Shimmer Chinodya in Harvest of Thorns and Charles Samupindi in Pawns look at the reason why people, even children, went to join the struggle. Beyond the commitment and determination to bring down the colonial regime, there were other sometimes more immediate (the violence of the Rhodesian regime; or unemployment); more romantic (a consequence of the broadcasts from Radio Freedom), more ambiguous (peer group pressure) reasons why young people and children made their way to the camps. Their life was not all that it had been made out to be or all that had been expected: Samupindi, graphically describes internal political fighting, the beatings, the hunger, the disease, the tedium, the lice, the cold, the fear that infected new recruits:
The cadres are already singing Rangarira as the punishment for bizhu (cheating in order to get a second helping of food) is administered. Joseph is given a ten-litre dish full of sadza and powdered milk to devour. Above him the cane hovers. Joseph lowers his head into the food, tears running down his cheeks. The chanting continues. ...He feeds.
The chanting strains the air.
Each time he lifts his head the cane descends.
The mourning cry.
The dish is half empty when he gives in. He defecates. Bellows. Like a bull. Shit. It crawls through the rents in his strain-fatigued Flora longs. I mourn. The chanting stops. The crowd looks away as armies of flies appear ... I force myself through the crowd. I want to be away ... away from everything. I volunteered to help destroy the Smith regime. That's all. Simple and logical. To fight the enemy at home ... Chant. Cane. Shiite. Is it to much to ask ... to be a people's soldier? (87)
Then there was the war of battles, guns, shelling, bombing, torching, torture, violence and death. The war which had brutalised men:
Through the flames, beyond the door, he thought he could make out a fuzzy figure. It was rocking with laughter while it held the screaming body of Tongai by the leg ... The soldier suddenly threw the baby into the flames where it fell with a dusty thud ... For a moment it wriggled like a monster worm ... and then lay motionless as flames engulfed it. (143)
Samupindi's writing may sometimes be unstable and disjointed, but it is also eloquent and compelling because he is writing with fresh eyes about something known to him. Pawns, like White Man Black War and Kandaya, are as much faction as fiction: the voices are intense and powerful.
Often the focus is not the larger battles, but the intense memories of smaller human incidents of evasion, brutality, cowardice, revenge, anger, incidents which have scarred themselves on the minds of the individuals who were there, or who saw and felt the war in their behaviour and actions and that of others. Kanengoni does, however, speak of the battle of Chimoio, an incident when the Rhodesian forces bombed to erase a camp that contained refugees, as well as guerrillas, women and children:
Although Munashe could not see her, he felt her presence above the intense smell of gunpowder as they drew closer to the camp. And then they were overwhelmed by the stink of decomposing bodies and Munashe could think of nothing but death. Corpses lay everywhere ... The whole bodies of little boys and girls, young men and women, old men and old women lay scattered amongst those with crushed skulls, shattered faces and missing limbs. Flies, swarms of heavy, green flies hovered over the bodies moving from corpse to corpse like helicopters during an attack: the worms had not yet appeared, they would come later. Then, there were the many injured, hundreds of them, groaning in pain. Some had been shot and left for dead and others had their legs and arms crushed by the rumbling steel-belted wheels of armoured vehicles. A small girl with a gaping wound in her small chest sat calmly in a donga: "Do you think I will live?' she asked. Munashe, unable to reply, turned abruptly away ... ... Life and death had become interchangeable. He thought of all the death that he had caused or witnessed in the war which added to his sense of helplessness, and of confusion.