HARARE, Zimbabwe / The Herald / April 17, 2011
Marriage: Many cooks spoil the broth
By Chemist Mafuba
Title: "Ndiko Kusasana?"
Author: Oliver P Nyika
Publisher: Mambo Press,
ISBN: 0 869 222 651
OLIVER P Nyika is a Zimbabwean writer with the elderly in mind. His novel "Ndiko Kusasana?" opens with a wife who is refusing to stay in the village looking after her mother-in-law who is going blind.
The question of old age has become a topical issue in this southern African republic, which has put in place a pension scheme for workers in the formal employment sector.
Human rights activists have been canvassing for the setting up of a national insurance policy for all people more than 65 years of age. This would be a bonanza for the contribution that they have been making towards the development of Zimbabwe in all spheres of life.
Children have been looking after their parents when they enter their second "youth". Those who are able would continue doing so. The growth of child-headed families shows that the extended family concept is falling by the wayside.
The scourge of the HIV and Aids pandemic is taking off young people that parents have been looking upon as security in their old age.
Radio Zimbabwe has been telling listeners that Parliament would look into the question of old age when it resumes sitting soon. Old people are waiting to hear what the House will say about issues affecting them. They have to do with food, health, housing and recreational facilities.
Most of them are taking care of children whose parents left them.
The classic case is that of the grandmother from Mount Darwin who is sharing her monthly ration of food from HelpAge Zimbabwe with 12 grandchildren.
Artists are playing their part in bringing the woes of senior citizens who have nothing to call their own to the attention of members of the public.
The novel "Ndiko Kusasana?" sets up Oliver Nyika as arguably the king of suspense on the literary plateau. His book makes reading a refreshing experience. The artist emulates Patrick Chakaipa in Garandichauya, Emile Zola in Nana and Lev Tolstoy in Anna Karenina. The journalist doesn't pull his punches when he wants to make his point of view known.
He calls a spade a spade. The following discussion is a case in point:
"When I get back to Marimba, he will ask me where I slept last night," said Sekai to her aunt.
"I had not told him that I'd be coming to Zengeza. I haven't seen a jealousy man like that one.
"He's the limit in this world. Yet there's no tribe which can conquer VaRozvi in prostitution.
"His two sisters are plying their trade, without shame, in Kwekwe and in Bulawayo. Can you believe it?
"Ha! And you too!" remarked aunt Fadza. "But these days, there's this thing which they call. . . If Irene were here, she is the one who would have told you.
"She's the one who knows it. This one which says a man and woman are equal. One can't rule the other."
"You mean equal rights, Aunt?"
"You've stabbed the baboon in the mouth!" cried Fadza. "That's the thing I meant to say.
"You shouldn't be afraid that he'll ask you where you slept. You don't ask him how he spends his day."
"Aunt," said Sekai in a conspiratorial tone, "I've come to report him. He wants me to stay in the village. He says his mother is going blind."
"Don't make me laugh," said Fadza, laughing uproariously.
"I said don't make me laugh. Phiri tried that one on me at one (point).
"He had to run away from home when I told him that he would die if he wanted to play with me.
"You've problems with your Tawanda. He wants you to go to the village.
"This year, since you're afraid to divorce, you'll end up going there, hands down!"
"A miracle would have happened, Aunt. I'd rather die than to leave him squandering all the money with his women."
"I blame you for one thing, Sekai. What will you do if he rejects you? You're still where you are. What will you do, eh?"
I don't know what to do, Aunt. I can't look for work. He doesn't want me to."
"Ha ha! I can see that you're still sitting pretty. Wake up!
"When I decided that I would chuck Phiri out, I took a year plotting. I didn't want to have problems when he left me.
"I was pinching every cent that I could get from him. When I had amassed a fortune, I called the gardener from next door.
"I brought him into our bedroom on purpose. Phiri caught us when we were wrapped up in each other's arms.
"He tried to say this and that and the other. I set tsotsis from Chikwanha on him.
"They only threatened him with knives. You know that these foreigners fear maZezuru like hell!
"He fled leaving this house to me. I haven't heard about his whereabouts since then. Don't play when you want to do something."
"What about the child?" asked Sekai. "What did Phiri say about his daughter?"
"Ah! Sekai, what child are you talking about? Is she his? I found that child for myself.
"That man was a barren log. I had this child from the bus driver.
"He works for the company in Harare. He-e! That one loves me more than the wife that he has in his house."
"I don't know how I can fix that Rozvi, Aunt. I honestly don't know how I can fix him.
"You know your house better, Sekai. As your aunt, I can't tell you what to do. I can't tell you to leave your husband before you're ready.
"I'm telling you this so that you can keep watch. There must be something he has seen if he insists on you going to stay in the village.
"He wants to find joy when you're out of the way. What will you do if you find another woman settled in your house? What will you do, eh?"
"He is saying that his mother is no longer able to see properly."
"Don't talk rubbish. Are you going to give her eyes? Doesn't she have her husband? You never! He is chasing you away because you've made him rich.
"You've become too old for him. Don't be cheated. Takabva noko, kumhunga hakuna ipwa!"
"Aunt, some of the days he doesn't come home. . ."
It is a joy reading Oliver Nyika. He controls the flow of his words admirably. His short sentences are easy to understand. He doesn't write to impress his reader.
The artist says Tawanda Mugadzi gets more than $200 a day from his business. He sells food and soft drinks to workers in industrial sites. He makes a lot more when Dynamos is playing at Rufaro Stadium. He has a car. He lives with his wife Sekai and their two children, Sarudzai and Charles, in their beautiful house in Marimba Park.
Tawanda Mugadzi is an example to young people setting out to create jobs for themselves. Nothing is impossible provided they have the will to use their talents. The vendor has a serious handicap. He is unable to take decisive action when the situation demands. He wants to react instead of acting.
His wife Sekai is a scatterbrain. She relies on her eccentric aunt Fadza for advice. Fadza is intoxicated with her own self-importance when she can't even control her difficult daughter.
"Where have you been, Irene? You can't come home at this hour."
"But I told you that I'm going to watch soccer. It's difficult to find buses when there are many people."
"I'm going to stop giving you money to go and watch soccer. Schools are opening next week. You haven't been reading your books."
"How can I read when there is a shebeen in this house? The place sounds like a beerhall all the time?"
"Go into that room and greet Mai Sarudzai. She has come from Marimba. Now that it is you! Come back and cook."Irene shrugs her shoulders and shuffles off in a huff.
Mai Gatsi of Marondera is too honest to cheat Lillian, a mere schoolgirl.
Yes, she is cast in the same role with Fadza. The air of decency she displays is not deceptive enough.
Lillian brings sunshine into the story. Her parents brought her up well.
Her contender in the honours list is Masimba. The young man is honest to a fault.
He takes the children of his employers to watch films when he should be off-duty.
Oliver Nyika doesn't crumple action with detailed description.
The sound of music and dancing feet denote the presence of a shebeen.
The artist taxes the reader's imagination in some instances. Mugadzi can't want to be intimate with Lillian in one sentence.
The reader is left wondering where, when and how she became pregnant.
"Ndiko Kusasana?" shows why there should be a central translation agency for great works of art to reach all book lovers, starting in Zimbabwe.
Nyika can be a rich man from the love of his labour. His masterpiece should reach a wider audience. He won't bore his reader.
Meanwhile, the gossip-loving natives of Harare found something to wag about when Lillian came from Marondera to see Tawanda Mugadzi at his house in Marimba Park.
"Friend," said Sekai to her neighbour, "let me go and prepare food for my children.
"They are about to come back from school for lunch. I'll see what I'll do to cool my heart."
"If you fight," said Mai Chipunza, "don't say I told you, please. You'd hear that Chipunza has killed me."
"Ha ha! Why should I ask my husband about what happened?" said Sekai, laughing gaily.
"I know what I'll do. People like Mugadzi can't put on airs. I haven't grown old myself.
"It's up to him to see what he does with the children that I gave him. He isn't God to control my life. These days we've equal rights!" Out of that comes the title of the book - Joy.
"My mother is old," said Mugadzi to a confidante. "There is nobody who is cooking for her. She is no longer able to see properly.
"I told Sekai to stay with her. She refused. I had built a store for her in the village. It is standing idle. I had to do something."
Oliver Nyika was born in Buhera in 1961. He started his schooling in that district and moved to Gwetsanga School in Gokwe.He did Form Four at Empandeni Mission in 1978 and took a course in journalism and creative writing.
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