Monday, November 01, 2010

(HERALD) Land reform in letter form

Land reform in letter form

Sekai Minda Tave Nayo by Davie Elias Mutasa Gweru Booklove Publishers 2005 (2010 Printing) 138 Pages ISBN: 978-0-7974-3447-9 (Paperback)

Literally translated, Sekai, we now have the land, Davie Mutasa’s book seems ambiguous in as far as the title is concerned. The reader is tempted to think that there is a pun on the word “Sekai” which could refer to “laugh” or it could be the name of a person, Sekai.

The author rightly describes his work as a historical novel as it draws from concrete historical events that took place in the country following the landmark land reform programme at the turn of the millennium.

A number of sources are made reference to by the author and these include but are not limited to President Mugabe’s interview with Cable News Network on the sidelines of a United Nations summit, Prof Paul Gundani’s paper at UNISA in 2004, Zimbabwean newspapers as well as The Pretoria News.

The book explores a variety of themes ranging from social, economic as well as political.

The perennial struggle for the African to get an education is one of the major concerns of the book but this leads to a number of other sub-themes.

It is this thirst for an education that exposes the weaknesses of the missionary education system albeit the fact that it is the first practical step towards formal education in the colonial set-up.

The relationship between the patriarchal African society and education also comes under scrutiny.

Women in the traditional set up were confined to the nome and their space only extended as far as bearing children and cooking.

However, consistent with global trends that seek to seriously address the issue of gender balance, Sekai’s father has to contend with heavy criticism from his sister when he suggests that Sekai should come back from Harare.

He believes since she is a woman, there is no real need for her to get an education as this is deemed to be a way of enriching the family she will marry into.

The world over gender balance, which will allow for equal opportunities in all spheres of life between men and women, has become topical and Mutasa in his book brings the debate to the fore once again.

The letter from Rongedza is very straight-forward and behind it lies a woman of strong character, who is able to take male domination head-on.

It is also through the same letter that we learn that domestic violence in the story is not unusual, especially where the man beats up his wife over issues that could have easily been solved through dialogue.

Sekai Minda Tave Nayo uses the epistolary style where the major characters in the book write letters to each other and despite the geographical distances between them still manage to debate certain critical issues that government is grappling with today.

They write about these to their colleagues who also give their perspective.

At the end of the day the book almost becomes a platform for debating pertinent national issues.

It is through such debate that we learn of how people view the land reform programme and indigenisation policy that government is advocating.

In this way, Sekai minda tave nayo ceases to be an ordinary book telling an ordinary story of Sekai’s life and the lives of those around her.

It becomes a story that carries with it serious, thought provoking as well as refreshingly different views on important issues that have dominated national economic and political policy of late.

These debates take place in some of the most unusual places.

The debating clubs at school are used as platforms for debating topics of serious national concern like the land, the economy — with all its downturns — development, among other issues.

The use of letters, we are told at one point, is not to suggest that it is the only means of communication available. There is evidence in the book that mobile phones are already in use.

However, the author must have decided on letters to ensure there is a record that is kept. The letter also renders some semblance of intimacy between the reader and the story.

That way the story gains in terms of authenticity which has already been created by the use of specific geographical places.

The names Manokore, Nyika, Mangondo, Zaka refer to real places in Masvingo Province.

There is also reference to contemporary musicians like Oliver Mtukudzi, Leonard Zhakata among others as well as legendary Zimbabwean footballers Peter Ndlovu and Moses Chunga as well as others from the continent like Austin Okocha.

The letters in the book are written between relatives, friends, school mates as well as heads of schools as well as colleges in the country and overseas.

It is through these that the writer explores the difficulties that the girl child and woman goes through in Zimbabwe.

The men look down upon women and it is these struggles to assert themselves that readers see women like Sekai battling to get an education which will give them recognition.

These struggles represent new trends and views on women’s rights within Zimbabwe, regionally and the world over.

The strike or demonstration at Silveira Secondary School, although miniature, shows readers the importance of dialogue in situations with the potential for direct confrontation.

Even at national level, the importance of dialogue has demonstrated its power in dealing with explosive political situations.

Today, Zimbabwe and Kenya have inclusive governments that have largely been successful in restoring economic and political stability in the respective countries.

People like Juwere, who have no time for dialogue and negotiations and prefer to solve their issues through violent means are agents of destruction and are rightly disowned by their own parents.

Current government thrusts towards black empowerment and indigenisation are supported and it is their ultimate benefits to the country that are analysed and reading the book will give people new ways of looking at these national priorities.

Other themes like love, death, benefits of hard work, commitment, sacrifice, betrayal, determination among others are also explored in the book.

However, these are used to illustrate the bigger social, economic and political concerns of the book.

Davie Elias Mutasa is a professor at the University of South Africa and hails from the Nyahunda farming area, Bikita in Masvingo Province.

He was educated in Bikita and proceeded to the University of Zimbabwe and later UNISA.

He has also published Nyambo DzeJoni, a book which won him the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association prize in 2000.

Sekai Minda Tave Nayo is a book with a difference in all respects as far as the Shona narrative is concerned.

It is constructed on letters only and in terms of concerns, touches on issues many a writer would find difficult to present so vividly.

It is a must-read for those who have the love of the Shona language and would like to have a feel of contemporary Zimbabwean issues.

edmore.zvinonzwa ***

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