Elliot Ziwira @ The Bookstore
IMAGINE a situation where a brother and sister are caught up in a love triangle, with the former’s fiancée hanging precariously on the fringes, as hearts bleed and common sense is traded for carnal satiation; a moment of madness where a government minister fights for her reputation in the bumpy political terrain; and a man of cloth has to keep his church in the dark on the unfolding drama on the home-front, and an entire community suffers, all because of Cupid’s abominable strike!
Love gentle reader, is as controversial as it is hurtful, as futile as it is fruitful and as constructive as it is destructive.
To love is to be prepared to be hurt; and hurting is a precursor to boundless love, all depending on where Cupid, the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection directs his arrow. What happens, gentle citizen, friend and countryman, if Cupid’s arrow strikes an abomination?
It is such a quandary that one family finds itself in, in Chitsime J. Milton’s debut novel “Not in Zimbabwe” (2015) published by Forteworx Press.
It is the story of Tongai Bindu whose determination to take the man of his dreams, Keith to the altar for the marital vows, hits a snag because of a plethora of reasons.
Primarily, it is culturally taboo in his country (Zimbabwe) to do so; the law forbids it, the Bible condemns it and the society frowns upon it. Secondly, his mother is a government minister and his father is a pastor; key societal pillars and custodians of the mores and values that inform the familial, communal and national discourses.
Thirdly, Keith, the target of Cupid’s arrow is betrothed to his sister Leah. Like Leah, his girlfriend Gina suffers heartbreak as the drama plays out; yet Tongai has this to say: “It’s my right, father. . . I reserve the right to choose the sexual orientation I want. And nobody will do anything about it. Not even you Dad or Mum — ”.
Chitsime adeptly uses realistic traits through setting and characterisation to explore the thorny issue of homosexuality, which has been legalised in 21 countries in the world with the influence of Western values in the so called change in the global tide.
Sexual orientation is a human right, the West preaches, and the antagonistic Tongai believes it wholeheartedly, because he has been to the Netherlands, the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages in 2001, for his postgraduate studies.
Deaf to all pleas to search for the African in him; a government minister’s only son and a pastor’s blood in him, the “prodigal son” goes for the juggernaut, much to the detriment of all who matter to him.
His father Pastor Bindu reminds him: “The Bible says men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God…Leviticus 18:22—You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination”.
Tongai’s mother Minister Mavis Bindu wilts inside as she yelps: “I regret the day I gave birth to you. . . President Mugabe is right, and I quote, ‘It’s unnatural, and there is no question ever of allowing these people to behave worse than dogs and pigs. If dogs and pigs do not do it, why must human beings?’ Why must you do it Tongai, when dogs can’t do it?”
All was in vain, as the African sages know too well that what can only be released is that which one holds not that which is embedded in the heart.
He is “trapped in love” and has “a perceived future of tying the knot, with Keith declared the wife and Tongai the husband.”
As the plot reels out Dr Martins, the family doctor frets on the reasons why the minister and her daughter suffer inexplicable heart piercing conditions.
The story takes a twist when Keith is diagnosed with a chronic condition.
The learned doctor intimates to the minister, Leah and Gina: “I suspect there are cancer cells emanating from anal penetration. . . His anal muscles have been damaged such that he is no longer able to control his excretion. The young man is now experiencing leakages and he needs pampers.”
Dr Martins is aware that “homosexuality is unacceptable and frowned upon in Zimbabwe” and that “gays and lesbians should be handed over to the police”, but he is caught between power and wealth.
Inasmuch as his convictions on the law and ethics of his profession are firm, he is not unschooled in the way power and money work in this cruel world.
He knows that the minister’s son is involved, so when he is asked to name the price for his silence, he is aware of the consequences of whatever he decides on, yet he makes a decision, because he has to, for he is only human; a mere mortal like everyone else.
Meanwhile, Tongai’s whereabouts are unknown to his family. He leaves for their rural home in Nyanga where he finds his childhood friend Paida, who is now the village belle, at their homestead because she was left in charge by Tongai’s grandmother who is said to have visited a sick relative in Bulawayo.
With the encouragement of her cunning mother, Paida tries to win the affable bachelor’s heart, but she is spurned. He tells her that he would rather give her any amount of money she mentions than commit his heart to her.
She is heartbroken and sends her 15-year-old brother Sam to collect her bracelet from Tongai’s place, which unbeknown to her, was like sending a lamb to a wolf’s abode. Sam is sodomised. Under interrogation from his mother and the community elders, the boy tells on Tongai’s shenanigans, not only with him, but five other boys.
The community which has always wondered why all of a sudden the heavens closed their life giving reservoirs against them, and unleash the sweltering heat that has left in its wake 80 carcasses of their beasts and a travesty of what has been a promising season, now has the answer to their woes—an abomination on their soil.
Led by their traditional leader, Chief Chisora, the villagers are determined to have the perpetrator brought to book; but one thing jolts their memory to reality—Tongai’s mother is a government minister. The chief’s sudden death and the police’s reluctance to pursue the matter all but kill hope for retribution and justice.
The different sub plots are brought to a convergence, as the cat is let out of the bag. The minister’s attempt to silence the doctor and Keith backfires. The doctor’s acceptance of US$500 000 and Keith’s taking of a Visa to the Netherlands plus $20 000 for their silence remain to haunt them.
Does the minister survive it? Will the Man of God be equated to Eli whose sons where wicked but he remained a true servant of the Lord? Will the church forgive him? What happened to Tongai then; his sister and girlfriend?
These questions gentle reader and more are convincingly answered in Chitsime J. Milton’s “Not in Zimbabwe” (2015).
Chitsime J. Milton was born in 1988 in Zaka. He is a social worker, who currently works with an organisation that cares for victims of child abuse. He also uses the pen name C.J Mylton.
Although “Not in Zimbabwe” is his first novel in English, he has published a novel and poetry anthologies in Shona, as well as short stories and poems in English. His Shona novel “Mbona Mbona: Kutsvaga Chikiti Murima” was Published in 2014. He has poems in the poetry anthologies “Tsuro Ndisunge” (2015) and “Flowers of a Dry Season” (2015), and short stories in “True Lies” (2015). He also writes children’s books.
The writer plans to publish three books in the course of this year.
On homosexuality, Chitsime maintains that Zimbabwe should never shift her stance on the abomination, because: “We cannot accept the unacceptable, legalise, the illegal, tolerate the intolerable and normalise the abnormal in the name of human rights.
“The right to homosexuality is violence against nature. Zimbabweans should not prioritise “human rights” more than “God’s commandments”. Homosexuality is a religious and social issue, political as well; because it has been politicised. . . No way should it be viewed as a human right because it violates God’s design for man and woman.”