“Jechonaiah! Jechonaiah!”, baJoshua called from the veranda where he sat perched on a stool munching overripe mangoes.
“Yes, Father!” Jechonaiah emerged from the round hut kitchen holding two roasted maize cobs.
“Have you not finished yet?”
“Almost done father.”
“I think that’s enough. Bring it here.”
Jechonaiah handed his father one of the cobs then took a stool next to him. baJoshua took a bite before nodding his head in delight. He took a second bite then chewed with pleasure.
“This is good son”
“It’s unfortunate our crop is poor this year”
“Quite unfortunate. And the government doesn’t seem prepared for the drought that’s coming.”
“It’s these factional fights that have made the party lose focus”
“believe me son, it will end. They will not get any far with this”
“They have gone too far father. We have to do something”
baJoshua tapped Jechonaiah shoulder then said, “It’s too early to act my son. Let’s wait and see. Maybe vaMugabe knows what he is doing.”
Since losing Joshua who had eloped to South Africa with his wife soon after the 2013 elections, baJoshua had come to trust his second son Jechonaiah. For months, baJoshua had grieved Joshua’s departure. Though Joshua was hot headed and questioned almost all his father’s decisions, baJoshua admired his intelligence. Jechonaiah was on the other hand, loyal and obedient but lacked initiative. baJoshua saw Joshua as a potential leader whom he could pass the button to someday and in Jechonaiah, he saw the humble servant readier to follow than to lead. Unlike Joshua who was a product of pure love, Jechonaiah was a result of a patriarchal religious system that gave women very little choice when it came to marriage.
Born into a system that was not only deeply politicised but also heavily influenced by an apostolic sect whose doctrine bordered on occultism, Jechonaiah grew up believing he was only worth his loyalty to sect and political party. He grew up programmed to please his elders at all costs. Though he evidently hated playing second to Joshua the beloved son, he undertook no initiative to attempt a coup on his elder brother. High cheekbones, pouted lips and a pointed chin were the defining features of a rather feminine baby face.
“Let me tell you a story my son,” baJoshua said, “The Marata family are fighters. Me and your uncles: the late William and Tambu, we are decorated veterans and dedicated party cadres. We stand by our own. Mai Mujuru is a freedom fighter just like us. She shot down an enemy helicopter during the struggle. She is our comrade and we stand by her. Let no one tell you otherwise son.”
Jechonaiah nodded in agreement, a smile of admiration on his face. He was proud to be part of a family that had contributed so much towards the liberation of the nation. In him burned the passion to carry the flame and defend the nation from the weevils that threatened to take over the country. What irked him was how everyone defiantly spoke against the direction that the party was taking yet they were reluctant to take action.
“We are against the way vice president Mai Mujuru and our party chairperson Ray Kaukonde are being bashed on radio. We have nothing against the first lady but we believe she has overstepped her line. We will consult with politburo members in our province and tell them to send our message to vaMugabe to tell him to stop his wife from demonising the seniors in her party”, baJoshua told his son, “I want you to mobilize the youth and stage a demonstration in support of Mai Mujuru at the shopping centre. I will also talk to the MP and we will organise a rally in solidarity with our party leadership.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the family walked into the homestead on their return from the fields. They were carrying huge ripe pumpkins.
“Why all those pumpkins?”, Jechonaiah said jokingly, “It’s just like eating cooked cucumbers.”
One of his sisters answered back, “They are a delicacy.”
“Oh please. Delicacy? The taste never improves no matter how much salt I add.”
The sister laughed heartily, “but you like nhopi more than anyone else here.”
Nhopi is a sweet thick broth made of mashed pumpkin. Jechonaiah enjoyed the sugar-enhanced sweetness. He also was the best at making it. He possessed some culinary skills and tricks that left his sisters green with envy.
For a while now, baJoshua’s family was divided over their sect leader’s decision to have their eldest daughter of 15 married off to the leader of a rival sect. Their sect leader believed it would help cement ties between the two sects. It was part of his plan to have the two sects merge. The girl’s mother was more than willing as she herself was married off at age 14. It was normal in the area and a 20-year-old unmarried woman was believed to be possessed by an unclean spirit. baJoshua was against the idea not because he saw her as too young but because, he wanted a man who would offer a higher bridal price.
...till next week