In Charles Mungoshi’s The Sins of the Fathers, we revisit scars of the past and appreciate how past hurts can cause present and future pain if the victims do not heal and forgive their supposed enemies. Forgiveness can help avert calamitous travails.
Mr. Rwafa, an ex-minister and liberation war veteran, clings onto hatred and this obstinate refusal to forgive and forget causes the tragic death of his grandchildren and his son’s father-in-law, when they perish in a car crash he engineered.
Hate ruins relationships
Anger is calamitous
Forgiveness heals past wounds
The Sins of the Fathers Summary
Rondo Rwafa wistfully imagines how his father-in-law Mr. Basil Mzamane and his daughters Yuna and Rhoda, met their untimely deaths. He hopes they died happily, trying to erase his own pain. The three jolly family members perished in a tragic car crash after attending the girls’ birthday party at Rondo’s house in Borrowdale. He has been grieving for a week now, numbed by the pain.
Rondo is surprised when his father avers that one day Rondo will be grateful and glad that the tragedy happened then and not later. He adds:
“You will remember me and thank me.” (pg. 28)
Rondo’s thoughts wander to a distant introspection, when his father leaves. The thought that he lives in his father’s shadow gnaws him. He is not his own man. His wife thinks she could do better in his pants and he is a laughing stock among his friends and colleagues.
Selina, his wife, seems to be the more confident and influential of the pair. This can be attributed to the fact that they were brought up differently – Selina was brought up by people with “long hearts” – people who forgave others while Rondo’s father is an unforgiving fearless.
His father is a bombed out battlefield of scars.
“And his deepest scar is that he cannot forgive: Not just his enemies,” says Mrs. Rwafa, his wife. (pg. 31)
He cannot even forgive his wife or his son. His bitterness arises from the past when his Zezeru-Karanga clan was attacked by the maDzviti-Ndebele clan. The war affected him so much that he always remembers the pain of the scars rather than the relief of healing. The situation is compounded by the fact that his son Rondo married into a muDzviti family.
Furthermore, he gives birth to two girls, instead of a grandson who would inherit Rwafa’s wealth and qualities like his charisma. Mr. Rwafa is so disappointed in Rondo that it affects Rondo’s personality. It is Mr. Rwafa’s ill treatment of his only son that makes Rondo a timid laughing stock among his peers.
It is thus suspicious that the grandchildren that Mr. Rwafa considers inglorious die in an accident together with their grandfather whom Rwafa detests so much. Rondo starts to put two and two together while interacting with his colleague and friend Gaston Shoko. Shoko refers to the accident that claimed Rondo’s children’s lives as a typical Second Street accident, a subliminal hint that Mr. Rwafa may have been the architect behind the accident.
The bad blood between Rwafa’s family and Mzamane’s family is apparent at the party. Although Basil Mzamane is benevolent and compassionate, Rwafa remains obdurate and unforgiving. The two men’s speeches are the birthday party turn sour betraying the underlying resentment.
A day before the party the two men also disagreed on the matter of white people in the country. Mr. Mzamane proposes that people should be viewed as individuals because some are good while others are bad. On the other hand, Rwafa holds blanket condemnation of groups of people and views anyone who seemed supportive of his supposed enemy as a traitor.
Further back, Mr. Mzamane had taken care of the expenses of their children’s wedding, while Rwafa skipped the ceremony altogether, claiming he was away on “state business” for two weeks.
Mr. Rwafa also hungers for a certain farm owned by a white man known as Mr. Quayle and he is ready to get it by all means.