Dare to be Daniel


Daring to be Daniel is knowing who you are, where you’re from and helping others.

If you remember the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, there’s a story about the lion’s den where Misheck and Abednigo face the fire, right?

I couldn’t imagine what it was like for them, but only their spirituality and faith allowed them to survive.

The irony of this post is actually not completely about Daring, but about a Shona language term called Dare. –pronounced [da-re]

Dare is is actually a term used to describe a tribal court system where disagreements or misunderstandings are resolved. I’ve personally seen these in action in Guruve, Zimbabwe where my grandfather would preside over the tribal council.

If you read Sarikosi University this is where the judgements were pronounced and finalized before my parents, aunts and uncles were dismissed.

One thing for sure is that they were private matters and never made public to protect the tribal spirit. Fighting in public was not appreciated because it caused disunity among tribal friends and family.

Disagreements are common, but in Africa while we have a robust court system, many tribal discussions are settled in a dare. Everyone concerned mentions their grievances to the Chief and once everyone has had a chance to speak, the tribal folks beat the drums to signal peace.

If the rains come on the same day, I imagine that it is an evident signal from the ancestors that all sins are forgiven. I guess that’s why I understand Baptism. Water cleanses.

My grandfather used to talk to the ancestors everyday and he would walk on the muddy plains of Gota Farm asking for the rains.

As one of his cherished grandsons, I never understood why he would get up so early to walk around the farm, but it makes sense now that I’m older.

Edited at 558am.

Buy/Read Two Worlds Apart by Daniel Manyika.

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Mbuya Chando


Because of little  sleep during the course of the night, Mbuya Chando woke up well before sunrise. She was careful not to disturb her grandson who was still fast asleep. She eased herself out of the blankets and stretched out her arms slowly. She put on a jersey that she had bought from the general dealer situated at Guruve Growth Point. This was after she had sold a bag of maize at the Grain Marketing Board. She slowly opened the door, stepped out and closed it behind her, and briskly walked to the kitchen. Usually, she would have started the day with a prayer in the bedroom, but on this day she did not want to disturb her grandson. When she opened her kitchen door, she did not waste any more time, she gracefully knelt on the dried reed mat nearest to her and prayed to her God. It was her usual prayer that she made right at the beginning of each and everyday when she was at home.

After concluding her prayer, she went outside and collected some dry grass, twigs and firewood. She made her fire. Before her husband died, one of the most thoughtful things that he had done was to dig a well a few metres from their homestead. Although during severe droughts the water in the well would be reduced in amount, the well never really dried up. Mbuya Chando was eternally grateful to her late husband for taking away the burden of fetching water from M’pinge River, which was more than a kilometre away, or from Chiri Chiri Stream where the water was muddy. When the bigger logs were burning, Mbuya Chando drew some water from the well and poured it into a big tin container. She transferred some of the water into a medium sized bucket that was now pitch black from the heat and smoke emanating from the fire. She then placed the bucket on the fireplace.

While the water was warming up, Mbuya Chando mixed some mealie-meal and water in one of her pots. She placed the pot next to the boiling container on the fireplace. She continuously stirred the pot using a wooden spoon so that the thick paste at the bottom of the floor did not burn into tasteless porridge. The porridge was ready for eating after about ten minutes. She did not have any sugar to sweeten it. Sugar was too expensive for her at this point in time. She would buy the sugar, if someone came to buy the green vegetables in her little garden. She had dropped a little salt into the porridge to improve its taste. She waited for Tonderai to wake up.

It was during this time that she started thinking about the dream that had unceremoniously cut her sleeping hours. She was not the dreaming type –  those people who dream something every night that they sleep? She was not overly superstitious either. She was, however, aware that strange “things” did happen in her neighbourhood, from time to time, but she had not exerted her energies on things that she did not fully understand. She preferred to keep her distance, if she could. It might have been fear or simply lack of interest, or both. The black bird’s aggression in particular created a lot of discomfort in her mind. In many ways, she was very happy that Tonderai had not been killed in her dream. That would have been a very bad omen. She could not think of a world without Tonderai. At least, not her world. She mixed hot and cold water and went to the bathing shelter to have her usual morning bath. She was quick. She did not believe in wasting time with water.

After her bath Mbuya Chando decided to go and wake Tonderai up. He had had enough sleep she reckoned.

“Wake up, Tonderai, the sun is already up. I told you that we needed to go out to the field early today. Muka!”(Wake up!)

Tonderai knew when his grandmother would  get angry and he did not want to test her patience. He quickly rose and collected the blankets and neatly rolled them in the corner. Though small in frame, he had been trained by his granny that each day, after waking up, he should ensure that the bedding was properly wrapped and placed in one corner of the bedroom. Mbuya Chando was back in the kitchen and mixed hot and cold water for her grandson to have his bath.

Tonderai did not like bathing at all. He did not find it necessary. If it was not for his grandmother, he would wash his body maybe once a week. Even though the water was warm, he still felt cold after washing his body so much that he always dressed himself in a hurry. Alternatively, on some occasions, he simply washed his face, hands and legs. He had to be careful these days because once his grandmother had noticed that he had not washed his full body and he was given lukewarm water to go and wash while she stood outside the bathing shelter.

On this day, Tonderai had his full body bath and was back in the kitchen for his breakfast. The porridge went down very well, although he wished that he had had tea and bread instead. Oh, how he loved tea, especially if there was a generous spread of jam or margarine. He could clearly remember the last time he had such a treat. It had been the previous Christmas when he and his granny  had a full loaf for themselves. A whole loaf!

Soon, they were on their way to the maize field. The field was some distance from their homestead, past Chiri Chiri Stream on your way to the main road that went past Chitunhu village. For lunch, they had mahewu, a beverage that was made from sadza left-overs. Mbuya Chando led the way as usual and Tonderai followed faithfully behind. The two had travelled this path on many occasions. Both new each and every corner of the footpath, all the way to their field. It was like their bare feet held regular conversations with the dust along this path. It would appear that the conversations were always agreeable, because not one of them had stumbled, travelling this route. It was when they had set off on their way to the fields that Mbuya Chando’s mind  deeply focused on the future. Christmas was round the corner and she had no idea how she was going to ensure that her grandson had a good celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. She had very little money kept  for a rainy day. More importantly, she did not have a clue about where she would get the money for Tonderai’s Grade One school fees early in the new year. Tonderai also needed school uniforms. She did not mind even getting a second-hand set of a  khaki short and a shirt. That would do. It would be better than his current best clothes that had yellow and bright red patches. She wished  she was able to do more, but as of now, she could not think of any source of help. New clothes or no new clothes, what she knew in her mind was that Tonderai had to go to school. She had heard that the new school headmaster at M’pinyuri School was not as strict as the last one. The new one allowed parents to look for school fees for more than six months, if necessary. He was a local man who understood the tribulations that people like her had to face before coming up with school fees.

Although her late husband’s younger brother, Mharadzi did not live very far away, she was not comfortable about asking for help from him. This stemmed from her refusal  to  become his wife after her husband’s death, as was expected under customary practice. He drank too much beer and almost always beat up his wife for no apparent reason. The last time he had done so was because his wife had cooked sadza with vegetables only. Her crime was that she should have looked for a bit of beef to accompany the vegetables and the staple food. Where could the poor woman have found the beef? Besides, by the time her husband died, she was no longer interested in sex. She was doing it with her husband as a matter of duty. She had completely lost interest in the male species for that purpose. She, therefore, saw no reason for any man to take over her bedroom. When she recalled how uncle Mharadzi had reacted on being told that Mbuya Chando did not need a man to take over from his late brother, a naughty smile crept across her face. Because of an apparent lack of concentration, she almost stumbled as she negotiated a slight corner along the familiar footpath.

Mfana Richie


Richard bolted out of his mother’s house, almost as if someone was pursuing him for the purpose of terminating his life. He didn’t see the car that was coming from Machipisa Shopping Centre at high speed. That the car missed him by a few inches, was not because of the driver’s ability, but through sheer luck. The driver never stopped, he kept on going at high speed, turned left, near the graveyard and carried on in the direction of Lusaka section of Highfield. Richard on the other hand, simply slowed down, ignored all the warning shouts from pedestrians and dashed in the direction of the Shell fuel service station. There, his friends were waiting for him. Why did people worry about him being missed by a car? These things happened everyday in his neck of the hoods. He had been born and bred in Highfield. He had not come from the rural areas the day before. He liked to live on life’s knife-edge, in the fast lane. Amazingly, he was a Grade Four pupil at Chembira Primary school where he was beginning to show some promise at football and athletics, partly because he was bigger than most of his peers and partly because he was a genuinely talented athlete.

His mother was a single mother more out of choice than fate. She was a nurse by profession, drove a small car that was parked more times than it was driven, either because she was broke or there was no fuel on the market. Richard’s father was an unemployed good-for-nothing drunkard who had gone to the same school with Mai Richard, (Richard’s mother). Mai Richard’s name was Matilda Huni. His name was Nhamo. Ironically, Nhamo and Mai Richard had also attended Chembira Primary School many years back. Nhamo came from a well-to-do family, but his father had been at Gonakudzingwa political detention centre for more than ten years while Richard was growing up. Quite clearly the temporary absence of a father figure in the home had created a spoilt brat out of Nhamo resulting in four children being born out of wedlock with four different mothers before he was twenty!

Richard met his friends at the Shell garage and together they started walking towards the swimming pool situated along the Highfield-Glen Norah road. They spent the whole Saturday afternoon loitering around the swimming pool area, before they found their way to the Zimbabwe grounds where a number of amateur football games were being concluded. After separating from his friends, Richard briskly walked back to his mother’s house and found her sitting on the sofa drinking from a quart of castle beer.

“Hi mum, how was your day?”

She mumbled something about coming home tired from the hospital and that there had been too much work on that day and then shouted,

“Sisi, isirayi mwana chikafu pa-table” (Maid, please arrange some food on the table, for the child.)

The maid heard the instructions and responded by stating that she had already warmed up the food. Richard walked straight from his bedroom to the dining room and was served his dinner. Richard attacked it from all corners of the plate until the plate was clean.

From the dining room, Richard raided the kitchen refrigerator coming out with a full bottle of Fanta orange. He joined his mother in the lounge and sat on the carpeted floor to watch the latest episode of Mukadota that was showing on television. Richard sat quietly concentrating on the programme, once in a while, laughing with his mother, as Mukadota pulled out a few tricks in his usual comedian’s style. When one of the many commercials came on, Richard went to the loo hoping that he would come back before the TV programme had re-started. When Richard came back, into the lounge his mother had just finished the quart of beer and was almost dozing off on the sofa. He knew that it was not advisable to disturb his mother when she was having a nap, after drinking a bit of beer. Dinner had been nice. Some roasted pork and a little vegetables from their back garden. The pork was brown in colour and it had been marinated in herbs before being slowly roasted. Richard did not like eating vegetables and, as a result, he had got into a pact with the maid. She would not report to his mother the fact that he did not eat the vegetables. In return, he would give her part of his pocket money from time to time.

As he was going to school the following day, Richard went to sleep early. His bedroom was modest by urban standards. He had a double bed that he had inherited from his mother. It had seen better days, but was still in reasonable shape. He had four blankets, all of them still in very good shape. He even had bed sheets that were still new, having been recently purchased from the city centre. The headboard was brown in colour and it had been purchased in one of the furniture shops in town as well. It must have been Nyore-Nyore Furnitures,. What Richard did not like about his room was the fact that the sun never seemed to visit his side of the house. As a result, it tended to be very cold in winter. In one corner, was a small desk and chair that was purchased for him by his loving mother. She had envisaged a situation in which her lovely boy would be doing homework in his room as he progressed with his education. There was no built-in wardrobe in Richard’s bedroom, but that was not a problem because her mother had bought one from one of the second-hand shops at Machipisa Shopping Centre. It was also a bit worn out, but not yet near the end of its life. The wardrobe was divided into two. The left side was supposed to handle the jackets and/or trousers and shirts on hangers. The right hand side had six compartments. This is the area that Richard used. In fact, it was the maid who spent a long time trying to put some sanity in Richard’s wardrobe. Like most kids of his age, he was not particularly organised. It would have been too much to expect him to be.

As he lay on the bed, Richard started thinking about school the following day. He was not particularly excited by the learning part of school. His teacher was a middle-aged spinster and Richard thought that she was a sadist. She appeared to enjoy it a lot when Richard was not able to add up the numbers as quickly as the others, so Richard felt. He enjoyed the breaks when he could run around with his friends, share some sweets and cakes. What he looked forward to most of the time was the football practice. Here, he exerted himself mentally and physically with satisfactory results. As they were coming towards the end of the year, he knew that they would have a long holiday from school, the Christmas break, when he could play as much football as he wished with his friends.

Around 10.00 p.m., Mai Richard stirred and woke up, surprised that she had slept for so long. It had been a long day at the hospital. She never enjoyed working on successive weekends. This time around, she had only agreed to do this because her friend Jane had pleaded with her to cover her shift, as she needed to go and see her boyfriend in Gweru. As she lifted herself, she accidentally pushed the empty beer bottle to the floor spilling a little beer on her carpet. She was too tired to be bothered. She opened the kitchen door and went straight to the large fridge that stood by the window. She took out a jug full of cold water and took it to her bedroom. She knew that she would need the water at some point during the course of the night. This always happened to her each time she drank two or more pints of beer.

She thought that she would sleep immediately after putting on her night-gown. She was very tired. She switched on the twelve- inch television set that was about two metres away from her bed. As she lay on top of the bed, she suddenly started to think about Nhamo, the father of her child. She was not bitter about the fact that he refused to marry her. Actually, initially Nhamo had completely refused responsibility for the pregnancy although he was almost sure that he was the father-to-be. Matilda’s mind went back to the time when he had first met Nhamo. She recalled that he had been introduced to her by her friend Chipo, who was now late, at a party in one of the tall flats located in Glen Norah ‘A’. It seemed like yesterday. Nhamo then, was extremely handsome, with his dreadlocks. He appeared to attract a lot of the good-looking girls at the party. Matilda did not think that Nhamo would be interested in her until they bumped into each other at a Chicken Inn outlet in downtown Harare. Nhamo paid for her quarter chicken and chips and asked for her telephone number that she happily parted with, almost too eagerly. Weeks, if not months passed, no phone call came through at the student nurses hall of residence where she was training as a nurse. She recalled that she had almost lost any hope that Nhamo would call when one Saturday evening her friend Chipo came running upstairs to her room and excitedly announced:

“Sha, can you believe it, Nhamo is outside and is looking for you!! Hurry up, let us go down, otherwise the vultures might strike. Kurumidza!”(Hurry up!)

The vultures were a bunch of about five “fast” student nurses who were in the habit of taking other girls’ boyfriends at the earliest opportunity, if they were given a chance. Matilda was not too keen to run down immediately because she wanted to tidy up her hair and make herself presentable. The two girls agreed that Chipo would go down and advise Nhamo that Matilda would be coming down soon and continue to chat him up until Matilda was ready.

The plan worked out perfectly well. Matilda had not only combed her hair nicely, but she had also put on jean trousers that fitted into her body like a second skin. It was tight and provocative. She put on a white see-through blouse that amply exhibited the top part of her rounded body. As she walked out of the hostel, she did not see her friend until Chipo shouted from an Alfa Romeo that was parked further down from the hostel’s entrance.

Matilda gracefully glided towards the car and she joined Nhamo at the back where he was sitting. The car belonged to Nhamo’s cousin who was an Accountant and lived alone in a flat in town. They spoke for about thirty minutes after which they agreed to meet in town over the weekend. Thereafter, the relationship blossomed and the two had been inseparable, especially, when weekends beckoned.

Matilda had gone through memory lane on many occasions. She was happy that the bitterness had long left her. She had many memorable outings with Nhamo, which included many trips to Nyanga, Kariba and Great Zimbabwe ruins. This is the bit that she was prepared to remember.

Matilda yawned twice and within a few minutes got under her silky sheets and she fell asleep almost immediately.

Allan Manyika

Tonderai



Tonderai quickened his step as he tried to keep pace with his grandmother, who was already almost ten metres ahead of him. It was past sunset and darkness was beginning to encroach. It had been a long hard day out in the fields, where his grandmother had been weeding the maize field while he literally played with mud under the musasa tree.
“ Fambisa iwe, uchadyiwa nemapere!” (Walk faster or you will be attacked by some hyenas), his grandmother shouted,

as she increased her pace like a nineteen-year-old girl. Mbuya Chando was fifty-nine years old but anyone seeing her walk would think that she was below forty. Life had been a bit unkind to Mbuya Chando and her only grandson. but she was not at all bitter. She, however, always wondered what she had done to offend the spirits or the Creator, or was it both? She had been a law-abiding citizen who had gone about her business of struggling to survive in rural Guruve, without giving anyone any trouble. She even regularly attended the local Salvation Army Church. When she had a few cents to spare she even paid in her dues to the church for the “extension of God’s kingdom”.

Mbuya Chando had got married when she had just become a young woman, coming from a family based deep in the Dande basin in the far north-western part of the country. She lost her husband when she was fifty. He was poisoned at a beer drink by Tembo who himself died in mysterious circumstances exactly two months after the death of Mbuya Chando’s husband. She had toiled on carrying her burden of loss with great dignity. After the funeral, and for a couple of weeks, good men from the village continued to come to her hut to do the manly chores for her, some of them in the hope that they might win her heart and permission to enter her bedroom, but to no avail. Even her husband’s younger brother, Maruza, had given up hope of taking over her late brother’s wife and moved on to settle in Kachuta, far away from the widowed woman. She was a stubborn little woman with no close relatives in the neighbourhood.

As if the loss was not heavy enough, her only child and son Tapera who was employed as a gardener in Harare died from AIDS two years after his father had gone. This time she felt that she could not bear it any more. She contemplated taking her own life until Tapera’s former girlfriend travelled all the way from Harare to dump Tonderai, then just two years old on her dusty doorstep. Tapera’s former girlfriend had found a new man who wanted to marry her and nobody else was able to look after Tonderai, not even the new-found man.

“Handichengete mwana wechikomba chako ini pano,””(I will not look after your former boyfriend’s son in my house,) he had declared.

As Mbuya Chando approached her homestead, she felt that it was a miracle that Tonderai had grown up now to a point where he was looking forward to going to school the following year. Tonderai was the main reason why Mbuya Chando had not proceeded to take her own life. A lot of people had not given Tonderai a chance. They had thought that he was also going to follow his father very soon, since they had suspected that he had contracted HIV/AIDS at birth. He was rather small for a two-year old, and under Mbuya Chando’s care, poor as she was, he had grown up to be a handsome little boy, a real replica of his father when he was that age.

Their homestead comprised of only two small huts standing proudly adjacent to each other, with a granary and a makeshift bathing shelter not too far away. The roofs for both huts were badly in need of attention. The roof for the one that she used as a bedroom was in worse condition than the kitchen. During the rainy season, water trickled through the dried grass and found its way inside. For her, it was more of a nuisance than a problem. There were more important things to worry about like food and next year’s school fees for Tonderai. Coming to think of it, Mbuya Chando felt that her son’s girlfriend had done her a great favour by dumping Tonderai on her doorstep. As she opened her creaking door, she wondered what could have happened, if Tonderai had not been around. Each time she saw Tonderai, she thought about her long-gone son Tapera. He had been a good son, despite what others said about him. As far as she was concerned, Tapera was not able to send money home, not because he was inconsiderate or irresponsible, but because he earned very little as a gardener. She was sure that if he had had a good salary, he would have been able to come home more often and send more money as well. This talk, that her son was promiscuous and a drunkard was a load of rubbish to her. Who knew her own son better than she? He was just unlucky that his girlfriend was not of good morals, she thought.

“Tora chikuni icho, m’zukuru”” (Please bring that log inside), – she asked Tonde as… she asked Tonde as she negotiated her way into the hut that she used as a kitchen, not because she had a bulky body. To the contrary, she carried a very small frame, but her door always gave her problems. It had almost come off its hinges through use and lack of basic maintenance.

As grandmother and grandson opened the door, they were confronted by yet another challenge. That of lighting up the fire and prepare their second and last meal for the day before retiring to bed.

The following day, Mbuya Chando followed her normal routines, working hard in her maize field throughout the whole day, under a blistering sun that seemed relentless in its distribution of heat. Just after sunset, the old woman with her grandson walked back home as usual. That evening, Mbuya Chando boiled the dried vegetables in water and at the same timeutilized  the last few drops of cooking oil that were left in the bottle. It was about 8.00 p.m. She still had a bit of mealie-meal to last her and her grandson another two weeks. With some of that, Mbuya Chando quickly prepared sadza for the two of them. Close to 9:00 p.m. the two together sprinkled some water onto the fire to ensure that it was completely dead.

“Let us go and sleep, m’zukuru (grandchild), tomorrow is going to be a long day because I did not do much today.””

Tonderai picked up their old paraffin lamp that was made from a used jam container and led the way to their bedroom a few metres away. As they approached the bedroom door, a strong wind gushed from the eastern direction and extinguished the light. There was no moonshine and the two moved slowly with caution to the door in pitch darkness.

“Why don’t you buy a better light than this, ambuya? Like the one Tendai’s parents have?”

“Where do you think I will get the money from, Tonde? Maybe one day when you start working, you will be able to buy your granny a better lamp.”

They managed to get inside the little round bedroom hut with fewer problems. The door to this hut, for some reason, had not suffered the same wear and tear as the one for the kitchen. It did not give any problems to either of them. Neither did it make any unnecessary noise at night. The old lady knew where the box of matches was located. In the pitch darkness, she found it and lit the old paraffin lamp once again.

Ambuya Chando took four thin blankets from a large black box and rolled two on the reed mat and placed a single pillow closer to Tonderai’s side of the sleeping area. It was not a cold night, so the two covering blankets would be adequate. As usual Ambuya Chando went down on her knees just before going to bed. On this day, she prayed:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you that I was able to see this day to its end in good health. I thank you for looking after Tonderai and your goodness to both of us. I pray that you look after both of us as we sleep here tonight. We look forward to tomorrow and hope that you will continue to guide us as we go about our daily chores. We ask that you intervene on our behalf, if there is anybody out there who may have evil thoughts against us. We ask you to forgive us for our sins. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As Ambuya Chando turned to sleep beside her grandson, Tonderai, almost in a whisper, asked her:

“Ambuya, if God is good to us, why are we so poor?”

The old woman had not been expecting this question from her beloved grandson. She had prayed in his presence on many occasions in the past, without any problems. She struggled hard to come up with an appropriate answer and was glad that it was dark and that Tonderai could not see the pain and confusion on her face. She was not convinced that she knew the answer herself.

“Earthly possessions are not always very important, Tonde”.

She knew that she had not sounded convinced herself by this answer, but that is all she could offer as of then. In fact, it came straight from the minister’s sermon from a few months back.

“Why then did you say that I should go to school so that I can have a good job so that I will be able to buy a car and a big house in the city, if all those things are not important?”

“Tonderai, I am tired. Let me sleep. We can talk tomorrow”.

That night, she was unable to sleep very quickly. Tonderai was not in the habit of asking too many questions. What had happened to him, she wondered. Indeed, all her life she had grown up in poverty. Her own father never had any material possessions of note except five cattle and a very old plough that was no longer in use. Her late husband was a good man, but again like her father, he did not have much to his name by way of possessions. He had three cattle that had all, but one, perished in the drought, a year before his death. The cow had given birth to a calf only for the cow to die after eight months. Fortunately, the off-spring had gone on to give birth to one more calf and these two animals formed the main basis of their most valued possessions.

By the time she started dozing off, Tonderai was fast asleep. When she finally fell asleep, she had a frightening dream. In the dream, she was with her late husband ploughing the small field surrounding their homestead. Tonderai was in front leading the two cattle drawing the plough. Her husband was the one holding the plough. As they came towards the edge of the field a large black bird almost two metres high appeared from nowhere and attacked Tonderai. There was pandemonium as Tonderai struggled to escape from the monster bird.

“Muri kuchemei, mbuya?” (Why are you crying, grandma?”)

When she woke up, she was shaking like a reed in the river. She was also sweating a great deal, like someone suffering from malaria. Her heart was pounding at such a pace that she was finding it difficult to breathe. After a few seconds, she was relieved that it had only been a dream. She was still extremely uncomfortable because usually she was a good sleeper.

“Don’t worry, it’s only a dream, m’zukuru. I am alright”

She did not sleep at all, after this encounter.


© SonofGuruve 2016

Allan Manyika