Mad Bob Republic
Review by: Archie Swanson
Mad Bob Republic
Tendai Rinos Mwanaka
Mad Bob Republic is a collection of 48 poems selected from Voices From Exile (Lapwing Poetry 2010). The author’s motivation for releasing the collection of selected poems written in 2008, is their enduring poignant relevance in relation to the ZAN-PF government of Robert Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
At times the author gives the reader a front row seat on a particularly traumatic time in Zimbabwe’s political history by employing characters who engage in first person discourse.
There are the tortured prisoner’s words from within the notorious Chikurubi Maximum prison, in ‘Brutal Times’…
I didn’t have anything more to say
I didn’t even have the power to say anything
To admit to the wrongs I knew I hadn’t done.
… and his sorrowful words in ‘And Then’, from the Masvingo Road to the South African border at Beit Bridge …
She gave me a long stare.
That day she blamed me-
For running out of the country.
Away from her-
Down Masvingo road like an insult.
In ‘Parameters Of Mugabe’s Mind’, Mwanaka delves into the perverted logic of Mugabe’s musing
But I can always fall back
into making martyrs again.
At times the author speaks from personal experience as in the poem, ‘A Journey to Nyadzonya’ laying bare his thoughts as he scans the refugee camp site of the Rhodesian Army, Selous Scout massacre.
When I arrive at this place
I look around for my brother
who was to meet me here.
among those thousands, unaccounted
of my countrymen.
The poet employs a range of poetic devices. There are the shape poems of ‘My Enemies and ‘This Art Of Deception’ and the ashes urn of the mournful ‘Plunder Of my Heart’
One is a surprise.
Two is a surfeit of words.
Three is impossible to process.
But then, somehow- in their cluttered
Thousands--- they have disappeared.
Bruising our sidewalks, a thousand
cells. Where no battle has been.
Where no one sees. Blood
for water- blood fills the
ponds. Plunder in my
For calmer times.
There are several Anaphora-type poems like ‘Refugees’, ‘Voices from Exile’ and, ‘State Of The Nation Address’.
Over 20 000 people have been infected with cholera
Over 1100 have died by mid-December of cholera
Over 60 000 will be affected by March 2009 and
Over 16 000 deaths!
The author’s words possibly resonate strongest when he speaks from personal experience of the anguish of exile as a “foreigner in a foreign land”. In the poem ‘Johannesburg’ we hear the melancholy words:
A town on the far
Away clouds, low-slanted
Light of the south.
And the glow of this town
Is like a window into my past.
But I am now a part
Of this town.
Only the waters in those
In ‘Home Coming’ the author takes us down that familiar path of returning to a place long-gone… physically present yet altered by the passing of time. The deep sadness is tangible.
But this day, without a map
I walk home
and sit on the cement bench
that surrounds the better half
of my mother's kitchen
and had a plateful of Sadza.
Although the Sadza here
is still as good as I remember
so much has changed.
Except for Nyanga Mountain
still redolent in the horizons
reflecting in its rainbows.
In ‘Xeno(Negro)phobia Warning’, perhaps the hardest hitting words in the collection, the author confronts the horror and shame of South African xenophobia, head on.
Political and economic refugees
migrating into an alien culture.
Where scrambling wars are the norm
and greedy officials feasts upon them.
Now, too far from home.
Doomed to be butchered
by black South Africans' melting impatience
and negrophobia (xenophobia) fangs.
Ultimately this collection is a striking poetic witness to the tragedy that is Zimbabwe — a land of vibrant and talented people — a land of breath-taking natural beauty and tourist potential — a land of abundant mineral and agricultural resource — yet a land blighted by the scourge of hunger, poverty and violence inflicted by disastrous political leadership and a cynical international community who really don’t care about the people of Zimbabwe at all.
No one ever listens to us
So give me all your fears
Let me hold all your sorrows in my heart
This poem is yours
To harvest that which has been lost
To smell the heat still rising in our birth place
We are the way to the way it used to be
Foreigners in a new place, still waiting
Waiting for light, space and time
‘Voices from Exile’.
This is a collection to be savoured — the narrative of an accomplished wordsmith plying his trade with fearless honesty and riveting imagery.
Archie Swanson is a much-anthologised South African poet who has published three collections, the stretching of my sky, the shores of years and beyond a distant edge (IG: @poetarchie)