where their niece lived became less frequent. Christine tells you she was comfortable with that, as she had ceased to either like or respect her relatives.

Understanding with some impatience that Christine is speaking not only about the Manyangas, but about all people who harbour the same intense cravings for advancement, “This came with the war,” you say. “All of it. Nobody ever did things like that before you people went to Mozambique and went about doing what you know you did.”

“There is nothing any freedom fighter did,” your companion says, “that people didn’t do in the villages. You know they started doing those things themselves very easily. And all of them are carrying on. Me, when the war ended, I swore I would find something to do with my own hands. I pledged I won’t do that kind of thing anymore. No matter what happens.”

With this Christine walks ahead briskly, bringing you soon to the disco, whose vibrations curtail further talking. She talks her way past the outsize bouncers at the club door, who look you over, objecting with pointed questions to two women entering the club unaccompanied.

Down in the basement with the strobe going too fast and the music pumping a hallucinogenic rhythm, your companion surveys the room, weaves through dancers and tables to prop her elbows on the bar.

She gives the solitary man beside her a sidelong glance, demonstrating how to extract all the booze you want from men without having any parts of your body grabbed.

You discover you are good at it. It is marvellous to be good at something. You haven’t been good at much in a long time. Even the things you were good at, your education, your copywriting at the advertising agency – in fact one and the same thing – have in the end conspired against you, handing out a sentence of isolation.

Soon you are too drunk to think of anything but downing more.

While you drain glass after glass of vodka, Christine starts taking liquor with every second or third glass of Mazoe.

You lurch into a woman on your way back from the toilet. The woman has spiky hair. Her skin is white.

“Mind!” she says, setting her drink on a table, wiping dripping fingers on the back of her jeans.

You stare at her, your eyes attempting to focus. When the image is as clear as it is going to get: “Tracey!” you bellow.

“Excuse me?” says the white woman, giving you a tolerant smile.

“I know you,” you tell her. “I used to work for you. And we went to school together. Are you going to pretend?” you crescendo. “You know you know me.”

Even as you speak, you are aware this person is not that particular white woman, the executive from the advertising agency who schemed with her fellow white people to steal the ideas you sweated over and produced for copy.

With this knowledge, the hole in the universe yawns wide in front of you again and the woman who knows better than the one you hear roaring disappears into its depths. Making yourself as large as you can, you scream, “Don’t pretend with me, Tracey!”

“Katrin,” the woman responds, backing away. “Katrin.”

“Both,” you insist. “I mean, you’re my boss. From the advertising.”

The woman takes a deep breath.

“Not me,” she says, exhaling sharply.

“Liar!”


She moves away onto the dance floor, joining a multiracial pocket of people, complexions ranging from ebony to pale marble. You follow her. She ignores you. You hear someone talking loudly, telling you she is not the woman who employed you at the advertising agency. You know this sensible voice is located in your brain. You don’t listen to it.

“You are lying. That’s what you are doing,” you keep shouting. As you shout you lunge. The white woman sees you coming. She dodges round you and you fall into a trio of dancers. Bracing themselves on their platform shoes, tossing their weaves, “Get away,” they shout, shoving you from one to the other.

The men from the door surge onto the dance floor. They clamp the flesh of your upper arm in their fingers, asking which you prefer, calming down and being reasonable or being prohibited. They have, however, reckoned without Christine.

Your companion plants her fists on her hips and informs the bouncers she is an Independence struggle ex-combatant, Moscow trained, and she can see half a dozen others still in fighting form around the bar; nor does it matter if some are not actually Soviet alumni but were trained in China, they are all comrades and fighters.

In spite of Christine’s intervention, the bouncers keep holding on to your arm, saying they are hired to end things; that when out-of-control women start beginning their messes with peaceful dancers, that is what they are ending. So Christine tells them you are under control and heaves you up the stairs and out onto the street.

You refuse to walk. Christine drags you away from the club.

You shout more and more loudly for her to release you. When she doesn’t, you scream that you will be damned if you ever go anywhere with her again. While you fling abuse at her, Christine manoeuvres you to the nearest bus stop.

She props you up on the termite-eaten bench, pushes a dollar note into your jeans pocket and tells you to take the first combi travelling towards Mai Manyanga’s.

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Launch: These Bones Will Rise Again by Panashe Chigumadzi (17 August)

A timeous book, with Zimbabwe’s elections taking place in July 2018, These Bones Will Rise Again responds to the November 2017 ousting of Robert Mugabe, exploring events leading up to the ‘coup not coup’ that brought his 37-year rule to an end.

This long-form essay brings together bold reportage, memoir and critical analysis to radically reframe the political and cultural history of the country, recognising the role of women, workers and urban movements in its liberation struggle.

In a searing account, These Bones Will Rise Again explores the heady post-independence days of the 80s, the economic downturn of the 90s, through to the effects of the fast-track land reform policies at the end of the century.

Out of Zimbabwe’s official versions of history, Chigumadzi wrests a complex and personal history of the past and present through intercession with two ancestral spirits – anti-colonial heroine Mbuya Nehanda, the founding ancestor of Zimbabwe’s revolution, and her own beloved grandmother, who passed shortly before the de facto coup.

This is an inspiring work exploring loss, recovery and memory that reminds us of the universal and timeless human impulse to freedom, a shared sense of belonging and the will to hope.

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#JacanaChallenge: how many African authors have you read?

“Anything and everything” by literary wunderkind Kopano Matlwa, NoViolet Bulawayo’s award-winning We Need New Names, and prolific Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o's first novel Weep Not, Child.

These are but three authors local bibliophiles recommend you read for this week’s #JacanaChallenge.

The challenge? Simply tweet any African author you think those participating in the challenge MUST read.

Get in on the fun! Join the challenge here.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Spilt Milk

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We Need New Names

 
 
 

Weep Not, Child


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Panashe Chigumadzi reacts to winning the 2016 K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Panashe Chigumadzi

 
Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine, the debut novel by Panashe Chigumadzi, won the 2016 South African Literary Awards K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award recently.

The winners were announced on 7 November 2016 at a gala dinner at Unisa. Chigumadzi shared her award with Willem Anker, who was honoured for his book Buys.

On receiving the award, Panashe had this to say:

It is deeply affirming whenever you receive external validation for what is most often a solitary and isolating experience. This award in particular is an honour because it bears the name of one of South Africa’s literary greats. Over and above that, as someone with Pan-Africanist ideals, I’m deeply humbled that South African readers were able to find resonance with a story set in Zimbabwe, despite what many prospective publishers had said to me. I’m truly grateful to be a writer who has been allowed the space to bring all of herself and her experiences and to have that appreciated by a reading audience.

Sweet Medicine is a thorough and evocative attempt at grappling with a variety of important issues in the postcolonial context: tradition and modernity,
feminism and patriarchy, spiritual and political freedoms and responsibilities, poverty and desperation, and wealth and abundance.

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Join Senator David Coltart at UCT for a masterful account of Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe

 
The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in ZimbabweJacana Media and the University of Cape Town invite you to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart.

The event will take place on Wednesday, 2 March, at 12.45 PM at the UCT Faculty of Law.

Coltart will be in conversation with Advocate Brendan Manca SC.

Don’t miss it!
 
Event Details

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Don’t miss the launch of David Coltart’s The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe at The Book Lounge

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe

 
The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in ZimbabweJacana Media and The Book Lounge invite you to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart.

The event will take place on Wednesday, 2 March, at 5:30 for 6:00 PM. Coltart will be in conversation with leading Zimbabwean scholar and activist Professor Brian Raftopoulos on Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 2 March 2016
  • Time: 5:30 for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge
    71 Roeland St
    Cape Town | Map
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: The Book Lounge, booklounge@gmail.com, 021 462 2425

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Don’t miss Judge Dennis Davis, Siphosami Malunga and David Coltart at the launch of The Struggle Continues

Invitation to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe

 

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in ZimbabweJacana Media, Brooklyn Mall and Exclusive Books invite you to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart.

Join Coltart, the former MDC Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, in conversation with Judge Dennis Davis on Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom.

The event will be chaired by Siphosami Malunga, executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

Not to be missed!

Event Details

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A work of searing honesty, sensitivity and integrity – The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe

 
The Struggle ContinuesJacana Media is proud to present The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart:

The Struggle Continues is a “searing, heartfelt, brutally honest account of the turbulent modern history of Zimbabwe” (Douglas Rogers, author of The Last Resort).

This political autobiography deals with an era of great turbulence from the perspective of a person who was at the centre of the great Zimbabwean drama for over 30 years, David Coltart.

It is set to be the most authoritative book to date of the last 60 years of Zimbabwe’s history, described by the doyenne of Southern African journalists, Peta Thornycroft, as “a masterpiece”: from the obstinate racism of Ian Smith that provoked Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1965, to the civil war of the 1970s, the Gukurahundi genocide of the 1980s, the land invasions of the 2000s, Robert Mugabe’s Murambatsvina war on poor urban dwellers in 2005, and the struggles waged by the MDC in confronting a brutal regime.

Praise for The Struggle Continues:

This magnificent book is far more than just the autobiography of one of the most significant figures in Zimbabwean history; it is also a history of Zimbabwe itself, and a moral testament.

- Peter Oborne, political columnist of the Daily Mail, and author of The Rise of Political Lying, The Triumph of the Political Class and Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Conspiracy – The Untold Story

A must read for anyone who is intrigued by Zimbabwean politics and history, but also those interested in the power of our common humanity and the strength that is inside us all.

- Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights

… a significant contribution at a time when Zimbabwe is crying out for such accounts from key figures who have played an important role in shaping its history.

- Dr Alex Magaisa, University of Kent. Former adviser to Prime Minister Morgan R Tsvangirai, 2012-2013

Those of us who were privileged to meet Coltart during this critical period never guessed at the precautions he was forced to take, nor that on public occasions he would – as he reveals in this book – wear a bullet-proof vest beneath his shirt. Coltart rose to become education minister and almost single-handedly revived a shattered school system.

- David Blair, chief foreign correspondent, Daily Telegraph

… a masterful account of Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom. If you want to understand in particular the frustrations and setbacks of the last decade under Robert Mugabe you should read this book.

- Alec Russell, head of news at The Financial Times and author of After Mandela: Battle for the Soul of South Africa

What emerges from this dramatic journey is a sense of courageous personal conviction and a faith in the inspiring resilience of his countrymen and women.

- Nicholas “Fink” Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan, and former Legal Advisor to President Nelson Mandela, 1994-1999

David Coltart’s meticulously detailed narrative and analysis should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the history of Zimbabwe, but also for those who want to know how the bright dream of African freedom and democracy can be stolen by those posing as revolutionary saviours.

- Brendan Seery, executive editor, Independent Media South Africa

[Coltart] provides a compelling account, often in harrowing detail, of the terror and oppression that has scarred [Zimbabwe] since its independence. But he is equally unsparing in his depiction of the discrimination and brutality of the colonial era.

- Sir Brian Donnelly, British High Commissioner, later Ambassador, to Zimbabwe, 2001-2004

… a work of searing honesty, sensitivity and integrity.

- Petina Gappah, award-winning author of An Elegy for Easterly and The Book of Memory

… a masterful account that is eye-opening and shocking, yet never loses hope.

- Christina Lamb, author of The Africa House and co-author of I Am Malala

… Coltart has written a masterpiece…

- Peta Thornycroft, The Daily Telegraph

About the author

David Coltart is a Zimbabwean lawyer, Christian leader and politician. He was the Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South in the House of Assembly from 2000 to 2008, and he was elected to the Senate in 2008. He served in the inclusive government as MDC Minister for Education, Sport, Arts and Culture from February 2009 until August 2013.

For more information go to www.davidcoltart.com

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‘Ndohupenyu hwacho’ – Read our final excerpt from Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi (Part 3 of 3)

Sweet Medicine

 

We are very excited to present to you the final instalment in our series of excerpts from Panashe Chigumadzi’s debut novel, Sweet Medicine.

This gripping story shows a side of Zimbabwe not often seen and grapples with the daily experience of living in postcolonial society. Sweet Medicine takes place in Harare at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic woes in 2008. Tsitsi, a young woman, raised by her strict, devout Catholic mother, believes that hard work, prayer and an education will ensure a prosperous and happy future.

Out of university, Tsitsi finds herself in a position much lower than she had set her sights on, working as a clerk in the office of the local politician, Zvobgo. With a salary that barely provides her with a means to survive, she finds herself increasingly compromising her Christian values to negotiate ways to get ahead.

The first excerpt in our series saw Tsitsi sit down with her friend Chiedza, engaging in a robust conversation about the men in their lives. The second part took the conversation further, revealing an underlying tension between the two, with Chiedza saying that certain things had to be done in order for them to be where they are. “Ndohupenyu hwacho,” she says, which means ‘that’s life’ in Shona.

Read the final excerpt to see how the conversation between Tsitsi and Chiedza plays out:

 

* * * * * * * *

 

Sweet MedicineWords Mama had repeated so often throughout Tsitsi’s childhood. Ndohupenyu hwacho.
 
Chiedza’s eyes shone. She had long since lost her cheerfulness. Tsitsi wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol that had made her so sensitive, so emotional, but she was embarrassed and felt selfish for trying to unburden her own anxieties. She sat down again, pretending not to notice that Chiedza was upset, trying to make light of their current situation.
 
“Remember what we used to say in residence?” Chiedza didn’t answer, but Tsitsi persevered. “When things got tough, we would always say: ‘That is that. Sadza repa bhodha.’”
 
She laughed nervously, hoping that her invocation of their varsity days would cheer Chiedza up. Eventually she broke into a small laugh.
 
“Eii sha, but we suffered, didn’t we? Sadza ne beans. Sadza ne cabbage. Sadza ne ma potatoes.”
 
Chiedza eventually gave in and added, “Vakomana, sadza, sadza, sadza. When we were lucky, sadza ne mazai.”
 
They giggled together as if they were in their Swinton room. Feeling a little more sober and that the situation had been diffused, even just marginally, Tsitsi stood up again.
 
“ChiChi, it’s late. Zvobgo will be waiting for me. I’m sure James Bond is waiting for you too.’’
 
Chiedza rose to peck Tsitsi goodbye, “Well, you know, I like pushing my men to their limits. The longer he waits the better.’’
 
She saw the leaks of tears under Tsitsi eyes and wiped them away tenderly with her thumbs, kissing her on her cheek, reminding Tsitsi of the many times Chiedza had consoled her in their dorm room.
 
“See, Tsitsi? It’s easier when he’s an attached superior and stays that way. It’s when he starts suffocating me and makes too many demands that I leave. Simple. There isn’t a shortage of horny old men. For that matter, even young ones.’’
 
Before Tsitsi could respond, their waiter jogged clumsily over to their table. Fearing they were attempting to dodge the bill, he couldn’t afford the dignity of a graceful walk.
 
“Don’t worry, Sekuru, tichiri tese. I’m not going anywhere for a while. I’m sure you’ll have fun keeping me company,” said Chiedza with a wink.
 
He didn’t respond with the polite laughter of a grateful servant. He was not the cheerful and obedient servant their money had promised them. Instead he obliged with no more than a tight smile, which soon returned to a sour look of resentment, characteristic of a quick, intelligent mind trapped in the routine of menial tasks. He did what he was asked to do with a cold efficiency, nothing more.
 
“I’ll see you, Chiedza,” Tsitsi said.
 
As she drove home, she tried to shrug off Chiedza’s words, but they managed to linger and set themselves deep in her conscience. If Zvobgo could do it to Mrs Zvobgo, surely he could do it to her? It would be history repeating itself.
 
But this was different, she thought. His wife could well afford to respond to the rejection and the humiliation of infidelity by fleeing to Malaysia to live with their thirty-something-year-old daughters. If Zvobgo left Tsitsi, she would be destitute.
 
She toyed with the idea of his other colleagues, but she quickly dismissed the notion. They were all too busy with their current Small Houses and, even if they did take her in, she was sure they would not look after Sekuru and Mama in the way that Zvobgo did.
 
She had everything but that elusive certificate. Only important, because with titles come obligations, and more importantly, with rights. Rights and claims to property. Without that, what would she do about Mama and Sekuru? At best, she would be referred to Zvobgo’s relatives or to the traditional courts.
 
She snuck into the darkened bedroom without switching on the lights for fear of waking Zvobgo. The last thing she wanted to do was trigger a torrent of questions. She slipped off her dress and, without bothering to get her nightslip, sunk slowly into bed. Not hearing even a grunt from Zvobgo’s side of the bed, she reached out but felt only cold sheets. She remembered now that he had told her he was to be spending a few nights away with the rest of the executive members. She had forgotten. She felt disappointed, foolish, for having said all she had to Chiedza.

 

* * * * * * * *

 
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Read an Excerpt from Panashe Chigumadzi’s Debut Novel, Sweet Medicine (Part 1 of 3)

Panashe Chigumadzi

 

Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi invites readers to sit down and discover Zimbabwe beyond the news headlines, painting a glorious picture of life as seen through the eyes of Tsitsi – a young, well-educated woman who is simply trying to make a living in the only way available to her. It’s a story of compromise between the way she was raised, as a devout Catholic, and the harsh realities of life.

This is a novel unlike any other; written in a fresh, authentic voice. Buy two copies, one to keep and one to pass around your circle of friends.

To give you a taste of Chigumadzi’s magnificent debut novel, which was published by BlackBird Books at the end of last year, we will be sharing an extended excerpt from Sweet Medicine in three parts over the coming weeks.

Enjoy part one of three:

* * * * * * * * *

 

“So,” Chiedza announced dramatically as she sat down on a chair at their usual table, “I’m here with my sugar daddy, Jonathan, the American spy I met at Borrowdale Race Course.”
 
“A spy? ChiChi, what kind of movie are you living in?” Tsitsi scrunched her nose.
 
“Yes, Tsitsi, a spy! You think Zvobgo and his crew are just paranoid? This Jonathan, he’s a real-deal spy.” “So if he’s the real deal, what’s he doing with you?” “I think he has jungle fever,” she threw back her head and began to cackle. “I even asked him what his fascination with black women is. Told him that I’m sure that black, white, and even purple women for that matter, have the same anatomy. He just laughed and grabbed my bum. Anyway, he’s in a meeting in one of the rooms here, so he told me to keep myself entertained until he’s done. And then, you know …” Chiedza’s voice grated with exasperation. She used her eyes to great effect. She loved to dramatise everything she said. She pretended to gag as she rummaged through her handbag for a packet of cigarettes. Tsitsi watched as Chiedza lit up, the smoke curling high up to the chandelier above them. She thought about how all of this, made even more deplorable with the impending addition of alcohol, would have scandalised her mother and, not too long ago, would have scandalised her too.
 
Aside from the release, Chiedza smoked as a way to keep the weight off. “You know I don’t have curves like you, Tsitsi. Ndikafuta, I will never become a Coke bottle,” she said as she mimed the shape of the bottle with her hands. “Instead, I’ll be more like a fridge or a bottle of Mazoe!” She would, she said, make a large fridge too – like the one Tsitsi had bought for Mama and Sekuru Dickson – and burst into laughter.
 
Chiedza’s make-up was painted on in bold, garish colours as if to implicate her American lover in a scuffle the previous night. Tsitsi herself was unrecognisable from her usual, traditional guise. She had her twelve- inch weave brushed out in full display and wore a tight-fitting dress. In any case, it didn’t really matter if she was recognised as Zvobgo’s Live-In-Girlfriend, because the diplomats, forex dealers, authorised journalists and the like, all tacitly agreed to a code of self-censorship or risked implicating themselves in the immorality.
 
Chiedza had always been industrious. When her older sister, Netsai, had been an air hostess with Air Zimbabwe, she had been one of the first to begin importing goods from London.
 
She applied the same kind of diligence to her beauty. She was the kind of woman who had an immediate effect on men, simply because her entire being, her whole demeanour, was sexual. And so she often dispensed with rules of courtship, relying on an innate ability to approach men directly and still have them pursue her after the first encounter. When she had worked as a waitress, it was for what she called ‘the networking opportunity’. According to Chiedza, it was better than being a secretary. Her hours were flexible, for one. And, of course, she could pick and choose. She could afford to be non-committal – there was a greater variety of men available to her, so she could be discriminating in her choices.
 
On quiet days, when the restaurant manager was not there, she often used to take the patrons’ orders before sitting down at the table with them, a move that always disarmed them and, for many, elicited a nervous sense of excitement at her show of assertiveness, a hint of sexual confidence and prowess. The kind of show that let them know that this was a woman who could ride on top. For those with imagination, her build lent itself to the image of a sturdy mare, one they would not need to be gentle with, one they could ride and be rough with, feeling her take, and enjoy, all of them, unlike the gentle and fragile virgins they had married.
 
Chiedza called a waiter to their table. “Whisky on the rocks please.”
 
“Just a Coke for me.’’
 
“Nhai iwe, Tsitsi, I thought you asked me to come out for drinks?” Chiedza pulled the waiter’s arm. “You remind me,” she said to Tsitsi, “of the religious zealot you used to be.’’ She turned to the waiter. “She’ll have the same. Just add lime for taste.”
 
Tsitsi tried to object, but she knew that this was all beyond her control and it wasn’t long before their waiter was returning with their fourth round. By then she no longer noticed. And when the waiter came back with their fifth, Tsitsi took her drink right off his tray before he had the chance to set it down.
 
On an inebriated wave, Tsitsi continued her soliloquy. She felt self-conscious of the repetition, but the relief from unburdening herself got the better of her.
 
“Shuva, Chiedza,” she paused to consider her words, “I have it better than those holier-than-thou women with their marriages.”
 
“You know, T, I took a psychology course for two semesters.” Chiedza leaned forward, placing her arms on the table, so that Tsitsi could smell her whisky-and- smoke-laced breath, “And do you know what was the most important lesson that I learned?”
 
Tsitsi shook her now heavy head.
 
“I’ll tell you, the most important thing that I learnt was not from a textbook, but from experience. It’s that the beautiful thing about the mind is that if you tell yourself a lie enough times, you will start believing it. The Catholic saint who dreamed of a big white wedding has talked herself into living in sin.”
 
“Chiedza—”
 
“Look, whatever keeps you happy, my dear. And, most importantly, whatever keeps you fed in this upside-down BACOSSI economy, handiti?’’
 
Tsitsi held her head in her hands and then looked up, forcing a smile. “Chi, it’s easier this way. He’s my husband now.’’
 
Chiedza stubbed her cigarette in the ashtray, then fished for another in her bag. Despite a number of strikes, the match wouldn’t light. She got up and approached the next table with the confidence of a woman who is used to having her way with men – men who are in fact looking to be tempted.
 
The men at the next table – old white men with skin pink from a day in the Sunshine City – smoking cigars, and they happily obliged, even offering her a cigar, not only because Chiedza was possibly the central character to a fantasy they wished to act out, Tsitsi guessed, but also because of the easy camaraderie of smokers that never ceased to amaze Tsitsi.
 
One of the men happily produced a lighter, and popped it, igniting the flame. Chiedza bent over, putting the cigarette already in her mouth to it, and inhaled. Immediately, she seemed to come back into focus, taking deep pleasure in the fumes.
 
“Thanks ka?” she winked at them.
“Anytime, babe.”
“Why don’t you join us?” his friend asked.
“Next time,” she glanced back over her shoulder,
smug with satisfaction. Settled back in her seat, Chiedza remained quiet for a short time, inhaling the smoke from her cigarette before continuing.
 
“The most difficult kind of honesty is honesty with yourself, Tsitsi – you know that.” Chiedza drank deeply before leaning in towards her. “But tell me, you must be getting bored, lying under the same septuagenarian?’’
 
“No. Not really.’’ Tsitsi averted her eyes.
 
“Zvenyu! He’s that good, huh? Inga, rather! I have to say, I didn’t see it coming from that potbelly.’’
 
“No. We haven’t—” her speech slowed as she struggled to find the words jumping around in her head, which was now pounding with a bad headache.
 
“You haven’t what?”
 
She straightened herself and raised her hand for their waiter. “Bring me some water, please.”
 
“Tsitsi, what? You haven’t what?”
 
“Whatever I say can and will be used against me. I hereby invoke my Miranda Rights to remain silent under questioning.”
 
Chiedza laughed heartily, almost choking on her whisky.
 
“What? Your Miranda Rights! Don’t make me laugh!”
 
Tsitsi smiled, “I took a law course too, you know.” “I am your friend and have a right to know. Where there is a conflict, The Right of the Friend to Know takes precedence over the Miranda Rights.”
 
Tsitsi remained silent until the waiter returned with the glass. She gulped down the water and immediately called for another. Now more in control of the words in her head, she began again.
 
“Chiedza, Zvobgo and I haven’t done it in a while.’’
 
She said the words quickly in the hope that they would float up, disappear lightly into the air with her friend’s cigarette smoke, but Chiedza latched onto them.
 
“Wow, so His Excellency His Grace Comrade Zvobgo is a keeper. You stinge him and he doesn’t kick you out?’’
 
“No, Chi, he’s been focused on other things.’’
 
“Other things?’’ Chiedza narrowed her eyes. “You mean other women? Shamaz, I’ve been with enough men to know that a man has to eat.’’ She sat her glass down and called for the waiter again. “Imwe whisky, Sekuru.”
 
Tsitsi broke eye contact. “No. He wouldn’t.’’
“Ha, Tsitsi, are you saying our man is like Banana?” The thought flitted through her brain, but she quickly suppressed it. “No, no, Chi – I know he likes women.”
 
Chiedza did not seem convinced. “My dear, what makes you think you are so exceptional?”
 
“Never mind, Chiedza. It’s nothing. Really, nothing.” Even her own insistence struck her as suspicious. She forced an approximation of a laugh, “I know my Zvobgo wouldn’t do anything, okay?”
 
“And why not? If he could do it to her, he can do it to you.”
 
Chiedza carried on oblivious as Tsitsi remained silent, the dull throb in her head beginning to surface again. She felt dizzy.
 

* * * * * * * * *

 

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