Book depicts the land hunger by the black people of Zimbabwe

Title: Sekai Minda Tave Nayo, Year: 2005, Pretoria,pp128 Reviewed by Arthur Takawira Mutasa is a Zimbabwean writer based in South Africa where he is a lecturer at UNISA. He is well known through his other prize winning book Nyambo DzeJoni which has also been on the school syllabus in Zimbabwe. He has also written a commentary called Ongororo YaNziramasanga. The setting of the book is appropriate as it depicts the land hunger by the black people of Zimbabwe and the joy expressed by the characters who are beneficiaries of the Zimbabwe Land Reform Programme. The joy comes from movement to the resettlement areas and the sense of ownership of the means of production for which land is a prime factor. The characters have moved from the mountainous terrain where they have been living like baboons. The title of the book “Sekai Minda Tave Nayo,” can be viewed from many angles. For instance it can be viewed as a statement made to the South Africans and others who have expressed a xenophobic attitude towards the “Makwerekwere” for migrating into their country, during the fast track Land Reform Programme in Zimbabwe. The first word of the title “Sekai” can be viewed as just a common name in the Shona society, that is meant to ridicule and retain a historical event in the life of a family or family member especially married women who may have stayed long without being blessed with children. It can also viewed as a statement made by the other characters in the book who were informing Sekai “a character” that they finally got land of their own whilst Sekai was studying in the diaspora. This statement seems to be a continuation of a debate they once had whilst they were still at the mission school in which the land issue featured prominently. The second part of the title “Minda Tave Nayo” can be viewed as one of the African traditional naming, itself a knowledge system of preserving history in the naming of people or domesticated animals. We find surnames and names like “Tadyanemhandu”, “Muchekayaora” which are pregnant with historical episodes / or events. The knowledge is passed on from generation to generation through naming. The book is a mixture of retrospective and current aspects of the lives of the characters. This is depicted by the letters written to one another by the protagonists. The looking back at their school days in one of the mission schools in Bikita generates some interesting reading as it portrays the contradiction which was within the education system that taught good moral uprightness but conveniently forget to teach about the ownership of the means of production especially land and how it transferred hands by the Missionaries. If anything the issue was taught in a manner that would condemn the natives who if anything were supposed to be treated as the “Efulefu”. Through the advent of the Land Reform Programme, the protagonist developed adequate interest to owning the land and encourage others to have such interest and become proud landowners. The use of letters as a motif has enabled the author to use “bastardised” Shona to show the closeness of the interlocutors and to bring out the joy and enthusiasm of the youthful characters who accessed the land. Not withstanding the fact that the characters in the book are literate, they have taken the role of the commoners in their discussion of the Land Reform Programme as is indicated by their Shonalised English. Words that had no substitute either in standard Shona or the street language, substituted by words improvised to ensure communication is kept between the characters, the audience and the readers. In the novel the author is raising a number of interesting aspects of Zimbabwean life Sekai (a woman) is the main character. Sekai was first denied education by his father, a common occurrence in the Zimbabwean society. Thanks to the aunt who helped her to go to school, Sekai finally acquires a degree in Agriculture, obtains her own piece of land, heads the agriculture department and teaches others people good farming methods thereby achieving food security for the families, the communities and the nation at large. Sekai and her aunt represent the womenfolk and have proved to the society that women are equally capable of taking leadership positions as evidenced by her role as a Lands Officer. The use of youthful and women characters as recipients of pieces of land is an indictment of the future of a nation. In allocating land to women the author is challenging the society to do away with some of its traditional values that are counter productive and to galvanize the State into having a re-look into the laws of inheritance and the ownership of the means of production. A character referred to only as “Amai” stands her ground when sheis being pushed to the periphery of the land that she was being allocated by a youth who wants to claim that he fought the War. This point also serves as a warning to the society to be wary of the amafikizolos who would do things that would result in the rubbishing of the Liberation Struggle. The book celebrates the victory of the landless peasants and the war veterans in their roles in the struggle for economic emancipation and their die-hard resilience. It does not unnecessarily celebrates the role played by the “middleman leaders” who are perceived to be corrupt but it puts into perspective the closeness of the generality of the Povo and the President, as they acknowledge the President’s resolved stand against imperialism and neo-colonialism. This is depicted by the reference to the direct communication between the President and the masses as is shown on page 35: “Ko, inga Puresidhendi vanogara vakataura pamisangano kuti tose takarwa hondo kusiya kwavayavaya vaive migwada yaVarungu”. As it celebrates this interaction between the masses and the highest offices of the land it also depicts and celebrate the high level of political consciousness of the rural folk, which contradicts the notion often preferred by the urbanites who always view rural dwellers as inferior,always who needing someone to speak on their behalf. And yet the rural people are fully aware of who owns the means of production and question why there are no industries that are labeled Dhibha brothers like Lever Brothers or Ngomahuru and Ngomahuru like Johnson and Johnson (P 24). The book also exposes the corrupt tendencies exhibited by misguided officials, war veterans and the “Middleman leaders” who were responsible for the distribution of the land or those taking advantage of their political clout. The book is in my view serving as a warning against corruption and greed often portrayed by those in some leadership positions. This maybe the reason why the masses always wanted to communicate directly with their “Purezidhendi”. Sekai Minda Tave Nayo presents a challenge to academics, policy makers and people in leadership position who are not able to communicate with the masses through their use of “high pitched” language. This book can be comprehended even by pupils who are even in Grade five. It also can be used at higher institutions of learning to reveal the profound thoughts the deeper thoughts of the author and those of the masses represented here by the protagonists. Sekai Minda Tave Nayo presents a challenge to the Ministry of Education as it presents a stark contrast to the syllabus taught in schools. In an otherwise beautiful piece of art the author however did not highlight the resistance that was offered by the whites commercial farmers and their allies. This he could have simply done through the use of letters from either Sekai, who was in the diaspora, or any other character that was in the thick and thin of the land struggle. This letter would have further strengthened the people’s position as questions like why are they refusing to surrender or to share the land with the natives would have been asked and answered too. However the book is a must read as it triumphantly celebrates the defeat of the willing buyer willing seller strategy of the capitalists not only in Zimbabwe but in Namibia, South Africa and other countries (even though in other countries it was not pronounced). The masses in the book are heard singing loudly saying “Sekai Minda Tave Nayo” and indeed we now have the land. Compliments to Mutasa, who has published this novel through his own resources as such literature may not have seen the light if he had tried to use the established publishers, the majority of which are Capitalists.However Mutasa needs to think about having this novel available to Zimbabwe since currently it is only available on South Africa.

May 2006
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