She is running.

Running like she never has before. All the touches of her hypochondriac existence miraculously eradicated from her system. Like the man brought to Jesus through the hole in a roof, she has risen as a new woman. Get up, pick your mat and walk. She has heeded the Master’s command and gone one step further. Not only walking from the pool of Bethesda but running like Elijah in pursuit of the chariot of Ahab. Faster than she had as a child, still in primary school, participating in those inter-house competitions, her now deceased father standing at the sidelines with his walking stick, yelling, “Run run run!” If he is looking down on her from up in heaven, she knows he is urging her on with more fervour tonight, his old frame shaking. But then again in heaven they give you new bodies.

Run, run run! She must go faster, faster than that child who scooped all those medals and had her daddy throw her on his shoulders as he beamed with pride. Faster than a grown woman with a life yet to be lived. She is a woman after her own life. Tonight. She is a cheetah in an African savannah, heck she even imagines that she is going faster than Usain Bolt himself. Her will to live carries her further and further from the clutches of death. She is flying, the sensation of her feet touching the ground all but gone. But then, her sense of levitation could be attributed to the loss of feeling in her feet due to the frostbite which has crept in like the presence of death. Right to the bone and core of her existence. It is 1 a.m. and despite it being one of the coldest days of this winter, all she has on is what she has worn every night for the last five years. The last five years since Tony Thanda went down on one knee, pulled out a ring and asked her to be his wife. All she has on is her nightdress. No shoes, no sweater, nothing.

She stops for a minute, listening carefully. Willing her heart to quiet down as she speculates on the possibility of its pounding giving her away to her pursuer.

Did she not do everything in her power to try to give him what he wanted? What she believed he wanted? Her heart was in the right place. How was she to know that she was orchestrating her own demise, placing her head in the noose that would bring about her obliteration? That she would be looking into Papa’s hazel-coloured eyes so soon again?

What did he say that night again?

That’s right.


God have mercy.

She could do with that dose of ecstasy and adrenaline if she will make it out alive.

God save me, she says in her heart.

If only Papa could see her now. With his yellow skin splattered with liver spots and his deep Tswana accent, untainted even after years of living in Zimbabwe. “Live an honourable life and all will be well with you ntwana,” he always said. “These violent delights have violent ends.” Violence indeed. If only she had known that his words were not the mere rantings of a senile man. She had been 13 but even then. Tonight, she feels the power of his admonition. The words of her Papa, louder and reverberating, deeper than the poetic incantation by Tshepo Tshola in the song Papa by Sankomota. Tonight, the words of her father have come back to haunt her.

In a distance, she makes out a light and the sound of music.

“They are at it again.”

She says that with relief. It is a welcome intrusion. A blessing, she will say. She breathes with her hand on her belly, this isn’t about her anymore. She must live, she must survive this or it will all be for nothing. Suddenly she hears footsteps in the distance.

He will not stop until he gets her. She knows without a doubt that he will kill her if he gets his hands on her.

Tsitsi Matlou, wife of Tony Thanda, must go on.


Tony wanted kids.

He never said so outrightly but if Tsitsi knew anything about African men, it was that they valued the importance of leaving behind descendants. As many as possible even. Sure, Tony may have grown up in the UK with parents who had themselves migrated thirty years earlier, before going to the UK became as common as a visit to the CBD. Yes, Tony Thanda may have grown up roaming the streets of Leicester, raising himself as his parents worked various shifts at the Lawns and other places to afford a basic existence in an English ghetto. He may have spent nights alone, eating microwave dinners and buying greasy, tasteless fish and chips on Friday nights. He may have grown into a teenager juggling between school and shifts at Tesco and Asda just to save enough for his college and extra-curricular activities. But he was still African. Nothing would change that. Not growing up surrounded by a mix of other races, integrating their cultures with his until they morphed into something unrecognisable or the fact that all his friends where either White or Caribbean. Not even the fact that he had even procreated with those outside of his race. When that mirror greeted him each morning, it relayed back the image of a Black Zimbabwean man. A sadza-eating man who liked his hands washed in a dish with warm water and expected to be greeted with a Mamukasei every morning. A Black Zimbabwean man who enjoyed eating the insides of a cow and crunched beef and chicken bones. An African man, whose palate demanded rich foods and not the boiled bland kinds he grew up on in the U K. His tongue didn’t need to be trained. It simply knew. Tony Thanda’s DNA could not be suppressed.

He was a man who demanded respect and expected his woman to dance to the tune of his extended family. Who sang to the songs of Tuku and Mapfumo with an accent that would put most Zimbabweans to shame. An accent that did not befit any London Boy. No. Nothing could undo that. Tony Thanda was a Zimbabwean man.

He wanted children.

And even if there was a small possibility that he might have not cared as he claimed, he had relatives. Tony wasn’t just an ordinary Zimbabwean man. If he was, maybe things would have been easier. Vitori, Ndebele, Chewa, Zezulu, Tonga, Venda. Those she could have dealt with but what she was up against was the worst of the worst. A Samanyikan man, descending from the mountains of the Eastern Highlands. A tribe so notorious for allowing members of its extended family to meddle in the personal matters of its people. When the phrase “mind your own business” was fabricated, it certainly did not have those people in mind. They were pests, man! The men never made an effort to shield and protect their wives. Intimate marital matters being laid bare for discussion with so-called family. The acquisition of property, a visit outside of the country, even something as private as arguments between a couple said under the cover of the night? All of these events warranted the need for Dare.

At these meetings the accused, often the woman, would be made to sit silently on the floor, head down, prohibited from speaking, whilst surrounded by elders as they berated and judged her for her supposed acts of disrespect. Her husband, amongst the accusers too, revelling in the humiliation and berating of his spouse. And with the Samanyikas, everything qualified as disrespect. You were never allowed to say the word no. A relative decided to visit for an indiscriminate period? Yes! Some stupid aunt from the village wanted to stop by for a day of gossip about issues you could care less about? Yes! Someone called for money for fees for a child you were not responsible for bringing into the world? Yes!

As the child of a Tswana man who valued privacy and was insanely protective when it came to his family’s financial and mental wellbeing, she despised her husband’s family, often viewing them as beneath her class. To her they were nothing but bigoted and pious sadists who revelled in making other people miserable. It was no secret that people of the Samanyika tribe were also tribalists, frowning upon people of other heritages, which had placed her under even more intense scrutiny.

And yet, if she despised them, she never showed it. She smiled and said all the yeses she could. She endured the scrutiny, put up with the bigotry and ignored the offensive remarks about her native land. It was a small price to pay after all, for the kind of life she lived. She knew that were Papa alive, he would have disapproved. He would have told her to have nothing to do with those arrogant people who thought more of themselves than they actually were. That she marry someone who, just like her, was of mixed heritage. Preferably of Sotho or Tswana ancestry. And yet she, Tsitsi Matlou, had done the opposite. Papa was gone. His preferences didn’t pay for her manicures or make sure she had the latest Jaguar. Yes, her decision made her life harder in some ways but it also made it easier in a lot of other ways.

When it came to her Samanyikan man? She had worked him out like a math equation a long time ago such that she could write a dissertation on his complexes and behaviour. Like a snake charmer, she had worked out the logistics of pacifying her spitting and venomous cobra. The girl could toot that flute man!


Tsitsi had found her loophole in the form of Tony’s diaspora complex. Like all people who hadn’t grown up surrounded by their culture and its people, he often took things too far to compensate for his feelings of displacement and the reality of cultural distortion. Tony Thanda would go out of his way to prove that he was just as good a Zimbabwean as any other man, and that had become her key to the hidden gold of Ophir. She had discovered that the best way to please him was not to resist or fight him but rather to feed into his whims and fabricate a fantasy so potent he would actually believe it to be real. Like any social worker, she had studied her subject and created a system that was sustainable for both her and Tony Thanda. She would become the stereotypical African woman he needed at his side. The one who never contended, opposed or resisted. A real yes madam. The kind who didn’t mind wearing a dhookie and abstaining from flamboyance. The kind men like Tony Thanda felt comfortable enough to marry. The kind of woman all rich men made wives out of. Sure, they cheated with the slay Queens but when it came down to the real business, they needed to feel that their money was safe. That their women were not the cheating type. Of course, what these men didn’t know was that looks were often very deceptive. And that behind those long skirts, quite demeanours and all those darned yeses, were often very calculating and scheming women who had mastered the art of psychology. She had been a slay queen once too and she knew better than anyone that how you presented to the world mattered more than anything. Life was just a game of charades.

Surely Papa would not fault her for using her brain to ensure she lived her days in comfort? He would be happy that his only child was not living a life of struggle in a country whose economy left most financially displaced? He had taught her to be a go-getter, hadn’t he? To work hard, to make sure she lived a life above the rest. Others were out there sweating it off in jobs that hardly paid, social workers like herself, slaving away at NGOs that were often run by corrupt officials who pocketed the bulk of the grant money and paid their employees measly salaries. And with universities pouring out graduates like pollen, one was forced to hold onto the job even if one had nothing to show for it in the end. It was either that or going to the UK and working like a dog, surviving the terrible weather and living in a country where one would always be a second-class citizen.

No, thank you!

Tsitsi Matlou decided a long time ago that she would not be reduced to such. And so, when salvation from a life of voluntary slavery presented itself in the form of Tony Thanda, she decided that she would make him her paying occupation. That she would obtain her PhD in marriage to an African man.

She spoke with a small voice, opened her home to the smelly relatives and evolved into the reincarnation of Mother Theresa herself. The illusion had to be maintained at all costs and her husband’s whims entertained even if they were misguided and foolish in her opinion.

The problem with people like Tony, people who came back from the diaspora, was that they assumed they were smarter than everyone else because they believed that their time abroad made them more exposed. They saw themselves as true Africans, experts when it came to what should have been and could have been. Social commentators on everything that was wrong with modern day Africa. Critics of everyday Zimbabweans going about their lives. They were the types who came back with a fire shut up in their bellies. Holy passion more poignant than the Messiah’s when he had thrown the money changers out of his father’s house. You have turned my father’s house into a den of thieves! Behaving like Africa was theirs and theirs alone. Like it would always be there waiting for them. Like time had stopped just for them and that they would make everything right again with their observations. Condemning everything euro-centric, frowning on cultural dilution in the form of Western media and private schools and lecturing every person they perceived to have been whitewashed. They had the diagnosis on what was wrong with the country. Walking around with their noses in the air like those White people who worked in the embassies and gave fake smiles. Those White people from the embassies who forever thought they were better than everyone else. An air of pretentiousness about them. Perhaps that’s what happened when Black people spent too much time away from their own.

What they didn’t know was that they were the ones enshrouded by ignorance. Victims, often being played by the people back home that they viewed as intellectually lacking. If Zimbabweans had a talent, it was the ability to make themselves seem stupider than they really were. Theirs was a silent intelligence which didn’t need to assert itself. It did not speak, neither did it need to be seen. Darkness was its cover and its home. In fact, it thrived in darkness and chaos. What people like Tony Thanda should have known was that Zimbabweans back home were smarter and more cunning than most people knew. And sure, while the Tonys, may have been exposed to the ways of the diaspora, back home, that exposure didn’t do anyone any good. Zimbabwe had its own laws that required a different kind of knowledge. It was a dog-eat-dog world after all.

And so, she would watch him. Watch him as he lectured his relatives who would quietly smile and nod along and play stupid, knowing that he was being made a fool of. There was no point in trying to convince him of that, he would go back to those same people and tell them anything she would have said. No. The only way out of it was to do the same thing they were doing and milk that cow until it dried up.



He was a fool.

A delusional fool who made her job all the much easier. His arrogance and over inflated ego were a triviality she had to live with. It was like dealing with a child. A dog even.

Murungu dunhu is what her mother would jokingly call her son-in-law. A White man in a Black person’s body. And sure, Tony wasn’t like the men she typically heard tales of from other women. He didn’t demand that she cook for him, didn’t force his wife to accompany him to the village or order her around. He was quite protective of Tsitsi and for the most part almost treated her like a daughter. His fatherly love compounded with the belief that his wife was a creature incapable of cunning laid room for Tsiti’s plan. If he wanted to be her daddy, she would let him. After all, what the man wanted was a helpless wife and Tsitsi had decided that what she wanted herself was a life of ease. And as for the annoying relatives she didn’t want in her home? That was easily resolved by a few trips to the doctor.

She had had to be smart about the whole thing and so in her second year of marriage, Tsitsi developed a sudden bout of hypochondria which rendered her unable to perform the most menial of tasks as they became too much of an effort for her ailing body. Tony was very understanding. After that, it wasn’t uncommon to find Tony Thanda cooking and cleaning up, whistling to himself as his wife slept in bed, occasionally asking for a cup of tea with a frail voice. He didn’t want a maid. As he had said, a maid was a luxury all those hardworking Zimbabweans in the UK couldn’t afford. So, he would be the maid. The relatives complained at first because they had gotten accustomed to the wife of their kinsman running around to serve them but with her sudden illness, they could no longer frequent their home as the hostess was too sickly to entertain. The doctor who had earlier been slipped a few crisp notes had simply notified Tony that his wife was not to be burdened with too much physical activity or exposed to loud noises. Hers was a condition that required a life on minimal activity and so the relatives were gradually discouraged from uncalled visits. What that condition was exactly? The doctor never did quite say. A weak heart or something along those lines.

It was round about that time that they moved to the farm Tony Thanda had recently acquisitioned in a bid to be a real son of the soil. Tsitsi didn’t like the idea of being a farm girl but their distance from the eyes of all those prying relatives was just what she needed. Plus, even she had to admit that it wasn’t all that bad. Tony had made sure to equip their property with all the luxuries that city life afforded. He had a jacuzzi installed and that’s where Tsitsi spent the majority of her days sipping on the cheap wine she kept hidden, reminiscing on the days before she was tied down, when she was the hottest girl on campus. She always made sure to drag herself out of the jacuzzi and into bed before Tony came back.

If there was ever one thing Tony demanded of Tsitsi, it was that she remain presentable. That she stay in shape and always look her best when he displayed her to his friends and business partners. Tsitsi Matlou, with her honey-coloured skin and sharp Tswana cheek bones. She was as light as a feather and as elegant as a peacock. Most of Tony’s business associates were too ashamed of their wives to bring them to the business events and lunches held quarterly by the elite. The wives of their youth no longer proved suitable for their financial statuses, so they were kept at home. These men envied Tony Thanda and even considered him a hero of sorts. A man his age flashing around that pretty young wife of his. Man, what a lucky guy! He really was living the life.

Trophy wife is what most people would have called her. In her defence, Tsitsi would have mentioned that all relationships where transactional. Though people tried to pretend otherwise, the truth was that everyone wanted something from the next person. Money, sex, companionship, someone to abuse even. She worked out her priorities earlier than most. What she wanted was simply a life of ease and no drama and so Tony Thanda was a wrapped gift sent straight from the throne of the Maker himself. Even if he was 20 years her senior.

She had been a social work student back then and Tony had only been in Zimbabwe for under a year. Her mother’s best friend had called to let her know that a friend’s uncle had just dropped in from the UK and was looking for “a real African wife with real African values” because apparently, the Zimbabwean girls in the diaspora just weren’t doing it for him. Knowing that she could play the part, Tsitsi had volunteered to have lunch with the man the very next day. Tony had picked her up from school in his new Range Rover and over dinner had gone on and on about why he wanted to marry a girl from back home and not the Zimbabwean girls in Leicester

“Corrupt gold-diggers with no values,” he had called them.

They, he said, were the types that drank too much, spoke too much, and demanded much. Girls who partied every day and didn’t know their place. What that place was, one could only wonder. Yet she smiled and nodded, imagining herself driving a Jaguar. And truth be told? He wasn’t bad looking. He was tall and well-kept, which made things much easier for her. Though she would have still gone for it had he resembled a hippo. Later that night, she couldn’t get on her phone soon enough to dump her penniless boyfriend of three years.

By the time she graduated, she and Tony were engaged. He had even attended the graduation ceremony, with most people asking if he was her father or uncle.

As soon as she had said “I do” Tsitsi decided that she needed to get pregnant to make sure that she would be taken care of for life. Tony was a divorcee and men like that often had no qualms about walking away a second time. His first wife was a White lady and they had two children together. Girls who often spoke on the phone with their father, making all manner of demands. She would often scrunch her nose in disgust as she listened, hoping to God that she would give him a son to carry on his lineage and make her the sole proprietor of his devotion. A son who would inherit all his father’s assets and businesses. Phase two of her plan had been put into motion the day she discovered that the car she drove wasn’t even in her name. She had assumed that she was dealing with a naive man but Tony Thanda was smarter than she liked. Either that or one of those horrible relatives of his had been in his ear.

It was only natural then that Tsitsi began to steal money. All wives did. A thousand here and a few thousand there. As long as she asked for money for silly things, he was willing to oblige. A new hairdo, a manicure, a day at the spa, lunch with a friend. What he didn’t know was that she pocketed the lion’s share of the money and visited the cheap salons downtown. Her other money laundering scheme came in the form of her mother. Mommy always needed this and that. And like all good sons-in-law, despite being the same age as her mother, Tony made it rain. But this particular card she only occasionally resorted to, and even then, in moderation.

She was worried when after her third year of marriage she still hadn’t conceived. A visit to the doctor confirmed that she was a healthy twenty-seven-year-old with no reproductive issues. When she relayed the information to her husband he had simply shrugged.

“If it’s meant to happen it will happen.”

She wondered how he could act so relaxed about the whole thing. Act, because she didn’t buy it.

And she had been right. In the fourth year of her marriage, she discovered that her husband was having an affair with a woman ten years her senior. A dark woman who was ten sizes bigger than her. A woman who smoked and drank beer and didn’t uphold any of the unrealistic standards Tony had. Her husband, she concluded was desperate to create an heir and was willing to impregnate any living thing. What else could explain the nights he spent in sleazy bars with cheap, fat, and dark women? She had thought she would receive some sympathy from her mother but all she had gotten was, “All men cheat dear, don’t worry yourself too much. I doubt very much that Tony is looking to have a child with any of those women. He’s just being naughty my dear.”

“How do you know Mama? What if he brings home a child and kicks me out? What then?”

“I highly doubt that will happen.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I just am. Trust me.”

Her mother was naive. Tsitsi had to do something and she had to do something fast.

Her prayers were answered during the fifth year of her marriage when her ex from college had called to check up on her. By then her desperation and boredom had reached epic proportions and so she agreed to go on a lunch date with him, lying to her husband that she was going out to see her mother. And because she knew that Caiphus Ncube’s birthday was on Valentine’s, she even baked him a cake. Something she had never done for Tony.

Was she not also entitled to her bit of fun, to the attentions of a man who clearly had every intention of spending all the time he could with her? To being fervently pursued like a gazelle in the jungle? And with fervour did he pursue her indeed. With so much fervour that she was sneaking Caiphus out of the farm at midnight every day before Tony came home. The only hitch was getting Caiphus past the noisy neighbours who often always had their flood lights on as they partied every other night. She often wondered what they imagined was going on. But then again it wasn’t any of their damn business. Whether they saw her or not, she didn’t care. She grew bolder. So bold that she even started to steal money for Caiphus. Money for all his various little needs. A new car, a new laptop, school fees for his child and whatever else he needed. He would leave his wife and kid at home and come running whenever she called. She enjoyed that. She should have felt bad. Yet, the illusion of power that came with the hold she had on Caiphus was invigorating. She was that slay queen again. Miss UZ. And so, they carried on until she found out she was pregnant.

Panic was obviously the first feeling that overcame her but it eventually dawned on her that her jackpot had finally come. The answer to all her prayers. She called together a small dinner, quite unlike herself, at her mother’s house. As dinner concluded and her mother, Tony and five other guests held their champagne glasses, she had joyfully announced. Her mother almost choked on her champagne. The entire room congratulated her. All, except Tony Thanda who just downed his glass like a thirsty man. When he caught her looking at him, he had raised his glass and given her an ominous smile. The smile that would unravel it all.

Her mother insisted that they spend the night. But Tsitsi was adamant about spending the night in her own bed. She would regret that choice.

“Is everything OK baby?” she asked as they drove home. “Are you happy.”

“Ecstatic,” he answered.

By the time they got home it was midnight and after a quick shower Tsitsi had slipped into bed with a quiet goodnight to Tony who was on the phone.

“I’m exhausted,” she said in a weak voice.

“You must be exhausted Tsitsi, with all you’ve been up to, you should be drained. I wouldn’t be surprised if you hopped on a broomstick every night too.”


Whatever that was about she had no time to find out. Maybe he was fighting with his bimbo?

Later that night she would wake to the sensation of a firm, masculine hand around her neck. Not one of those grips that covered the entire neck, rather, a murderous grip targeted at the windpipe.

“You dirty whore,” he said calmy with his accented English.

“Daddy please stop?”

“You’re going to die here. You and that little bastard in your belly. Maybe the father you’ve been screwing will attend the funeral.”

She almost fainted as she struggled to breathe. “What are you talking about? The baby is yours.”

“Tsitsi. I think we both know that that child is not mine.”

“It’s yours Tony. It’s yours!” She cried out, tears and snot running down her face. Had those stupid neighbours given her away. Those idiots!

He drew his face close to hers and whispered in her ear.  “Tsitsi. I had a vasectomy ten years ago.”

The struggle for survival is a funny thing. Despite being a mere 45 kilograms. Tsisti Matlou had shoved Tony off of her with the strength of a WWE champion. Not only that but she had pinned him to the ground and then taken off into the night.

As she is greeted by the confused smiles of her neighbours she looks back into the darkness. She has made it. Not only that but she has also learnt a valuable lesson. The flowers don’t bloom in winter. E

Valerie Tendai Chatindo runs Shumba Literary Magazine. She is a biochemistry graduate from the University of Zimbabwe and a sexual health & awareness educator. The 28-year-old resides in Harare, Zimbabwe with her grey tabby and has appeared in The Kalahari Review, Enthuse Magazine, and PinkDisco Magazine.