Family Matters: A Tribute to Mungoshi

(Sushi for Mungoshi)

By Fr.Dr.DFTsj Mufundisi Lovedale aka Munzwisisi wehuchenjeri

 A few days ago, Charles Mungoshi, an award winning Zimbabwean writer, was laid to rest in his village of Manyene. I do not know anything about his personal life except a few biographical details on the back covers of his books. But his work has influenced me greatly. 

As a tribute to him, I thought of highlighting one theme in his books that has spoken to the depth of my being.

Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva (The getting of days into each other, my translation, official translation is how time passes)

This a story about Rindai who comes to town after her O Levels. She meets and befriends Maggie. Maggie has a boyfriend Zecharia aka Zexie Munyati, but Munyati wants to leave Maggie for Rindai and Rindai refused and she told her friend Maggie about Zexie’s intentions. 

Maggie is grateful to Rindai for her honest. She eventually left Zexie and promises Rindai that she will be faithful to her as she has been to her. Rindai eventually meets Rex Mbare. They fell in love and marry. Maggie is the maid of honor at their wedding. After sometime in their marriage, they begin to encounter some problems. 

Rindai decides to go to the village to give her husband time to refresh. Rex does not come to visit and Rindai comes to Harare and is beaten by Rex. They reconcile and Rindai goes back to the village and Rex commits himself to visit the wife and children, but as soon as he gets into Harare he is taken up by the city life and forgets his wife and children. 

Rindai waits and waits but Rex does not come. Her daughter, Rangarirai, keeps asking about Daddy and she tells her mum that she sees a car in dream coming to her. Everyone in the village, including her mother-in-law vaKwiripi, began to gossip that Rex has left Rindai and that Rindai is having an affair with Maswera, a local teacher who helps her from time to time. 

Rindai ignores the gossip and she kept telling her daughter that they will go to see her father and aunty Maggie, a good friend of her in Harare. She writes to Maggie to find out if Rex is ok, but there is no response. Finally, she decides to go to town, only to discover that Rex is now staying with Maggie. She does not say much, but tells her daughter to stay with aunty Maggie and the brothers. She told the husband that she has come to leave the children and left the house, intending to go to her uncle’s place. After she left the house she crosses the road and she hears her daughter calling her when she turns she sees her daughter running to come to her. 

Unfortunately there is a car that is coming, she is knocked down and dies. The driver of the car happens to be Zexie Munyati. The story ends well with Rex and Rindai going to live together peacefully in the village, they are blessed with a daughter whom they name Wadzanai. Maggie remains in Harare where she drinks herself to insanity.

Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura (silence is not talking)

This is a story about interrelationships within the Mujokoro’s family and centers around Eric whose mother Vanhanga is in the first wife of Mujokoro. Vanhanga had two sons Mazarura and Eric and a daughter named Norika. Mazarura lives in town with his family, he decides to take Eric to stay with him in town, but he also decided to take Paul, the son of Kwanhurai, his father’s second wife. Vanhanga does not like Kwanhurai. She blames her for bewitching her many children who died in infancy. Eric and Paul are of the same age and they grow up at Mazarura’s house in Harare. Eric goes to England to pursue business studies and Paul remains and marries Lorna from a well to do family and establishes some business and he moves to the suburbia. The story begins with Eric coming back from England and the family has gathered to meet him. His mother has come from the village. Paul is the well to do and he has the car that came to carry the family to the airport. But as soon as Eric arrives, he just passes through Mazarura homestead leaves a few gifts to the family and moves to Paul’s house. During his time there he does not have time for his family or his girlfriend Martha. He spends time with Paul and some of his middle class friends in Harare. Lorna, Paul’s wife has a crush on Eric and she wants to divorce Paul and marry Eric. When Eric realizes that everyone is talking about his relationship with Lorna and it is causing problems, she quarrels with Lorna and beats her. One day when Eric is at Paul and Lorna’s house in his bedroom. Lorna goes to him and tries to seduce him. Eric refuses and beats her. Paul finds them fighting and Lorna lies to the police that Eric was trying to rape her. Eric is arrested and Lorna commits suicide and dies with the truth. The story ends with Eric hoping to be acquitted and leave for England and never to come back. He is telling a friend Shaky that there was no way he raped Lorna. Shaky goes away wondering about the outcome of the ruling of the court. His conclusion is that the ruling might be in favour of Paul, but there are courts in hearts of people which will always judge Eric differently

Waiting for the Rain

It is a story of a young man Lucifer Mandengu who hates his home and his family with a passion, yet all his family look up to him as the educated man in the family, who will uplift the family. Unlike his brother Garabha who seem to be wonderer and his sister Betty who has all sorts of problems related to ancestral spirit that are responsible for her spinsterhood, Lucifer seems to be the hope of the family. But Lucifer hates everything about his family as is expressed in one of his statements that "I am Lucifer Mandengu. I was born here against my will. I should have been born elsewhere — of some other parents…. I have been born here, but is that a crime? That is only a biological and geographical error." The most tragic part is the last scene when Lucifer is leaving his home village. There is a priest who has come to take him. Lucifer can’t wait to get into the car and get away. His mother gives him a hug in sorrow that her son is leaving but Lucifer is resists and is pushes her away. His sister tries to bring a tin of peanut butter that his grandmother has been preparing for him since she heard that he will be going away and he rejects it rudely. There is a very sad scene as the family gather and watches the car leaving and Lucifer is looking forward to a better life away from his family and home.

Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo (Help. can’t translate this one)

Is a story of Chingweru who is constantly abusing her sick husband, who has become impotent. She hatches a plan to have one of her daughters, Monica get married to Mujubheki, a middle aged man who is rich. Monica seems to get along with the mother’s plan, but she changed completely when she met Timoti. In one of her errands to mujubheki, he sleeps with her. She conceives but aborts. Instead, she got pregnant by Timoti. When Timoti visits the family, Chingweru poisons him and he dies when he got to his place in Harare. Monica goes to Harare and finds a job somewhere taking care of her child. Mujubheki who is trying to prepare a house for Monica, dies in an accident. Her Father gets ill and is taken to hospital where he runs away and dies somewhere in the forest. Monica returns home to find her deranged mother and desolate homestead. She and her sister takes the responsibility of taking care of their deranged mother.

Inongova njake njake ( each does not his own thing)

I read this when I was in primary school, so I do not have all the details, but what I remember is that it is a play about the Gwaumbu family of Sheila and Tafi and their three children Lucy, Joe and Kate. They are always fighting and doing their own things. Sheila does not care much about Tafi. She is always thinking of a childhood sweetheart, Max. She is hoping to enkindle that relationship and leave Tafi. It’s only when Tafi is facing death does she repent and tries to commit herself. The story ends with Tafi trying to tell his family how they should live after his death.

What is Mungoshi saying about family?

I think Mungoshi brings to life the situation of many families. We all value family, but once in while we are aware that family can mean pain and suffering. Our families are not perfect. They have all sorts of problems. Even the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had its own fair share of struggles and problems. Joseph wants to divorce Mary (Mt1:19). They give birth to their son under very difficult situation brought about by political decisions that forced joseph to go to his roots (Lk 21-22). Jesus once gets lost and his parents suffer as they look for him (LK 2: 41-41) and at one time his family thinks that he is mad (Mk 3:21). There is time he seem to have rejected his mother at one time (Mt 12;48). Joseph is said to have died leaving Mary as a widow. Mary sees her son dying and she ends up being taken care of by a friend of her son (Jn 19:26).

Reading Mungoshi has taught me that family is not a noun, but a verb. It is a doing word. Family is what we do and Mungoshi is very clear on what he we have to do. Just like Rex and Rindai are blessed with a new daughter whom they named wadzanai. We have to wadzana. Kuwadzana is to live together harmoniously. And maybe Tafi’s message on his death bed are the words of Mungoshi from the world of the ancestors about how we should live with our families

In his reflection about the fate of Eric, Shaky says the court judgment is one thing, but there is another judgment in the courts of our own hearts. I want to end with a thought built on this thinking. The government, the state, the party, the politburo, the central committee or whoever confers the status of a National hero has not considered Mungoshi, but in the politburo, or central committee of my heart, I have conferred him a hero’s status. May he rest in peace and rise in glory


PS My apologies for the grammatical errors and typos, I had three beers today instead of two.








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