SOWE rekuDomboshava had been the pastor’s choice.
He had said that there was power in those mountains; power to unlock God’s favour.
They stopped to rest among a scattering of boulders apparently also resting on the steep slope.
The pastor talked about favour and then led the song ‘Bvumai tirurame….’
The chorus was laboured but solemn.
A young man spoke in tongues, mentioning the names of Mikairi, Herija and Abhurahama.
A woman engaged him in strange tongues call-and-refrain dialogue.
He spoke and she answered….
He spoke and she answered….
He spoke and she answered….
And it was the same words – the same question and the same answer.
Someone raised a song of mercy – an emotionally charged slow and solemn hymn.
The heated argument subsided into an occasional chant.
The spirit quietened.
The song of mercy slowed to a hum.
The pastor said: “Zviratidzo.”
The woman who wanted the favour of a promotion promptly rose up and said: “I saw a star rising in the east and rush westwards.”
The oral historian said: “I saw a group of armed men watching us vari pamusorosoro peNgomakurira.”
A timid voice spoke into the pitch darkness: “What do you mean by a group of armed men watching us vari pamusorosoro peNgomakurira?”
“Chiratidzo. The armed men are not there in flesh,” the oral historian explained.
“And they don’t belong to this generation.”
An older voice that sounded like a sacred part of the night said: “I saw them too. They are the spirits of freedom fighters who perished in these very mountains during the liberation struggle.”
He paused as if to listen to what else the strange night was holding away from those without vision.
Then he added: “… and they are not alone. They have behind them, ancient fighters from the First Chimurenga.”
A dismayed voice said: “Vakomana … Zvino chii chataita. We come here to seek God’s favour and we run into demons?”
It was the man aspiring to be Member of Parliament.
He was from the student activist generation that had challenged the war veterans to return them to the place of bondage – the student activists who had challenged the comrades kuti: “Tidzoserei patakanga takasungirirwa.”
And they had fought and lost running battles with more war veterans in the police and armed forces.
He knelt on the granite surface of the mountain and swore to himself kuti: “I will come down this mountain with my favour from God because favour does not come from mweya yemadzinza or war veterans.”
The older man was not from Harare. He had favoured them with space in his village — a secure place to park their vehicle during the retreat and had expressed his wish to join them and be their guide.
And now this?
Where exactly would he guide them to?
To the spirits of war veterans and mweya yemadzinza?
And now, they were two — him and the oral historian, a handsome young man they had all thought was nice and born again. Turns out he had always been a believer in indigenous demons.
The pastor asked for more visions and a woman said she had been shown praying hands.
Another said she had seen a rosary.
Someone talked about a bright light and angels and the aspiring Member of the House of Assembly expressed his relief: “I know God is in it.”
And he chanted: “Jehovah Jireh!”
The man of God encouraged him: “That is the spirit Honourable!”
Someone had heard a voice saying: “Zivai zvamafambira.”
By way of explanation, the pastor said: “That is very true. It is easy to get distracted nemweya yetsvina in places like these. Saka let us ignore everything else and concentrate on seeking God’s favour.”
His flock chorused: “Amen!”
It was the signal to get up and proceed.
The boulders remained behind, crouched in the darkness like sentries manning an observation position in eternal time and space
In the darkness, the elderly guide led the labouring entourage up the steep slope seemingly without effort. That he knew the space like the back of his own hand was beyond doubt.
And he did not stop talking. He told them the history of the land. He described the terrain, explaining how its rugged lay-out enabled freedom fighters to mount a stubborn harassment of enemy forces on the very edges of Salisbury during the liberation struggle.
Many among the flock seeking God’s favour found themselves drawn to the man, struggling to keep up with him, jostling to walk close to him, listening intently to the history of the land and the struggle. He sounded real and strangely not political. They were walking and living the history of the land and not imagining it. The reality was compelling in its mystique.
The pastor noticed the trend and was not happy.
He felt the old man effortlessly loosening his (pastor’s) grip of the flock. And he couldn’t stop him like he had rudely done with the oral historian in the minibus. The old man was different. He had favoured them with the security of their minibus. His age and respectable demeanour required a different approach. Besides, he was the guide. He was the one who knew the way.
And he apparently knew more than was necessary for the pastor’s limited purpose – an extra-curricular history threatening to distract the flock’s attention from the purpose of the retreat.
The guide stopped beside a lone skeletal tree to allow the stragglers to catch up. Rising tall from a crack in the granite, in the softening darkness, the tree looked like a Martian radio mast.
When the whole flock had caught up and gathered around him, the guide looked towards the glow of Harare in the far south and asked: “Do you know that the guerillas who bombed the Rhodesian fuel depot on December 11 1978 were based here in Domboshava?”
To be continued…