9.30am i run up and down the stairs 30 times. the weathers warmed up. im sweating by the end of it. thats good. i tell myself it is too hot to jog outdoors. thats only part of the truth. outside doesnt seem safe any more, since my arrest. theres something daunting about standing peacefully by the roadside with a placard requesting freedom for political prisoners and institutional reforms one minute, then being ordered into a riot vehicle crammed with armed policemen the next. im annoyed that the events of july 31, when i was arrested and detained for a day, affect my exercise routine, but i definitely have a decreased sense of personal security.
12am a young man who stays in one of the buildings on my plot sends a message. universities reopened at the beginning of the week, after the covid-19 break. he travelled down to his college in bulawayo at the weekend. his landlady kept his room for him, but shes cut off the wifi. she says its not worth the money seeing as the service is unreliable. its the digital era, but the university cant provide wifi for its students. this even though most of the resources the lecturers prescribe for the students are on the internet. data prices in zimbabwe are prohibitive. the university had to stop teaching during the covid-19 break because the students could not afford internet access. this was the case for most school pupils as well. the government used to say it was going to increase connectivity. now the authorities dont even talk about it. we offer the young man a number of solutions, including registering him on our hotspot package. he says he needs to use the internet at night, when hotspot venues are closed. we rack our brains, but we dont have a solution.
10am i have to drive to beatrice, an hour-and-a-half away, to see my niece. at the turn-off to the small farming settlement, i check my whatsapp message for directions. i end up at the wrong shopping centre. two young women arrive to guide me through a maze of unnamed roads.
11.45am i meet my cousins, my nieces other aunts, in the tidy little house. they are women whose strength makes them beautiful. im startled when for a moment i regress to an old habit of wishing i looked like them. i hug my niece for a long time, trying to absorb her grief. she is a teacher. her father, an ex-guerrilla and my favourite cousin, passed on of hiv-aids nearly two decades ago. her mother followed a few years later. sent to live with her grandmother in the village, she survived abuse to which the police and courts afforded no relief. she went to university, qualified as a teacher and settled down with a young man. teachers in zimbabwe earn less than $50 a month. my nieces young man travelled to south africa to earn a living, just as so many zimbabweans have done in recent years. he settled in durban. ive driven down because i received a message early in the morning that gangsters had gunned the young man down. he died on the spot. its hard to look at my nieces daughter and son, aged 11 and three.
1.30pm im on my feet to leave. this isnt polite, but i have to get back. the messages start coming in while i'm in the car. my latest novel this mournable body has been shortlisted for the booker prize. my friends are euphoric. its hard for the joy to seep in. i have interviews. i am asked how i feel. i say i am overwhelmed. which is true, yet it sounds detached from the moment.
7pm i ask my husband to buy me the five other novels on the shortlist for christmas, alongside hilary mantels cromwell trilogy. im inspired. i write several pages of the young adult dystopian speculative fiction im currently drafting.
5.30am its light outside. i see weve had power overnight and my cell phones battery is full. thats good. a coronavirus update catches my eye. inexplicably, the ministryofhealth used to call their pandemic reports highlights. i stopped reading them, and wondered instead how much language or rather the lack of it has played a role in zimbabwes implosion.
Many concepts we need to communicate today are rendered unreliably in the shona language. translations mainly of political and development terms embarked upon since independence are dreadfully inadequate. democracy became gutsaruzhinji satisfy the majority. i consider how anyone can conjure up satisfy the majority out of rule of the people, for the people and by the people, and why they would want to. the chasm we have to bridge before we can conceive of democracy yawns before me like the gap between matter and anti-matter.
The ministry now calls its bulletins covid-19 daily updates. i wonder whether the figures i read are publicised to satisfy the majority, or whether they merely reflect national testing capacity.
7pm i start watching the british political thriller tv series bodyguard. if anything, it is too brilliantly done. i am as traumatised by all the intrigue as i am when i think about zimbabwe. the film-maker in me is depressed ill never make anything a fraction as good.
10am i doctor my dog chewbaccas eyes and ears. hes a gentle retriever cross from the spca. when we got him he looked at us through the fence, then sat in a corner. i said, here we are thinking about giving you a home and off you go into that corner. he stood up and loped back to the fence.
He whimpers and cant control his bladder as the drops fall into his eyes and ears. the moment its over he dashes away, puts on a hangdog expression and trots up for a pat. i wonder what made him so timid.
1pm i eat a light lunch. my stomach is acting up. i need a screening procedure. its a decade overdue. im mad at myself for backing out and putting my health at risk, but something deep within says no, you cannot go back. i remember the nurses eyes afterwards when i went in in 2004, and the practitioner asking me whether i recalled anything of the procedure. i remember answering with a bright no, although what i remembered shredded my soul. then my soul couldnt take it any more, and i forgot. ive dreamt of justice since my memory opened up and spewed the horror out again, during a womens get-together at a leadership course i attended in london eight years after the event.
3pm i call my healthcare insurance to ask whether there is an alternative practitioner in the country. ive asked this question before. there hasnt been. for a decade and a half the practitioner who asked me what i remembered was the only practitioner. as the phone rings, i wonder how many more women have forgone their physical health because they cannot expose themselves to the trauma of abuse again. impunity in zimbabwe stretches beyond the political sphere. its like a way of life, especially where sexual abuse is concerned. people say, lets just do and say this so that its finished. and it is coming to pass. zimbabwe is being finished.
3.05pm i hear there is now another practitioner in the country. my husband says that very strangely, in spite of everything, 2020 is turning out to be my year.
6am im in bed thinking about whether to take a shower. i havent had council water for a decade and a half. we have little control over the supply from a neighbour. taking a shower means turning off the garden tap, walking across the yard to turn on the tank, then waiting for the pipes to fill. thats valuable minutes, when i have to be at court byeight oclock. besides somebody might turn the garden tap on again, and id have to run out half-covered in suds, to turn it back on. water gurgles into the pipes. the neighbour doesnt stick to a schedule, but im glad hes switched the borehole on now.
8am i meet up with the friend who was arrested with me on july 31, during a demonstration against corruption and misgovernance, and the two young men who were delivered to our holding cell after dark on the day of the demonstration. they had bruises, bumps and open wounds all over them, were clearly traumatised and could hardly walk. they look well this morning, but i wonder how much trauma still lives inside them, beyond their broad-shouldered gait.
9am i sit in the dock and listen to the magistrate remand me until the following week. outside the court, a journalist asks me whether i think writing can save zimbabwe. i reply that i think good writing which conveys progressive people-centred points of view can contribute, but that this is only one part of a complex process.
10am i report for bail.
Tsitsi dangarembgas this mournable body, published by faber, has been shortlisted for the 2020 booker prize
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