Manyimbiri exposes the DNA of corruption
Stanely Mushava Literature Today
Book: Tamba iri Kurira
Author: Felix Manyimbiri
Publisher: Mambo Press (2014)
Felix Manyimbiri’s latest offering, “Tamba Iri Kurira,” is a penetrating expose into the nether thoroughfares of corruption, crime and decadence which a growing segment of society is frequenting in the quest for riches. The novel is an unsettling anatomy of life at the base of the class pyramid where poverty defrocks its subjects of human dignity and diminishes them into mere pawns on the chessboard of the rich and powerful.
Manyimbiri runs his creative scalpel through a degenerate society where truth is outmoded, money is deified and honesty is as dreaded as giving ammunition to an invisible rival who will level it against your own head.
Sanity is remote and negligible in the cut-throat, dollar-denominated world where the key players are locked in undercover wrangles to get richer at each other and the poor’s expense, whatever the values at stake.
Greed and egocentricism reign supreme with no amount of material acquisition vast enough to satiate the money-hungry characters.
No stratagem is spared as each pursue their gratification for inflated, petty egos and bottomless, even suicidal, greed.
The value of money, as in today’s society, is amplified out of proportion, human life counted expendable in the face of a huge tender and morality considered a kindergarten relic not necessary for survival in the real world.
“Tamba Iri Kurira,” loosely translated “dance according to the tune” unsparingly satirises the winner-takes-all law of the jungle which our society has been drifting down to over the recent years.
The novel can be styled a contemporary parable of rich fools given the futility and retribution which are the twin buttresses for palaces built on sand by the money-captive characters.
Manyimbiri, an accomplished novelist with four titles, “Rudo Runotuma
Asingarambe,” “Vakafa Vapenyu,” “Ndiri Parumananzombe” and “Mudzimu Wakupe Chironda,” under his belt, is at the height of his powers with this new novel.
“Tamba Iri Kurira” is broad and contemporary in thematic reach, rich and potent in language and style and altogether a didactic treasure trove.
The novelist portrays an uncomely situation whereby the rich have become gods unto themselves in a slanted terrain where the poor are getting poorer, condemned to the slimy waste-dunes of modern life.
To his credit, even as he is confronting problems of the day, Manyimbiri refrains from being overly contemplative, overtly didactic or obvious as in NGO-speak but hunches the reader down to an engaging story from start to finish.
The title is drawn from the precipitate and wide-scale spread of corruption which has given rise to a go-with-the-tide kind of compromise.
It is the survival of the basest as getting rich entails all forms of vice from adultery to murder.
The action revolves around the estate of Madiya Bhakiro, a fraudulent businessman who is fatally poisoned by his arch-rival Kimu Chiwawa in a hair-rising duel for a huge tender when he has virtually out-schemed the other competitors.
In the ensuing drama, Madiya’s observation that when a bird is alive it eat ants but when it dies ants it eat is posthumously fulfilled as vultures, who were lesser dealers in his time, descend on his estate.
His nemesis, Chiwawa, his brother, Mhike Bhakiro and a shrewd lawyer, Nyembe, all try to entice Madiya’s widow, Kaimbanemoyo, into marriage while she is still coming to terms with bereavement as a ploy to take over his estate.
Besides the foiled wooing, frantic endeavours for criminal enhancement of run the tapestry of the novel.
The deceased’s brother, Mhike Bhakiro, is a character an increasing number of Zimbabweans “will not cross the room to meet,” to use C.S Lewis’s phrase, because he is present with them — a spitting image of an ethically challenged society.
Bar the minute demographics, Mhike is at once a poor and manipulative fellow, demonstrating that corruption is not particular with the elites but almost a common disease with varying incidence of symptoms, itself the self-perpetuating bane of our society.
The problems which we declaim as corporate and political, chiefly corruption, are more stubborn than we think because they are not just elite indiscretions but entrenched in our culture from the grassroots.
It is easy to observe corruption among society’s eminent functionaries because they are set on a pedestal, as it were, yet corruption is simmering from the base.
Money and power only amplifies the capacity for indulgence.
Hadziremi, Madiya’s young and educated brother-in-law, is the voice of conscience in the novel, although he seems to be incapacitated by the status quo.
Even with his hands tied, having nothing more than education to his name, he is on the lookout for injustice and feels for the poor unlike other characters.
An ethical purist, Hadziremi classifies prostitution as corruption not least because it involves embezzlement of family money for private indulgence and requires the muting of conscience to take place.
He questions his fling with Munapo, Chiwawa’s aide, for the purpose of retrieving information from her without intending to marry her.
“Can a mind be more depraved than holding a woman’s hand — carrying her along — showing her tenderness and giving her hope only to jilt her?”
While Hadziremi’s musings appear simplistic at initial glance, they point to the basic bends in the road to development as opposed to the exclusive attribution of impediments on political indiscretions.
Development is a goal too large to retrieve in a society where the powerful manipulate the weak for self-aggrandisement, even for ends which justify means.
When it obtains in such a setting, it cannot be sustained, much less, translated to everyone’s benefit.
Hadziremi is mocked as someone with his head buried in books not in the real world.
He typifies the idealistic but disappointed young graduate who wants to change the world whereas he can barely change his clothes.
Women are branded mean stereotypes, sexually exploited and chucked away upon pregnancy on the grounds that “a man does not continue to feed worms to a fish he has already caught” and used as decoys for contracts.
Kaimbanemoyo is hardened by the early difficulties of her union with Madiya and she becomes bitter and selfish until her near-death experience when she remembers that money can buy anything but not life and mellows towards the poor including her husband’s family.
The uncompromising heroine is Shanangurai, who with her boyfriend Hadziremi, form a just front against the shady alliances which envelope the novel.
Shana starkly contrasts other female characters as she holds principle indivisible, adheres to pre-marital celibacy, insisting that she should enter marriage as her own choice instead of desperately scrambling into it because she has been deflowered or impregnated hence has no choice.
Manyimbiri also engages the problem of family dysfunction.
Love is obsolete and the fraternity is artificially conjured on the back of presents.
Marriage is blighted with suspicion and determined pessimism, making home a cold place to be.
Divorce is taken so casually — precisely because parents need to gouge themselves with illicit pleasure so much so that the “rent-free co-tenants” called children can go to hell.
Chiropa, a serial divorcee and super-father, is enslaved by prostitution and lives for the thrill of the moment.
He uses the same method in business, extorting public money, living lavish but to no particular purpose and buying popularity by giving patrons free beer while he refuses to take responsibility of his own children.
The high point of the novel is the life imprisonment of Chiwawa, who had baptised himself with names which extol his wealth-making prowess, “Bhiriyoneya Chinoto” and “Chibhamu Chiwikiwiki,” for murder and robbery and a shorter sentence for Chiropa for being an accomplice.
The remedy for the problems he has unsettled are — in his words — reorientation of the family institution because crime and corruption simmer in the home before spilling into the streets.
Quite unequivocally, “Tamba Iri Kurira” is one of the most important novels of contemporary Zimbabwe.