Escape From Freedom by Benjamin Sibangani Sibanda Summary
Gukurahundi" is a word that generally evokes strong emotions in Zimbabwe, for it describes a dark period in the country's relatively young history. This novel tries to understand that part of Zimbabwe's unsavoury past through the eyes of a young man, Sipho Dube, who, at sixteen, leaves his home in Matabeleland South partly to seek his fortune in South Africa, but mainly to escape the ravages of Gukurahundi, which appeared to target young men.Separated from his travelling companions - all of them older than him - due to a flash flood as they try to cross the Limpopo River, Sipho finds himself alone, in a foreign land, with nothing. This starts him on a journey of self-discovery which culminates with him meeting and falling in love with Rumbidzai, an ethnic Shona, whose people are largely held responsible for the misery inflicted on Sipho's people by Gukurahundi.After ten years of living and working illegally in South Africa, Sipho travels back to his native land to find a completely different country where the people he meets have lost all hope; the promise and excitement of independence all but a distant memory. In conversations with the people back home, and later with other Zimbabweans in South Africa, Sipho begins to understand some of the history of the people of Southern Africa and how similar their cultures and Languages are. Colonisation, which was designed to serve the purposes of the colonisers, has changed Southern Africa's narrative to this day. He begins to understand that Gukurahundi, election violence in Zimbabwe, (and many other African countries), xenophobia in South Africa and elsewhere, can all be seen as the continuation of a narrative that started with a conference in Berlin, where all of the developed countries in Europe with an interest in Africa, met to carve up the continent without any input from the indigenous people of the said continent. The borders they created keep Africa divided and in competition with itself to this day, keeping the people of Africa poor, while they compete to give away their wealth of natural resources in exchange for the 'hard' currencies of their former colonisers and their allies.Throughout the book, the romance between Sipho and Rumbidzai is the constant thread that knits the story together, demonstrating the conflicts and contradictions that are necessarily present in Zimbabwe's ethnicity debate and the oft forgotten truth that all of humanity is the same.