Image: Facebook | Mukuka Chipanta
Mukuka Chipanta is a Zambian born author and aerospace engineer, currently living in Washington DC. He grew up in Kitwe, a Zambian mining town which makes his book A Casualty of Power all the more relevant and interesting. The award-winning novel explores the relations between the Zambians and the Chinese migrants coming in to run the mines. It also follows the life of Hamoonga, a university student whose life is stolen from him by the corrupt actions of those in power, a narrative familiar to many.
If we are all playing a game of cards, what do you do when the cards you are dealt look like they are destined to ruin you? Born into poverty, at the mercy of life’s inequity, Hamoonga manages to defy the odds and make his way to university where he is set to graduate and make something of his life. From this point it should have been easy and yet, at the book’s conclusion, Hamoonga has nothing to his name. It was not due to a lack of willingness or opportunity, rather it all boiled down to an ill-fated meeting.
Never trust a self-made person until you know what they did to make it. It is the lesson Hamoonga should have learned before he met Lulu, the catalyst for his misfortune, a lesson which stays with you long after you have read the book. Chipanta is good at making readers weigh right and wrong, and we are left wondering whether Hamoonga’s fate is a consequence for his small lapse of judgment when treading on the line between faithfulness and disloyalty to Maya, the woman he loves. As readers, our simple desire is for the protagonist to end up living peacefully or to die an honourable death.
In A Casualty of Power, the only thing you want for Hamoonga is justice. Caught in the middle of schemes bigger than him, Hamoonga is dragged through hell and back before he is thrust into it forever. His family does not know where he is or if he is alive, and those he finds solace with, end up being the epitome of betrayal, stabbing him square in his chest. His life shifts from being about supporting his family, studying, falling in love and living his “best life” to one which revolves around other people’s greed and corruption, before ultimately being stolen from him, leaving nothing for him to hold on to – not even his character.
The parallels between fiction and reality blur as Chipanta expertly combines the two, writing about the failure of cultural coexistence and the social and political impact it has. In this book, the need to have international ties comes at the expense of the small man’s voice: only he suffers to line the pockets of those that cause his tragedy. Nothing in Chipanta’s writing is ever as black or as white as it seems, but one fact remains true: the casualties result from an abuse of power. It is a never-ending cycle of deceit, corruption, and power plays in this epic novel. You will not want to put it down, and when you do you will have more commentary to give than you know what to do with.
Visit the Weaver Press website: http://www.weaverpresszimbabwe.com to join in on the epic discussion the book offers.