It was an age untarnished by cellphones, where Tsh100,000 ($43) could buy you a house and icons like Patrice Lumumba and Samora Machel were still alive, The Spy Fiction novella series by Elvis Aristablus Musiba you get a streetside seat to this era in Tanzania, through the antics of his lead character ‘Willy Gamba.’
Kuanzia 1978 mambo yalikwenda mrama. Kwanza, Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki ilivunjika… Ukame pia uliathiri uchumi wetu … Na kama nilivyosena hapo awali Shirika la Fedha la Kimataifa na Benki ya Dunia havikutupatia hata senti tano wakati huohuo wenzetu walipewa mamilioni ya fedha za kigeni.
(Things went south from 1978. First was the breakup of the East African Community, then our economy suffered from a devastating drought. Then the IMF and World Bank denied us loans such like they showered upon our neighbours) — Willy Gamba in the novella Hofu.
The politics of the time are analysed by Willy chatting with friends at a bar.
The storyline in Hofu is about a crack army unit of the South African apartheid regime that plots an attack on several African liberation leaders.
The aim is to derail the clamour for independence and cripple economies of countries that support the liberation movement on the continent.
Willy is tasked alongside other spies from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya to stop them.
Musiba writes with a quirky charm that makes these serious topics like the struggle against apartheid and colonisation a joy to read.
The scene progression is just right. Willy’s charm is just like ladies-man James Bond.
What does keep you reading is the believability of the dialogue of the characters, particularly Willy and his colleagues.
You can readily picture your neighbours and fellow citizens in these characters.
What is also endearing in this spy series, which include Hofu, Kikosi cha Kisasi, Njama and Kufa na Kupona, is the accuracy with which the author describes the cities and music of the period.
There is the unmistakable bond between African countries, a reminder of the birth of our Afro-Politan culture.
Here Musiba captures the spirit that laid the foundation of modern city life in Africa.
And of course, you get an intimate look into the youthful days of our parents.