Gift Chigundo: Behind the Mob

Jun 18, 2021 | Blog | 6 comments

By Gift Chigundo

A good number of us were still in class way beyond knock-off time. No one was going home without a five-out-of-five score. The teacher had sworn on her mother’s grave. Alas, I loathed numbers. Getting three from the sum of two and two was fine by me. Yes, that was how acrimonious my relationship was with figures. But talk of the alphabet; I could scribble a perfect word while asleep. Like a weaver bird builds a nest, I joined letters into correct words and words into grammatically beautiful phrases and sentences. Sadly, the hour was not for language.

One by one my classmates trickled out until I was the only one still glued to a desk. I chewed on my pencil as I waited for my teacher to get annoyed or tired, whichever was to come first. After an eternity of uncomfortable silence, “the Cold War” came to an abrupt end. She disgustedly capitulated. I did not care how she felt. I sprang to my feet like Usain Bolt and felt free, free like a once caged bird.

As I neared Kasusu Village, my home village, I heard a distant shouting of an excited crowd. I broke into a run again. The noise grew ear-splittingly louder and caused the earth to shake under my feet. Another thief had been caught deep in the act, I suspected.

The conspicuously irate people came into view. I increased my pace, lest I missed “the party”.

“It’s Gogo Nasibeko!” a sympathizer ran towards me shouting. I could not believe my ears. My intestines began to melt. I felt spongy at the knees.

Unbelievingly I wobbled towards my worst nightmare.

“Please stop it!” I yelled my lungs out; sadly, my effort was but a drop in the bucket. The tightly packed crowd was in no compromising mood, I had to act swiftly.

Putting every ounce of my strength to work – only heaven knows where I found such strength – inch by inch I elbowed my way through the crammed humanity until there were no more bodies to jostle. That was when I came close and laid my eyes on the horror of all horrors. I blinked several times in utter disbelief.

It was like the killing of a deadly snake. The stones kept raining on her already badly bruised body. A sharp stone had mercilessly been lodged into the left side of her skull. Blood seeped from where the stone had cut through, painting the once grey hair crimson red. Her favourite floral dress was soiled and bloody and in tatters. I felt all my strength ebb away again, leaving me completely stymied. My eyes watered as I knelt down and pushed away some stones that had covered her trunk. I wrapped myself over her limp body and saw our blood freely mingle as the barrage of stones fell on us even harder.

The siren was faint in my dying ears. My eyes had become narrow slits as they quickly lost their glow. From the corner of my left eye, I somehow managed to catch the sight of the multitude of legs hurriedly leaving the scene.

“Police! Police!” they screamed as they run helter-skelter, desperately trying to escape. Feebly, I gagged and coughed on the cloud of dust raised by the “busy feet”. Amidst the confused pushing and shoving and shouting, a figure in Khaki uniform planted a black boot within an inch of my nose. He put his pistol back into its holster, bent down and heaved me onto his shoulder. All went black as all my consciousness slipped away.

* * *

My entire body was burning with indescribable pain. Grimly, I realized that I was heavily wrapped in bandages and in a hospital bed. The plaster of Paris was too heavy to permit even the slightest movement of the leg it clung on to. My face was swollen as one bitten by a thousand wasps. Fresh tears streamed down my puffy cheeks, damping the bandages covering my ears. A thousand unanswered questions swirled above my head as the picture of Gogo Nasibeko’s crushed cranium seared through my mind like a red-hot branding iron pressed against my ear.

A figure in a white lab coat and a stethoscope dangling from the neck leaned forward and pierced my upper arm. I winced before sliding back into another deep slumber.

As I woke up one morning, my ears were greeted with scattered screams and groans from other patients in the ward. I opened my eyes a crack and light flooding in through the windows closest to me stung my sight organs. I squinted as I tried hard to let my eyes get accustomed to the biting sun rays. For the first time I managed to turn my neck and see beyond my bed. That was when I became aware that a good number of my fellow patients were handcuffed to their beds, the majority being Kasusu village dwellers.

The rusty door to the casualty ward screeched open. My eyes rolled in their sockets to catch a sight of a wiry man approaching my bed. It was an old man with a blue torn cap perched on his head. At once I recognised him as Chief Kasusu. I regarded him closely as he, with the aid of his cane, reached for my bedside.

“How are you feeling my boy?” he forced a smile.

“I I …am doing b-better chief,” I managed to speak through clenched teeth.

The bandages had been removed, save for the plaster of Paris. Alas, my plastered leg grew unbearably itchy, but that was a good sign, so said the old man.

I insisted on being fed with the details of the fateful day. He slowly and hesitantly recounted my narrow escape and how I unfortunately got robbed of my last surviving relative. The law enforcers acting on an anonymous tip-off, arrived to wrestle her from the jaws of death. It was too little, too late.

According to my grief-stricken narrator, the frail old woman’s suffering was long and terrible. She had been dragged from her hut, all the way to the „punishment ground‟ where, like Stephen from the good book, she was callously stoned to death. A dozen people had died in the pandemonium that had ensued with the arrival of the men in uniform. Scores of people had been arrested in connection with the barbaric and gory incident. The mob accused my grandmother of having killed Naliyera through witchcraft.

I vividly recall Naliyera being amongst the first five students to beat the “pass-and-go” challenge that day. That she was a wizard at Mathematics was no point for discussion. As Albert Einstein was to physics so was Naliyera to Mathematics. Admittedly though, she had not been her usual merry-self that day, nevertheless, she still managed to ease past the work like it was a mere stroll in the park.

In the words of the narrator, the victim arrived home, ate and later on went to watch her friends play “skipping-the-rope”. She looked lugubrious and declined when invited to join in the game. They let her be.

Later on Gogo Nasibeko, with the help of her ancient walking stick, limped out of her hut and called for Naliyera. The troubled girl answered the call. Just as she had done in front of teachers, her parents and everybody else older, she, before the old lady, feigned jollity to mask her true emotions.

As Naliyera’s mother was passing by the old woman’s hut on her way to the market, she saw her daughter get involved in a „suspicious‟ brief conversation with the hunchbacked woman. A moment later, the girl headed for the stream with an earthen pot clutched in one hand.

The girl was back from the errand with a genuine smile on her face. Gogo Nasibeko did not notice any change. Naliyera’s phoney smile was as good as the real one. She was a perfect actress.

With difficulty, the old woman lifted her quivering hands, offloading the burden sitting on the young lady’s head. In a tired uneven voice, she thanked the “Good Samaritan” for her kindness. Naliyera briskly hopped away to rejoin her friends.

They were all stunned by Naliyera’s sudden change of mood. She came back a lively person and so eager to skip the rope. Just three skips, she fell down with a thud. With both of her hands, she tightly clutched her stomach, complaining of ceaseless excruciating pains. The playmates helpfully carried the agonised girl to her mother’s hut. Naliyera’s mother breathlessly ran to the famous village doctor. When the fetish priest arrived with the desperate mother, he touched the girl’s neck for pulse and hopelessly shook his head. The poor girl had already hit the dirt. Naliyera’s mother with torrents of tears escaping her eyes, uncontrollably rolled on the ground. In her weeping she pointed fingers at Gogo Nasibeko. She had all along suspected the wrinkly woman of being a witch.

The witch doctor perspired profusely as he frenziedly danced and chanted incantations in consultation of spirits. In the end, he wiped his glistening face and opened his vast mouth to deliver the verdict before the electrified crowd. The old woman was indeed the devil.

A post-mortem conducted at the district hospital, the very hospital I was admitted to, revealed shocking news. Naliyera had attempted to abort a pregnancy. She had taken a poisonous concoction which digested her insides. Dalitso, our school head boy, a boyfriend to the deceased was immediately whisked away by the police for questioning.

Dalitso broke down and confessed of having given Naliyera a mixture of herbs.

According to the Police, on their way from school, a desperate Dalitso sought help from Maliko. Maliko “helpfully” advised his completely flummoxed friend of a sure way out of his predicament. Together they invaded the forest in search of “special herbs”.

It is on record that having the concoction ready and bottled; Dalitso concealed it in his jacket and waited for an opportunity to arise. From his secret observation point, he saw Naliyera heading to the stream. Stealthily, he used a different route to the water body.


  1. Kanama Herbert

    What a wonderful work of art! Loaded with a powerful and intoxicating imagery, the story drives home to the
    contemporary themes of mob Justice, ageism, youth immorality and superstition-the very cancers of our time. What is more, the command of English is superb! He is a writer that needs to be known and recognized , to fully blossom.

    • Jones Longwe

      This is superb!
      A lot of lessons from it
      Mob justice
      Dangers of abortion
      All that in just one peice!
      You were really bad at figures and good at this!

  2. Klthm

    The best

  3. Gift Grace

    Beautiful. Your writing style is unquestionably unique. Your story touches on 2 areas often left ignored by society and those with the authority to do something about it. The impact of mob justice on the bereaveds family thats left behind and the reality of unsafe abortions.

  4. Bustan Sav

    A very good story which explains one of the most important themes in our country. A story full of vocabulary, symbols, imagery, historic accounts, similes et c. The narrator interacts with the audience to make them sombre. The dramatic irony is there at least with no suspense. Truly very good.

  5. Asinyeka

    Good read


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