Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.
Professor of Sociology
When I as a young man who had just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976 from University of Zambia, was Tumbuka from the Eastern Province, has just deeply fallen in love with Linda Jitanda a young luscious Kaonde woman from NorthWestern Province at Sinjonjo Bar in Mongu in the Western Province, I had to ask myself so many frank questions. I was no fool to the many sayings: “love is treacherous” and warnings including “love is blind”. But why? Why? Why? I kept asking myself. Why was this love for Jitanda so sweet but also so bitterly painful and frustrating? I came to the conclusion that was very disturbing.
Eight years before I met chipeshamano or chiphadzuwa Linda Jitanda in November 1976, many older men in my life had committed what some might say was minor negligence on their part. But I concluded that it was a serious crime. My grandfather, my father, my Uncle and my brother-in-law had committed this crime. The 432,000 mature Zambian men who were older than 40 years at the time I was growing up in the 1960s had committed this crime. If the High Court Judge in Lusaka in Zambia had tried all these men, they would all have been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with hard labor.
What is humiliating is that if I went before the same High Court Judge in Lusaka today, I would fall to my knees and I would profusely confess before the judge that I had unwittingly committed the same crime. I would plead for mercy in the sentencing phase of the trial. But what would be hypocritical is that if the judge was a man, he would also have committed the same crime as the older men had committed. A female judge would be spared the accusation.
Sixteen years before that fateful day I met Linda Jitanda in 1976, I had lived one of the happiest boyhoods. I had lived in the village with my grandmother and grandfather and dozens of young and old relatives. I had six sisters and two brothers, worked in the field using a hoe with my family when I grew older, hunted birds in the bushes first with a legina (sling shot). Later my father bought me a pellet gun that I hunted birds with. I rode the bicycle in the bush paths running so many errands for my family. At one time I even travelled with my father to Lusaka and Kitwe from Kasonjola School which is in rural Chipata. I played hard as a child with other children both boys and girls. I attended the Tamanda Dutch Reformed Church boys Boarding School where I read the Bible and went to church. I knew of the Ten Commandments. I had such an innocent, curious, wondrous, and carefree boyhood full of humour and laughter.
I will never forget this for the rest of my life. One day and to be more exact in December 1968, I was in Form II (now Grade 9) at Chizongwe Boys Secondary Boarding School spending my school Christmas holidays with my sister and brother-in-law at Chalumbe School. The school was 40 Kms.(25 miles) along the Chipata and Lundazi road. Suddenly I began to notice girls; so many of them. Where had they all been hiding? I began to think of them night and day. I was dreaming about them. I began to think of them all the time. I yearned to be in a company of beautiful girls at St. Monica’s Girls Secondary School in Chipata. I wanted to talk to girls. Their voice so mesmerized me I wanted to talk to them every opportunity I could get. I was so attracted to them I realized for the first time they had strong magical powers over me that were hard to resist even for the strongest and toughest of boys and men.
Chalumbe store was the hub of shopping activity in this rural area. People sold bananas, guavas, fresh mangoes, and vegetables by the roadside. There was a bus stop for United Bus Company (UBZ) buses between Chipata and Lundazi. The store had items such as cooking oil, soap, rolls of new cloth that people could buy to make clothes which the resident tailor sewed, batteries, matches, salt, sugar, biscuits, and clothes. The owner of the store also baked bread and buns in a wood fired brick oven. I was often sent on errands to buy bread. One day I was walking passed the Chalumbe Store, when I spotted Ester Phiri from Mambato Village. I waved at her. She stopped.
I stretched my hand to greet her. She also stretched hers but as soon as she shook my hand she turned away from me covering her mouth with her hand. She giggled. She was very shy but stunningly beautiful.
“Uli bwanji, Ester?” (How are you?)
“Nili bwino, a Mwizenge,” she replied still smiling while facing away and covering her mouth. “Nanga mweo muli t-y-ani?” (I am alright Mwizenge, how are you?)
I almost died with such good feelings. She was speaking Ngoni with my most favorite very sweet nasal tone like how Nsenga women speak from Petauke. The whole sentence and tone was very sexy but the nasal tone in pronouncing “t-y-a-ni” just about killed me. It just sounded and felt so indescribably good.
“Wenze wawela gugula chinji?”(What did you come to buy?) I asked in Ngoni/Nsenga tone.
“Amama enze anituma kuti nigule uzu womangila sisi. Nikuya kung’a-n-d-a lomba”(My mother had sent me to buy black cotton for plaiting hair. I am going home now). She replied taking a step toward her village.
“Nikupelekezye”. (I will walk with you).
It was a very awkward walk. I wanted to walk next to her but she would not let me walk abreast to her. So we had a slow walk in which she was about half a meter in front of me while we held conversation. She would turn her head and give me sweet glances over her shoulder as we walked on the gravel road for about a hundred meters. Then she turned right into a bush path to her village. I was close behind her.
The bushes and the green grass were not yet too tall since this was still early in the rainy season in December. The path was discrete enough that she slowed down and stopped. She snapped a piece of grass and just chewed on it absent mindedly. I was close enough just behind her that may be she expected me to touch her or do something. Girls were so new to me that I didn’t know what to do either when she was right there in front of me. But it just felt godly good to be in her company. She said she was in Grade 6.
We walked slowly until we were within sight of her village houses. We stopped. She discarded the piece of grass in her mouth that had been chewed to nothing. She snapped another small piece of grass and chewed on it. I was tongue tied, my heart was beating very fast, and my mouth felt very dry. I was nervously tagging at single leaves on a small short tree bush next to me and slowly plucking each of the leaves away one at a time. There was an aura of pregnant tension around us. I reached for her hand. She did not resist. She glanced at me smiling and looked away from me again as I played with her hand in my both hands.
“Iwe, Esitele!!” her mother suddenly called from the village. She must have seen us standing there. “Can you hurry up so you can go to the well to draw water before the sun sets!!”
“Mukuza lini kuzoniwona soti?” (When are you coming to see me again?) Ester asked in her sexy nasal Ngoni/Nsenga tone that weakened my knees.
“Mailo!”(Tomorrow) I miraculously blurted from my dry mouth.
Ester Phiri hesitantly tagged her hand away, gave me a sweet glance one more time as she hurried home. That was the last time I saw her. I came to the village more than ten times. I never could find her. I never met her at the Chalumbe Store much I tried to go there so many times.
The crime that all those adult men had committed and were guilty of is that they never told and warned me how dominant, excruciating, over powering, and over whelming the attraction was going to be to girls and women especially as a young man. Older men including me never talk about it frankly to young men and boys. Even if they talked about it to young men, would it make a difference? You cannot describe this power even if you have experienced it as a young man. Now there I was in the middle of a difficult battle in the struggle for my deep unconditional love for Linda Jitanda that was turning my world into turmoil.