Man locks up family for decades

The first one, of-course, is the old and famous Mutambara Mission, a United Methodist institution that has given Zimbabwe its fair share of leaders in all sectors of life – politics, business and social. Then comes the river Umvumvumvu which perenially supplies water to the local people and from where some of it is drawn to support an irrigation scheme that they depend on, especially in times of drought. But it is the name Kempton Mutambara that sends shivers running down spines of the young and aged members of the clan. Kempton is neither a politician nor a businessman. He is a man who leads a unique life and has chosen to shut himself from the community in which he lives. He and his immediate family members do not visit anyone, and neither kith or kin is allowed (by Kempton himself) to visit them. He does not go to the shops, he does not use salt, soap or cooking oil. He does his own grinding of mealie meal and largely depends on the variety of fruits from his barricaded vast orchard for food. Tree species that give his family life include paw-paws, guavas, mangoes, peaches, oranges and avocado pears. The only people who can perhaps break the prime commandment “Thou shall not set foot in my yard” are the police, but for them to do so they will have to be armed to the teeth, complete with guns and teargas. With spears, bows and arrows, his wife, sons and daughters have taken a vow that no human being gets further than the gate, and they do not need any rule or law of the country to deliver their justice. A few years ago one of Kempton’s sons decided to be adventurous leaving the yard. Upon his return from the “outside” world where he had ventured, his authoritarian father killed him and buries him in the yard. It was only then that the police riot squad broke in and arrested Kempton to give the deceased son a decent burial. Kempton has since served his jail term and reverted to his old life. On the positive side, it is this year rumoured he had a bumper harvest (no one can exactly get into the hedged yard to take actual stocks though). However, the yield is not a result of the use of a tractor or ox-drawn plough. The queer Kempton practically puts his own sons and daughters on yokes to pull the plough which he himself will be holding, sjambok in hand. Recently, The Southern Times paid a visit to the area with the aim of conducting a one-on-one interview with Mutambara, but upon warnings from the local people, we ended up at Cashel Valley Police Post to seek the escort of police details. They did not beat about the bush: “Sorry, we do not have sufficient manpower and ammunition at the moment to accompany you. Maybe you can come on a later day”, a sergeant in the charge informed us. The local sub-chief who is also a cousin to Kempton, Nebison Mutambara, narrated the developments that have led to the latter’s queer behaviour and his choosing to disassociate himself from everyone who is not immediate family. “More than two decades ago Kempton’s father (then Chief Mutambara) had the chieftainship forcibly wrestled from him for reasons best known to those who plotted the coup,” said Mutambara. “This then angered him (Kempton) to the extent that when his father died a few years later, he refused to have him buried in Guhune Mountain where all the chiefs are laid to rest. Instead, he single-handedly dug a grave right inside his yard and by himself buried him there together with the chieftainship regalia and all other materials that go with the title. Kempton said he did not want anyone at the funeral of his father and even declared that as far as he was aware, the Mutambara chieftainship had ended with his father. And that was the beginning of trouble. “Our problem then came when we wanted to officially install his father’s successor, and we needed the buried tools which we could not access. We were then compelled to approach the Government, through the District Administrator’s office, which then bought new items for the ceremony”, said the sub-chief. While Kempton does not attend funerals that occur in his neighbourhood as per African tradition or participate in any programmes in the community, noone is worried about that. “Our only worry is that when he is in a bad mood, he shuts up the water from the irrigation canal as it passes through his homestead. “No one has the guts to go in and question him and we do not have an option but to be patient until his temper subsides. Sometimes by that time our crops would have wilted”, said sub-chief Nebison Mutambara.

May 2006
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