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THE SINS OF THE FATHERS-A Study Guide To A Silent Song And Other Stories

A study Guide To Story NINEMA

THE SINS OF THE FATHERS Charles Mungoshi -s Zimbabwe

About the author:

Charles Mungoshi was born in 1947and raised in a farming family in the Chivhu area of Zimbabwe. After leaving school, he worked with the Forestry Commission before joining Textbook Sales. From 1975 to 1981, he worked at the Literature Bureau as an editor and at Zimbabwe Publishing House for the next five years. In 1985-87 he was Writer in Residence at the University of Zimbabwe, and since then, he has worked as a freelance writer, scriptwriter and editor. Charles Mungoshi has written novels and short stories in both Shona and English and two collections of children’s stories, Stories from a Shona Childhood and One Day Long Ago (Baobab Books, 1989 and 1991); the former won him the Noma Award.

He has also continued to write poetry and has one published collection: The

Milkman doesn’t only deliver Milk (Baobab Books, 1998). He has won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa region) twice, in 1988 and 1998, for two collections of short stories: The Setting Sun and The Rolling World (Heinemann,

1987) and Walking Still (Baobab Books, 1997). Two of his novels: Waiting for the

Rain (Heinemann 1975) and Ndiko kupindana Kwa mazuva (Mambo Press, 1975), received International PEN awards.

Episodes / sub-episodes

  1. lRondo’s family in bereavement. (p26 – 31).
  2. Rondos confusion about his personality and purpose. (p28 34).
  3. Political tension/rivalry between Rwafa and Mzamane. (p31 – 36).
  4. The story of the white farmer. (p38).
  5. Rwafa’s harangue and end. (p39 — 41).


The Sins of the Fathers, by Charles Mungoshi, is a post-colonial story set in rural Zimbabwe. It takes place between Borrowdale and Bulawayo.

Rondo is the antagonistic character whose revenge world opens at the story’s very beginning. Rondo’s father, Rwafa, is an ex- minister but still influential in the political world of Zimbabwe. This is evident from how a fraction of mourners just come to take pictures with him, for such photos would soon ‘open doors for them. Rondo has a wife, Selina, daughter of Basil Mzamane, who is also into politics as an M.P. and a businessman. In fact, he’s a political rival of Rondo’s father, Rwafa. Rondo’s two children, both daughters (Yuna and Rhoda), are in an accident as they are driving home from a birthday party

with their grandfather, Basil Mzamane, where, Rwafa takes to the podium to condemn his son for marrying from his enemy Basil. This has all along created bad blood between him and his son that this accident makes Rondo believe that his father has a hand in it. In their many stories, a revelation of what his friend, Gaston, alludes to: “Have you ever wondered about the Second Street accidents?”

On their way to the birthday party, the trio – Rondo, Rwafa and Basil Mzamane – meets a group of youths (Chimurenga) chanting political songs. At a point, they meet a white woman whose car has broken down, and they charge to attack before Basil intervenes. Rwafa disappears, and Rondo remains confused about what is actually going on.

Rwafa’s speech leaves people surprised and shocked. They start going one after the other. This is where Rondo decides to send the children back with their grandfather as he remains with Selina. The two children and Basil, their grandfather, finally die in a crash. People are here to mourn. Then with utter suspense, Rondo and Selina come to finish Rwafa, who directs them out of the room, then a soft muffled plop is heard from Rwafa’s room.

Questions for reflection on “Title of the story” and themes

1) Discuss the role and significance of the title The Sins of the Fathers

  • Which sins do you think the father commits in the story?
  • “Because I’d like you to watch some ‘duck-shooting today’.  ” What does this statement from Rwafa refer to?
  • Make inferences from the following:
    • “Do you know what your father does?” (p33)
    • “Rondo had not been used to living his life from deductive or logical thinking but now, the accumulation of events and the history behind them had made him so numb, he was almost a zombie.” (p33).
  • Brainstorm about ‘Second Street accidents’.
  • What is the role of the family unit during bereavement and children’s growth?
  • How are youths used to execute the selfish desires of the political elite?
  • Why are power and prejudice significant in the ex-minister’s life?
  • How does greed for material power affect the human character? Thematic Concerns
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS-A Study Guide To A Silent Song And Other Stories

The points of discussion and analysis include:

Identity Crisis

  • Rondo suffers low self-esteem through the way his father treats him. Rwafa loathes and persistently frustrates his son. His first disappointment is when his father breaks his guitar and throws it into the fire when he is only four. (p30- 31).
  • Rwafa does not approve of or even attend his son’s wedding. He purportedly leaves town on state business for two weeks. (p34).
  • Through flashbacks, Rwafa thrashes his son, Rondo, when he is only eight, for ‘stealing a neighbor’s mangoes’. This memory gives him an uncomfortable feeling and affects his self-esteem. He must have understood what powerlessness meant (p40).
  • This grows into his adulthood when his father refers to him as an effeminate son who wants to demean his family by marrying into an ignominious muDzvitifamily. (p31
  • While Rondo admires and thinks his father is the greatest, his father, Rwafa, writes him off. Rwafa always gives Rondo “a little sad laugh” and labels him “Slob”. (p28, 31, 32).
  • His colleagues laugh at him at work, and Rondo doubts his mother and wife. He feels defenseless and resigns to accept being a fool. “Well, if you see me as a fool, I’ll be one.” (p28).
  • Rondo has developed a stammer that makes him barely answer any of his father’s questions. (p32).
  • His wife Selina tells him she could do better in his pants, and his friend and colleague, Gaston, scolds him, “You can’t be a child forever, Rondo”. (p33).
  • Later, Rondo’s father disparages him. With contempt, he enquires whether one of Rondo’s more intelligent friends has written for him the piece of paper he hands him. (p41).
  • Both Rondo and Rwafa have psychological problem that needs psychosocial support. (p26 — 41).


  • The author expresses the theme of vengeance in the story’s beginning through the flash-forward as Rondo comes to his father with a gun. (p26, 41). From the death of his two children and how his father has been treating him, he believes that he has a hand in the deaths, and therefore, he’s here to revenge. (p29, 33, 34, 41).
  • Rwafa causes the accident as a form of revenge against the “traitors” or enemies. Furthermore, Rondo is not happy with what his father says about his marrying Basil – his enemy. (p31, 39).
  • In his speech, Rwafa calls his son a ‘traitor’. This is another reason for revenge. (p38).

Political Bigotry and machinations Politics run the story from the beginning to the end of this story. Basil Mzamane – Rondo’s father-in-law-a businessman and an M.P. and Rwafa – Rondo’s

  • father, are great political rivals that don’t see eye to eye. There is always tension between the two. (p34)

This is the greatest reason behind the crash that kills Basil and the two children of Rondo to settle political scores. This is what he tells his son that he will thank him for happening now and not later. (p28).

  • Rwafa loves himself so much that he prepared to destroy his son in his endeavor to have an heir. (p32).
  • The existence of Chimurenga and the Second street accidents are evidence Of machinations. (p34, 36, 38, 39).
  • Rwafa calls his enemies, looters and cattle thieves personal enemies and swears that… no son of the Rwafa family would ever play second fiddle to anyone’s lead…” (p39).

Racism/ colonial hatred

  • On their way to the birthday party, the trio meets a white woman who needs help. Ihe political youths want to descend on her because she’s white. (p36).
    • On the other hand, the white woman is already armed with a gun to shoot the blacks. (p36).
  • Again, from Mzamane’s story about the white who lives in the Manhize mountains, we find out that he sends away the blacks who live there and takes their ancestral land because they are helpless. (p38).
  • Having alienated the lands from the blacks, the whites are the source of the hatred and envy that fills the Rwafa clan, and Rwafa has his eyes on the white farm in the Ruwa area. (p34).
  • Consequently, his youth obey him and have an unashamed raw lust for blood. (p36).

Parental resentment /child discontentment

  • Rondo has never been close to his father as his memories of his past him make him cry. (p31, 40).

At four, his father destroys his guitar, and at eight, he thrashes him without finding out what he has done. Rondo always feels more space with his father-in-law and would choose him as his father. (p34).

  • He carries many scars that thinking of his father as none other than a shadow he has to live in becomes impossible. Rondo cannot think independently, and this reduces him to an object of laughter and ridicule among his friends. (p28).

Rwafa has no sympathy for his son as he despises him vehemently. He does not bother to answer when asked a question by his son. (p36).

  • His mother describes her husband as ‘one bombed-out battlefield of scars’ whose deepest scar is that he can’t forgive not only his enemies but anyone. This clearly shows a rift in the family. (p30, 31).
  • At the party, Rondo and Selina feel relaxed with their parents. (p39).
  • Rondo could not look at his father. (p40).

Love and Friendship

  • She takes her head during the mourning night and puts it on her lap. She calls her a great woman. (p29).
  • Friendship is also evident between the two women, Selina and her mother-in- law (Rondo’s wife and his mother). (p29,30)
  • Selina, the daughter ofMzamane, stays with Rondo even though Rwafa disapproves of their marriage. He says that his son became a ‘traitor’ by

marrying Selina, from Basil Mzamane’s clan – his sworn political enemies. (p29, 30)

  • However, Selina sticks with her husband, Rondo, until the end of the story. She also has a gun from the mother- in-law. (p41).

• He lets his head rest against her belly, his skull nudging the underside of her breast. She makes him breakfast. She accompanies her husband to serve revenge. This is love. (P41)

Ethnic tension / negative ethnicity

  • Rwafa believes in maintaining rigid boundaries in establishing social and political relations. (p34).
  • In his tirade, he laments that he is hurt by the effeminate spineless sons of the family who marry into families of their enemies, poisoning the pure blood of the Rwafa clan. 9p34 – 39).
  • There has always been tension between Rwafa and Mzamane, a quarrel, a misunderstanding, but the episode at the party renders it dramatic. Their speeches turn sour. The two old men are crystal clearly, political nemeses. (p34).
  • Rwafa cannot forgive and forget the effects of the war, once the Ndebele attacked them, and the pain of the scars remained in him more than the relief of healing. (p30 – 32).
  • These adversaries contrast each other in character and demeanor. The former is the villain in his very nature, and the latter is a gentleman.
  • He belongs to the political elite who must fan clannism and ensure they remain at the top. (p39, 40).
  • Primitive accumulation There is evident greed in the arch-nemesis, Rwafa, for he strives to maintain the status quo by acquiring material power through underhand deals. He leaves in the morning and returns in the evenings. (p33).
  • He is disappointed and bitter when Mzamane rescues the white woman from irate Chimurenga warriors. He disappears and reappears from a bush two minutes after the white woman has driven off. (p34 – 37).
  • This shows that he plans to have her lynched so he can proceed to acquire the property. (p36)
  • Rwafa is preoccupied with the sudden beauty of the land they are driving through. The land provides a breath- taking view of its immensity. (p36)
  • Affluence, material power and lavish extravagance are explicit in the family as they flock around him. He gains recognition from his generosity by squandering the accumulated wealth in the form of favours, money, advances. (p31, 32)
  • Many use his name to get something from legal firms, financial houses, or credit stores at month-ends. (p32). Rwafa desperately needs a grandson from Rondo to whom he can leave all his cars, houses and money. (p31).


  • The fear of death also hangs/lingers in Selina’s mind. She fears losing Rondo as well. (p30)
  • Mysterious deaths rock the family, and according to Gaston, Rondo’s colleague, we know that a political hand is involved. (p33).
  • He asks Rondo, “Do you know what your father does?” (p33).
  • Selina’s mother had died, and Mzamane marries again, but to the detriment of his daughter, she alludes to the invitation to her father. (p34).
  • Assassinations could be the ex-minister’s trade as he happens to control the political group dubbed
  • Chimurenga, which also narrowly spares the life of Mrs.
  • The old man had rambles (flashback) (p40). smoked out, flushed out, blasted out… .”
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS-A Study Guide To A Silent Song And Other Stories


Rwafa, Rondo, Selina, Mzamane, Gaston and Mrs Quayle

a. Mzamane

  • Selina’s father and Rondo’s father-in-law. A peace- maker and crusader of tolerance. He takes a low profile, although he has the opportunity and ability to show off. This shows he is peaceful and humble.
  • According to Rondo, nothing in his demeanour shows he is a man of opulence as a successful businessman and the M.P. of a constituency in northern Matebeleland.
  • He is so liberal that even with his differences with Rwafa, he declares he is free to think as he likes. (p38).
  • His friendly and affable nature makes Rondo feel free around him. He is a helpful man as he gives a hand to the white woman whose car is stuck. (p37).
  • He is tolerant, for he rescues her from being lynched by the angry youth. He tells them. Today is cancelled. Go home….” he tells Rondo to grow up and see people as individuals. (p37).
  • Being rational makes him an embodiment of the voice of reason. b. Rwafa
  • The ostentatious antagonist, so to speak. He is the arch- nemesis of Basil Mzamane and his son, Rondo. The
  • Villain in the story is a ruthless, intolerant influential former minister who cannot forgive anybody. (p31, 34, 35, 39, 40).
  • He is contemptuous as he vilifies his son vehemently, affecting his self-esteem. (p28).
  • The snobbish father is so selfish for none of the words he uses to address Rondo have any respect, and he loves himself so much (selfish) that he is prepared to destroy his son. (p32).
  • He is proud, assertive and aggressive as he talks of his prowess and declares,

“No son of the Rwafa family would ever play second fiddle to anyone’s lead.” (p39). Rwafa is bitter and vengeful, for his son terribly hurts him for poisoning the pure blood of the Rwafa clan. (p39).

As they drive to Quayle’s farm, Rwafa remains sullen and sucking as he can’t laugh while having a robust dialogue. “He is a man who laughs little.” This shows that he is sadistic in nature. (p35).

c. Rondo

 A calm and modest son of Rwafa and husband to Selina. He is loving and caring for loves his mother, his wife and his father-in-law. (p29 — 32).

  • He is also apologetic for his father’s wrongdoings which he perceives partly responsible. (p30).
  • He is respectful as he reveres and honours his father.
  • He is a gentle and friendly chap who has good relations with his colleagues at work. Helpful for he could be called to help colleagues. (p33).

Questions for reflection on characters

  1. Compare and contrast Rwafa and Mzamane as antagonistic characters in the story, The Sins of the Fathers.
    1. How does Rondos mother manage the psychological problems of both her husband and her son at home?
    1. What do you think could have happened if Rwafa had told his only son, “You are an intelligent son”?
    1. Suppose Rwafa had had another son; could his attitude be different?


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