Mad Bob Republic

Review by: Archie Swanson

Mad Bob Republic
Tendai Rinos Mwanaka

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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

heart! Reading

these hiero-


have to


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

Drifting clouds.

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)

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