T H E
A F R I C A
S E R I E S
AFRICA SHIRLEY CARNEGIE
SONS OF AFRICA Shirley Carnegie was born in the West Midlands but lived most of her life in London. Her passion Africa was inspired by her husband’s experiences of a childhood spent in colonial Africa and war torn Rhodesia, and their travels across the country she grew to love as her own. The Africa Series demonstrates Shirley’s unique ability to transcend the limits of an individual literary genre and explore the world of storytelling in the widest possible sense.
A Shadow Passing is an historical novel. It chronicles the war of independence that led to the formation of Zimbabwe. Sons of Africa is a high-action thriller set against the backdrop of the Zimbabwean Government’s genocide of the 1980s. A Wedding in Africa will satisfy those readers who enjoy the twists and turns of a typical romantic novel. Shirley and her husband, Andrew, now live in rural Shropshire with their two dogs and two cats.
SONS OF AFRICA
For my sister Janet
SONS OF AFRICA
ÂŠ 2011 by Shirley Carnegie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recoding or by any information storage or retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of quotations in a review.
1 With consciousness came the pain. It filled his head until it seemed that his brain was pushing against the confines of his skull. Tentatively, he moved his head to the side and he groaned as the pain shot through the soft tissue behind his eyes. His breath came in shallow gasps and he began to sweat. He tried to lift his head, but the pain was too much. He fell back and tried to cry out for help, but his lips were cracked and dry and his throat was raw. With mounting terror, he realised that the place where he lay was as dark as the grave. He shuddered. Unfamiliar smells of blood and antiseptic filled his nostrils and there was a strange, acidic taste in his mouth. Somewhere in the blackness that enveloped him he could hear voices he didn’t recognise. He raised his hand and pressed his fingers against his face. Gingerly, he explored the stubble on his chin. He traced the line of his lips and felt his teeth still neatly spaced in his gums. His fingers ran the length of his nose and brushed against his nostrils. He was a handsome man - in his prime at twenty five - but he wasn’t checking how he looked. He just wanted to know if he was still in one piece. Slowly, his fingers edged towards his forehead. He could feel material wrapped around his eyes, and he realised with horror that he was blindfolded. Or was it a bandage? Truly afraid now, he began to moan through parched lips. ‘Ma!’ his voice crashed through his skull and he howled again: ‘Mother!’ ‘I’m here, my darling.’ The familiar voice washed over him, reassuring him, and he reached out to feel her touch. He heard the rustle of her skirt and the tread of her
shoes on the floor. He felt her hands enclosing his, warm and safe, and he forgot that he was a man and sobbed like a child. ‘Where am I?’ ‘You’re in hospital in Bulawayo.’ ‘Why? What’s happened? Ma! I’m scared! What’s happened to me?’ Blanche Buckley wiped the tears from her eyes. She pulled her chair closer to the bed and looked anxiously at her son. ‘You’ve been in an accident, my darling. You’re very badly hurt, but you’ll be all right. I promise.’ She watched helplessly as her boy struggled to return to full consciousness, to the knowledge that his life would never be the same again. She wanted to scoop him up in her arms as she did when he was a baby. She wanted to heal his pain with a kiss, but she knew that the horror that awaited him was too great to be healed by a mother’s love alone. He would need time. Time and courage. And she vowed that she would be with him at every stage in his terrible journey. Blanche glanced up at the clock. It was almost midnight on 17 April 1980. Only minutes away from the start of the Independence Day celebrations for Zimbabwe. But Blanche, a white farmer’s wife, cared little about the liberation of Africa’s black population. Blanche Buckley cared only about her son. And this day of celebrations for Zimbabwe would be etched on her memory forever as a day of great sorrow. The door to the side ward opened and the doctor entered, followed by a young black nurse. Blanche ignored the nurse and concentrated on what the white doctor had to say. ‘How are we today?’ the doctor spoke voice with a mild South African twang. ‘Don’t worry about the pain. I’ll give you something for that right away.’ Blanche squeezed her son’s hand and questioned the doctor with a mixture of hope and trepidation. ‘How is he? His eyes… will they be okay?’ The doctor took a deep breath and moved closer to the bed, bending slightly to bring himself down to the patient’s level. ‘It’s not good news, I’m afraid. We couldn’t save the left eye. It was too badly damaged by the thorns. We’ve had to remove it completely. I’m very sorry.’ Blanche gasped and clutched at her son’s hand. ‘That can’t be right. It can’t be that bad. I won’t have it!’ Her voice resounded around the room and her son winced in pain. 8
‘What’s going on? What does that mean?’ he gasped, turning towards the doctor. ‘Am I blind? I can’t be blind. Jesus! That can’t be right! Ma… what the hell’s going on here?’ ‘You’ll certainly be blind in one eye,’ the doctor replied gently. ‘But we think we can save the sight in your right eye, although we won’t know that until the bandages are off. You’ll be relieved to hear that your brother isn’t too badly injured. A nasty cut along his jawbone, but we’ve stitched him up and, apart from a few scars, he should be fine.’ Blanche stiffened and stood up from her chair. In her mid-fifties, she was a formidable woman, a descendant of Afrikaners who had come to this land and claimed it as their own. She had known many hardships, and had weathered the long years of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe war of liberation, but she hadn’t been cowed by catastrophe. Blanche Buckley was made of sterner stuff than ordinary people. Now, at the mention of her other son, her face took on the stern expression that many people had come to dread. She glanced at the forlorn figure sitting hunched over on a chair in the corner of the room, and frowned. Her mouth settled itself into a hard line as she chewed the inside of her lips with anger. Her other son sat there with his elbows resting on his knees and his head held in his hands. Blood had dried on his cheeks. Black stitches held together a wound that was deep and ugly. His knuckles, raw from the fight, dug deep into his hair, still matted with his brother’s blood. Feeling the glare from his mother’s eyes he looked up, a silent plea for forgiveness momentarily lighting up the dark brown shadows in his eyes. But there was no compassion there, only a cold stare that told him there would be no forgiveness for what he had done today. He turned to look at his father, Frank, mouthing words of apology that he knew would never put things right. His father, a handsome, craggy Rhodesian, smiled forlornly and shook his head. He didn’t know what to say. He was a farmer, used to toiling the harsh lands that formed the twenty thousand acres of Hope Fountain on the outskirts of Bulawayo. He was a man of few words – and even those precious few had deserted him now. His sons, his beloved twin boys, had fought like dogs. God only knows why! And now one of them was lying blinded in a hospital bed while the other sat wracked with guilt because he was the one who had brought this devastation to the family. ‘I don’t understand,’ he looked helplessly from his son to his wife. ‘How could all this happen? What’s it all about, for God’s sake?’ 9
‘It’s perfectly obvious what it’s all about,’ his wife responded tersely. ‘You’re just too blind to notice. And you!’ Blanche spat at her son who recoiled in his chair. ‘You’ve just wrecked your poor brother’s life. How does that feel? Are you happy now? Have you got what you wanted? Well it came at a price, my lad - your brother’s sight. I just hope it was worth it.’ Frank laid his hand on his wife’s shoulder in an awkward, unfamiliar gesture. Blanche shrugged it aside and wiped away a tear. She then turned back to the son who lay broken and bleeding in a hospital bed. His own brother had done this to him. His own twin brother; the two baby boys she had carried in her womb together, all the way through that long and difficult pregnancy. And for what? For them to come to blows like a couple of kaffir farmhands. Fighting out in the bush like animals until one of them was blinded and the other was left to contemplate a pyrrhic victory. Well may the good Lord forgive her guilty offspring for his terrible crime this day, she thought. May God forgive him for beating his own brother within an inch of his life. For she, his mother, never could and never would. Tara Flynn ran down the grassy slopes of the savannah, flinging her arms wide with joy and laughing out loud. Her long hair fanned out behind her and shone in the glow of the setting sun. ‘Are you quite sure he’s coming home, Greg? I mean… really, really certain?’ Greg Buckley smiled as she swung round and ran back towards him. She looked so much younger than her twenty five years, and so beautiful, so happy. He was pleased to be the bearer of good news; happy to bask in the effect that it had had on her. He wished it would happen more often – that he would be the one with the power to make her smile. That he would be the one who could make her happy whenever he chose to do so. ‘It’ll be like the old days,’ Tara said breathlessly, skipping along beside him. ‘Like when we were kids. Oh Greg! Aren’t you just dying to see him again?’ Greg nodded, but his brow was creased as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He could feel those old familiar demons breathing down his neck; those sharp claws gripping at his heart. He worked the muscles of his jaw, glad that Tara had run ahead once more and couldn’t witness his darker emotions. In an instant, his pleasure had
sunk like a stone in deep water, unrecognisable now as the feeling that had warmed his heart only moments before. Nothing had changed. Not really. He still felt it. That dull ache of jealousy whenever he thought of his handsome twin brother, Clayton. Even now, as a grown man, he still grappled with the irrational feeling of being the second rate twin, inadequate in the face of his charismatic, talented brother. Ironically, he was the older of the two by a good three hours. His mother had told him how easy his birth had been compared with that of his larger, heavier brother. Gregory could still recall that feeling of triumph when his mother had explained how Claytonâ€™s birth had almost killed her. Oh yes. His was by far a better delivery. He had got off to a good start. No doubt about that. Both the Buckley boys had inherited their fatherâ€™s good looks and powerful build. But Greg, once a skinny child, had struggled with his increasing weight in his teens, while Clay seemed to grow more lean and muscular over the years. They had enjoyed an idyllic childhood growing up on the land that had been carved out of the rough African bush by their great grandfather, old Bill Buckley, and his doughty wife, Bessie. The farmhouse stood proudly at the top of a long dusty drive flanked by flat-topped acacias and soft wood marulas. The veranda, or stoep as it was called, ran along the front of the building. It was from here that four generations of Buckleys had sat with their families watching the awesome grandeur of the African sunsets on the rim of the plains. The farm, by African standards, was small, but prosperous. Frank Buckleyâ€™s thriving dairy supplied most of Bulawayo with fresh milk from the healthy stock of Friesland-Holsteins his own father had chosen for their high milk yield. Greg knew that his father depended on him to take over the running of Hope Fountain when the time came. Frank Buckley had long nurtured the idea that both his sons would become farmers, partners in the family business that their forefathers had forged with their bare hands out of the African bush. But Clayton had other ideas. Acknowledged by all to be the brains of the family, Clay had persuaded his parents to let him move down to Cape Town to train as a journalist. In return, he had promised to return to work his share of the farm during the holidays. Eventually, after convincing his parents that this would be an appropriate profession for a Buckley to follow, Clay had set off to begin a new life south of the Rhodesia border.
His twin brother had listened resentfully to the chorus of admiration that saw young Clay Buckley off at Bulawayo’s airport terminal on the start of his great adventure. Only his mother, Blanche, seemed to sense Greg’s brooding jealousy. He was grateful when she touched his arm to lead them out of the departure lounge. Tara had joined the family at the airport to wave her childhood friend off. Greg had watched them embrace in a fond farewell. He had felt irked that Tara had lingered a little too long on her goodbye kiss, and that Clayton had wiped away a tear from her eye. Moodily, he wondered whether Tara would be as upset to see him disappear into the sunset. He questioned whether she would fill the car on the way home with breathless exultations about his potential and his talents as she did about Clay’s. At least his mother hadn’t joined in with the irritating litany of praise. She sat in the front of the car, stony-faced and silent. Greg was comforted by the thought that at least she understood how he felt to be the twin who had stayed behind. ‘What do you think he’ll be like now?’ Greg’s thoughts were interrupted by Tara who threaded her arm through his as they made their way back to the farm. ‘Do you think he’ll have changed.’ ‘Can’t really say,’ Greg replied, pulling her fingers through his arm. ‘Probably. Don’t forget he’s been living and working in the UK for the last year. Living in London is enough to change anyone!’ ‘Must have been quite a wrench when he left home and took up that job with the Daily Mail. Imagine that - working as a reporter for a real British newspaper.’ Greg shrugged. ‘Can’t see why he didn’t stay here and just keep sending them freelance stuff. I can think of nothing worse than living in a cold damp climate on the other side of the world. He’s an African. I can’t see why he wouldn’t want to stay loyal to his roots.’ ‘Like we did,’ Tara cuddled closer, eager to dispel Greg’s gloom. ‘Good old fashioned Rhodies. That’s what we are, eh?’ Reassured, Greg flashed her a winning smile and hugged her tightly. ‘Dead right. You and me, we go back a long way, don’t we? We were born here. This is where we belong. We don’t need no fancy jobs in a foreign country. We’ve got everything we need right here in Africa.’ Tara said nothing, but her eyes swept across the glorious golden savannah up towards the Buckley’s old Cape Dutch style farmhouse that sat proudly on the top of the hill. She breathed in the sweet perfume of the wild flowers and heard the soft lowing of the cattle down in the valley. 12
It was true what Greg had said. She belonged to vast open plains of the land they now called Zimbabwe. It was her home. She knew no other. And she loved it so. Tara lived with her parents, Paddy and Bridget, in small bungalow on the outskirts of Bulawayo. Although modest, the house was neat and clean, surrounded by a large garden lovingly tended by Bridget. It was a quiet, mainly white, suburb close to the Hillside Dams. But the residents of Rose Gardens Suburb were now bracing themselves for change and the influx of new black neighbours following the impending Independence Day celebrations. It wasn’t a welcome prospect. Many whites had already sold up and fled to safety in Australia, South Africa and the UK when they realised the war wasn’t going their way. Paddy and Bridget had decided to stay put and weather the storm of black liberation. Paddy’s wage as an electrician wouldn’t stretch to the expense of moving, and they both knew that there was nowhere else on earth where they could afford the lifestyle that Rhodesia had to offer. Even here, the Flynns were relatively impoverished and, in Paddy’s eyes, looked down on by their wealthier counterparts. Bridget was blissfully oblivious to such social inequalities - she had known far worse in her native Ireland - but her husband found it hard to bear. For Paddy had expected more when he took advantage of Prime Minister Ian Smith’s tempting invitation to enjoy the ‘Healthy Climate and Light Taxation’ in the flourishing British colony. He and his young wife had set sail for Rhodesia convinced that, in a land where black labour was cheap and white Europeans reigned supreme, he would be king of all he surveyed and master to a host of subservient Africans obliged to do his bidding. Reality had worked out differently. Bridget’s early pregnancy, and Paddy’s inability to secure anything other than a basic wage from his trade, had left them struggling to make ends meet and maintain an impression of wealth and success that meant so much to the proud Irishman. Life in the colonies had taken its toll on the Flynn household, but even from the deepest despair and resentment, something quite perfect had emerged. Tara. Their beautiful daughter. A shining light in a house of gloom. Tara spotted her mother among the flowers as she swung her Mini through the creaky wrought iron gate and up the drive. She called out of the open car window and waved when she spotted her mother bending down to tie the dahlias and sprinkle egg shells on the ground to keep the 13
slugs at bay. Bridget’s normally careworn features broke into a smile as her daughter parked her car at the top of the drive and ran across the lawn to greet her, arms outstretched in that customary display of affection. ‘Mum! Guess what?’ Bridget extricated herself from Tara’s bear hug and pulled off her gardening gloves. ‘You won Z$50,000 on the State Lottery,’ she teased. ‘Better than that! ‘Better than that? Well then, it has to have something to do with those Buckley boys. Let me see….. Clay’s coming home? Is that what’s got you all in a tizz?’ ‘That’s it!’ Tara cried, grabbing her mother’s arm to stop her in her tracks. ‘You knew? How did you know?’ Bridget laughed and the soft lines at the corners of her eyes crinkled. ‘I heard them going on about it in Bulawayo this morning. It’s the talk of the town. I knew that Greg would have told you, so I was quite prepared for all this excitement!’ Tara took the weeding basket from her mother’s hand and followed her on to the stoep that spanned the front of the house. The veranda was Bridget’s favourite place, and she polished the Rhodesian teak floor every morning to keep it nicely buffed. An assortment of clay pots, bursting with well-tended plants, fringed the edges of the stoep and flanked the steps that led from the garden. A couple of rickety old tables and various chairs hewn out of traditional African mukwa completed the picture. Fuchsia, the family cat, was curled up in a ball on one of the chairs. Tara and Bridget crept past, careful not to disturb her. Their efforts failed miserably. Harley, Tara’s beloved Jack Russell terrier, sensed that his mistress was home and he came tearing round the side of the building, hurling himself at Tara’s legs. Tara knelt down to greet her puppy, prompting a further frenzy of barking and licking. Fuchsia, sensing that all hell was breaking loose, arched her back gracefully, jumped off the chair, and slunk past to find a quieter resting place in the branches of the nearby jacaranda tree. ‘Shut that bleeding racket up!’ the angry voice boomed from the sitting room. Tara froze. ‘Is he home?’ Bridget nodded. ‘Why isn’t he at work?’ Tara whispered, shushing her noisy puppy. Bridget shrugged. ‘Too drunk as per usual.’ 14
‘It’s a miracle anyone bothers to employ him at all,’ Tara said through gritted teeth. ‘If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid. He’s his own boss. That’s why we’re always struggling to make ends meet.’ ‘And the pittance he does earn goes on booze,’ Tara added. ‘Well, never mind all that now,’ Bridget sought to calm her daughter’s rising irritation. She firmly believed it was her duty to try to keep the peace in the Flynn household. ‘Just keep out of his way and you’ll be fine.’ Feeling her earlier euphoria slipping away to be replaced by the all too familiar trepidation, Tara followed her mother into the house. Subdued now, Harley trotted closely at her heels. ‘What time do you call this?’ Her father, Paddy Flynn, crumpled up the copy of the Bulawayo Chronicle he had been reading and turned to glare at her. ‘Your mother’s been holding my dinner up waiting for you.’ ‘Sorry, Dad.’ Tara knew better than to argue with her father when he was in one of his moods. ‘I was up at Hope Fountain and Greg said that Clayton was coming home and I… I guess I lost track of time….’ Her voice trailed off hopelessly. ‘So the prodigal son has decided to pack up the big city life and come home, has he?’ Paddy flicked a cigarette out of the packet and struck the Lion match on the side of the box. He drew heavily on the smoke. ‘About time, too, if you want my opinion. London’s no place for a farmer’s son.’ ‘He’s a journalist,’ Tara muttered in a feeble attempt to defend her childhood pal. ‘Journalist, my arse!’ Paddy exhaled a line of smoke through tightly pursued lips. ‘Bloody rubbish! If you want my opinion, he should have stayed here with his back to the wall helping us to fight off the munts, not poncing about in some fancy London newspaper office. It’s blokes like Clay Buckley who helped us lose this bleeding war. I’d like to see how he feels when the blacks hoist up their Zimbabwean flag next week and we all have to start bowing and scraping to that Commie, Mugabe, and his Zanu-PF party.’ Paddy caught sight of his wife out of the corner of his eye and he turned upon her with full fury blazing in his eyes. ‘What are you creeping about behind my back for? Leave that paper where it is and get in there and get my bloody dinner. And you can fill that up while you’re at it.’ He thrust an empty whisky glass in her direction, but Tara intercepted it and took it over to the sideboard, allowing her mother to make a swift exit through the double glass doors that led into the dining room and out 15
into the sanctuary of her kitchen. Tara placed the glass next to the other dirty glasses, took out clean tumbler, filled it with whisky and handed it to her father. It was one of Paddy’s quirks that his drink must always be poured into a fresh glass and the used one placed in a line on the sideboard. The number of empty glasses standing in a straight line on the sideboard was a measure of Paddy’s moods - one that was often used by his family to assess the potential for all out war in the Flynn household on any given day. ‘Anything interesting in the Chronicle?’ Tara asked sweetly. It was a tactic she and her mother had used before. Paddy’s rages could just as easily be replaced by reason, when traces of his innate charisma and keen intellect were visible beyond the customary vitriol. Just like a child, it was possible to distract him from his violent outbursts and steer him towards safer topics. ‘More of the same stuff,’ Paddy replied, seamlessly transferring his anger from his wife and daughter to the world in general. ‘ Mugabe’s still bleating on about how he wants to work with the whites now that he’s been elected. He’s even roped in Peter Walls as Commander of the Armed Forces. A right bloody sell-out, if you ask me!’ ‘But surely that shows that he’s willing to do business with the whites, doesn’t it?’ Tara reasoned. ‘With Walls responsible for bringing Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Nkomo’s ZAPU soldiers together, we might actually get to see some sort of peace between the two tribes.’ Paddy snorted derisorily and slugged his whisky without flinching. ‘Makes you laugh, doesn’t it? The Shona and the Matabele are at each other’s throats for centuries. Give them a common cause to fight for civil war with the whites – and what happens? They’re still at each other’s throats twenty years later. Now that they’ve finished killing all the whites, they’ll be back to killing each other, just like they’ve always done. And it’ll take more than one white man, even with the fancy title of Commander of the Armed Forces, to bring those savages into line. Not a chance. Do you hear me? Not a chance.’ Relieved not to be on the wrong side of her father now, Tara perched on the edge of the sofa and stroked her puppy’s ears. ‘It doesn’t look too promising for Nkomo and the poor old blacks down here in Matabeleland. Mugabe’s got his work cut out trying to keep his own Shona war veterans happy without upsetting the Matabeles who fought beside him in the war.’ Paddy held the nub of his cigarette between his thumbnail and forefinger. He squeezed the last drag out of it before stubbing it out in the ashtray. ‘He’s also got to keep the whites happy. The country will be in a 16
right mess if we all up sticks and go taking our skills with us. Old Samora Machel from Mozambique knew what he was talking about when he urged Mugabe to look after the whites. Look at the bloody mess his lot got themselves into when all the Portuguese doctors, teachers and Godknows-what pulled out of Mozambique. Total chaos! We just have to hope Mugabe’s learned from those mistakes. But I don’t hold my breath. Kaffirs aren’t known for their brains. The bottom line is that Mr MarxistRevolutionary-President-Mugabe, call him what you like, is a muntu. A kaffir. Nothing more, nothing less.’ Reluctantly, Tara had come to accept that Paddy’s rages against the blacks were always preferable to physical violence against her mother. Confident that she had steered her father into calmer waters, she swept up her dog and made a hasty retreat. As she turned to close the dining room doors behind her, she looked back at the man who was her father and she sighed. Paddy, too far gone in his drink-fuelled haze, hardly noticed that she had moved. He sat slumped in his chair and closed his eyes. His empty glass lolled in his lap as he drifted off to sleep. That was the way with Paddy. Often, his rages were so fierce that they left him exhausted, too tired to rail against the fates that he believed were dead set against him. The strange world that was Africa left him angry and bewildered. Paddy, like so many of the whites in Rhodesia, simply couldn’t understand why the blacks weren’t grateful to them for building their roads and schools, providing them with homes, jobs and food. Left to themselves, the blacks would still be living in mud huts eating mealies, they said. The blacks had never had it so good. And what do they do to repay this selfless generosity? Bite the hand that feeds them in a long and vicious struggle for ‘Freedom’, massacre both whites and blacks in equal measure and leave themselves open to all the hassles that would inevitably follow their precious ‘Independence’. As he drifted into alcoholic slumber, Paddy was transported back to his youth spent in the lush green fields of County Mayo in the Emerald Isle. He had been a handsome young man, small, thin and wiry, with red hair styled in a classic Cliff Richard quiff. Even the unusually large nose and slightly prominent chin had failed to detract from his overall good looks. The girls had fallen for his charismatic charms and quirky sense of humour, and they had been impressed by his intelligence. Young Bridget McPartlin was easily swept off her feet by such a dashing young suitor. One of eight sisters, Bridget had longed to escape the drudgery of a life below stairs in one of Ireland’s grand houses. The proposal of marriage, accompanied by the promise of a new life in the colonies, was simply irresistible. 17
Paddy and Bridget had set sail for Cape Town from where they would catch the train up to Southern Rhodesia. They were buoyed by the thoughts of endless sunshine, servants of their own, perhaps even a swimming pool. Paddy’s skills as a qualified electrician would be valued and recognised, and they would build a glorious future in this beautiful new land. But life had other plans in store for the newlyweds. The arrival of a baby daughter had placed an impossible strain on their marriage. Paddy, never one for hard work, had shied away from the responsibility of being the breadwinner, turning instead to less demanding tasks, such as drinking beer in the Bulawayo Club or playing snooker with friends. Refusing to suffer the indignity of having a wife who worked, Paddy refused to let Bridget find a job of her own to supplement the household budget. Instead, Bridget’s talents were reduced to eking out a living from the money that Paddy did manage to bring home each week. Alongside the daily struggle to make ends meet, Bridget was forced to comply with the façade of pecuniary success that Paddy had created to disguise the family’s dire straits, and enable him to hold his head up when it was his turn to buy a round of drinks. Tara knew all this and understood her father’s foibles, feeling in many ways her own sense of shame for their inferior status in a world where status was everything. Of course, she despised her insecurity and deeplyfelt inferiority complex. She longed to be more like her mother, innocently, and perhaps naively, oblivious to the snobbery and tittle-tattle that filled the houses of the affluent whites. There had been times, mostly at school, when Tara had been forced to defend herself and her family from the taunts of other, more privileged children. But, mostly, Tara kept her background safely hidden in a place where people wouldn’t see her drunken, bullying father and her downtrodden mother. Hidden from view so that she, Tara Flynn, might not be regarded with the same lofty disdain or pity. Hidden from view so that she might be allowed to take her rightful place in the world of plenty and power that was white Rhodesia. The land of her birth. ‘Welcome home, lad,’ Frank Buckley raised a toast to his son, his kind eyes twinkling with barely controlled emotion. ‘We’ve missed you.’ ‘Welcome home, Clayton,’ his wife, Blanche, and other son, Greg, lifted their glasses in unison. ‘So, tell me now – is it all that it’s cracked up to be? London?’ Frank Buckley was excited. His cheeks were flushed and a fine rain of spittle showered the dining table when he spoke. He had every right to be 18
excited, he had argued. This was the first night in a year that he would have his whole family together under the same roof. It would be the first night in a year that he could hug his son and talk to him, rather than relying on those crackly long-distance phone calls and the odd letter. Little wonder that he could barely contain himself. ‘I’m just a simple Rhodesian,’ Frank Buckley would tell people with pride, his shoulders squared and his solid, muscular frame daring anyone to challenge his assertion. ‘What you see is what you get. Frank equals Family equals Farmer. Take it or leave it.’ And, without exception, people chose to take it, feeling a genuine affection for their local dairy farmer and descendant of one of Rhodesia’s early pioneers. For Frank was a good, honest man. A man of the soil. A man who loved Africa and who would continue to love Africa until the day he died. ‘Come on then! Cat got your tongue?’ Frank teased his son sitting next to him at the top end of the dining table. ‘That’s not the Clayton I remember!’ Clay Buckley swallowed a gulp of wine and grinned at his father. ‘Christ Pa! How am I supposed to enjoy Ma’s superb beef roast if you keep plying me with questions? Yes, in answer to your question, London is all it’s cracked up to be … and more, apart from the crap weather!’ Frank threw his head back and laughed heartily. It was a deep belly laugh from a man who laughed easily. ‘Can’t see the attraction of it myself. Not when you’ve got all this,’ he waved a hand as if to encompass the whole of Hope Fountain. ‘You can’t expect a young man with Clayton’s talents to hang around a farm all day,’ Blanche chided. ‘Especially now that the blacks have taken over the country. Will you be covering the Independence Day celebrations for the Daily Mail, darling? Harare’s just brimming with the world’s press at the moment. Jean Woods tells me that all the best hotels are full to bursting with foreigners. After ignoring our plight for years, it seems that everyone’s now taking an interest in Zimbabwe.’ ‘I flew in with the team covering the main event at Rufaro Stadium,’ Clay replied. ‘But I’m going to do a bit of undercover work down here in Matabeleland while I’m here.’ ‘Listen to him! He thinks he’s James Bond,’ Greg quipped to his mother, jerking his thumb sideways at Clayton. ‘007½! So what gadgets did they give you, Boet? A biro!’ Clay smiled. ‘Two biros actually … and a notepad! They don’t stint on stationery in Fleet Street.’ 19
‘So what “undercover work” do you mean?’ Frank leaned towards his son, an anxious frown clouding his brow. ‘Nothing foolhardy, I hope? You did enough of that while you were on call-up duties.’ ‘Nothing for you to worry about, Pa. They just want me to follow up reports that bands of Nkomo’s guerrillas are roaming the countryside intimidating Mugabe’s supporters.’ ‘Ha!’ Greg snorted derisorily. ‘That’s rich coming from Mugabe. Let’s not forget how his Shona thugs terrorised the Matabele voters during the so-called “free and fair” elections in March. What a joke! Not that I’ve got much time for the blacks in general, Shona or Matabele, but you can’t blame Nkomo for wanting to hit back at Mugabe’s boys after his own soldiers have been sidelined.’ ‘That’s what everyone in London thinks is happening,’ said Clay. ‘Nkomo’s men feel they’ve been unfairly treated by Mugabe and Zanu-PF in general. After all, they played a huge part in winning the war. Now that Mugabe’s been elected, there are genuine fears that he’ll favour his own tribe, the Shona, and ignore the Matabele. There’s a real danger that ZAPU supporters, with or without Nkomo’s approval, will keep the fight going until they get equal standing with Zanu-PF war vets.’ Blanche sighed and dabbed at her mouth with her napkin. ‘It just never ends. I wouldn’t mind if they kept their fight confined to Mashonaland, but I know they won’t. They’ll bring it right down here to our own doorstep, and heaven knows what that will do to the price of milk!’ Clay smiled that lazy, lopsided smile that had stolen the heart of many young girls in Bulawayo, Cape Town and London. His dark eyes, fringed with almost girlishly long lashes, and strong square jaw, gave him the rakish air of a dashing pirate. That, coupled with an old-fashioned charm and unaffected modesty, made him a prize catch for any female looking to secure a handsome Rhodesian for a husband. But Clay Buckley wasn’t thinking of settling down just yet. His energies were focused on his commission as an investigative journalist for one of the UK’s leading newspapers. He knew that his heart would always belong to Africa, his homeland, but, for now, he had work to do. Work which, unbeknown to Clay at the time, would have a catastrophic impact on the life they all knew at Hope Fountain in the future. Clay glanced around the table. His father’s tanned, open, honest face presided over the Buckley family gathering. His mother, straight-backed, intelligent and cultivated, was the stereotypical Afrikaner “madam” while
his twin brother, Greg, was as much a part of the rich red earth of Rhodesia as the father who had sired them both. Clay felt a love for his family clamp his stomach with a grip of iron. They were good people who loved Africa as much as the blacks who were born here. But, like many white people, they had been reluctant to share this land of boundless beauty and all it could offer. The early colonial masters had insisted on total subjugation of the people who had lived off the land for generations. Now they were paying the price. The Rhodesia they had lovingly created in the image of their former European homeland was no more. It had been wrestled from their grip by a people desperate to be free. Rhodesia had been returned to the indigenous people. It had been reclaimed by Africa. And Africa would never give it up again. Clay toyed with the rim of his wine glass and pondered the commission that he had received from the Daily Mail. He knew the signs weren’t good for peace in the fledgling Zimbabwe. Nkomo’s Matabele soldiers in the south were nursing a deep resentment against Mugabe’s Shona fighters in the north. They were old enemies, poised to clash once more in a bid to dominate and rule. Clay knew and loved the Matabele people. He had grown up among them and he understood their values and their needs. He felt for them, knowing that their struggle for liberation from white oppression would take them only to the next stage of their own personal war – the struggle for equality with the Shona in post-colonial Zimbabwe. He didn’t know how the new struggle between the two tribes would manifest, but he felt sure it would be savage and bloody. He knew also that his mother was right – the war between blacks wouldn’t stay in the north. It would be brought right down into the heart of Matabeleland where the threat to Mugabe and his Shona warriors was greatest. Clay took in the tranquil family scene before him and his heart ached. His family had already survived the massacres of white farmers that had played such a major part in the struggle for black majority rule during the last two decades. They had lost friends and family in the war – no-one had remained completely unscathed - but they still had each other. Clay prayed to God that they would survive the future atrocities that he felt sure were to come. He pleaded silently with the Almighty to keep his family out of the crossfire. To spare their simple lives so that they could do what they had always done – farm the land they loved and feed the people they cared about. Was that too much to ask? 21
In his heart he knew that the Independence Day celebrations taking place in two daysâ€™ time were just the beginning of the long march for freedom. He could almost feel the ground of Hope Fountain tremble beneath his feet as the ancient tribes of Zimbabwe prepared to meet again on this next stage of their bloodstained journey. There were dark clouds gathering over the idyllic pastures that he and his family called home. He knew he couldnâ€™t stop the forces of evil that were amassing out there in the bush. He could only hope that the people he loved would be spared, and that one day, perhaps in the future, they would be allowed to live out their lives in peace and harmony with their black brothers. They would be able to work in partnership, black and white, to forge a new country and rebuild this shattered land ripped apart by hate. And Africa would be a homeland once more.
Sons of Africa is a classic adventure story set against the backdrop of the Zimbabwean Government's genocide of the 1980s.