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From a glance history will tell you the 1980s in Zimbabwe was a time filled with great hope for independence under Robert Mugabe’s government. But like anything else, dig a little deeper and you will find skeletons and learn that the decade was a time of unimaginable fear, dread and death. Families were killed, children tortured, and women raped.
Meet Dots. Dots is a product of rape by Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade army – Gukurahundi. As a walking reminder of Gukurahundi to her family and community, she’s enslaved as a child and finds herself desperately searching for an identity unmarked by The Gukurahundi. Childhood life taught her to think about her survival first, and by hook or by crook she finds her way to England, leaving her tainted history behind. But when she reaches the Promised Land and is in the midst of starting all over again, she is threatened by deportation back to Zimbabwe. Panicked by the fear of being separated from her new-born baby and the thought of going back to her Gukurahundi-stained life, she fights from a place unthinkable to avoid her fears materialising into reality.
About the Author
Daniel Sebata was born in Zimbabwe and he relocated to the UK with his family in 1998. He spent about ten years as a secondary school teacher in Zimbabwe and he later trained and worked as a registered mental health nurse in the UK. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Nursing and he uses that knowledge as an immigrant to tell stories about how child abuse compromises the child’s mental health resulting in sociopath, stalking and antisocial behaviour tendencies in his writings.
He is an ardent writer and reader, and Too Many Steps Too Far is his second novel. In his first novel entitled Why Rock The Boat When You Don’t know How To Swim, Dots, the main character is his second novel, remained in the shadows until the last minute. In Too Many Steps Too Far Dots tells her story.
Daniel taught as a temporary teacher (supply teacher) in 1984, in his home area in Zimbabwe, Gwanda, before he trained as a secondary school teacher in Gweru Teachers’ College. His home was under the control of the notorious Fifth Brigade, the Gukurahundi at the time. These soldiers raped women and children, and maimed and killed the locals. Living under the Gukurahundi inspired him to write Dots’ story.
Daniel is a bit of a traveller too. In 2015 he temporarily relocated to the USA, South Dakota, when his 14-year daughter moved to the USA to pursue her studies and tennis.
Armed with my father’s details and directions, I boarded a bus in rural Gwanda that took me to Bulawayo, where I took another one to Harare. At a bus terminus called Mbare Musika, in Harare, I approached vendors as I had been advised to by bokokoMaPalesa. There were many of them there, selling various dried foodstuffs, like ground nuts, dried vegetables, biltong including roasted rats. It was the first time I had seen roasted rats on sale. BokokoMaBuang used to ridicule me by saying that my people ate rats, but I never believed her. At Mbare Musika it dawned on me that they were delicacies to my father’s people. They had been salted and peppered and hung on improvised laundry like lines as grains of coarse salt and red pepper clung to their skin and teeth.
I approached one of the vendors and asked for directions in broken English because I did not speak the Shona language. But just mentioning my father’s name attracted more than half a dozen vendors. They congregated around me, talked over each other as they gave me the directions. Speaking in what sounded like broken English, like mine, they told me where to board the bus at the terminus and where to disembark. The attraction I generated was not only because of my father, but also due to the fact that I could not speak the Shona language and how I dressed. I was wearing this woollen dress, which was originally a grown-up person’s jumper. It went down to well below my knees. My height made it look oversized. From the attention I generated at the terminus, one would be forgiven to think that an argument was taking place among us. What surprised me the most was that most of the vendors in Mbare Musika knew my father. Even as I sat in the bus on my way to Zvimba, some people kept glancing and pointing the fingers towards my direction and whispering in Shona. It demonstrated my father’s fame. I assumed the vendors passed a word around of my destination as I boarded the bus.
At Mbare Musika, they told me that even a blind girl would not miss my father’s home, as it was the biggest in the area and it sat on a hill very close to the bus stop. When the bus stopped at my final destination I realised why the vendors had fought to give me the directions and why some passengers were whispering and pointing at me during the journey. My father’s homestead was like a gated community. It stood on a hill with four big houses at each corner of the homestead, the main house, a two-storey building, sat in the middle of the residence. The two-storey house was bigger than many houses I had seen in Gwanda and Bulawayo. At the entrance of the gated community, a woman met me. I told her that I wanted to see a man called James Chigwindiri and she led me onto the veranda of the two-storey house and told me to wait while she went inside. A short fat bald-headed man came out of the house, followed by a woman who I suspected was my stepmother. He just stared at me and said nothing for a while. It was an unbearable, drawn-out, thunderous pause that was unbefitting of a father coming face-to-face with his long-lost twelve-year-old daughter for the first time.
“Who’re you?” he asked, finally breaking the uneasy silence. No greeting, no manners – bokokoMaBuang would have called him all those names she showered on me.
I faced up to the man, who appeared stunned. He recognised me straightaway. For me to look like my father in that way was very unfair.
“Dhoti?” he repeated after me and the woman smiled. I understood later why she smiled at the mention of my name. “Dhoti” in Shona means faeces, so my father saw me as poopie, just like bokokoMaBuang in Gwanda had.
“Yes, sir,” I responded politely. The woman could not hold back her laughter anymore; she burst out laughing.
“Dhoti, from where?”
“From Ntalale in Gwanda, your daughter…”
“You’re shit for sure,” he thundered, interrupting me, then continued, “yes, you’re my shit, my past, the rubbish I thought I had swept away. You have no reason to come here. I had nothing to do with you then and I have nothing to do with you now. Get out of my home!” he shouted at me. “Go back to Matabeleland – to your people. Don’t dig up the past, unless you want to meet the devil that ate your mother. Don’t be a hero!”
I remember those words now as if they had been said yesterday. I stood there, transfixed.
“Go back to Gwanda now!” he screamed at me, pointing towards the gate and I turned and walked away, wondering if he was my real father. But we didn’t only look similar, we were a similar height too. He reminded me of bokokoMaBuang, who never got tired of shouting at me saying, “Follow your father to Mashonaland, to your horrible people.” That day I was told to go the opposite direction. It was clear that nobody wanted me. I was a bloat, a stain in people’s lives and they wished me away.