Soldiers storm our village, firing big rifles into the air before shooting a few men, and then run into every hut and drag out those hiding. The commander shouts, “Everyone line up behind the huts.”
Men, women, and children run to do so. Some mothers carry babies.
“All men, step forward,” says the commander.
At least fifteen other fellows and I follow the order. The commander nods, and several soldiers give most of us shovels.
“Those without shovels, get a stick,” the commander says. “Dig your holes about like this.”
He uses his rifle to indicate dimensions. I suppose I’m lucky to have a shovel and dig fast though I’m not sure why. I want time to pass slowly but soon, it seems, I have a hole long, narrow, and deep.
“Give him your shovel and stand by your hole,” says a soldier, pointing at the man to my right.
When there’s a hole for every man, the commander nods, simply that, and the soldiers shoot all the men and push us into graves quickly filled with dirt. It’s much easier to fill holes than dig them.
It’s been thirty years but I still know this happened because we opposed President Robert Mugabe. It’s the same today. Everything in Zimbabwe’s about an egomaniac of ninety-three who once stood as a heroic leader after ousting white oppressors, but now he’s responsible for eighty percent unemployment, eighty percent of kids not being in school, and a national life expectancy of about thirty-five.
I’m encouraged to hear the army’s just removed Mugabe from office, after thirty-seven years, and thereby promised the old man’s luxury-seeking loudmouth wife, Grace, won’t be his successor. It looks like that’ll be Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president and Mugabe’s longtime henchman who the president just tried to fire but it’s difficult to get rid of a man most call Crocodile. I know Mnangagwa is preaching: bury not your neighbors but your differences and build a prosperous nation that respects diverse opinions and ends its international isolation. That sounds good but my neighbors and I know the Crocodile, as much as Mugabe, put us where we are.