Author: Idine Magonga
The question of whether Dambudzo Marechera’s way of writing was one of the most ideal or not continues to dominate the local literary discourse. There have, however ,been no consensus, but it is without doubt that he left behind a significant number of loyal disciples spanning generations.
Between the Lines: Beniah Munengwa
Idine Magonga is one such author who belongs to the tell-it-as-it-is brigade. His debut offering, Gandanga, paints a potent picture of Zimbabwean events, spanning from the colonial era to the time former President Robert Mugabe was deposed in a military coup last year.
From the cover image to the reading of the preface, anyone laying his eyes on the two may be coerced to bow down to the anticipation that controversy (and only that) is what they will encounter upon reading Gandanga.
The reader will not help, but deduce that the author is anti-establishment, not because he has exterior motives, but because he, like many Zimbabwean souls, is fed up with the way partisan politics has disrupted the smooth flow of democratic life.
Taking centre stage in the author’s premise is the slant of debunking all that is deemed pure by society. One such example is Magonga’s exploration of the life of a nun in a Catholic institution, showing how, beyond their outer garments, these women who had vowed a lifetime of chastity also harbour sexual desires, and often have them fulfilled.
Magonga is an example of an individual who writes against the ‘Zanufication’ of everything in the everyday life, a process that leads towards a degrading pathway where father and mother copulate in the presence of their children. That environment makes a future for children with nothing, but spoiled minds.
Beyond politics is the sociological make up of people’s lives, ranging from polygamous relations, value of virginity and man’s desire to be outstanding.
In the story, people are in a tight trap zone, whether they are in Ian Smith’s kips or in president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s assumed democracy. In all instances, bureaucratic chains and social laws perpetually entrap mankind.
Magonga fictionalises Smith’s conversation with Mugabe, showing how ‘stupid’ blacks are, as they fail to unshackle the chains of colonialism even after throwing the white man out.
Like most scribes who write on Mugabe, the author manages to draw a shrewd contrast between Mugabe’s wives, Grace and Sally, exquisitely depicting the purity and the wretchedness that differentiates them.
Bold claims also emerge from Magonga’s offering. According to the narrator, Mugabe is from Malawi and also became sterile after experiencing torture during the liberation war. Whether it is factual or not, what I am sure of is that such claims are inroads into finding the true biographies of people who determined the fate of our livelihoods. The alleged mutilation of Mugabe’s sexuality is, however, not something to be laughed at, for it shows some of the gruesome prizes that many individuals were made to pay. Some, as Magonga’s text reveals, went on to lose their virginity against their will. But what could not escape my eye is the focus on the dual fledged nature of the perpetuation of untold suffering that was endured during the war. Young black women who participated in the war were subject to sexual abuse by fellow black comrades.
Taking Marechera’s slant of the House of Hunger and Mindblast viewpoint, Magonga opted for explicitness in his depiction of human civilisation, particularly magnifying human sexuality and all of life’s nuances.
Human beings are by nature highly sexual, but that aspect is not usually regarded as fit for public consumption, but Magonga defies convention in that regard. Although much of his fictional storyline depicts historical events just as they happened, the author, however, preferred to package it as fiction.
Although the book is outstanding in its depiction of the Zimbabwean story, it does not stand as a book that can be recommended to everyone because of its highly sexual overtones. Loads of sex, sexuality and intimate interactions are a key component of Magonga’s work, thereby making it unfriendly to under-age readers and those of a “nervous disposition”.
My own appreciation of his choice of tone and explictness does not allow me to completely dismiss his option as uncalled for because I appreciate that sex happens among minors, in war, in church and everywhere, thereby making it a part of the realities of life.
The book attempts a look at Zimbabwean issues from the colonial era to post- independence. What is interesting is the pessimism that permeates the work, which also covers Gukurahundi, independence and Mugabe’s overthrow from power. On the level of narrative appreciation, the attempt to cover this vast period weakens the plot in that there are too many characters which many readers may struggle to deal with, although it is a worthy adventure for a reader to follow.
Magonga is an active citizen, whose profile shows a man whose heart skips a beat when it witnesses some disguised realities and is always out there to put a stop to that in the harshest of ways possible.
Beniah Munengwa writes in his own capacity. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org