The gunshots flooded Namutequeliua, one of the most famous neighbourhoods of Nampula city in the north of Mozambique. Fear took everyone prisoner. Massica held her two children tight. “Mum, what’s happening?” they asked. Her mouth trembled; her dry throat did not let out a word. A river of thoughts disturbed her as she held back her tears. She balanced like a tightrope walker over the torrent of her emotions.
Massica was not given to crying. She claimed to have dried up the source of that river when her husband, a former perfume seller, was killed in a military attack on a column of civilian vehicles travelling from Maputo to Nampula. That day Massica cried out all the tears she had: she cried for the loss of a husband, her breadwinner, and the father of her children.
A threatening silence followed. She tried to calm down, repeating to herself that the whispering gossipers would soon pipe up. She listened in vain. This time even whisperers were lost for words. She had tried to peek out the window and stopped herself; she did not think it was safe to do so even if she wanted to know what was going on.
“What should I do?” she asked herself.
Turn on the radio—the radio people don’t sleep.
They talked about what happened in Namutequeliua with more certainty than those of who lived there. She sat down on the improvised sofa, found the Xirico radio, the family’s source of entertainment and information. She checked that it had batteries and turned it on.
The radio waves played a concert recording from Rei Costa, a Kwachala star, now dead. It had been broadcast live years ago in Carrupeia by Eusébio Carlos, a radio announcer, and Guilherme José, a technician. Both were also deceased.
Something was not right. Outside: a deadly silence after the gunshots. The radio played music from the dead.
“What’s going on?” Massica could not let her children see her cry.
Namutequeliua’s nightlife lost it breath.The squeaking tires that usually passed through the street of the fourth police station were no longer heard. Massica’s spirit was filled with anguish and planted with uncertainties. She looked out of a window for the two neighbouring prostitutes who generally left for work at that hour. She reckoned even they were still at home.
Her eldest son saw the fear on her face. It hurt him to see her suffer alone.
Her son escaped her grip and ran to the door, opening it to the street. “Where are you going?” she shouted.
Massica followed him outside.
The neighbours emerged from their homes, whispering about the gunshots. There was talk of October 4th, Mozambique’s Day of Peace and Reconciliation. For Massica Peace Day had lost any meaning since her husband had been killed in the resurgence of an absurd war.
War and peace were empty words for her.
Massica, her children, and the barrio’s residents saw two old ladies removing their capulana wraparounds to cover the man’s body. It lay in a pool of blood, riddled with bullets. The police had cordoned off the crime scene.
When they asked what had happened the answers were quick in coming.
He was the president of the municipality, Mahamudo Amurane.
He had been shot by strangers.
The headline in the Diário de Namutequeliua that day: A Body Riddled With Bullets.
Amurane was gone. The muravara players, under the Cotocuane tree’s shade, read the newspaper and closed their eyes. The porridge sellers left their homes for another day of work.
Jessemuse Cacinda is a Mozambican journalist, editor, researcher, co-founder and Operations Director of Ethale Publishing, a Maputo-based publisher focused on African fiction and nonfiction. He was born in Nampula, Mozambique, and studied philosophy, sociology, community development, and project management.
This story was translated from Portuguese into English by Alex Macbeth, a British writer, journalist, editor and project manager. He is a co-founder and content strategy director of Ethale Publishing in Mozambique. He lives in Italy and studied African literature and journalism. He’s debut novel is The Red Die.