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They are Coming

Chris Mlalazi, Munyaradzi Mawere

Publication Year: 2014

This is the story of a small family in Lobengula township, Bulawayo: a shoemaker, Ngwenya, his wife, MaVundla, and their two children, Ambition and Senzeni, whose lives are turned upside-down when Senzeni joins the local youth militia. Mlalazi captures the texture of everyday life in the township, the humour, warmth, rivalry and fear as neighbours interact with each other or get swept up by events outside their control. Their constant search, however, is for autonomy and independence, for the ability to have control over their own lives. They are Coming provides us with perspectives often hidden from view, in a story where particular events are part of a more complex history.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright, About the Author

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pp. i-vi

2004

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-3

...‘A woman who sweeps her yard after the sun has risen will make a bad wife,’ Ambition’s mother used to tell Senzeni whenever she was late up. Her brother knew why: You’re happy when you dream of nice things. But, today, although it’s the...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 4-7

...Now that the Green Bombers have passed, Ambition, evading his mother, slips out of the door, and crouching at the gate, looks down the street. The Green Bombers have disappeared, just like Mr Nkani and the sweeping women. He straightens up as, one...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 8-11

...The congregation is not very large; its members, all singing, are kneeling before the priest in neat rows, their white gowns contrasting with the monotony of the earth colours of the autumn bush. When the priest, Siziba, sees Ambition, he raises...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 12-15

...Ambition blinks his eyes and shakes his head, returning himself to the present. He knows he should quickly finish praying and go home, as his mother will be angry with him for running away without...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 16-21

...At sunset, MaNdlovu, in her yellow dress and a black wool hat with its white Nike logo, walks along the deserted Sibambene Street with Ambition – who is really too big to be carried – on her back. The street is deserted, but she’s just...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 22-26

...When MaNdlovu and Ambition return home, night has descended. The house is as empty as it was when they left. ‘Where can your father possibly be?’ MaNdlovu asks in a worried voice once they’re in the kitchen. Ambition had felt suddenly...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 27-30

...MaNdlovu emerges from the bedroom. She’s carrying the reed mat she is working on. She sits on the bench by the stove and starts weaving it on her lap. The shadow of her body falls on the mat...

1977

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Chapter 8

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pp. 31-36

...Jiba is a small village to the north of the Plumtree district. From Bulawayo, you take the strip road past Solusi Mission and the cluster of commercial farms known as ko Mekisi. When you reach the crossroads of Ekhoneni, you turn left via Ntunungwe...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 37-40

...At sunrise the following morning, Thenjiwe had left for Wildberg Ranch. Sukolohle and Nomvelo had escorted her half the way, following a narrow track that ribboned through the countryside. It had been the onset of spring, and the countryside...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 41-44

...Mrs Phillips’s husband was away ‘doing his stint in this dreadful war,’ as the older woman explained, so for the moment she was at home with her grandson, Tom, and the ranch workers...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 45-48

...In 1977 the war of liberation was escalating. Firefights between the Rhodesian army and the defiant guerrillas became a regular feature of life in rural Zimbabwe. At sunset that same day, as Thenjiwe cooked her supper on the fire behind her...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 49-50

...By the time she reached the compound, the sun had set but it was not yet dark. Thenjiwe prepared herself a supper of isitshwala and dried fish. She ate by the fireside, watching the stars in the sky, attempting to discharge the last traces of anger...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 51-54

...Thenjiwe stood watching Mbambo’s back as he disappeared into the moonlight. Then she looked at the orange. It sat on the doorstep, as if taunting her. She drew her right foot back...

2004

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Chapter 14

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pp. 55-57

...MaNdlovu sighed, her fingers moving swiftly. Her mind locked into her first months at Wildberg Ranch. She had fallen in love with Ngwenya and after a romance of two years they had married in 1979 when she turned twenty...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 58-62

...MaNdlovu wakes up at cock-crow and her worried mind pounces on her missing husband. The sleeping Ambition is a silent bundle on the floor, lost to another world as the grey shades of dawn slowly...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 63-66

...It’s another very hot day and life seems to stand still. Ngwenya, in the lead, walks along Sibambene Street. He’s carrying a faded orange travelling bag. Ambition follows close behind him...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 67-71

...The staple diet of the township is isitshwala with a relish of tshomoliya. If there’s money, meat’s added, and if the relish is properly cooked, it provides a tasty meal. Isitshwala is unchanging...

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Chapter 18

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pp. 72-76

...She grasps the note, which has a red stain in one corner. ‘Mayiwe, there’s blood on it! I might have known! This is stolen money. Stolen from one of the people they’ve beaten up! This note carries bad...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 77-78

...The matter of his wife’s missing underwear had caused Ngwenya acute embarrassment, so quickly had it become a public joke at the Easy Way Bottle Store. Ngwenya felt so bad that had he been a lodger he would have moved away from the township. But...

1977

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Chapter 20

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pp. 79-84

...After the attack on the ranch and the disappearance of Mbambo and others, Ngwenya had been elevated to the position of foreman by Mr Phillips, and eleven workers had also been hired from the surrounding...

2004

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Chapter 21

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pp. 85-86

...As soon as Mbambo had appeared on the pavement, Ngwenya had recognised him. After a moment of open-mouthed surprise, he’d risen from his cobbling spot and approached the newcomer, for here...

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Chapter 22

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pp. 87-89

...Ambition remembered the day that Senzeni had beaten up Power and gotten into serious trouble with their father; not the trouble that had made her run away from home, no, but the incident that had marked the beginning of the problems between his...

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Chapter 23

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pp. 90-93

...Ngwenya pauses and stares in Mbambo’s direction. He’s not really looking at the other cobbler, but resting his tired hands, which are stiff from sewing through tough fabrics. He flexes his fingers...

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Chapter 24

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pp. 94-97

...In 1980, when Independence was achieved, everything seemed possible. Zimbabwe became a land of vast opportunity. This was especially so in the cities where even the buildings, the tarred roads and...

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Chapter 25

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pp. 98-101

...‘I don’t think they’ll do that,’ Ambition says, for he’s noticed that Mrs Gumbo is wearing a white T-shirt bearing the head of the President, just like the one worn by the Green Bombers. Indeed...

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Chapter 26

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pp. 102-104

...It’s the not the first time that Ambition and Ntando have seen Comrade Tshisa, who always wears a face mask, which fascinates them. They had once asked Senzeni why he hid his face, and Senzeni had...

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Chapter 27

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pp. 105-107

...The following morning, Ambition left home soon after breakfast, and after his mother had gone to hawk her vegetables around the streets. His father had left even earlier, explaining that there was a...

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Chapter 28

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pp. 108-112

...He emerges into Emakhandeni Township behind the Power Station and walks past it. He crosses Luveve road, and walks beside Njube Hill. The top of the hill is filled with small groups of...

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Chapter 29

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pp. 113-116

...When he reaches the half-built wall at the back of MaChivanda’s home, he climbs onto the refuse bin beside it and, holding Tshabalala’s cellphone tightly, leaps over. Pigeons explode...

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Chapter 30

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pp. 117-119

...Under the mango tree, Ngwenya has repaired his last shoe of the day, and he’s preparing to go home. He fills two shangani bags with shoes, loads them on to his bicycle carrier and fastens...

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Chapter 31

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pp. 120-124

...‘I can’t find Ambition,’ MaNdlovu says to Ngwenya as he dismounts from his bicycle at the gate. ‘I’m always telling him he must be home before it gets dark. And these days…’ her voice trails...

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Chapter 32

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pp. 125-128

...‘MaVundla is a wild one,’ Freeman says as they head for home, and bursts out laughing. ‘She’s the one who told me about the school shoes when I went to buy weed from her this morning...

1978

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Chapter 33

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pp. 129-131

...The war still raged around the countryside, and some farms near Wildberg Ranch had been attacked and their main houses destroyed. Strangely for anyone who was not in the know, the guerrillas always skirted Wildberg Ranch. And it had been...

2004

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Chapter 34

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pp. 132-136

...He was walking into the school toilet. The walls and the air are as grey as a faded picture. His footsteps have a muffled echo; his ears feel as if they are blocked with water. He’s scared of the toilet, its mysterious rows of tiny cubicles, its emptiness, the chemical stench...

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Chapter 35

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pp. 137-141

...In the morning, Sibambene Street is strewn with leaflets, which only add to the sense of confusion and disarray. ‘What do they say?’ Ntando asks Ambition as they jog along the street. They’ve been...

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Chapter 36

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pp. 142-145

...arrive, MaNdlovu is sweeping the kitchen. Seeing her husband and the two boys close on his heels, she looks worried. Ngwenya brushes past her without speaking, throws himself on the sofa, and sits staring...

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781779222619
Print-ISBN-13: 9781779222589

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2014