The chief listened intently as Kiza and his old mother made their report.
“That is a very serious offense, it deserves severe punishment.” He declared as the old woman wiped her teary eyes, snorting in the process. Kiza shook his head depicting deep sorrow.
“Clearly what that boy did has caused a lot of gloom to both of you. I am surprised that Mzee Mzizi thought very highly of the boy. ” He said, also shaking his head in disbelief, so absorbed in digesting what Kiza and nyanya had reported to him, that he did not see the quick exchange of glances accompanied by knowing smiles.
“From my view, I think instead of taking this matter to the authorities, it should be handled by the community elders, considering that you want this issue to be handled discreetly.”
They nodded in agreement, happy at how things were going in their favour. “Just go back home, I will inform you when the elders will meet your family. My sympathies to your family. “
The old woman rose quickly, clenched her walking stick and hobbled quickly out of the chief’s office. Her son followed, careful not to show his joy for their triumph in their first attempt in getting rid of Adili.
They walked silently for a few metres.
“The plan is working mother, you are a great schemer!” Kiza said in excitement.
“I told you son, my offspring will not be overtaken by an urchin whose roots we don’t know. Mzizi land belongs to Kiza Mzizi, fullstop. The plan will go well, I just hope your daughter does not fail us.” Nyanya said
“She will. She has no choice. She would rather betray Gubu’s idiot than see her mother suffer.”
“Good. Then it’s done, already . Wait and see.”
Back home, Neema was sobbing, she had been in a sullen mood ever since her father and grandmother had called her and ordered her to accuse Adili of an abominable act. She had firmly said NO and they had admonished her but she had remained adamant.
“That mother of yours, of what use is she in this home? The woman was even unable to give my son more children, at least even one son! Her work was to endear herself to Mzee Mzizi , serving him food like she had other intentions. I always have a feeling she killed my husband, how come she is the one who found him dead…eehh? Kiza, why don’t you chase that murderer away and look for a strong woman who can give you sons!” Nyanya said.
Neema was shocked. Her mother was a virtuous woman who could never harm a fly. Worse still, her mother did not know any other home but Mzizi homeland. She knew then that she had go along with their evil plan. To think that she would betray Adili pained her in immense depths. However, she did not tell her mother what ailed her. It was a burden she would carry alone.
Days later, the chief and the elders sat under a tree in Mzee Mzizi’s homestead. With them was the entire family of the late man. There were some members of the extended family too.
Lulu sat next to her son. They wondered what the seemingly important meeting was all about.
Nerea sat next to Lulu when Neema sat on the other side of her mother, fiddling with her fingers, a huge lump of guilt choking her and no matter how many times she tried swallowing it, it came back.
“What is all this all about?” Lulu whispered to Nerea.
Neema heard her mother responding, “I do not have any clue but it looks bad.” Lulu agreed. Neema glanced at Adili who sat at the right side of his mother, waiting patiently and innocently. He saw her looking at her and smiled warmly. She glanced away quickly.
“I greet you all, elders and the family of the late man of repute!” The chief’s voice bellowed, causing a sudden silence.
“We are well, be blessed!” They all responded.
“Thank you. Now, our late father was a man who was greatly respected. He treated everyone with great honor. I remember even on his deathbed,as he announced what would happen to his vast land upon his death.
Women do not inherit property but he made it possible, by granting half of the land to his only granddaughter.”
Nyanya gruntled loudly and spat on the floor. The chief continued.
“The old wise man then handed the other half to the late Gubu’s son. A selfless act. Gubu’s son was shown such great love and care by the old man and we respected his wishes.”
Lulu’s heart started to beat faster. Something was wrong somewhere. She stared at her son, “Have you done anything wrong?” She asked. He shook his head vigorously.
“Yet despite being shown great love and honor by the mzee, Adili Gubu has decided to disrespect all of us.” The chief shook his head. The elders made disgruntled noises of disappointment. Neema’s tears started to trickle down her face. A smile formed at the corner of Kiza’s mouth. His mother snorted again. It must have been a joyful snort. That one always snorted.
“Let the disgraceful boy come here!” An old elder shouted.
All heads turned to Adili. He stared at them, confused and scared. He had been taught by his grandfather not to cry but the tears in his eyes threatened to gush out forcefully.
“Heee! Gubu’s son! Quick!” Another elderly man ordered.
Adili felt a painful blow on his back. It was the youngest of elders, almost Kiza’s age. He held Adili by the shirt and dragged him to the front, near the elders. Nyanya spat on the ground again, her spit missing Adili’s feet by an inch.
Lulu stood up in protest but was shut down by Kiza and irated elders.
“Adili, how can you be this contemptuous to the grave of a man who deviated from tradition to honour you?” Frowning, the chief asked.
“My esteemed elders, what wrong have I don…?” Kiza shot a quick look at his mother who nodded at him then rose up so fast that the chair he had sat on fell down and his huge stomach danced up and down.
“Shut up! You have dishonored my home! You shamed my daughter and took the one thing she prides herself with as a woman with dignity!”
The people gasped. The men bent their heads. Women held their mouths with their hands. Nerea looked at her daughter who was weeping uncontrollably. Confusing Neema’s tears to be those of pain, she embraced her daughter, and glared at Lulu for being a rapist’s mother. Lulu’s eyes were fixed on her son, confused and frightened, his eyes reddened by sharp betrayal. She couldn’t move nor speak. The pain she felt stilled her, like a statue.
“My dear granddaughter, ” Nyanya called out, her voice shaking, as if sympathetically. “Come here…come here and tell us whether what your father is saying is true. Come…don’t be scared of him. He cannot harm you anymore.” She persuaded, walking to where Neema was, holding her by the hand, supporting herself with her walking stick on the other hand.
Neema, crying, followed her grandmother. Nyanya made her stand a few metres from Adili who was trying to meet her eyes but she just could not look at him.
“Kiza’s daughter,” The oldest elder called, “Is it true, did this boy force himself on you?” He asked. Neema whimpered. People waited for an answer. Her grandmother was still holding her hand. She tightened her grip on her causing her pain on her wrist , a secret signal that she should speak.
Neema nodded and burst out to a louder cry. The small crowd of people exclaimed in bewilderment.
Then the elders and the chief put their heads together to come up with a verdict. The family members whispered in hushed tones. Adili bent his head. He had decided he was not going to cry. ‘One needs to be strongest at their weakest moment’ he remembered the advice of Mzee Mzizi. He had never understood that saying until now.
The oldest of the elders stood up from his stool and tried to stand straight but his back couldn’t let him. He cleared his throat and the people were quiet. Getting the attention he wanted, he sat down and spoke while seated.
“Family of the great Mzizi, my heart goes out to you all for the shame that has befallen this family.” He paused to let out incessant coughs. He wiped his mouth with the cloth he hang around his neck.
He was taking his sweet time before he announced Adili’s fate. Finally, he spoke.
“Our tradition dictates that a person of such immoral calibre should not be allowed in our midst for twenty years.” The announcement made Lulu let out a weak howl.
“Boy, the community orders you to leave this village right now. You will only be allowed to come back after two decades.”
Adili felt a thin sweat running down his forehead into his eye. He knew about this tradition. His grandfather had told him about it . One was supposed to leave without even bidding his family goodbye, with only the clothes on his body . If he decided to come back then he would be treated as a trespasser and would even be killed.
The man who had pushed him to the front came towards him, and begun to shove him towards the exit of the homestead he had called home ever since he could remember. He heard his mother wailing, calling out his name.
He turned and saw a distant relative stopping her from running towards him. He continued to walk, past the gate, towards the long road stretch. He kept walking until he couldn’t hear his mother’s voice calling out to him. He prayed the elders would follow tradition when dealing with her.
“Now. We cannot evade the sensitive matter of land. The chief tells the council of elders that the late mzee had awarded the boy with half of his land…but only if…only if… the boy is of good character. As it is, he has lost it. We have therefore decided that the land will go to Mzee Mzizi’s only heir, Kiza Mzizi.” He announced. Nyanya snorted . Kiza bit the corner his lip as he crossed his arms across his belly.
“However, because of Mzee’s respect for his daughter-in-law and following traditonal laws, Lulu, the wife of Gubu will be granted one acre to plant food for herself. No one should attempt to chase her away. She is still a Mzizi by marriage! However, if she died, the land would be returned to Kiza.”
Lulu was still weeping for her son. Kiza and his mother’s eyes met when the last sentence was said.
The meeting ended. People dispersed. Kiza and mother walked slowly to her mother’s house. They would shut the door behind them and laugh in joy at their great victory.
The kind relative helped Lulu to her house and left her covered in a warm blanket. She felt an unusual kind of sadness. Even losing her husband Gubu to death years ago had not left her this sore.
Nerea supported her crying daughter to their house with a nagging feeling that there was something wrong in all that had happened. The anger she felt for Adili had disappeared and in came, empathy. She had a gut feeling that what had ensued was a ploy by her husband and mother-in-law with an aim to grab Adili’s share. Her big question was how her daughter had been involved in their shenanigans.
She would get to the bottom of this. She felt a burning urge to make right the wrongs that had been done. She had allowed herself to be trodden upon by Kiza and his mother because of her inadequencies. Not being able to bear more children had made Kiza squash her self esteem. So timid had she been that she couldn’t see how it affected Neema.
The more she thought, the more she realized that her daughter had been coerced to lie. If Neema was raped, Nerea would have been the first to know. The two were never far apart. The endless crying of her daughter was not out of trauma but that of guilt. It was sad to discover that Neema couldn’t disclose to her because she thought her mother was a timid mouse.
It was time to redeem herself in front of her daughter’s eyes and the only way she would do so was to ensure that Mzee Mzizi’s deathbed wish be fulfilled accordingly.
–TO BE CONTINUED on 13th September–