It was a great day in Chimwaye village. A great day indeed. It was a day, which would be remembered for many years to come. The people were all dressed in beautiful traditional gear. The drums and horns could be heard from the surrounding villages. Such euphoria had not been surpassed in the last decade. It was the day the people of Chimwaye village were to install their new chief. Their son of the soil, the recently deceased chief’s son, had returned from town to take up the chieftaincy.
Udzu, soon to be chief Chimwaye, was a very happy man. His father’s death could not have come at a better time, he thought. This was the solution to all his problems. Udzu was, by Chimwaye village standards, a well-educated man. He had a full certificate of secondary education and a certificate in carpentry. But, there were a few problems. For one thing, Udzu was lazy. He did not wish to work hard and, being son of a chief, he had always been given things on a silver platter.
Udzu had lived a wonderful life until his father had cut off his support. The previous chief, Chikwanje, had not approved of Udzu’s fiancée. He found her arrogant and disrespectful, not to mention lazy. When Udzu proceeded to make marriage plans anyway, Chikwanje was furious.
“Father, please, try to understand. I love her,” Udzu had pleaded, kneeling in front of his father in the village’s royal hut. He had come to ask for his father’s blessing.
“Love? Don’t make me laugh,” the old man had scoffed. “That girl will only cause trouble. All three of my wives, one of whom happens to be your own mother, constantly complain about her. Such insolence! And she does nothing around this compound every time she comes here. She just sits on her behind, waiting for everything to be done for her. Love is not enough!”
Udzu was adamant. “It is not your choice to make, father. I’m going to marry her, whether you like it or not.”
Chikwanje stood up from the chieftaincy stool he had been sitting on. He stared directly beyond his son and at the adobe walls of his hut. “Since that seems to be your final decision, then there is nothing else to discuss. You are no longer welcome in my compound. I do not want anything more to do with you. We will see if you and your wife can survive on love.” He spat on the hut’s mud floor, only just missing his son.
Udzu had furiously stormed out of his father’s hut, calling the old man a bad-tempered skinflint. But Chikwanje meant what he said. He never gave Udzu another penny, not even a chicken to celebrate their wedding. This presented Udzu with another problem: looking after his wife and children. Udzu and Ntovu, his wife, took the job of procreation rather seriously. And now, as a result, they were faced with the responsibility of taking care of the seven children they had produced.
But now Chikwanje was dead and Udzu, being his father’s only son, would take up the chieftaincy. And the village was happy. Most of them had never witnessed an installation ceremony in their village before. And, those who had were now toothless, white-haired or senile. Besides, if there was something this village loved, it was eating and drinking. Any excuse for it was welcome. Weddings, initiation ceremonies, even funerals. As a matter of fact, the celebrations for this particular event had begun a few days before. It was exactly what Udzu had wanted.
The new chief’s wife, Ntovu, was over the moon. She would be the chief’s wife, which in essence meant she would be the chief since she had her husband wrapped around her little finger. She knew Chikwanje, her father-in-law, had never liked her, calling her a lazy tramp his son had picked up in town. But now the old goat was dead and she was in this village to stay. No more eating boiled vegetables for supper. She could already see the money she would make from selling some of the chief’s livestock. Not to mention the things her family would get from the villagers when they came to pay homage to their chief. She silently sang to herself, smiling, and continued to get ready.
And so it happened that, on the afternoon of that sunny day, a large crowd gathered at the royal court, a few meters away from the royal compound. The ceremony was to be held there, at the clearing surrounded by giant Bluegum and Meligna trees. Almost everyone in the village, young and old had come to witness the installation of their new chief. The court compound, which was usually filled with anger, sadness, grumblings and wailings, was filled with joy and happiness. The sound of drums could be heard from miles away. Ntovu and some of her fellow women sat under an erected thatched structure, next to a small hut located at the royal court.
Inside the small hut, which was at the east end of the royal court, the new chief sat, surrounded by members of the chief’s council of advisors.
“They are getting a bit old. Most of them are,” Udzu thought. “But they will do. I will leave them to do most of the work. This is going to be easy. And I will get rich while doing it.”
And so, the last counselling session began. The chief was again briefed on how to conduct himself and what was expected of him. The more they talked, the more disinterested Udzu became. He just wanted to get this part over and done with. Move on to the partying. His wife and the rest of the village were waiting outside.
Most of the members of the chief’s council sat in the hut with mixed emotions. They did not really like their new chief. They knew about the tension between Chikwanje and his son. They knew quite well that their recently deceased chief would not like Udzu as his successor. But, tradition dictated that the son of the dead chief succeed him. The only way that would not work out was if the son himself declined, or he died as well. But Udzu certainly was not dead and he definitely was not going to let the chieftaincy pass him by. So no one said anything. No one would dare speak against the heir to the throne. Not if they wanted to keep their position in the long run. They all went on with the last counselling session before the actual installation.
At last, Chitsundi, the chief’s senior counsellor, stood up, indicating that they were almost done. The short, fat man spoke with authority.
“Honourable gentlemen of the chief’s council, it is time to bring out our new chief, present him to the people and officially install him as our leader. But before we do that, chief, there is one last ritual which we must perform. This is the test of resilience and perseverance.”
Udzu was a little surprised. He had not expected this. But it seemed the members of the council had, for they all nodded their heads in agreement. So he remained composed, a smile on his face. Then he saw the hammer and the smile vanished. Chitsundi spoke again.
“This, my chief, is the final test. As I said before, it is designed to test your resilience as chief, and perseverance. It is required that you be hit in the head with this hammer at least three times…”
The ceremony was about to reach its climax. The chief would be brought out any minute. The people were excited. Ntovu and her fellow women were seated right outside the hut, talking excitedly. But all that was interrupted by a loud howl which came from inside the hut. Then moments later, the door burst open and out ran Udzu, the new chief of Chimwaye village. Only, he did not stop running, not even long enough to speak to his wife. He ran from the royal court, never to be seen again in the village. His wife, clearly embarrassed, ran from the royal court to the hut she was staying in, inside the chief’s compound.
There have been a lot of rumors concerning Udzu’s desertion. Some say he was overwhelmed by the sense of responsibility. Others say he was struck by a hammer and before they could strike again, fear and pain overcame him so he ran. Some say he simply went mad. But one thing was certain. The people of Chimwaye village never saw Udzu again. He simply sent word to his wife and children that they follow him to an unknown location. They left to join him under the cover of darkness.
The village of Chimwaye has a new chief now. Chikwanje’s nephew, Zingati, was installed chief after Udzu’s disgraceful episode. Although Zingati is known to have itchy palms, he was next in line to the throne. The chief’s council could not deny him his right. And, at least his installation ceremony went on smoothly. The council can attest to that.