Between the Lines: Beniah Munengwa

Title: Friend Billy and the Msasa Avenue Three

Author: Margaret Gloria Mucheri

Publisher: Longman Zimbabwe (1989)

ISBN: 0 908308 65 6

When routinely going through my library, there are books that I can’t just ignore re-reading. This time, it was my all-time best teenage literature piece, Friend Billy and the Msasa Avenue Three.

In some instances, I then grow to regret ever doing so, but passing through this read is an infinite exception. However, in whatever season, I stand responsible for justifying my view of all the lines that follow.

Filled with natural adventure and set during the school holidays, this text becomes a handbook through which teenagers and parents, alike, can learn from and be able to become responsible teenagers or even parents of responsible teenagers.

Bored during a school holiday like this, Billy and friends engage in escapism and track down the suspicious events unfolding in their eyes. Following a presidential amnesty, criminals well known for burglary in the persona of Snake, Shake-Shake Vila, Big-Boy Mpabanga and Tommy Geva are released and embark on a trail of criminal activities, arousing the interest of the boys.

These activities seem to be having one end-point in the form of a house situated besides Mrs Gurney’s house. Sipho, Billy and Tonde then strategically offer to help Mrs Gurney. The intention here is to establish finer details of what really happens at Shake-Shake Vila’s home.

Fortunately, Sipho and crew gain Mrs Gurney’s trust and are, therefore, entrusted to watch over her house as she visits Bulawayo for a week. To the boys, this is a welcome development, and an avenue through which they can play their detective work and probably be able to watch over the house next door, with the primary intent of gathering vital information that could save the community and the country at large from the wrath of thievery caused by Snake’s crew.

This marks the beginning of a beautiful adventure where confronting danger and one’s fears culminate in glory. For early teenage boys to put the welfare of the nation at heart, enough for them to risk their lives and safety, is an act reckless adults of today should pick lessons from.

The book, though of significance to adults, plays a great role in reconfiguring the way today’s children are wired, especially during this decade, where distractions like virtual games, television and the internet take charge of how they spend their time during school holidays and beyond.

That kids, who cannot get off electronic gadgets, may draw inspiration from the heroics of the Msasa Avenue Three and begin by respecting and helping elderly people. This in a world that is fast degenerating into an individualistic, survival of the fittest kind.

For these four, their acts of courage are deservingly rewarded by the President of the country.

However, my realistic orientation and understanding of the African world reminds me to highlight the lack of investment and recognition of either the works or the efforts of the young by their leadership. This trait has, in many ways, made the African youth feel rejected and unwanted in their own countries of origin.

Mucheri’s expressions are, therefore, nuggets that serve as agenda-setting props, meant to help governments tilt from a slant of negligence to that of care.

To a greater extent, Mucheri’s writing illustrates the ideal policing State, wherein the police and the public work hand-in-hand to eliminate corruption.

Unlike present day names that depict corrupt police officers like Mutema, Inspector Magaramombe stands as one who, together with Headman Chapungu, relentlessly protect the community against some evil-minded people.

The simplicity and smoothness of Mucheri’s writings make it a timeless read, even three decades later. Msasa Avenue Three is a book that can stand and awaits its day to be adapted into a television series or movie format, especially with the industry starved of competent content.

All what is written in this text unfolds into all forms of imagery, helping the reader blend well with the flow of content. The onerous to uplift this expression of writing mastery is on today’s writer, who stands challenged to produce texts of a similar nature.

In a world where motion pictures are preferred over print media by millennials, this twitch may do the magic and be able to pass on the zeal and moral that ooze endlessly in Mucheri’s work.

As the book concludes, “all is well that ends well”, our society can be reformed and rewired, if maybe our ideological State apparatus that rewires the young generation along paths of pure hearts and love through reviving interest in this book.