The Sloganist (Chronicles of a Fighter)
By Tendai Nyatsanga
Published by YouArePerfectPress USA and Steel Media, Zimbabwe
THERE are so many books and pieces of literature that have been written about the liberation struggle, but the book under review this week is a unique one.
The book is from a Zimbabwean author, Tendai Nyatsanga, and is titled The Sloganist (Chronicles of a Fighter).
To display its uniqueness, the book is written in such a way that leaves the reader in awe regarding how the history of Zimbabwe can be stitched together intricately, eliminating clichés.
It is a book that narrates the journey of Zimbabweans in colonial Rhodesia and their quest to liberate themselves from bondage of the white minority.
Though so many years have passed since Zimbabwe gained its independence, through his story, the writer does well in coming up with historical fiction that makes an interesting read even to those who do not like history.
Through the lens of the story’s protagonist, Leo Tsanga, The Sloganist (Chronicles of Fighter) traces his journey of becoming a freedom fighter from the early 1970s until Zimbabwe attained independence.
So, the book focuses on Leo’s life before, during and after the liberation struggle.
Critical about the book is that the writer depicts the story of the liberation struggle in a way that highlights the existence of love, loyalty, bravery, resilience, betrayal and optimism, among other issues.
The book takes the reader on a voyage back to the liberation struggle, intricately weaving through how the black majority suffered at the hands of the brutal Ian Smith regime.
In other words, Nyatsanga’s story is so charged with emotions that plunge one into melancholy, feelings felt by even thosewho did not experience the horrors of that war.
“In Salisbury as all over Rhodesia, the settlers lived in their own little paradise at the expense of the natives. They lived the life of kings and queens, and it wouldn’t be too much to say from the viewpoint of the natives, in the glitz of the oil sheiks of the Arab world while the blacks were being tortured by the sun like the troubled desperate grains of sand spread all over the dunes of the mighty Sahara,” writes Nyatsanga.
Through his protagonist, Tsanga, who also went by the Chimurenga nom de guirre Cde Freedom, the writer is able to bring to the fore the sharp contrast between the colonialists and the indigenes.
Issues that highlight how the blacks were moved to the rural areas while the unwanted visitors enjoyed the fertile land and became owners of companies or industries are sadly narrated in the book.
“They owned the industries from A to Z, owned the shops, hotels, spas and drove the finest cars. Those who didn’t own a shop or business still got the best jobs under the Jobs Protection Act,” wrote Nyatsanga.
“They were the foremen of the industries, the managers in the companies and flourished in the professional fields and the least paid white people in the country, the underclass of the white population, could still earn ten times more than the highest paid black professionals. It was crude and brutal.
“The settlers lived their affluent lives on the brightest side of the city where the best services, health services, state-of-the-art schools and the best of everything was found. Most of them stayed in suburbs amidst leafy bougainvillea, in apartments where all were well fed, clothed and financially covered,” notes Nyatsanga.
As a young man, Tsanga became a firsthand witness to the brutality of the whiteman when his brother is arrested, while his father is beaten and left for dead. They are forcibly removed from their house in Highfield to their rural home in Chiweshe.
The writer stresses that some blacks endured the pain of being sick in the mind, the hardships of living in townships where social discrimination was rampant as well as enduring working under the supervision of racist supervisors.
Being imprisoned in Rhodesia was a nightmare and the writer does well in reflecting how the torture was unbearable to the extent many died in prison.
The argument that Nyatsanga brings in his books stresses that when people are oppressed, they are hardened by hardships to the extent that they become uncontrollable.
Under Rhodesian rule, the majority of Zimbabweans, including Leo and his friends, could not stand the oppression, crossed to Mozambique, a sign showing they had reached a point of no return.
They had nothing to lose but to gain their freedom.
History of the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe does not hide that around 1975, an influx of the black majority crossed to neighbouring countries for military training.
Some, like Tsanga and his friends, escaped prison, while others ran away from school. Many thus did not get the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones.
They just joined the fight for their freedom.
Nyatsanga writes: “It was in these townships, just as in the impoverished reserves of the countryside, where the seeds for the Uprising to liberate Zimbabwe were sown because it was there where the full brunt of the settler madness was felt to the maximum.”
The Sloganist (Chronicles of a Fighter) also talks of a revolution in Zimbabwe that depicts the working together of people and the fighters so they could attain independence.
Unlike some other pieces of literature, it does not fully focus on the full details of the war, but provides a refreshing account that provides a tragedy and an optimistic encounter.
“Freedom is why we should find the courage to rise up from this loss and continue with our united struggle fearlessly and sacrifice until the day we get it,” Nyatsanga writes.
The Sloganist (Chronicles of a Fighter) is a must-read book and befitting to be in libraries of schools and colleges.