Consequences of abandoning the ‘African way’


THE anthology, A Tragedy of Lives, has nine sections, each based on a particular theme.
Of course some sections dovetail to the extent that they can be coalesced under a broader theme, making it possible for us to treat the ‘diaries’ in about four (4) instalments minus the background which we dealt with in last week’s article. This article shall be the first of the four (4) series and its focus is on Section Nine confessions.
The first confession comes from Memory.
Memory grows up happy in a happy polygamous setting.
She fails Grade Seven exams, but proceeds to secondary school where she eventually drops out of school at Form Two level to get married to Ranganai, a gold inspector, who cares so much for her notwithstanding his meagre salary. Unfortunately, he dies of cancer and leaves her pregnant, prompting her to return to her parents for her upkeep.
After giving birth, she leaves the baby in the care of her mother to seek employment.
She finds a job as a maid for an Ethiopian couple in Hillside (Harare) where she meets Learnmore who impregnates her again.
Unsure of what to do, she fails to register at the local clinic resulting in her giving birth alone in the servants’ quarters.
The baby dies under unclear circumstances and she is imprisoned for alleged infanticide and serves an effective six (6) months.
The second story is told by Elizabeth.
She was born in Chigodora to a Zimbabwean father and a South African mother.
Her father dies when she was five (5), and her mother left for her country leaving her in the hands of her uncle.
Due to the poverty of the uncle she dropped out of school at Grade Five and got married to Tendai, a policeman.
She claims, “I married very young, I was running out of poverty.” Unfortunately, in spite of her new life of plenty, she fails to give her loving husband a child.
To please him, she fakes pregnancy then goes to Chimanimani Clinic and steals a baby which she brings home only to be picked by the long arm of law.
She serves for two years and eight months.
No one comes to visit her during her tenure, and when she returns home, she is treated like a pariah.
Then she meets David to whom she confesses her past.
He marries her all the same, and she gives him three children in succession. She realises it was not her fault; after all it was her previous husband’s fault.
The third story comes from Barbra.
Her background is similar to that of Elizabeth.
She drops school at Form Three due to financial constraints to seek employment.
She is impregnated by Alwin who refuses to marry her.
She persuades her parents to allow her to keep her baby, Tawanda.
Then she is impregnated again by a different man who refuses to own up again. Then she decides to abort.
A man assists her in her plan.
She disposes of her six-month foetus in a nearby river.
The law catches up with her and she serves an effective eight months.
No one visits her except her boyfriend.
When she eventually returns home, she is married by her forgiving boyfriend; but the memory of the foetus is still an albatross on her conscience.
The fourth confession comes from Clara.
She also drops from school at Form Two as a result of peer pressure.
She confesses later: “my friends were up to no good” (p 37).
They spent most of their time in pubs, drinking beer with their boyfriends. Then she is impregnated by a certain boy, not her boyfriend.
And like Barbra, she hides the pregnancy before aborting it and throwing the foetus into a pit latrine.
Again the law catches up with her and she soon finds herself serving three months at Chikurubi.
When she is released, she regrets not having paid heed to her mother’s moral teachings as the memory of the baby remains a stain on her conscience.
The above summaries of the haranguing experiences of the four women, Memory, Elizabeth, Barbra and Clara point towards one thing: things falling apart for unhu/ubuntu; and of course the consequences of abandoning the ‘African way’.
Unhu/Ubuntu is “an internal state of being or the very essence of being human,” (Chinkanda cited in ed. Murove 2009:64).
The lives of the girls tell a story about how unhu/ubuntu have been torn apart by the new social order occasioned by colonial urbanisation and the complete subjection of the Africans into a money economy which cannot sustain the African value systems.
Notice that the background to all the four prisoners points to some form of material poverty or absence of morally sustaining human relations.
Memory is a victim of fellow male victims caught up in the simmering world of urban poverty.
She is also a victim of her own ignorance of the ways of the new world and indeed of her own negligence; otherwise the law is right to protect the rights of the unborn to ensure their safe landing on mother Earth.
Elizabeth, too, has learnt her lesson well although she seems to blame patriarchal pressure for her crime of baby-stealing.
It is clear that African systems of protecting marriages are glaringly missing and their entire purpose of marriages in the four accounts is no longer informed by African value systems.
In a typical African value – guided situation failure to bear children is handled in a manner that protects whoever is the ‘problem’ without tearing families apart for indeed African marriages are family marriages, not contracts between individuals as is the case in the four accounts.
The other two confess wilfully to giving in to the peer pressures and unguarded relationships which lands them into unwanted pregnancies and subsequent abortions.
What is clear in their choices is absence of a moral compass.
Vana ava varasa hunhu because the cultural pillars that would guide them morally through the wilderness of life are no longer there.
These confessions are reminder for us all to return to the way.
The young generation is caught up in a web they do not understand.


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