How Professor Kapito became a ‘war vet’

By IAfrica
In Zimbabwe
Jul 21st, 2014
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The land reform programme has seen more than 300 000 families benefiting from the empowerment initiative

The land reform programme has seen more than 300 000 families benefiting from the empowerment initiative

Ignatius T. Mabasa The Column

But the old man sharply said to Kapito, “Don’t say these people comrade. Tell him that we. We are in this together to claim what is rightfully ours, to rewrite history professor.”

WHEN Professor Kapito decided to go back home to Zimbabwe, it was at the height of the fast-track land reform programme.
Things were happening and Zimbabwe was on CNN, BBC, Sky News, CBN and others. Kapito’s friends and fellow Zimbabweans in the USA warned him against going back home.

They were of the opinion that Kapito had achieved so much academically, was well respected as a history professor in America for him to risk his life by going back home.

Kapito explained to all and sundry that Zimbabwe was his home and that whatever was happening there was part of history which he had to witness and document — not through the eyes of CNN or BBC.

Kapito further reminded everybody who wanted to stand in his way to remember that Zimbabwe was his birthplace, and that he had lost his father during the liberation struggle, which meant he could not be divorced from the colonial injustices just because he was now wining and dining with Americans — most of whom were themselves not native Americans, but opportunists who had run away from dealing with problems in their home countries.

A month later, Kapito and his family landed at Harare International Airport. Kapito was extremely pleased with himself for having made the right decision for his wife and two sons. After all, he was beginning to lose his two sons. They were becoming too liberated for his comfort.

He had clashed with the boys on so many occasions when he spoke to them in Shona and they would answer back in American English that was full of attitude. That drove him mad. Whenever Kapito threw a tantrum, the boys would retreat to their bedrooms and lock their doors. He had had a nasty war of words with the boys when he told them they were going back to Africa.

At last, they were back home. They could start afresh and find their true selves again. After spending two days in Harare to work out accommodation logistics and finding school places for the boys, Kapito took his family home to Mudzengerere in Mount Darwin.

Having spent nine years in America, everything seemed very changed and special to Kapito. His wife was also pleased to reunite with her brothers and sisters and to catch up on family matters.

The drive to Mount Darwin was uneventful until they came to a roadblock by war veterans just outside the town. One scarecrow-like war veteran flagged Kapito’s rented car down. The rest of the group of war veterans stood back and watched from a distance.

The war veteran who had flagged the car looked serious like death. Kapito stopped the car and rolled down the window. His eyes rested on an old axe that was gripped by the old man’s calloused hand. Kapito’s wife whispered and said, “Ndiri kutya imi baba vaTichavatonga.” Kapito ignored his wife’s words and proceeded to greet the old man, “Makadiiko baba?”

The old man without showing any emotions said, “Tiripo comrade. Makadii imi?”
“We are well. We have come back home after nine years in the wilderness,” said a beaming Kapito.

“It’s a good thing you have come home comrade, our country and the land needs you. Where have you been for nine years, and what were you doing there, and where is your home?”

Kapito smiled and said, “You are a prophet comrade. I came home to also make my contribution to the development of the country. I was in the USA teaching African History at one of the big universities there. I am going to Mudzengerere to show my mother her grandchildren.”

“The old man smiled and said, “So you’re professor?”
“Yes, I am a history professor comrade”

“Thank you very much comrade. You are God sent my brother. You know we are in the process of taking back our land. Now me and all those other comrades gathered there have a problem which I think you can easily solve for us.”

“Really? In what way do you think I can help?” Kapito was speaking fast because the way his boys were sighing in the seat behind him was beginning to annoy him.
The old man said to Kapito, “Park your car by the side of the road and come with me so that I can introduce you to the comrades.”

Kapito obliged and muttered something with gritted teeth to his boys.
He opened the car door, and the dry and hot mid-afternoon sun attacked his tan skin. He could smell the dusty air and the sweat being emitted by the old man’s thin body.

They got to the group. They were all men, about 60 of them. They were not young and most all of them had lean and hungry looks like Cassius in Julius Caesar.
The man who had spoken with Kapito said to the group, “This comrade is our son. He has decided to come home and help us take our land back. He is a professor of history. He has agreed to go with us to Longstream Farm to talk to Mr Missingham in a language that he understands.”

When the old man paused, Kapito wanted to object and say he had not agreed to help take the land back or to relay any information to Mr Missingham on behalf of the group. Unfortunately, he did not get a chance. The war vets broke into song and dance and started toyi-toying with Kapito engulfed.

Kapito’s wife started crying. The two boys fished out their portable Sony Playstation game consoles and started pressing buttons furiously.
Like a whirlwind, the group started running in the direction of Longstream Farm, with Kapito in the middle. Kapito’s feet were sore. The dust was choking him and it was also settling on his glasses, making it difficult for him to see.

He could feel his lungs resisting to accept the dusty, hot and dry air. He was coughing, sneezing and breathing hard. When they got to the farmhouse, Kapito felt like he was going to pass out. His face was haggard and confused.

“We are back Mr Missingham!” The old man shouted, as if the arrival of the group was something impossible to notice. Mr Missingham was standing on the verandah of his house with his arms folded across his chest. He almost looked like a statue.

Then the old man turned and said to Kapito, “Now, go and tell the white man in the language of a history professor, that we have come to get our land.”
Weakly, Kapito said to the old man, “But I can’t do this. You are armed and . . .”

There was a loud disapproval sound punctuated by the words “coward and sellout” from the crowd.
That prompted Kapito to start walking towards Mr Missingham. The old man was following behind Marikopo.

When Kapito got to Mr Missingham, he greeted him and smiled, but Mr Missingham did not reply.
Kapito said to Mr Missingham, “Sir, these people say they have come to get their land back from you.”

But the old man sharply said to Kapito, “Don’t say these people comrade. Tell him that we. We are in this together to claim what is rightfully ours, to rewrite history professor.”

Kapito looked at Mr Missingham and he felt pity for him. Then he said, “Sir, I happen to be a highly regarded professor in the US of A who has had the misfortune of being involved in this conflict. Let me state that I believe there is need to correct certain historical errors, but unfortunately through non-violent means for the mutual benefit of Caucasians and Africans alike . . .”

But the old man interjected and said to Kapito, “Comrade, I don’t think I like your soft and sweet voice. All we want you to tell the white man is for him to leave the land in a language that he understands.”

As Kapito was still trying to explain himself to the old man, Mr Missingham started shouting and telling the old man that he was not going anywhere. The old man raised his axe and charged towards Mr Missingham, and the rest of the group rushed forward with their axes and knobkerries singing a revolutionary war song.
Like a drill sergeant, Kapito ordered the group to stop, and they all obeyed.

Suddenly, a truck arrived movie-style and stopped raising a cloud of brownish dust. Two black journalists jumped out and started filming and furiously taking pictures randomly.

Once again, Kapito ordered the group to stop the journalists. Sensing danger, the two journalists left dramatically just as they had arrived.
The following day, Kapito’s colleagues in the USA saw him on CNN, leading a group of war veterans to invade a farm.

Ignatius T. Mabasa is a language consultant, translator, novelist and storyteller. Although this story is informed by real historical events, all characters, names and incidents in this story are entirely fictitious.

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