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The Hangman's Replacement: Sprout of Disruption (BOOK 1)

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The Hangman's Replacement: Sprout of Disruption (BOOK 1)




  By Taona Dumisani Chiveneko

  * * *

  Translated From Shona By Someone

  Translated From Ndebele By Someone Else


  All intellectual property rights associated with this novel are the sole property of Chiveneko Publishing Inc.


  This book is dedicated to the African continent …

  … a field full of flame lilies.





  The Fireproof Candle

  The Interview

  Have You Ever Killed Anyone?


  The Overnighters

  The Apology

  The Guest Who Disinfected the Furniture


  It’s Too Late to Succumb to Adolescent Emotions


  Mrs. Sibanda’s Vagrant


  There’s Been Enough Mincing For One Day


  ZUVA REDU: Cadaver-Hunting Flower Found at Great Zimbabwe

  Great Zimbabwe Botanicals

  Gweta, Hurudza & Mpeto LLP

  Angustï Canibalis

  Barbara Kuonyesha

  The Patent

  The Urgency of a Stifled Intellect

  Anything ...

  The Book of Nations


  The Caviar Trap

  Doll Eyes

  The Shipping Documents

  The Wayward Son

  The Vulture That Binged on the Mere Sight of Death

  The Nudity Of An Unserviced Solitude


  The Affair

  The Savvynova

  Spiritual Voltage

  The Man with Two Brains


  Magistrate Changamire

  Why a Good Judge Always Hangs Bad People


  The Organ Herders

  Justice Athabasca Murambi

  Luxon Hurudza

  Court of Error

  A Plant Ate My Sandwich


  ZUVA REDU: Mermaid Found Wrapped in Giant Condom at Kariba Dam


  I Am in Love with an Aspiring Hangman

  The Man With Sunken Eyes

  If You Touch Me I Will Kill You

  A Legitimate Authority

  Abel Muranda And This Job Need Each Other

  The Seventeenth Mercenary

  The Plant That Fed on Frozen Meat

  The Gall


  The Big Day

  The Goat

  More Than Ten Candidates

  ZUVA REDU: Man-Hunting Lightning Bolt Vaporizes Chegutu Businessman

  A Fateful Letter to an Illiterate Man

  ZUVA REDU: Body of Man Found near Marondera: Face Disfigured by Acid

  The Protest

  ZUVA REDU: Zimbabwean Man Impaled by Stalactite in Barbados


  ZUVA REDU: Prisoner Escapes from Mazambuko Death Row

  Standing Astride A Barbed Wire Fence

  This Is Overwhelming

  The Embassy Refugee

  Monetary Induced Amnesia (MIA)

  Mother Tuvalu

  The Man Who Courted The Gallows


  The Harvester

  The Hanging Grudge

  ZUVA REDU: Employee Caught Trying to Throw Human Arm into Mincer at Mhitsa Factory

  The Determination Gene

  Suicide By Electrocution

  Apex Predator





  Mazambuko’s Finest: Dishonourable Mention


  Glossary and Pronunciation Guide for People, Places and Other Entities





  “There was once a plant. One day, it decided to start eating meat. Humanity felt threatened and declared war on all vegetation. Herbicide merchants became arms dealers. Gardeners became soldiers. Vegetarians became assassins. Anthophilics became martyrs. When the plants were vanquished, the herbivores soon became extinct. The carnivores were left to each other’s mercy. The weak and the innocent were eaten first. Eventually, the strong wished they had dispensed with the miserable business of survival much sooner. When it was all over, there was only one victor: a creature with tendrils that had eaten its way into the vault of history and freed the unvarnished truth. A beast of unrivalled supremacy. The Sprout of Disruption.”


  “I appreciate the gesture, but you don’t have to undress in order to apologize.”

  The Fireproof Candle

  The bus ride from the village of Gwenzi to Harare takes fifteen hours. When it rains, massive swamps prevent vehicles from passing through. When it is dry, the sun bakes the earth into a rock-hard platform that consumes the barefooted like a candle lit from beneath.

  Abel Muranda could not afford the bus fare, so he made the journey on foot. He did so during a year of severe drought. He had brought a pair of shoes with him, but kept them tucked away in his bag. He needed to save them for a destination where their protection would be wasted on the cold floors of a government building, and yet, protocol expected them to be worn.

  Abel Muranda’s journey had taken three weeks. He spent the first two battling a scorching landscape where gnarled trees hovered on the verge of death. For days, he swatted tsetse flies the size of small mice. He fought off furious red ants with mandibles that could cut through a miser’s padlock. When he appeared from the arid zone, Abel Muranda was plunged into impatient rivers that emerged without offering a courteous transition from the dryness. On two occasions, he nearly drowned. The first time, a strong current almost dragged him away. The second time, a crocodile nearly pulled him under. But on the morning of the third Tuesday, he made it to Harare’s city limits.

  Abel Muranda was tired, haggard and hungry. A powerful smell from his armpits confirmed that he needed a bath. He did not know anyone in the city, so he found a secluded spot by a stream. He carefully unwrapped a small bar of soap and applied it to the parts of his body that were causing the most offence.

  Abel Muranda immersed his naked body in the water and dug his feet into the river bed. He extended his hands in front of him and leaned into the current like a fish trying to swim upstream. The arches of his armpits ruffled the water’s gentle flow. An angry foam erupted from the soapy meshes of hair. Abel Muranda stepped out of the river when the last plume of lather disappeared downstream.

  After days of hoarding moisture, Abel Muranda’s towel had been dyed green by a mold infestation. Using the towel would only encourage an alliance between the fungus in the fabric and the colonies that were already irritating his armpits. To dry himself, he shaved off the large droplets from his body with his massive palms. He then stood akimbo beneath an acacia tree and waited for the breeze to expel the smaller droplets that were unresponsive to aggression. He could afford to dry at lei
sure. It was only ten o’clock in the morning. His interview was in four hours.

  Abel Muranda stroked the puncture wounds that the crocodile’s lower teeth had gored into his chest. The pain from each one extended far beyond the perforation. Though they hurt, he was more worried about developing an infection.

  As he dried, Abel Muranda examined his special blue shirt. Fortunately, it was still in good condition. Only an eye determined to find fault would notice the three tiny holes that the crocodile’s upper teeth had pierced into the left armpit. The force of the snapping jaws had squeezed moldy water out of the towel. The fluid had pressed light green stains into the perimeters of the holes. Apart from that, the shirt had been protected by the layers of plastic that his wife had wrapped it in.

  Abel Muranda fought to control his nausea. The memory of the attack was threatening to eject his empty intestines through his mouth.

  Crocodiles are known for using a technique called ‘the death roll’. After gripping their prey, they spin around continuously to rip off a limb, or to quicken the drowning process. Few people ever live to describe the misery of dying in the frothing waters of savagery. But throughout his ordeal, Abel Muranda had only experienced one emotion: defiance. He had fought off death by sinking his thumbs into the eyes of the beast. Not even a hungry reptile would interfere with his quest for gainful employment. Whatever happened at two o’clock that afternoon, only one outcome would be acceptable. Abel Muranda had to get that job. How life would change if his interview were successful.

  * * *

  The Interview

  The chairman of the interview panel opened the windows when Abel Muranda walked into the room. Though he insisted that this was meant to counter the poor circulation, everyone, including Abel Muranda, knew that the candidate’s stench was the culprit. His bar of soap had fought in vain.

  The interview panel had three members: two men and one woman. The chairman was a Mr. Kuripa. He was stout, friendly and endowed with the demeanour of a man who had been destined to become a bureaucrat. He appeared educated, intelligent and deferential to authority, even when he disagreed with his superiors.

  To his left was Mrs. Sibanda. She was in her late forties. Her sharp grey suit and gracious smile enhanced her confident presence. And yet, her eyes had a glimmer of calculation that could impregnate a trivial question with a hidden agenda.

  To the chairman’s right was the largest man that Abel Muranda had ever seen. He had the muscular definition of a man who had spent his life restraining elephants in heat. Each of his sleeves looked like a python which had swallowed prey that was larger than the snake was elastic. The garment was losing the fight. The man’s size was not his only striking feature. He also had a massive moustache that looked like a scruffy kitten had nestled above his lips and fallen asleep.

  The man’s name was Mr. Gejo.

  Though he wore civilian clothes and sat with the bureaucrats, one fact was clear: Mr. Gejo was neither a civilian nor a bureaucrat. Abel Muranda did not know what to make of this man. How could he warm up to anyone who punished his own clothing? How could he relate to a man who hid his mouth behind a hedge of hair? Could such a person be trusted?

  After the introductions, Mr. Kuripa opened the interview.

  “Mr. Muranda, welcome. This interview will be in Shona. I trust that works for you?”

  “Yes, Mr. Kuripa. My Ndebele is poor. I know some English words but not enough to carry on a conversation.”

  “Then Shona it is. So how was your journey?”

  “Good. Thank you.”

  “How did you get here?”

  “I walked.”

  “Were you followed?” asked Mr. Kuripa casually.

  “I do not believe so. The terrain between Gwenzi and Harare is unkind. If anyone tried to follow me, they must have perished along the way. I barely survived.”

  “Ah, a sense of humour! So, your village is named Gwenzi?”


  “Where is that?”

  “Near Hambakwe.”

  “Where is Hambakwe?”

  “Not far from Rukukwe.”

  “I am sorry, Mr. Muranda, I do not know where Rukukwe is either.”

  “About two days from Makwere.”

  “Oh. I see. Okay. So how did you hear about this job?”

  “I sold my last goat to a man. He was visiting relatives near my village. He told me he lived in Harare. We spoke for a while. As he was about to leave, he asked me whether I had ever considered a job in the city. I told him that I did not know how to go about it. I had never been to the city before. I think he noticed my poverty and decided to help me. He told me that upon returning to Harare, he would ask around on my behalf. He would then send word if something came up. A few months later, here I am.”

  “I see,” said Mr. Kuripa. “So this person told you to come to Harare for an interview?”

  “Yes. A few months later, he sent a message to tell me that the interview had been arranged. He gave me the date, time, and directions to this building.”

  “So you did not formally apply for this job, then?”

  “I did not know I was supposed to apply. I just followed the instructions.”

  “But we have an application letter in your name. You did not write it?”

  “No. I can neither read nor write, Mr. Kuripa. But I compensate for this shortcoming with my enthusiasm.”

  “Well, enthusiasm is usually appreciated in most jobs. However, it is not something we encourage for this particular position.”

  “Of course, Mr. Kuripa. My enthusiasm is not for the process of executing people, but for the privilege of serving the state.”

  “That is better, Mr. Muranda. That is what this job is about. National service. No more. No less.”

  Mr. Kuripa shuffled some papers with a great sense of self-importance. Never is a man more proud than when he shuffles paper in front of an illiterate person.

  “Well, before we go any further, I will tell you more about the job. After that, each of the members of this panel will ask you some questions.”

  “That sounds good to me, Mr. Kuripa.”

  “Excellent! So, this vacancy arose in 2004. As you will understand, we are taking our time in choosing a replacement. We need to find the right person.”

  “Of course.”

  “Officially, the post pays a part-time wage. Nevertheless, we are considering a full-time salary. A bonus is out of the question. As you can appreciate, it is difficult to prove that you deserve a bonus in a job where you have no peers to provide a comparison. It is also impossible to place the duties along any spectrum of performance that can allow us to measure degrees of competence. Either the condemned will die or they will live. There is no room for achieving intermediate results. Besides, you would only work a few days each year. At most, a total of two weeks between January and November. We will never schedule work in December. It’s Christmas time, you see?”

  “I see.”

  “Good. Now, if you get the job, you will live in a government house. It will be in either Mbare or Kuwadzana. That is still to be decided. Either way, the house will have five rooms and a chicken coop in the back. The full-time salary will be about twelve thousand dollars a year. We also pay fifty percent of your children’s school fees.”

  Mr. Kuripa paused when he noticed Abel Muranda’s confused expression.

  “‘Fifty percent’ means half, Mr. Muranda. We pay half of your children’s school fees.”

  “Right,” said Abel Muranda. His nodding head dispersed the fog of innumeracy.

  “Further, we will provide you and your family with free health care.”

  “Free health care? Really?”

  “Yes, Mr. Muranda. Really.”

  “Does that mean my family can see a doctor? Like the ones who wear white jackets?”

  “No. Your family will only have access to Doctors of Philosophy. Of course, such doctors are free to wear white jackets, but the only treatment they can prescribe
is mind-bending – as they say in English – ‘postulation’.”

  Mr. Kuripa cast a smug smile at his colleagues. He was so proud of himself.

  “I am sorry, Mr. Kuripa. My English may be terrible, but if I understood that final word correctly, I must protest. I only need health care for my family. I want nothing to do with mind-bending ‘prostitution’.”

  Mrs. Sibanda buried her face in her jacket. Her shoulders trembled violently as she tried to suppress her laughter. Mr. Gejo simply sat back in his chair. Deep creases formed at the corners of his eyes. Mr. Kuripa laughed nervously. He was not sure whether his colleagues were laughing at him or at Abel Muranda.

  “It was just a joke, Mr. Muranda. Prostitutes are not a benefit of this job. Mind-bending or otherwise.”

  “So my family and I will be able to see real doctors then?”

  “Yes. The ones who wear the white jackets and carry stethoscopes ...”

  Mr. Kuripa waited for Abel Muranda’s relief to set in. Before it could, a fresh cloud of confusion drifted across the candidate’s face.

  “A stethoscope is a long pipe with two splitting trunks that branch off into the doctor’s ears ... Doctors use it to listen to a patient’s circulation? ... How many doctors have you ever met, Mr. Muranda?”

  “One. He saved my life. I do not remember him using the object you described, though. Anyway, I do not care if a doctor pounds me on the head with a wheelbarrow. If he went to doctor school, and he wishes me well, I will trust him.”

  “Naturally,” replied Mr. Kuripa. “But though I am not a doctor, I can assure you on behalf of the profession that pounding patients with wheelbarrows would not be therapy. It would be assault. Besides, not many of our doctors are built like Mr. Gejo. Lifting a wheelbarrow for such a purpose would cause more injuries among the doctors than the patients.”

  Mr. Kuripa laughed and slapped Mr. Gejo on the shoulder. The camaraderie did not extend beyond Mr. Kuripa’s portly frame. The big man remained expressionless, unreadable behind his massive moustache. Mr. Kuripa quickly moved on.

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