Let It Die

By Tsitsi Nomsa Ngwenya

The women walked as if they carried dawn in their arms and the earth under their armpits. Slowly and silently, heads bowed like sheep, they walked on the footpath they had already been on several times that morning. Before the sun rose, as the night was tugging its shadow behind the mountains. They avoided stepping on sharp mazhanje seeds, sucked and spat onto the path by the children from the village. The hard yellow seeds, scattered over the village paths, cut soft heels and toes and could even draw blood if stepped on with unsuspecting feet.

The muzhanje trees, now out of their leaves, were laden with ripening fruit. This was their season. On the dirt road leading to the nearby mission school, children could be seen walking in groups, the girls in navy blue skirts and light blue shirts. The boys wore navy blue trousers. The primary school pupils wore blue dresses and the boys, grey shorts and shirts. Both girls and boys carried packets of mazhanje fruits for their lunch.

Balancing buckets of water on their heads, while others carried them by their handles, the women moved as if they owned memories, sounds and the smell of the earth they walked on. They seemed to feel the burden of it all again. The deafness. The waiting. The struggles. Many struggles they had endured and the men’s resignation to it all. Did freedom know this place? If it did, what did it look like? Had the men too missed it? Had it budded somehow on the older branches of their family trees?


Portrait of Emlanjeni (Excerpt)

By Tsitsi Nomsa Ngwenya

To reach Emlanjeni village, a community whose history is deeply archived in its sturdy deeds, harvests and echoes of song and the spoken word, one has to plan a three-hour drive from Ematojeni, about twenty kilometres south of Bulawayo. Ematojeni Hills of the famous Njelele Shrine and Matopos National Park, a national heritage site, are on the village’s north. You drive on a strip road, curving, turning and meandering around huge rock boulders, past the balancing rocks on the left, till you cross a narrow bridge on Hove River.

That is the bridge which causes bus drivers to forbid women and children from occupying the front seats. As the bus descends on the bridge on their maiden trips to Bulawayo, koNtuthuziyathunqa, these fearful passengers let out shrieks which sometimes cause the driver to lose control of the steering wheel. On the eastern side of the road, on huge rock boulders, still lie the remains of Cecil John Rhodes, uMlalankunzi. After the park, the road narrows all the way to Khezi, a small business centre with a court and shops dotted on either side of the road.

The place is dry. One can smell its dryness. Bushes of acacia trees dot the environment. The surface is littered with little, whitish, dusty stones. The whole surrounding area, all the way to Mwewu River, is mostly gullied and just dry, giving the impression of being frequently cleaned by nature’s maids. From there the road widens past Maphisa Growth Point, past Bhalagwe Hill, and past the mine dump at the bottom of the hill.