His nom de guerre was Tiger Makamba: he wore faded Wrangler jeans, denim blue shirt, and Bata takkies without laces, standard garb for guerrillas from the Second Chimurenga, the war that had ended thirty years ago. A purple scar ran down the middle of his face, as if an axe had sliced him in two: it pushed his eyes wide apart and split his nose. He looked like two creatures glued together with rubber cement. He carried a thunderstorm in his heart. And he spat rather than spoke.
‘Doesn’t that make you angry?’
‘We fought a liberation war, our blood ran thick through the rivers of this country, yet after thirty years of independence, the makiwa still occupy our land. Doesn’t that make you angry?’
‘Y…Yes sir, it does. Very angry.’
Dambudzho, the driver of the truck was a Shona man in his early twenties, bathing in the incredible good fortune of being chosen for this expedition. But he could already tell it was going to be a difficult job. The truck crabbed to the left, the steering shuddered, and he battled to hold the beast straight. He was pushing eighty kilometres an hour at the urging of the man beside him.
‘And even more, that they think they can oppose ZANU (PF) with impunity. Yes, Driver, with impunity. You know who this white farmer is?’
‘The last white farmer. Today, Zimbabwe will be finally be cleansed of its poison. The last white farmer will be driven into the sea of his own blood.’
‘Very good, sir.’
The vehicle engine strained up the escarpment.
This was a crocodile truck: a hexagonal cylinder on wheels, land-mine proofed with sheets of metal on its undercarriage. The driver’s cabin was a metal cube made to detach on impact. The Rhodesians had designed it in the 1970’s for a war fought against the very people who were now sitting in it. It still carried battle scars from that war—a bullet hole under the driver’s seat where it had been ambushed by guerrillas, a dark patch of green paint where the Rhodesian insignia had been ripped off, and the buckled underside where a land mine had given it a glancing blow on the dirt road to Nyamapanda on July 23, 1977.
Twenty soldiers huddled behind the metal. Hand grenades, rocket launchers, FN’s, all tied neatly in bundles and covered with tarpaulins, lay at their feet. Golden snakes of ammunition lay coiled on the floor.
Half way down the pass, just when the driver was getting control of the vehicle again, a leguan leaped from a dry storm ditch and slithered onto the road in jerky zigs and zags. It was at least four foot long. The great lizard stared up at the truck, startled by its time travel into the present where there were such things as roads and vehicles and human beings. It raised its crested head—wanted to tell them something. The driver turned hard on the wheel to avoid it and jammed on his brakes, but his commander lunged over and held the steering wheel straight. The truck tyres thumped over the leguan, hiccupping twice. The driver looked in his mirror to see a bloody head, and a body wriggling top to tail in a dance of death.
‘Don’t swerve for a lizard, mampara: this truck could tumble easily. Keep your wheel steady.’
The sweat dripped down his cheek. ‘Yes sir.’
‘Afraid to kill a chidhambakura?’
‘I… I was being careful, sir,’ murmured the driver. ‘Teteguru sometimes disguise themselves as animals. Maybe it was a sign…. maybe it was trying to tell us something.’
‘A sign?’ Tiger Makamba laughed, like a gurgling drain. ‘Maybe you can drive over bigger things than lizards today, eh, Driver?’
He tried not to remember the double thump as the tyres hit or the leguan twisting in death agony on the road.
He knew a good sign from a bad sign. But he also knew that this scar-faced man with yellow eyes would stop at nothing, would disregard signs, would tear through the fabric of the universe to get his way. No signs would stop him. Even now, the man was scratching the scar on his face, as if the itching was a good sign too. But any fool could tell him what that really meant.
The truck had climbed the escarpment in shadow, but now on their descent, golden sun poured over the landscape, revealing beneath them, a patchwork quilt of small subsistence farms. Three bush fires spiralled into the sky.
‘You know what this is, Driver?’
LAND ACQUISITION ACT (CHAPTER 20:10)
Vesting of land, taking of materials and exercise of rights over land.
NOTICE is hereby given, in terms of paragraph (iii) of subsection (1) of
section 8 of the Land Acquisition Act (Chapter 20:10), that the President
has acquired compulsorily the land described in the Schedule for
Lomagundi. 5158/85. Whyte Ladyes Farm (Private) Limited: Lomagundi: Manghura:
1 880,4950 hectares. Collection of Section 8 Orders for lodgement of Section 5:
Mr Gerald Beretto.