Title: DELAYED FREEDOM
Author: Mhlaseli Mpofu
Release year: 2022
Number of pages: 135 (A5 pages) (Ten chapters)
Publisher: Ingwaladi Publishers Nkulumane, Bulawayo.
DELAYED FREEDOM is an English novel set in Jotsholo Lupane, about 201 km northwest of Bulawayo along the Victoria Falls Highway. The novel depicts the pre- and early post-independence period marred by conflict in Zimbabwe. The cover of the book says it all: it shows a typical burning Ndebele hut, a hulking soldier armed with an AK47 in full war gear with a distinctive red beret and red patches on the left side of his chest. Beside him, exactly at the level of the weapon magazine, is a crying child with tears streaming down his open mouth. Unwavering, he is a soldier with a stern face.
The story of the novel is completely told by the cover. The first chapter plunges the reader straight into the February/March 1983 scene around Jotshol, where government-sponsored soldiers generally known as Gukurahundi are unleashed on the population. The novel describes the military group as cruel and fierce allegedly in search of Zapa-sponsored dissidents. Their orders were to clear the rubbish out of Matabeleland. Villagers in and around Jotshol were gathered, but mostly they were former Zipra fighters who had been demobilized. They were taken to Jotsholo rest camp where they were beaten and even killed. This is the gist of the story.
Chapter Two looks at Jotshol through the rear-view mirror; a brief history before independence. The life of the Ndebele families Gumede, Zondo, Ndiweni, Dlamini, Dlodlo, Fuyana and Mkwananzi is shown in the spotlight. These are the descendants of the Lobengula group that survived Pupa and decided to settle among the local population. There are very few key characters in the Jotsholo outpost. The dusty village has its own bottle storage centrifuge. Everyone meets there.
When the war of liberation reaches Jotsholo, the young men, although fiercely dissuaded by their parents, join the armed struggle. The Catholic mission of Fatima is caught up in the war of liberation which forces the sons of Goodmuntu Gumede, Mbizo and Liwe, to join the liberation struggle despite the displeasure of their fathers.
Chapters three through six deal with the boy’s return from exile, Zapu’s loss of the vote, the prevailing climate, and the creation of dissidents. Zimbabwean politics sinks to the low level of tribalism. Ndebele speech is frowned upon and many in Matabeleland are becoming an endangered species.
As in any war, women become war toys and victims of machoism.
The beautiful Mukoma Jokonya and Major Makova arrived in Jitsholo. The former lived and hung out in Jotshol for a long time, and the latter was the newly arrived commander of the Fifth Brigade unit based in Jotshol and commanded from Lupane.
They carried lists of people they wanted to kill, often sandwiched between people who had been tortured and sentenced to death.
Major Makova kidnapped Ntombifuthio from Jokonya and raped her.
Chapter 4 tells the chilling story of what happened to Ntombifuthi. The pain of rape and the feeling of helplessness. All she could ask was “I have a child, will you kill me after you…”. This represents what many women have gone through.
Chapters seven to eight relate Lizwe’s escape to Bulawayo, his brief stay with his uncle in Njube Municipality and his eventual escape to South Africa. Another glimmer of hope from the flintstone is when Mukoma Jokonya saved the Gumede family from certain death when they were caught after Lizwe’s escape to Bulawayo. Jokonya phones someone in Harare, who orders that the Gumedes be spared. They were spared.
Chapters nine and ten highlight Lizwa’s brief stay in South Africa and Zanu PF and Zapu detente. Life in South Africa was not easy and Lizwe finds her way home to Jotsholo. He is spending time in Bulawayo enjoying football before gathering the energy to return to Jotsholo.
Unfortunately, he had to travel under cover of darkness. He reached home at night and was almost mistakenly killed by a warrior thinking he was an intruder Gukuraundi. The reader remains turned to faith and hopes that Lizwe will survive.
This is a simple novel worth reading. It is a stunning and honest reflection of the times. In the age of social networks and twitter, people would not like too long stories.
They want the readings to be accurate.
The print quality leaves much to be desired.
From page 80 on, it looks like a cheap photocopy with ink stains and faded words, unreadable.
At least that’s part of the book I read.
As a community publication, I recommend the novel.