Home » General » Swimming With Snakes in a Pool of Venom [opinion]

Last night I had a dream! It was not a good dream, but still, I like it. I dreamt that I was a snake. A big red snake, full of power, and unstoppable. I know very well that a snake is not a good creature. A snake can be poisonous if it bites you. It is used by witches and my pastor also preaches that the Devil is a snake. But, I do not mind being the snake that I was in the dream — a big flying snake.

In the dream, I flew swiftly to the village headman’s home. I found him and his family about to have supper. I knocked over all their pots, dishes and plates, and put out the fire. I then coiled round the headman and squeezed him until his eyes popped out of their sockets. With my great tail, I lashed at his wives and children and their skins got cut into very fine thin ribbons. I am angry that I woke up before biting and killing the headman and his pig-of-a-son Onesimo!

This morning I saw him again, headman Zhou. I was coming from the borehole to fetch water. When he saw me, he just left the footpath and walked away into the sparse Mopani shrubs. He can’t face me and he will not talk to me. I also don’t want to talk to him. Why should I? If I lay my hands on him, I will kill him. This is why I spat on the ground. Seeing him makes me sick!

I am a woman who has seen many moons. I have three children. Two are married. My husband left me. He did not like the appearance of Mazvita, our last child. To use his words, he said nobody in his family had Mazvita’s “hideous” big head and eyes. He said I had cursed his life with such a child. He blamed me for Mazvita’s condition and told me to get rid of her. Can you believe it, murume abva zera saying, “When you go to the river for a bath, just drown her and say it was a mistake.” Even losing a piece of soap to the river has pained me.

And this choreographed “mistake” of losing Mazvita would just kill me. When I was growing up, my mother told me I was special, and I know Mazvita is also special to me. That is why I refused to get rid of her as if she was a banana peel. My Mazvita did not choose to be born that way. Now she is fourteen years old and blossoming, but my husband has never come back. I hear he married again. Coward!

Mazvita has Down’s Syndrome, but she is not stupid. She is slow to learn, but she is composed. She has dignity. We talk and joke, and she manages to do all the chores I give her. She is my friend, but I have an open bleeding wound because of her.

I deeply regret the Saturday morning I left Mazvita home washing the dishes while I went to tend to my vegetable garden. Mazvita was to join me at the garden after doing the dishes. It was Mai John, our neighbour, who saw Onesimo follow Mazvita into the house. It was Mai John who caught that dog raping my daughter. He had used her panties to stuff her mouth. When Mai John asked him what he was doing, he said to her, “Go away you witch. Mazvita is my wife.” Mai John raised alarm, and when Onesimo realised that Mai John was not going to be intimidated, he tried to run away, but he was caught. When the villagers demanded an explanation, Onesimo maintained that Mazvita was his wife.

When I got the news, I died. I dropped my watering bucket and wanted to jump into the river and drown myself. The world suddenly became very strange. When I got home, Mazvita was a mess. Her clothes were torn, there was blood on the floor, her legs and hands. Her face was covered with mucus, tears and saliva. She sobbed weakly and for two days she could not eat or sleep. I could not console her. I should have stopped Onesimo from jokingly greeting Mazvita as his wife. I had not taken offense because Onesimo is married and it was his wife who had taught Mazvita how to knit. I thought they were just good neighbours.

When I reported the matter to the police, Onesimo denied that he raped Mazvita. He claimed that when Mai John found him with Mazvita he had gone to her aid, as he had heard her screaming. I am now very worried because Mai John no longer wants to help the police with investigations. She is afraid because her husband is related to Onesimo.

When the police came to the village, they did not arrest Onesimo. I went back to the police post to ask the police what was happening. I was afraid that Onesimo would come and rape my daughter again. A rude policeman spoke to me while picking his teeth and spitting out bits of food. He said, “Imi mbuya imi, are you here to tell us how we should do our job? Go home and if the rapist comes back for your daughter maybe he is the one who should be your son-in-law. Don’t you want a son-in-law?” The policeman’s words raped me. I felt the ground rush towards me at an alarming speed and I blacked out.

I spent a day under observation for very high blood pressure at the hospital. I begged the doctor to discharge me because I had to go home and be with Mazvita. Although my sister came to comfort and support me when she heard the news, I no longer trust anyone with Mazvita.

It’s true that one’s problems do not make another person lose sleep or appetite. My pain and suffering for Mazvita did not stop the headman’s wives and children across the road from laughing. Particularly in the evenings before and after their supper, they laughed a type of laughter that knocks at and mocks the heart. Their stomachs full of food, their mouths full of carelessness. I can’t sleep. The nights are long. I am weary like an over-ripe and rotten tomato that can’t cling to the plant anymore. Where is justice in this land where the tall eat that which is meant for the short ones? The flowers in Mazvita’s eyes have wilted. She doesn’t want to talk any more, not even with me her mother, her friend. She has transplanted her garden and taken it somewhere far away where I will not see her flowers. When people say a snake is spiteful, they are telling the truth it bites even that which it doesn’t eat.

I know very well that the village head holds so much power. Even the police are very powerful too. But who will give me and Mazvita power to arrest, convict and jail Onesimo? All I want is justice, but if there is no justice I will be forced to kill Onesimo. It’s going to be one year, next month since my daughter was raped. I know no peace. The police are becoming hostile to me. They even threatened to arrest me for interfering with the investigations. I don’t doubt village gossip that the headman bribed the police. I know he sold three cows and five goats — cheap justice. Ptu! I spit at that.

Like an avenging spirit, I am not going to rest. I can’t resurrect what they killed in my daughter, but I will die if Onesimo continues to be free. Village gossip tells me that Onesimo’s family helped him run away from the village. I hear he fled to Harare to start a new life. A new life for that snake.

I haven’t been to the police station in three months. I am sure the police and the village head think I have been a good girl. But I am that tree which will not forget what the axe did to it, even if the axe has forgotten. I have a plan!

Based on a true story, this story by Ignatius Mabasa originally titled Snakes and Venom was extracted from a collection of short stories from the Breaking the Silence Project called A family Portrait. Available at the Book Cafeacute and 40 Cork Road, Harare.

Source : The Herald