WHEN friends warned him that he was playing with fire by flirting around with a soldier’s wife, Faston Kangachepe, a notorious adulterer of Kazitape Village in Chalimbana area of Chongwe, east of the Zambian capital, Lusaka, would respond boastfully, “You fellows, Mukange is too young to even slap me.
I can teach him manners that they haven’t pumped into his head in the army. Besides, I am a man with the liberty of hooking any woman, married or not.”
Mukange Liseli was an army sergeant based at Ndola’s Kalewa Barracks. He had sent his wife, Esnart, and his three young children to the village to see his parents who had requested to see them.
Apparently, since they got married some seven years before, his wife had never been to his village and he felt this was an opportunity for her to do so, especially that during the next three months or so, he would be away on operations. The children comprised a two-year-old son and two daughters aged six and four years respectively.
Kangachepe was asthmatic and did little physical work in the field. He was mostly found at local beer parties where he gambled at length, always ending the day by flirting with a woman. This became a regular pattern of his life, and one woman who got in his web was the town-based Esnart, Mukange’s pretty wife.
Some villagers were worried that Kangachepe could be so foolish as to indulge in adultery with a soldier’s wife. However, their relationship grew with time and became public knowledge.
In fact, even Mukange’s children got so used to him that they began to address him as “father.”
Unfortunately for Kangachepe, as things were later to turn out, Mukange’s unit was to leave Ndola for Livingstone for operations. They stopped over in Lusaka at Arakan Barracks for four days to collect rations and logistics. While here, he decided to get time off to go and see his family at Kazitape Village in Chalimbana.
When he reached Chongwe, he was about to connect to Chalimbana when someone who had come from the village to buy a plough saw him and came over to greet him. After the preliminaries, Mukange enquired about his children. “They are fine,” came the prompt reply.
“And my wife?” At this stage, his friend started hesitating, saying, “Well, aah..aah..she’s fine.” On being pressed, the friend spilled the beans and disclosed that Kangachepe had been flirting around with Esnart and that the man had even shifted home.
That revelation sent Mukange into a rage. “I’ll kill the bastard! I’ll chew his…” he ranted. He had begun walking quickly and angrily towards the village to “sort out the salamander” when his friend stepped in his way and advised him to relax.
The two talked for some time before they parted company with an understanding not to tell anyone about Mukange’s arrival.
Mukange entered Kaliba Cocktail Bar where he drank Rhino lager for several hours into the evening. While he drank, Mukange thought of how to “zero in” on the “bankum.”
He emerged from the bar around 20:45 hours and set off for the village. He could not help sympathising with his victim considering how he treated erring soldiers when they were marched to him at the guardroom.
On his way to the village, which was six kilomeres away, he used a bush path to avoid jeopardising his strategy. He crossed Chalimbana River and soon the village was in sight. On arrival at the village, Mukange hid behind a mupundu tree to observe any approaches or departures from his hut.
Seeing no reason for delay, he began to “zero in” on the hut. He believed very strongly that Kangachepe was in there.
Mukange’s idea was to walk in on Kangachepe, grab him like a tortoise and smash him to the ground or, if he had not yet arrived, wait for him and then pounce.
He walked the last 20 metres prancing like a defender ready to intercept a striker. He was finally there. He heard two voices. He decided to eavesdrop.
“But you also, you mean all this time you have been coming here you have never noticed?” asked Esnart (to her lover).
Outside, Mukange was becoming jealous and angry again but restrained himself. He could not wait to hear what the “scoundrel” had not found out about his wife. It was then that he knocked on the door. There was no reply. He knocked again – no reply. At the third knock, Esnart shouted angrily, “Who’s that?”
“This is Beauty’s father,” replied Mukange, referring to his first born daughter who was named Beauty.
After some time, Esnart opened the door for him. Mukange then strode in and stood near the door while his wife was apologising rather too profusely for the delay.
He could read it all on her face. He swept his eyes around but saw no man. He decided to play it cool. He could feel the presence of his rival. He deliberately dropped a match box to afford himself an opportunity to look under the bed. Zero. There was nobody.
He looked up – zero again. He then began to wonder whether he had been outsmarted. He told his wife to bolt the door.
“Ah, you must be tired after the long journey from Ndola. Come to bed, dear,” fumbled Esnart.
That gave her away. How does a supposedly well-drilled woman want her husband she had not been with for months get under blankets before she greets him “properly” and prepares some food and a bath?
While he sat on the bed trying to figure out where his wife’s lover could have concealed himself, Mukange heard rather squeaky breathing from the door where his children were sleeping. He laughed loudly. There was too huge a figure among the children.
“Have my children grown so big within months?” he asked, getting to his feet. He then uncovered the children and there lay Kangachepe, sandwiched. He kicked him hard in the ribs. Kangachepe let out something between a yell and a bark.
“What are you doing in my house?” the angry husband demanded.
Kangachepe, now standing near the wall, could only manage a frightened, guilty and foolish grin for an answer
“Tell me! Don’t show me your khaki ivory,” snapped Mukange. He unleashed a punch to the mouth, and another and another…”Tell me!” he insisted.
Kangachepe now realised it was not going to be a light matter. “I only came here today for the first time…today..today…so,” he pleaded.
He was hacked down with a sweep at the feet, landing at the back of his head first before more kicks and blows followed.
Thereafter, Kangachepe was taken outside for “garamoja.” By then, Esnart had slipped away like a mouse during the commotion. Kangachepe was ordered to undress. He protested but a punch produced results. With his clothes held on top of his head, Kangachepe frog-jumped, double-marched and rolled in mud. Later, he was marched to the parade before his own family.
A short distance from his house, Kangachepe shortened his steps, almost “mark-timing.” He got the boot hard on his rear for not following the word of command.
“I didn’t say mark-time, you kangaroo! Quick march!” ordered the captor.
As he moved forward, Kangachepe was ordered to “about-turn.” This rather brought relief to him because he thought Mukange would spare him the agony of being paraded naked before his children and everybody attracted by the noise but another “about-turn” came bringing him back to his house.
He was halted in front of a fire at his house. The first to come out was Kangachepe’s eldest daughter who burst into a wail at the sight of her swollen and battered father. The whole family was up now to see the “parade.”
Kangachepe, on orders, blew the fire so he could be well exposed. He went through some exercises before the parade-beating resumed.
After satisfying his anger, Mukange told his prisoner, “Now, you can rest.” So saying, he walked back to his house, leaving everybody puzzled….
The author is a Lusaka-based media consultant, recipient of the 1978 Best News Reporter of the Year Award and a former diplomat in South Africa and Botswana. For comments, sms 0977425827/0967146785 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org