18 October 2009

The Tale of Maina by Tinashe Muchuri

Maina came with Mai Dendera from Chiredzi. Mai Dendera’s husband, Mr Dendera worked in the Hippo valley Sugar Estates. He was a tractor driver. He hardly came home. Mai Dendera was the one who visited him every month end. She could stay in Chiredzi for a week. Every time she came back she would find her house broken in. The thieves normally stole sugar and cooking utensils. But on their first month they stole the family radio.

Maina was short and very beautiful. Every man would admire Maina. No man’s eyes could resist her smile. Mai Dendera came with her from Chiredzi to safeguard her home when she was away enjoying her time with her husband at the end of every month. Mai Dendera introduced Maina to the village as her sister’s daughter. Maina accepted everything that Mai Dendera said.

Since Maina was Dendera’s daughter she worked in the family’s garden and fields, for no payment. How could she pay their daughter. It was impossible. Only a stranger is paid for service rendered because she will be employed.

Maina came to Mai Dendera with only one good dress. A red full dress. She wore this dress on Saturdays when attending a St Luke Apostles Church service which was nicknamed Jangaramisheni in our area. She was a good dancer in the church. The church penetrated our area the time Maina came to our village. It came with a bomb. Many people briefly left their usual churches to attend this new church. It was amazing how about 20 drums could produce good quality music. The drum beaters too were excellent. They could dance and run about while drumming. This persuaded many villagers to attend this church.

As time went by, people started drifting back to their churches. It was after some information reached them, that, the church indeed was a refugees church. The refugees who were used as cattle herders in our village by teachers, business people and sugar cane cutters were owners of this church as said by the villagers. “The boys and girls were not expensive to keep”. Their employers would say that, “where they come from, there is war. They ran away from this war. The Matsangaise Militants are cruel. They cut legs of whoever they suspect of supporting the government of Samora Machel. These boys and girls need nothing more than food and shelter. Clothes are a bonus. They don’t bother to go to school. They have no parents. It is either their parents were killed or they don’t know what happened to them.” Villagers nicknamed the sound of the drums. “Tingindi, tingindi, tingindi, dhidhi”. They said the sound says, “Takabva muzambikwi tichinzi makurushu” (we came from Mozambique we are known as cashew nuts). The boys and girls were later also known as makarushu (cashew nuts). This is the church Maina attended. She too was branded as a mukarushu. How could people call her mukarushu, a beautiful girl like her? This tormented my mind every time I heard people talk like that about her.

Mai Dendera was a distant relative of ours. My grandmother and Mai Dendera’s husband were brother and sister. They shared the same totem and same origin. They all originated from Bikita – My grandmother came to Zaka in Gwanha village of Chief Bota through her marriage to my grandfather my father’s father. Mai Dendera’s husband migrated to our village; I really don’t know what caused him to leave his brothers and sisters. Mai Dendera’s daughters were my grandfather’s little wives. By this, they were too my wives. Maina too, being Mai Dendera’s sister’s daughter, she became my wife and grand father’s wife too.

This loose relationship kept me close to Maina. I did not want to hear any bad words said about her. She was my wife. I had not proposed to her but because of this relationship she was. Years went by. Maina still had one dress the red dress. As years passed by her body overgrew her dress. It became shorter. Every time she wore it on Saturdays it reveals her thighs. This caused her not to attend church services. She secluded herself at home. She could only leave home most of the times if she was send on an errand by Mai Dendera. On other days Mai Dendera would give her, her own dress when she sends her to the grinding miller the shops. Still in the oversized clothes, Maina looked good. She was a beauty queen. Her chocolate skin never worried about the lack of skin lotion. It was naturally good and appealing.

In those years women from our area began travelling to Bulawayo to buy goods for resale or exchange with maize. Maize was the main commodity these women wanted. It was so because Bulawayo rarely harvests enough grain for its people. This forced people to sell their goods in exchange of grain. So the women from our area would go to Bulawayo sell their grain and buy dresses, shorts and skirts mainly made of pieces of clothes joined together. People in our area nicknamed the butterfly dresses ‘mabhuruwayo’ because they were bought from Bulawayo. My beautiful Maina found herself in these Bulawayo clothes. She would, after weeding in the morning in Mai Dendera’s field go to work in other people's fields in the afternoon for Mabhuruwayo. Mai Dendera never bought Maina a dress. But she worked in her fields everyday. Mai Dendera’s little children always went with their mother to Hippo Valley every month end. They would always came in new clothes. Maina still remained in 'mabhuruwayo'.

Maina was of school going age. During the years Zimbabwe was still fresh from gaining its independence school was free for all. Only a few dollars for the building fund was asked from parents. But, Maina was not allowed school. Mai Dendera argued that, if she goes to school, thieves will break into her house. That was it, Maina did not attend school.

This made villagers suspicious. Many villagers questioned why Mai Dendera denied a child education? But the villagers only talked and did nothing about it. They just talked behind their closed doors. They were useless.

Maina my wife, courtesy of our loose relationship, opened her heart to me one day when I stubbornly asked her about the whereabouts of her parents. She cried. I was touched. I took her to my arms and my heart. Her tears trickled down into my shirt. They soaked my heart as I waited for her tears to dry. I wanted to know why Maina was not going back to her parents, so she could attend school like any other girl of her age. Why not even one of her relatives did visited her in the years passed by?

It was after a long time of shedding tears that she looked me in the eyes. Her eyes electrocuted mine. I felt powerless.

“Taka, I know you are the only one concerned with my life in this whole village. You love me” I was shocked. “ I love you too Taka” she cried again.

“Please, Maina, stop crying, tell me everything about you. Tell me all you know about yourself. I want to know you Maina” I said as she sobbed on.

“I am sorry, but don’t tell anyone about this. Mai Dendera will kill me if she knew I told you about myself.

“Why Maina?”

“She wants it be kept a secret.”

“What Secret?”

“That I am a girl from Mozambique she is not my mother’s sister. She lied to me ufunge. She said she will be paying me every month if I agree to safeguard her home every time she goes to see her husband in Hippo Valley.”

“Is she paying you?”



“Because I am a refugee. I ran away from war in Mozambique. I don’t know what happened to my parents. My home is in Gaza Province. I ran to Mahenye and the Matsangaise militants followed us. I then ran to Chiredzi where I met Mai Dendera. She took me here. She is a cruel mother. I am only living here for food and shelter. Nothing more. Every month end she accused me of stealing her things and refuses to pay me my wages. She always punishes me for stealing things that I have not stolen. She never paid me ever since I came here four years ago. I hate home. I hate war. I hate these warring people. Look at what they did to me!”

“Why can’t you leave her for another employer, maybe a reasonable employer?”

“She threatened me everyday that if I dare leave her, she will report me to the police and they will either take me to a refuge camp or depot me back home. I am afraid I can’t go home now. There is war. I am afraid my parents maybe dead. I left them one night when the Matsangaise militants invaded our village. I just ran blindly till I crossed Sabi River into Zimbabwe. I then went to Chiredzi. I don’t know what happened to my parents. If I am deported where will I go?”

“But there are many of you in this village. Police know about you. Some of them are employed by police officers.”

“There is war at home Taka. I wish you could marry me Taka. This could end all this suffering I am enduring here at the hands of this cruel Mai Dendera. I am not human here. I am nothing here. There is war at home. People of free lands use you the way they would like to. I am an item.”

Maina’s words forever sunk into my mind, my body, my heart and echoed loudly when my Botswana employer refused to give me my pay telling me blankly that, if I need my pay I should go to the police. Knowingly he does this to use me the whole month, so he could tell me to go to police. What would the police do? Bundle you into magumete going back home and be dumped at the Plumtree border. These cruel people call me mukwerekwere.

Hey God, why do you allow us to be troubled? I know we have a destiny there is no war back home but the economy is depressed. We can not survive. There is no employment and whatever people do cannot sustain them because of the recurrent hunger. I am an item now Maina and I understand what your words meant those years ago, when I was a free person.

The Tale of Maina was written by Tinashe Muchuri.

Copyright Tinashe Muchuri 2009.

Tinashe MuchuriTinashe Muchuri is a poet, performer, actor, and writer currently living in Harare. Many of his poems were published in online journals such as the Munyori Journal and Arts Initiates and print anthologies.

He performs regularly at arts festivals in Zimbabwe and currently features in a local historical soap called Tiriparwendo as the character Jecha. Muchuri has been a long-serving member of the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe, a young writers’ organisation in which he served as branch chairperson for the period 2005-2008 and also currently sits in the executive committee of Zimbabwe Readers Association.

Today, some of his poems have been accepted by an international poetry magazine called Illuminations (UK), Rattlesnake Review (USA) and his Shona poems appeared in an anthology called ‘Jakwara reNhetembo’ (2008,Mambo Press, Zimbabwe).


Myne Whitman said...

What a touching story, so realistically written. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Very Good story but has some grammatical errors.
Lawrence Hoba

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

This is very touching. I like the twist at the end.

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