Monday, November 8, 2021

KwaChirere previews Andrew Chatora's Where the Heart Is

A preview by Memory Chirere

It is not every day that one previews a work of fiction. The fast-rising UK based Zimbabwean writer, Andrew Chatora, has a second novel in the wings. It is set to be released soon on November 30, 2021 by his US based Publishers: Kharis Publishing.

The forthcoming Where the Heart Is could be, partly ‘a novel of ideas.’ A 'novel of ideas' is a novel whose story expounds and explores a particular philosophical perspective on the world. The idea is as important to the book as plot, character, and setting.

Chatora’s story clearly expounds on and explores a particular debate which may not have been fully explored by many novels from Zimbabwe. For instance; when the native leaves the periphery (Harare) for the centre (England) due to economic reasons, does it make sense for him to want to return to the periphery once more?

If he does return, is this homecoming or second coming, really possible? Are people really able to fully return to their source without sparking contradictions? The man who returns, why does he return at all? Or, to what does he return? You may go back to the source physically but is it viable economically, spiritually and socially?

Chatora’s native returns from the centre (London) to the periphery (Harare) intending to stay for good but returns to the centre in a huff! When a man goes and returns and goes away again, what do we call him? Is such a native confused or he is merely confusing the observer?

Where is his heart?

But there are some in our midst who may say, wait a minute, even if going back to one’s country from the diaspora is difficult, could it be viewed as an entirely wrong thing to do, if one wants to? Which one is one’s country?

Well, Fari Mupawaenda tries to return to good old Harare from England and through him, the novel sparks a storm.

When it finally hits the market, Where the Heart Is, is going to be one of the very few novels by a Zimbabwean that fully imagines the joys and hazards of a physical return home from the diaspora. Olley Maruma tries it with his text Coming Home (2008), but I think his main character does not leave behind any stake in the UK. His is the return of a post pubertal man. He also does not leave for the UK once more. Stanley Nyamfukudza tries it with Aftermaths (1983), but he is only working on the matter in one short story from a whole collection.

The diaspora-based literature by Zimbabwean writers rarely thinks about this crucial reverse trip and its subsequent rich psychology. It is often assumed that it is easy to return because one was born here, anyway.

Yet, as dramatized here by Chatora, the reverse trip is also a story about the human body, a memory test and the struggle between geography and anticipation. During this reverse trip, the traveller is actually carrying heavier and multivarious cargo than during the first outward trip.

In Fari’s case, part of his crucial cargo has actually remained behind in the UK. His wife, a zealous cosmopolitan, the daughter, a conflicted bed hopping undergraduate and the son; a budding homosexual, will not follow Fari in his trip to what they see as the back of beyond. They have decided to invest fully where they are.

Fari is convinced that whatever he achieves in the diaspora should only make adequate sense only if one returns to the source. He constantly judges people and things around him from the point of view of a country that he has long left behind. And yet he has changed.

I enjoy the underlying suggestion that Fari is both right and wrong in trying to return. That is the strongest lesson that I took away from this novel. If you return you are damned. If you don’t return, you are damned too!

I also want to call Where the Heart Is, a ‘thinker’s novel’ because you can never read it and not re-examining issues like culture, distance, centre, periphery, family, love, sex, marriage etc .

Just like what we witnessed with Chatora’s first novel, Diaspora Dreams, the latest novel will surely throw the readers into irreconcilable camps because the men and women in this story are not always sharing the same ideological pedestal. The women are vehement and their criticism of their men is close to the bone.

And the men, too, are not always agreeing with one another. The silent competition is an act of attrition.


The author also uses sexual intercourse as an extra language of unity and disunity, and this will set tongues wagging.

As in Pepetela’s Mayombe (1979), Charles Mungoshi’s Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura? (1983), Ignatius Mabasa’s Mapenzi (1999) etc the characters in Chatora’s latest offering come out very clearly individualised. They speak from a very private angle. Each of them has a distinct signature . 

Where the Heart Is, is Andrew Chatora’s second novel after Diaspora Dreams which was published by Kharis Publishing in the US.  

It’s now available to pre-order on Amazon’s url link below:

In Harare, copies will be sold by Book Fantasticks Booksellers reachable on:

Brian: +263 77 921 0403

Kudzi + 263 715 072 288









Thursday, September 9, 2021

KwaChirere reads Thomas Bvuma's new Historical novel


“The Chosen Generation” a historical novel by Thomas Sukutai Bvuma

Independently published in 2021, 207 pages, isbn: 9798585091247

(Reviewed  by Memory Chirere)

Young Masara Musamba of Sakubva, Umtali, Rhodesia, is involved in the war of liberation that gave birth to Zimbabwe as a ZANLA fighter. This is his story told under his war name; Nyika Yababa, or simply Yababa.

He quickly joins the war after beating up his white boss who had beaten him for a flimsy reason at a fruit canning factory where the boy is working temporarily while waiting to go and enroll at the prestigious University of Rhodesia.

It is a serious crime in Rhodesia for a black man to beat up a white man, for whatever reason. You would rather run before the police catches you. So Masara abandons his job, his pay and his very beautiful girl friend, Wadiwa and rashly clambers up the mountains on the western side of Umtali, crossing the border to join the guerrillas across in Mozambique by first getting to Chibawawa refugee camp in September 1976.

Masara had met some ZANLA guerilla before in his own Mutambara communal lands and had always had a romantic view of the war of liberation and the guerrillas. He had always hoped to join the liberators one day. This historical novel is renowned Zimbabwen poet, Thomas Bvuma’s first long prose offering.

But who is Thomas Sukutai Bvuma in Zimbabwean Literature? Initially, using the pen-name Carlos Chombo, Thomas Bvuma wrote the well known poem, “Real Poetry” at the height of the war in the late 1970’s.

“Real Poetry” eventually got more “visible” publication in the Zimunya-Kadhani edited post war collection called And NOW the Poets Speak (1981). Musaemura Zimunya and Mudereri Kadhani set out to bring together poems which reflected on the Zimbabwe revolution then.

Bvuma’s “Real Poetry” defines struggle as people’s real poetry. Very reminiscent in content and form to Jorge Rebelo’s poem called “Poem,” “Real Poetry” quickly became a classic of sorts.

Zimunya and Kadhani could not “resist using (the poem) as a choric prelude to this selection.” They wrote somewhere that they also “found (in this poem) the power of the intellect, control of rhythm and style well combined and married to idea, action and reaction” and that through it, one recalls the more prominent Angolan war poet, Agostinho Neto himself.” Zimunya nad Kadhani also used a section of the poem on the blurb of the cream coloured And Now The poets as the theme poem and the poem  went viral.

Thomas Bvuma, like Alexander Kanengoni and Freedom Nyamubaya, wrote poems at the war front in between battles either as a pastime or a means to reflect on the war he was participating in. He is still writing and publishing poetry long after the war of liberation and some of his key pieces constantly jog one’s mind. More of Thomas Bvuma’s poems were later published in Every Stone That Turns (1999) almost two decades later! They are arranged in a way that sets out to capture the changing times from war to independence.

But his latest work, the historical novel called The Chosen Generation, appears to give the more elaborate materials that inform the turmoil and thought that one finds in the poem “Real Poem” and the collection of poems called “Every Stone that Turns.”

This novel fits in and tucks in real critical geographical and historical factors that have been glossed over by many writers of Zimbabwean war fiction and even those in war history..

Through this novel, places critical for training and refugees like Chimoio, including its attack by Rhodesians on 23 November 1977, Chibawawa, Tembwe and others are brought to life from the point of view of a recruit and soon to be a trained cadre. There are no sacred cows in this narrative. 

As you read this novel, you are forced to compare and contrast it with such iconic works such as Chinodya’s Harvest of Thorns, Kanengoni’s Echoing Silences, Mazorodze’s Silent Journeys From the East, Mutambara’s The Rebel in Me and Miles Tendi’s The Army and Politics in Zimbabwe: Mujuru, the Liberation Fighter and Kingmaker.

The story is written from a rather laid back point of view of an ex combatant now sitting in his house in poverty stricken post war Chitungwiza township of the economically tumultuous 2008. He is for searching his place in all the tricky things that have happened and sometimes he thinks that his generation is not chosen but cursed. But he insists that he wants to judge them fairly.

The narratives moves gradually, with ease, finding facts and fallacies, even fitting the 1970’s within the context of the world’s rebellious youths of the hippies, rock music and many other things. The story takes you to places and decisions made outside Rhodesia and the war front. The war in Rhodesia is part of world events and that is the strongest theory propounded by this book.

In chapters 10 to 13, which are very critical, the writer recreates Chimoi as it was in the context of the war against Ian Smith. He goes for geographic space within historic and social context. You begin to read into the détente period, Zanla conscription methods as from 1976, the rise and fall of the Vashandi ideology, love affairs, betrayals, Zipa, Zanla-Zipra relations, the battle of Mavhonde, Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo, Robert Mugabe, Rex Nhongo and the attacks and counter attacks between and amongst people and systems.

This book is a must read for all people with a genuine interest in the emerging perspectives on Zimbabwe’s difficult war of Independence and how much it is a prelude to what took place within zimbabwe soon after.



Friday, June 25, 2021

KwaChirere reads Ignatius Mabasa's 4th novel, Ziso Rezongororo


Ziso ReZongororo, a novel by Ignatius Mabasa

Published by Oxford University Press, 2021, Cape Town.

Isbn:978 0 19 072177 0.

A Review by Memory Chirere


Ziso Rezongororo, which translates to; the eye of a millipede, is the most recent Shona novel by the inimitable Zimbabwean writer, Ignatius Mabasa.


These are Shemhu’s very-very delicate recollections of his very turbulent boyhood. Shemhu, the dramatic name, is equivalent to shame in English. That name worries the boy immensely as he refers to it as ‘zita rinorwadza.’ He wonders if his parents were ashamed to have a baby boy or; they were having a go at all the people who, for some reason, had declared that they would never have a baby.


The boy’s insensitive teacher would look at Shemhu in class and say, “Shame on you, Shame.” The boy would cringe.


Shemhu’s parents divorce when he is just a boy of five. On the day his mother leaves the homestead, somebody very sympathetic asks Shemhu to go pick some cucumbers from the fields, and when he comes back, his mother is gone and gone forever!


The boy hopes his mother has gone away on an ordinary visit. He waits for days on end and his spirit crumbles. When she does not return, that is when the boy learns about the terrible word ‘divorce’ for the first time.


Years later, Shemhu writes a letter to his mother but neither does he know her address nor affords an envelope and a stamp. The letter eventually rots in his back pocket. Part of the letter goes: Amai, muri kupi? Muri kuitei ikoko? Muchadzoka here? Muchiri kundida here kana kuti mandikanganwa? Mufunge zvenyu amai, ndakatukwa ndichinzi uri mwana wenyoka.” Something like; mother where are you? What are you up to? When are you coming back? Do you still love me? Mother, they say that I am the young one of a snake…


Every child appears as innocent and seemingly as blind as the millipede; zongororo. But the millipede is to be seen going everywhere, feeling its way up and around objects, almost blind but sensitive. For Ignatius Mabasa, the mind of a child is like that, questioning, active, indefatigable and overly sensitive. That is Shemhu’s condition.


As he gropes on after his parents’ divorce, Shemhu goes on an intense mental search. Many people don’t know how it feels for a boy to try to work out why his parents can no longer be together. That is the forte of this novel.


Shemhu asks Dhanyere (an older nephew whose parents are also divorced) about the meaning of divorce and all he says to Shemhu is, “It (divorce) is something close to what happens when a cow is forcing its calf to stop suckling when the calf still desperately needs to suckle…, the cow running away from the poor calf and sometimes having to kick the poor calf in the face..”


The boy, Dhanyere, works out that divorce is not mutual; the cow wants the suckling to stop but the calf wants to continue…Your mother is gone, the people eventually tell Shemhu. But Shemhu wonders why he was not consulted before the so called divorce!


Immediately, Shemhu’s father gets married to a new woman. Shemhu fails to relate with the new woman. He also loses touch with his father. You come face to face with what a child feels to see his dear father being suddenly tender to a new woman who is not the boy’s mother!


Eventually, Shemhu’s father dies too and the boy is adopted by his father’s brother who transplants Shemhu from the village to the city. Sadly, Shemhu’s uncle takes the boy home with no prior arrangement with his wife, maiguru, in the city. When uncle gets to his Highfields house with Shemhu there is a huge row between him and maiguru.


The well fed and stubborn woman complaints loudly that she will not tolerate God forsaken strangers from the village into her home just like that: Zvekuunzirwa tuvanhu twune mazino anenge embeva, twusingagezi ndizvo zvandisingade” The frightened boy waits outside the house as he hears his uncle plead with his wife until he is grudgingly accepted.


You tremble with the book in your hands.


For me, the tense relationship between Shemhu and maiguru is, most probably, the worst person to person relationships that I have encountered in all Zimbabwean literature. Shemhu says, “maiguru vaindibata sebepa rafuriswa madzihwa rinofanira kuraswa,” meaning; maiguru treated me like used tissue paper that needs to be thrown away.


Shemhu is very dark in complexion. He is generally darker than all the people around him and he suffers from a kind of racial segregation in the extended family. Maiguru tells Shemhu that he is just too dark and scary to look at: “Shemhu, unotyisa unozviziva! Maziso ako matsvuku ayo, neganda rako dema iro zvinoita kuti uite kunge munhu wemashave. Chakachena chete pauri mazino.”


At some point, maiguru tells her son, Simbai that Shemhu is a monster! “Simbai, tiza! Hokoyo naShemhu uyo!” afterwards she bursts into uncontrollable fits laughter. She also says words like, “Shemhu uri firimu chaiyo. Uri Chituta chine kirimu!” meaning the boy is as amazing as a film star and is prince of all idiots.


One day, when maiguru is miffed that Shemhu is taking too long in the bathroom, she bursts into the little room and starts to relieve herself in full view of the stunned boy who is still bathing!


This is a story that will make you cry. This is a story that will make you laugh. This story will change your relationship with children and young people. You will be happy to know that this story has no sad ending and that Shemhu’s relationship with maiguru ends well.


Ziso ReZongororo has been prescribed by Zimsec for A level Shona exams from 2021 to 2023.


It is not difficult to see why Ignatius Tirivangani Mabasa is considered one of the leading writers of his generation in Zimbabwe. He is also a storyteller, and musician, who writes mainly in Shona. He was born in Mount Darwin and grew up on his grandfather's farm there. Mabasa is the first Zimbabwean to write a PhD thesis in Shona at Rhodes University, South Africa. Mabasa's debut novel, the satirical Mapenzi (Fools), won first prize in the Zimbabwe Book Publishers’ Association Awards in 2000. His second novel, Ndafa Here? (Am I Dead?) won the 2009  (NAMA) Outstanding Fiction Book as did his novel, Imbwa yemunhu (You Dog) in 2014. He lectures in Media and Journalism studies at the University of Zimbabwe.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Press statement: ZIBFA fire alert


ZIBFA Chairman’s statement Country on Focus Gazebo fire

We regret to inform the book industry in Zimbabwe and all our stakeholders and partners abroad about the fire that destroyed the iconic ZIBF Country of Focus Gazebo at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair grounds and the immediate vicinity in the early hours of Saturday morning of 29 May 2021.

We want to thank the City of Harare Fire Brigade for their quick response once they were informed. They managed to put out the fire. But being a timber and thatch building, the speed at which the fire moved means that the structure was burnt beyond repair.

At this point, the cause of the fire and other details are not yet known. We await feedback from the municipal authority fire team and the police who attended the scene.

As the book industry, this blow comes after a long period of subsequent trials. The sector has been reeling under the impact of piracy. Covid-19 shutdowns derailed the 2020 ZIBF and we had no traditional face to event in the Harare gardens. This left our hearts bleeding.

However, we are glad to announce that some partners have already stepped in to assist us with rebuilding the gazebo and the vicinity. You may want to know that the ZIBFA Executive board and the General Council were already seized with redoing all our structures and the vicinity as a matter of urgency.

With the support of our partners, we are looking forward to a whole new look which will maintain our strong cultural background and natural look while incorporating high safety standards against man-made and natural disasters.

We are still in the process of engaging other partners and all Zimbabweans and people abroad are welcome to lend a hand. We are much encouraged by the positive response we have received so far.

We will be announcing specifics of these exciting development over the next few weeks in due course.

The destroyed gazebo is where the iconic Chinua Achebe alongside Luis Bernardo Honwana of Mozambique and others showcased their literary oeuvre and addressed the media during their joint first visit to Zimbabwe. That spot had become a destination for book connoisseurs from across the world with books being displayed and briskly sold both on the ground and first floor. This has also been the venue for the Hifa Poetry Café for sometime, now.


ZIBF has profiled Zimbabwe internationally on an annual basis, through the international exhibitions that have been running for more than thirty years since its inception in 1983. We are therefore calling upon all stakeholders to help in retaining and safeguarding this longstanding legacy. 


Since then, ZIBF has annually exhibited Book Fairs in the Harare Gardens, a central venue in the Capital City, also conveniently located within reach of the CBD and hotels that host international delegates and stakeholders that annually come for the Fairs. Closely tied up with the presence of ZIBF Offices in Harare Gardens and the peaceful environment, is the twin aspect of both domestic and international tourism that Zimbabweans will seriously consider in preserving the present site and purpose of Harare Gardens as a strategic venue for Critical National Projects such as ZIBF.


Situated next to the ZIBF is the National Art Gallery which also houses the national treasure trove of artworks, specifically stone-art or sculptor. Both these spaces promote, preserve and disseminate local cultures while marketing and promoting the same to the regional and international communities. These two functions add value to the importance of the Harare Gardens to the populace.


ZIBF values your continued support and would appreciate your views or further inputs to this.


Our theme for Zibfa 2021 is still; Book Industry: the dynamics within is receiving positive responses for the traditional July-August event.  Having observed that most of the themes from 2011 to 2016 addressed developmental and philosophical issues, the board decided to select a theme that may give us a rare opportunity to look more closely at the internal welfare and goings on of real people and institutions (big and small) in the book industry itself in Zimbabwe and Africa. We want to dwell on the work relations between our writers and publishers, printers, booksellers and librarians, readers for example. We are convinced that a very introspective gaze at both the open and behind the scenes of the book sector may be exciting and enriching.

Enacted in the early days of the first decade of Zimbabwe’s independence, this gazebo and its vicinity were used each year by a country that we chose to focus for showcasing their books and other cultural materials. Nigeria, Iran, Ghana and others were once stationed in that spot.


I thank you.

Your faithfully

Memory Chirere,

Chairperson of the Executive Board of the ZIBFA



Wednesday, April 28, 2021

am hunting for a publisher: Tanaka Chidora

 In the following exciting and wide ranging interview, author of Because Sadness is Beautiful? Tanaka Chidora, says he is looking for a publisher for his novel. Find link to the interview here: "Because Sadness is Beautiful?: In Conversation with Tanaka Chidora" (

Friday, April 2, 2021

Moses Magadza reviews Justice Oagile Dingake's "Towards A People’s Constitution for Botswana"

Veteran journalist, Moses Magadza reviews Justice Oagile Dingake's unique book: "Towards A People’s Constitution for Botswana" Follow this link: BOOK REVIEW: Towards a People’s Constitution for Botswana | Windhoek Observer | News Stand (

Towards a People’s Constitution for Botswana

By *Moses Magadza

WINDHOEK – A constitution developed through wide consultations with the people that it is intended to serve is more likely to be a widely accepted and respected document than one crafted behind the scenes and foisted onto the people. This seems to be the pith or fulcrum of “Towards A People’s Constitution for Botswana”, one of four recent books by Justice Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake.

That Dingake is a remarkable jurist, a brilliant scholar and a versatile writer is incontestable. The former Judge of the High Court of Botswana and now a Justice of the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea and the Court of Appeal of Seychelles, has earned many top honorific titles. Indeed, so many, that legal journalist Carmel Rickard, writing in a Judicial Institute for Africa (JIFA) Newsletter, remarked that Dingake is one of those learned people who pose real problems for those keen on titles!

She was right. Dingake’s other titles include Doctor of Law (PhD), Professor and, lately, Chancellor. This, after he was inaugurated Chancellor of ABM University College in his own native country, Botswana in 2020. He holds, also, a double professorship from two renowned universities: The University of Cape Town in South Africa, and James Cook University in Australia.

Towards A People’s Constitution for Botswana” is a short but packed book. Only 103 pages. Written in very accessible English, one can say it is easy on the mind.  In fact, it is possible to finish it in two or three days. This is a relief, given most lawyers’ notoriety for writing in tongues.

Writing clearly and simply is one of Dingake’s celebrated trademarks. Small wonder he has been likened to the renowned British judge, Lord Denning; who happens to be one of his mentors. In fact, as I indicated in one review of his other book, some lawyers in Botswana and in the SADC region consider him Botswana’s Lord Denning. And for good reason.

Yash Ghai, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong and Chair of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (2001 -2004), wrote the foreword. In the foreword, Ghai waxes lyrical about Dingake’s mastery of matters constitutional.

Ghai writes: “In this excellent contribution to what he tells us is a debate already under way, Justice Dingake while acknowledging the critical role of the current constitution, … proposes its replacement by a very different form. Judge Dingake, now a judge, also a former teacher and scholar, has proposed, in his scholarly way, a transformative constitution”.

Ghai continues: “As an African scholar who has played some role in the making of a few constitutions in Africa (and other) states, I am very impressed by the way justice Dingake presents his argument”.

I share the above sentiments. It would seem from the introductory sections of this book that Botswana is on the verge of a constitutional review. Such an undertaking may take place early this year according to the announcement made by the President of Botswana, His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi. Judged from this vantage point, this publication by a leading constitutional lawyer, judge and intellectual is timely.

Having read the book with extreme assiduity, two major themes dominate this book. These are the need to ensure that the people play an active and informed part in the formulation of the revised constitution and the need for a transformative bill of rights.

In fact, with respect to the constitutional review process Dingake warns that the process should be truly people-driven and should not be hijacked by politicians if the constitution is to endure and be a proud treasure of the people of Botswana.

In arguing for a people-driven constitution Dingake places heavy reliance on Article 21, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, all of which emphasise the right of the people to take part in the conduct of public affairs. He also calls for informed participation that must be preceded by a comprehensive civic education similar to the one undertaken in South Africa prior to the adoption of the 1994 democratic constitution.

He writes: “Experience demonstrates that effective and extensive public participation in constitution making process contributes significantly to social cohesion and national unity”.

 Dingake advocates for an inclusive process that is not hurried in which civil society, trade unions, youth and women’s organizations play meaningful roles. He calls for a constitution that respects all the elements of the rule of law such as transparency, democracy, human rights, good governance, accountable government and fairness.

He traces the above values to the Magna Carta of 1225, in which liberty featured strongly. He quotes as an inspiration the following excerpt from the Magna Carta: “No freeman shall be seized, or imprisoned or dispossessed or outlawed, or in any way destroyed; nor will we condemn him, nor will we commit him to prison except by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land”.

The above line extolling the virtues of liberty permeates Justice Dingake’s thoughts on the constitutional review process.

On the aspect of a transformative bill of rights, Dingake calls for adoption and entrenchment of socio-economic and cultural rights given that Botswana’s current constitution only recognises civil and political rights. He also calls for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission, a Gender Commission and other measures to promote open democracy and an accountable government. He is also very strong on freedom to access information subject only to limitations that are internationally recognized.

In this book Dingake acknowledges that although Botswana’s first constitution has served the country well, the time has come to formulate a more progressive constitution that can guide Botswana’s development trajectory and secure the welfare of the people, whilst at the same time serving as a guide to other countries thinking of reviewing their constitutions.

As a comparison the book discusses in some detail the experiences of other countries in Southern Africa that include Zambia and Zimbabwe. Dingake expresses the hope that Botswana can avoid some pitfalls or deficiencies of the constitutional review process in some African countries.

Having read this book and learnt much about the best approach to constitution making, I recommend it to politicians, members of civil society, trade unions, media practitioners and members of the public in Africa and beyond. My only beef with this remarkable book is with its modest title, which might give the arguably inaccurate notion that its lessons and ideas are uniquely applicable only to Botswana, when the author might have penned a global blueprint for making constitutions!

I am convinced that if Batswana can read and implement some of the suggestions in this book, Botswana will in due course have one of the most celebrated progressive constitutions in our region and indeed in the whole world. Politicians, civil society in Botswana, trade unions, women and youth formations and members of the public would do well to get themselves a copy of this book as part of the preparations of the constitutional review process Justice Dingake discusses in this book.

*Moses Magadza is the winner of the SADC Media Award (2008), a freelance journalist and a PhD student with research interests in framing of key populations by the media. He is based in Windhoek, Namibia.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

KwaChirere previews Diaspora Dreams, a novel by Andrew Chatora


Diaspora Dreams, A novel by Andrew Chatora

Published by KHARIS PUBLISHING,2021, isbn: ISBN-13: 978-1-63746-029-0

There are strong indications that the UK based Zimbabwean writer, Andrew Chatora, is going to release his debut novel, Diaspora Dreams with Kharis Publishing in the US very soon.  

On noting the subject matter, I was initially tempted to assume that this new author would take the usual route about a young Zimbabwean coming to the UK because of the crisis back home.

Ever since Dambudzo Marechera of The House of Hunger’s “I got my things and left…” of 1978 to the present, the central character of such novels, who is almost always a young fellow, flees home and country in search of an alternative existence. After that, he becomes double faced, constantly checking on the new ground while peeping at the political goings on back home. He then to then becomes a keen political eye.

However, Chatora takes a very courageous and startling detour with this new book. The main character, Mr. Kundai Mafirakureva, is following up on his teacher wife, Kay in England. Her pregnancy is now very advanced and Kundai has come to be with the beautiful Kay in her time of need, something far away from Chikwava’s single minded man in Harare North.  

But Kundai walks late. He does not know that he has in fact come to ‘school.’ He does not know that he is coming to the UK to learn about what women can do, sometimes, to their unsuspecting men when the survival instincts rise above love ties. If you are used to the many novels that dwell on how men typically abuse women, then this book is something else.

From the moment Kundai from  N133A Dangamvura- Mutare, manages to secure a visa at Heathrow, a whirlwind takes over. Husband and wife are on new turf. This is the UK. Their constant power struggles over which relatives should receive money from the UK and who should not, begin in earnest. Traditional African filial ties are on trial.

Kay constantly reminds Kundai that he is just a black man, anyway and that black men in the UK have no favorable recourse to the law. “Kundai, remember, you are just a black man in the UK.” On several occasions when they have a row, the British police are called to the house and they come with a clear assumption that; when a black man is in a quarrel with a woman, it must just be him who is on the wrong. They are ready to assume judge and jury. They often advise Kundai to either come to the station with them or go put up somewhere else for the night. The stereotypes run deep and Kundai is walking down a well laid script.

The climax of their fights with Kay comes when Kundai notices that Kay’s mother, vaFugude, has the temerity to use DHL to send love potions or concoctions to Kay from her sangomas, all the way from Zimbabwe! These mixtures are to be used on Kundai so that he becomes a compliant husband. An avid believer in seers, medicine men and dark mystical forces, vaFugude makes it her specialty to consult these darker, underworld forces on behalf of her daughter, Kay.

Everything becomes a power issue with Kay. From sex to normal conversation, she has to have the last word. Their divorce is tumultuous and tends to prove to Kundai that the British legal system is rather impatient with the protestations of men folk in these matters. Kundai has to go to court a record eleven times, to be allowed mere contact with his children. This involves meeting periodically with the children under observation, in a neutral empty hall. The children become tormented and disgusted. They have a distant look in their eyes.

In search of comfort, Kundai goes on to cohabit with a white workmate, Zettie, whom he calls ‘a stunning looker.’ Zettie is a young liberal-minded white girl from an affluent Buckinghamshire family. She appears to be the answer to Kundai’s questing spirit. She quickly learns to cook traditional Zimbabwean dishes and tries to speak Shona. She wants to be the ideal wife to an African man far away from Africa. But on their first visit to Zimbabwe, Zettie falls for and gets impregnated with Kundai’s cousin, Kian! They hit it off straightaway with Kian, as they both sit long drawn-out hours on the veranda at the Vumba homestead, downing lagers and continuously chain smoking weed, as if they have known each other for ages. Once more, things fall apart for Kundai.

Kundai quickly moves on. He does not want to be alone. He hooks up with a woman on an online dating website. She is a Zimbabwean called Jacinda. They quickly get married and Jacinda joins Kundai in the UK. In no time, she starts to treat Kundai to the bitterest and scariest lesson of his life. You read on with a numbed face!

Kundai loses it all and his subsequent charmed incantations and chants while in an English madhouse, are the most revealing part of this novel. As a result, Diaspora Dreams could be of interest to those who study the male psyche and manhood. The losing black male is still a dark area, rich with distances to be traveled and depths to be probed. 

But this novel is not just about Kundai and his women. It also dwells on what often goes on when you set out to teach English to English pupils when you are actually a black teacher from a former colony! To date, I have not come across a novel that dwells at equal length on the relationship between a teacher from Africa and white school kids, and the relationship between a black teacher and the white school administration in a white country.

Andrew Chatora received an MA in Media, Culture and Communication from UCL. He has written and published widely on topical issues with This is Africa publication. He is principally interested in the global politics of inequality which he interrogates through his writings. When he is not writing, he is working on his PhD thesis on Digital Piracy, with Birmingham City University’s School of Media and English

+Reviewed by Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe




Thursday, February 25, 2021

KwaChirere reads Tanaka Chidora's Because Sadness is Beautiful?



Because Sadness is Beautiful? Poems in English by Tanaka Chidora,(with a foreword by Magdalena Pfalzgraf), published by Mwanaka Media and Publishing, Harare, 2019, isbn:978-1-77929-596-5

Tanaka Chidora’s first book of poems in English, Because Sadness is Beautiful? dazzles with that question mark at the end of the title. That question mark flips in the reader’s mind like disco lights. I think it is meant to challenge you to look at things inside out. That way, you may experience what the late David Mungoshi calls on the book's blurb “a near out of body experience.”

Beauty, as we know it cannot live side by side with sadness. They are meant to fight like fire and water or light and darkness. I will suggest that sadness, as you find in these poems, is beautiful because the poet has found a way of linking that sadness with concrete historical movements in Zimbabwe and all Africa. Put differently, sadness becomes beautiful when you can trace it back to its source. You start to separate man from his shadow, however hard they try to mingle. A terrible beauty is born in these poems, not because a revolution is waged, but because you have been persuaded to look and understand very clearly how you have become and how long the road ahead is.

Many of these poems talk about ‘the old that hides in the folds of the new.’ Growing up, our uncles told us horrifying stories about straying through sacred grounds at night where you run and run and run but always feeling that you were on the same spot! For Chidora the poet, “the ugly underbelly of the new/ reveals itself to a few.”

As a result, Chidora invents phrases and lines that startle through their intense internal opposition, like when he writes about ‘peace armed to the teeth,’ like ‘someone touched the hem of my smile,’ like ‘one day peace decided to have children,’ like ‘the river roaring, spinning and tearing its clothes…’ and ‘open your eyes and see that there is nothing to see.’

In that regard, you may probably like that short poem called ‘Leaving.’ For some people, as shown in this poem, leaving one’s country comes when one stops talking about the terrible situation in their country. It is strange that you may actually leave a country when you give up on it, while you are still in it, that you may not leave it physically. The poet could be suggesting that people and country are like the dog and its tail! One can never catch the other during a chase. Also, nobody may effectively leave a country once you are born to it and experience it.

The poem ‘Father’ could be the watershed poem in this collection. Father is a hopeless drunkard but you can see that he is also a protector, sometimes he is a preacher-philosopher and sometimes he is your weak friend whose injured body has to be ferried home by others. You do not need to open your eyes to see father because you see him with your eyes closed, because he is painted by Chidora with care and ease. Chidora’s ‘Father’ is not drawn with the usual stereotypical brush used for parents in literature. Chidora’s ‘Mother’ poem which comes earlier will definitely struggle against the ‘Father’ poem. Chidora's mother poem is a given. But, the father poem is a challenge.

Mbare features prominently in these poems. Mbare is often side-lined in Zimbabwean literature. ‘Magamba hostels’ portrays the known hostels as a wreckage seen from the sea shores at different times of day, sparking different mixed thoughts. Then there is another longer poem that dedicates a stanza to each of the 13 blocks of that historical hostel. Mbare is described as a cultural melting pot. Mbare is an embarrassment to the politicians who give empty promises. Mbare is a place where small men and women have opportunity to recreate and re-arrange themselves. Mbare is a language by itself. Mbare is a place of waiting, of arrival and departures.

These poems are torn between belonging and disinterest in the country. They search for something to hold on to, something beyond the misery around us. You come away from this book with the idea that; whatever the very crucial things we have experienced in history, they may not be good enough to keep us together for as long as we do not achieve peace, prosperity and harmony. I am also touched by the fact that this is one of the last few books that the late great David Mungoshi edited before his exit.

+Reviewed by Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe